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Making Breastmilk Jewellery: Part 1

making breastmilk jewellery: what you need to know to keep yourself safe and your clients happy

Instructions on Making Breastmilk Jewellery: Part 1 of 4




This series on making breastmilk jewellery is written by Nikki Kamminga, owner of Keepsaker Supplies and Tree of Opals. I can’t give you all the answers and it won’t magically create a business for you, but it’s an excellent start. If you’re looking for step-by-step instructions and a guaranteed method to preserve breastmilk just buy our ready-mixed Breastmilk Preservation Powder here. To try your own preservation techniques, read all parts of this blog and give it a try.

Breastmilk Preservation Powder

Preserve your clients' breastmilk easily and inexpensively with this amazing powder

US$9.70US$831.00Select options

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Making and selling breastmilk jewellery is so much more than the preservation, drying and suspending of the milk powder. You need to be willing to devote time, money, space and an awful lot of emotional resources to the craft. It will be time away from your own children at first, you will get very emotional clients, and at times things will just feel like they’re not going right. But in the end you can have a business that will support your family, one you can do at home and not worry about leaving them every day.

People message me all the time to say, “I just want to make something for myself”, to which I recommend all-in-one breastmilk jewellery DIY kits here! If you’re developing your own business then I’d recommend one of our Keepsake Business Startup Packages.

Learning To Make Breastmilk Jewellery

Previously the most secretive craft in the world, the art of making breastmilk jewellery has been opened wide to the mums and artists (and dads and doulas) who want to preserve human milk without wasting a fortune in unnecessary equipment. I’ve learnt that true art is about inspiration and the sharing of skills and I believe that no business ever failed by helping another. In the thousands of craft groups and forums out there, no other community pretends theirs it’s a skill that only a few can master. People help one another in almost every craft on the planet and I don’t see why breastmilk preservation should be any different. I’m not going to tell you how to do it, it’s not a full method, just tips! One method will work for one artist and not for another, I don’t want anyone to turn around and blame me if they struggle with any part of the preservation or drying process. You still need to work hard and experiment.

No business ever failed by helping another
– Nikki Kamminga

Part two of the blog is here in Making Breastmilk Jewellery: Part 2 of 3 which explains some of the ways to preserve milk that do and don’t work. Part three of the blog is here in Making Breastmilk Jewellery: Part 3. Info about the Facebook group and asking questions is in part 3.

So many clients come to us with photos of brown, dark orange and yellow pieces that have been made with their baby’s milk only for that seller to have closed the business when the pieces don’t stay white. So this information is to help those artists who are trying to support their families, to try to ensure that people are no longer disappointed with their keepsakes that rot down the line. To celebrate and normalise breastfeeding!

Breastmilk Jewellery Community

When I first published this blog, the outpouring of negativity and emotional blackmail from other businesses shocked me. However, it confirmed that it was the right thing to do. I’ve even had threats and one woman (a “doula” told me I should kill myself!). The people who who can use the following information to make their dreams a reality are my main focus. It is still sad that those in the breastmilk jewellery community who think that this will affect their sales but a good business doesn’t worry about what their competition are doing, they focus on their own unique selling points (USP’s), their brand ethos, marketing and their work quality. Maybe it’s time for them to stop buying mass-produced settings and stop relying on the novelty of preserving breastmilk. This reminds me of the story of the glass artists in Murano, Italy during the 14th Century:

“Marriage between glass master and the daughter of the nobleman wasn’t regarded as misalliance. However, glassmakers were not allowed to leave the Republic. Exportation of professional secret was punished by death. Many craftsmen took this risk and set up glass furnaces in surrounding cities and as far afield as England and the Netherlands” – Wikipedia

Glass artists nowadays don’t worry because other people know their trade. I’m learning lampworking myself at the moment and get some support but not all of the answers from other lampworkers online. I always say, there are a million babies born every day and without having any way to verify numbers, I’m sure at least half of those babies are given human milk (however briefly). As someone who struggled to nurse my children because of major surgery I know that even if I had only managed a few days nursing Ayla I’d have wanted a piece of jewellery with my milk. Tons and tons of our enquiries came from people who’ve never heard of it let alone looked for an artist before so it seems like the breastmilk jewellery industry is an untapped market that replenishes itself every day.


This blog is aimed more towards people interested in creating the pieces themselves. So, hello to all the breastfeeders curious about how it’s done or wondering where to buy, but this is just a guide for people to start their journey making breastmilk jewellery and want to invest time, effort and love into a business.

