“Too pricey for what you get”

“Too pricey for what you get”

This was her reason for opting out.

I have a pretty thick skin, so let’s start with that. I went to Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and majored in graphic design and visual communications. I learned as a young artist, how to listen to, and accept, constructive criticism. To earn a living as a graphic designer, I had to learn how NOT to get personally attached to my art and ideas. I attribute my success in my graphic design business, in part, to my ability to satisfy my customer without selling out. A balancing act for sure.

Now, here I am 30+ years later, owner of my 2nd business, Ride Like a Girl Designs, and for some reason this comment “too pricey for what you get”, really got under my skin. I know I should just let it go, but I can’t. I’ve been trying to understand why, and I think I’ve got it figured out...

My work is not for everyone, and honestly, that’s OK with me. My clients want something a little different. A little edgy. I don’t make flimsy disposable jewelry, and I don’t use cheap materials or mass-produced components. I don’t even try to compete with the $5 jewelry trend you see on Facebook. There is a market for that jewelry, I get it. That’s just not what I do.

Here’s the rub though.

Someone looked at my work and made a judgement about “what you get”, based on what? She’s never purchased anything from me, so how would she know what she gets? Is this my fault? Maybe I don’t share enough about the process and how you’ll feel wearing a piece of my jewelry. Is this on me? Maybe so.

Buying jewelry from a website is a little risky. You might think “what will the quality be like?” or,  “will it be well made?”. You might question “will it look like the pictures?” and even “will it feel good against my skin?” or “will it turn me green?”. Trust me, I GET IT. There’s a lot of “what ifs”. And on top of that, my work is not $5. So, it’s somewhat of an investment. Not a Tiffany level investment, but it’s more than the $5 crap jewelry you wouldn’t give 2 thoughts about buying. I think we can agree, if you waste $5, no biggie, just skip tomorrow’s latte, Right?

So, what DO you get when you buy from me?

You get a personal guarantee that if your piece doesn’t fit, or breaks from normal wear, I will fix or replace it. Right off the bat that should tell you something. I take pride in my work. I’m not just an artist and maker, I’m running a business. I want you to love my jewelry and wear it. AND, I want you to tell ALL of your friends. So, you can be damn sure I want you to be happy with your purchase.

Everything you buy from me is handmade by me, in my studio. Understand though that I am running a business. This is how I make my living, so I’m not going to devalue my work. I’ve spent many years learning and perfecting my craft. I’m still learning every day. I make each and every piece by hand. I stamp every single letter, one-by-one, into sterling silver. I fabricate chains and handmade clasps out of sterling silver wire. I cut hearts out of sterling silver sheet with my jewelers saw, one at a time. I create hammered textures and use an acetylene torch to solder pieces together. I take careful consideration when combining components, to make sure each piece meets or exceeds my expectations. I remake pieces if I’m not fully satisfied with the quality or design. 

I use sterling silver for 95% of my work. My mixed metal pieces incorporate small bits of copper or bronze. I don’t use aluminum, nickel or silver plated metal. If it’s silver in color, it’s either sterling silver or fine silver. Nearly all of my pieces are oxidized and coated in renaissance wax to protect the patina. Dark-colored silver is not dirt or tarnish or cheap metal. It’s an intentional process to highlight the rich and unique textures. This is part of my aesthetic as an artist.

Originality is key. I’m inspired by machine parts and old motorcycles. Steel. Metal. Rust. Natural patina, texture and light. All of these things inspire my work. Some ideas make it to my sketchbook and others get lost if I don’t jot them down. But you will always get originality from me, and that’s part of the investment. This is one of my core values.

So, I’ll admit, I can see how it might not be 100% clear or evident “what you get”. And hopefully I’ve shed some light here. But I think I still have work to do, to share more of my process. Starting right away, I’ll be shooting more video at my bench, and sharing behind-the-scenes clips in my studio. I never want my work to be judged based on price alone, especially by someone who has never owned one of my pieces. It will break my heart, and it will kill my business.


  • karleen

    Wonderful article! I can totally relate as a business owner. Thanks for sharing! :)

  • Tess

    Hi Toby — Loved reading more about your process and materials. You’re a true artisan!

  • Deborah Angel

    I love my earrings & have received many compliments when I wear them…I always say they’re handmade. one of a kind…love them!!

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