Thursday, February 19, 2009

How Do I Test Unique Items?

A few weeks ago I posted about a kumihimo necklace I made using mixed fibers. Toonatoons from Under the Sun asked whether it felt itchy to wear. Then Ollie McKay from Chic Boutique asked whether I had tried wearing it all day to see how it feels next to the skin for a long period. These are valid concerns, and ones I hadn't thought about while making the necklace.

From a customer's point of view, these are things I'd like to know before I plunk down my money. I think this necklace will be comfortable and non-irritating, but I don't know for certain. And I don't want the answer to come about because I'm wearing something that has been "field-tested" and isn't completely and easily cleanable. If the item was metal or fabric, I could wash and dry it, and specify that it's been thoroughly cleaned before shipping. I've seen other items sold this way--knit and crocheted hats and scarves come to mind--and as a buyer it makes me feel comfortable knowing that I could safely wash the item before wearing it.

A necklace like this one is a problem. It might wash and dry well, and then again it may develop an unpleasant texture, or the colors might run. There's not enough fiber left over to make even a very short braid, and I'm not at all sure I can get the exact same fiber mix again.

I'd love to get some opinions on this. As a buyer, is some sort of wear-testing important to you? And as artists and jewelers, how do you handle evaluating unique items?