Making Breastmilk Jewellery Successfully

When I made breastmilk jewellery at Tree of Opals barely needed to advertise and really only did so occasionally to reach new clients. Nowadays I focus on memorial jewellery as I felt called to that after so much loss in my personal life.

I worked in advertising at the age of 20 and I know how to market my company long-term, so I was very successful making breastmilk jewellery. I’m always thinking five and ten years down the line when I brand the work and make decisions. The only problem I’ve ever faced is being too busy, which is a luxury problem! Our lead time was always six months and we did everything we could to tell our clients this but it did cause problems. Most of our customers know that something special and bespoke and highly in demand will take longer and be worth it. If I ever did “need” to advertise I’d focus on local advertising simply because there are so many breastfeeding mums (and chestfeeding parents of all or no gender) around me and it’s nice to meet them in person. I could focus on a small community on the other side of the world and spend the same amount for the same revenue but why bother? And I’m keeping my carbon footprint low when someone from down the road orders. There could be a breastmilk jeweller in every large town and city across the globe and still have enough work. As a keepsake artist at least half of my orders come in the form of other elements like umbilical cord, and of course, memorial jewellery. There’s far far more competition from other cremation ashes jewellers yet in just five years of trading I carved out a niche and been able to help hundreds of grieving families, working mostly by myself with some part time admin help.

So from the small time community doula hoping to offer their clients a little more than placenta jewellery to the entrepreneurial mummy who doesn’t want to go back to her career in corporate, to the daddy who loves to work with wood and metal, I believe anyone can and should make breastmilk jewellery. Not that it’s easy…

Breastmilk Jewellery Caution

One of the big oppositions to DIY breastmilk jewellery or new artists is that the chemicals/solvents used are dangerous. That’s not necessarily true, or at least not all aspects. The most dangerous chemical I used was epoxy resin and after about six months it gave me contact dermatitis. So you need to minimise your risk by following (obviously) all of the manufacturers’ instructions on anything you use, use proper PPE (personal protective equipment) and use a lot of common sense. Keep it in a separate room to children and pets and make sure you wash your hands, arms and any uncovered skin well before you touch others. For Pete’s sake don’t be stirring resin with a baby next to you. If you have a young child that can’t be with someone else for a few hours then please, please, please can you put your milk in the freezer and wait! I now use only UV resin which we sell here, special blogs to follow!

You’ll see with the methods below that you don’t need formaldehyde, solvents and other dangerous substances. If you do decide to give them a try then follow the above advice and more. For the sake of protecting my own family I’m going to give a big legal disclaimer here in addition to the website terms and conditions, whatever you decide to do with the information here you do at your own risk. We don’t take any responsibility, legal, moral or otherwise for this information and if you use chemicals please speak directly to the manufacturers.
If you’re working with heat and pressure make sure you do it safely and sensibly. Please don’t burn yourselves!

Practice with spare milk until you have it right. More safety info in the other two parts. Don’t waste your clients’ milk, always always always keep some of their milk back and if the pieces turn, you should do the right thing and send that milk to another, more established artist, to pay them to preserve it for your client.

What You’ll Need To Make Breastmilk Jewellery

Please see our individual country-specific blogs for shopping supplies: United Kingdom, USA, Australia, Canada, other EU countries (coming soon) and non-EU countries (coming soon).
Epoxy Resin
I always used Axson D150 Rigid until I became allergic to epoxy (more on that coming in a future blog). I stopped for a few months and used EcoResin, made from recycled vegetable oils, but to my horror every single piece (including those just with white flowers and fabric) went yellow. Thankfully I kept every bag of breastmilk sent to me and was able to remake them all. Going back to Axson was great because it’s really easy to work with. It’s not really branded as being for jewellery but the manufacturers say it’s good for casting and embedding flowers. I considered bulk buying pallets of it and rebranding and selling it but wholesale has never interested me and I’d rather put my time into what I love doing – I’ve based my recommendations in the international supplies lists on what members of my Facebook group use and recommend. Stick to the ratio on the bottle for volume measurement. It’s more accurate to measure by weight than by volume; if you do that, and the ratio’s not on the bottle, contact the manufacturer because it might be different to the volume ratio. 

It’s best to weigh epoxy rather than measure it by volume using lines on the side of a cup because you’ll be working with tiny amounts and a small slip can change the ratio so much it won’t set or stays soft. I always use a pocket scale because they go to 0.01g accuracy but can take up to half a kilo which is great if I wanted to use resin for painting or furniture making. Put a little plastic shot glass on and press T to tare it (put it back to zero) then pour in part A to the desired quantity. Some resins need different ratios but 2:1 is pretty common and means two parts A to one part B. So if I want to end up with 15g mixed resin in total I’ll measure 10g A then 5g B. That can be daunting especially if it’s been a while since you did maths but stick to quantities like that and write down what you’ve added. I always do wet work (resin and silicone) on baking parchment because it’s easy to clean up. You can recycle any paper or break down a big cardboard box but I don’t use newspaper because it stains. When I first started I thought a silicone mat would be amazing but any unmixed resin is really hard to clean off and would end up all over my arms.

Mix A and B together slowly with a lollipop stick which you can get in packs of 20 from places like Hobbycraft (UK) or Michael’s (USA) or so I’m told. I buy them in bulk because we never reuse them due to contamination risk and they’re really inexpensive. We get through a box a year, probably around two per order and I neutralise our carbon footprint in other ways like reusing the boxes that clients send their milk in. Use a 3ml pipette to transfer resin to your mould or bezel, add your glitters etc and leave it to cure. A pipette isn’t essential but it makes for more accurate pouring once you get the knack of them.

UV Resin
You can also use our UV resin by Qian Qian which is an unbranded UV gel from the Far East that has teal and mustard flowers on the front; don’t use the pink or moss green label ones, they have a strong smell and cure yellow! UV resin is a lot more expensive gram for gram, but there’s a lot less wastage. For us, time is the most valuable thing, so a resin that cures almost instantly is perfect. You need to work in thin layers, especially if you’re adding opaque colours (ones that don’t let light through). I only use UV resin at Tree of Opals but there is a knack to it. However, it has fewer bubbles. If you’d like to see a full blog comparing the two kinds of resin with pros and cons, please just let me know in the comments below.

You can cure UV resin jewellery in the sunshine but that’s not practical especially if (like me) you work at night while your children are asleep, or you live somewhere like the Faroe Islands where it’s dark most of the day in the winter. We recommend a UV gel lamp that’s usually used for gel nails so if you have one then perfect! The base often slides in and out so you can place your piece on the mirrored surface and slide it in.

My best advice is to start off pouring into cheap bases like bronze bezels and don’t be tempted to buy silver plated; it’ll just flake off. At least bronze is honest and a lot of people love the beauty of its history. You can put in different glitters then work up to locks of hair and fur, petals and flowers, make them for friends and family. There are squillions of videos all over YouTube to help get you going. I used to take a little craft glue (school glue/PVA/Elmer’s glue) and paint designs with a cocktail stick then shake glitters on to make a background.




Preparing The Milk

Most people keep breastmilk in little breastmilk storage bags but to preserve the milk you’ll need heat. To take up the minimum amount of room in the freezer we send clients a little pot for their milk. It’s a special type of plastic that can withstand super hot and super cold temperatures and I haven’t had one crack yet! In part two of the series we will show you how to use heat and two special ingredients found in organic skincare to keep the milk preserved for years as well as other methods that are successful and not. Please let me know in the comments below if you’ve tried to make breastmilk jewellery and how it went for you!  And don’t forget to tick the box below to notify you of new posts by email.

Part two of the blog is here in Making Breastmilk Jewellery: Part 2 which explains some of the ways to preserve milk that do and don’t work. Part three of the blog is here in Making Breastmilk Jewellery: Part 3 with details about the Facebook group and how to complain if you don’t think my blogs are good enough. Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog for new articles and tutorials.






Preserving Breastmilk with Breastmilk Preservation Powder

If you’d prefer to use a guaranteed method, you can preserve breastmilk using Breastmilk Preservation Powder. The full blog is here and you’ll be able to start making a profit immediately, even if you decide to still work on your own method in the background

This blog contains affiliate links so we may make a little extra income at no extra cost to yourself. It’s a nice way of supporting my family and helping me keep the blogs up to date.

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Filled Marquise Ashes Ring Tutorial with Bonus Dangle Charm

Filled Marquise Ashes Ring with Bonus Dangle Charm Cremation ashes Hannah marquise ring and little 8mm bezel cup, orchid purple resin sparkles. Solid silver hand finished marquise setting with split shank, plus tiny little dangle charm with lobster clasp.

Filled Marquise Ashes Ring with Bonus Dangle Charm – making breastmilk jewellery using a direct pour technique. This technique is ideal for our exclusive hybrid rings here which are great for direct pouring because the walls are curved over, meaning the resin can’t pop out again. You also have the option to use the mould included in the kit to make a couple of cabochons then choose your favourite to glue into the setting and top coat.

Filled Marquise Ashes Ring with Bonus Dangle Charm Video

Video————————–

 

After your first order you’ll receive a reasonable 15% off future purchases*. Firstly, when making cremation ashes jewellery send your client an ashes sending kit, see our Worldwide Sourcing Guides here – including the UKUSAAustralia and Canada (more countries coming soon) for details on the tubes we recommend, which are also suitable for heating directly although that’s not needed for this method.

Filled Marquise Ashes Ring with Bonus Dangle Charm

You’ll need the following supplies

one of our DIY ashes ring kits
the ashes/hair version of the kits contain:

You’ll also need your client’s cremation ashes for this Filled Marquise Ashes Ring Tutorial.  We ask them to only send half a teaspoonful! That way, if it’s lost in the post they can send a little more.

SENDING ASHES
You can see that I’ve asked my client to only send half a teaspoonful of ashes here and you’ll quickly see why
It breaks my heart when I see artists receiving large bags full of cremation ashes because they so often go missing in the post and you need so little to create such a stunning effect
This ring is a replacement for my client because the first one I sent was lost by the courier
I’m not going to name and shame, and my client was so kind and understanding
So I offered to remake the ring and cover the shipping to her out of my own pocket
I’m so glad she hadn’t sent more ashes in the first place because, although ashes are irreplaceable, it’s better to lose half a teaspoonful than a cupful
If I’m working with a small pet or a baby’s ashes I’ll ask the family to send a large pinch of cremation ashes instead because we can always ask for them to send more if needed
Please make sure you wear a respirator when grinding ashes!

Cremation ashes Hannah marquise ring, orchid purple resin sparkles. Solid silver hand finished marquise setting with split shank

FILLING THE RING
Put a small drop of resin on a piece of label backing paper; you can use epoxy or UV but here I’m using a UV top coat because it’s super hard
Add a tiny bit of ashes and some resin sparkle mix, stir it thoroughly
Make sure you’re wearing PPE, although, I’m not wearing gloves because this is very fiddly and they get in the way but I do usually
Put your ring in the side of the ring clamp
Use a cocktail stick to transfer a very thin layer to the ring. If you’re working in UV resin it has to be this thin or it won’t cure because the light can’t penetrate the top layer.
If you’re working in epoxy resin you might want to do the first layer in colour then add the ashes to the second layer on top, otherwise the ashes could sink and you won’t see them

Cure the ring in the UV lamp for 60 seconds
Because the piece is so small, there’s no risk of it overheating so you don’t have to have a low heat setting

Do another layer and if you add too much resin, twist the side of the cocktail stick over it to lift the excess away and cure again,

The colour should come around two thirds of the way up the sides or just under the edge
The resin will seep up the sides a little and be concave or domed in
You don’t need to worry about the stone popping out with the Hannah ring because the sides curve over

Cremation ashes little 8mm bezel cup, orchid purple resin sparkles. Solid silver tiny dangle charm with lobster clasp.

FILLING A BEZEL CUP
I fill this shallow cup exactly the same as the ring, in very thin layers
You can create dozens of pieces for a family at the same time and switching from piece to piece allows them to cool down completely in between using this Filled Marquise Ashes Ring Tutorial

TOP COAT
Whilst the bezel cup is under the UV lamp, you can do a top coat on the ring
Be a bit careful here and take time to make sure it doesn’t bleed over the edge and has a slight dome
Cure it making totally sure it’s completely level
Whilst it’s curing do another coat of colour in the bezel cup
I like to make a swirl, starting from the edge and working in, immediately before putting it in the lamp to cure
If you’re working with epoxy then pour your resin and come back to swirl it once it’s thickened a bit to the texture of Marmite
When it’s cured and cooled, add a top coat

ADDING A LOBSTER CLASP
Use a jump ring opener to add the findings to your jewellery
In this case I’m adding a lobster clasp so my client can wear it on a large link bracelet or necklace, or remove it to wear on a chain
I’m so happy with how this order turned out and I want you all to try these techniques out
If you’re a keepsake and memorial jeweller, do you prefer using a mould or doing direct pours?
Let me know in the comments below

This video is dedicated to Michael who passed away in January at the age of 31 due to complications with Covid and an unknown heart condition.
I really hope that this ring and little dangle charm help his family keep a part of him close at all times

Filled Marquise Ashes Ring with Bonus Dangle Charm Cremation ashes Hannah marquise ring and little 8mm bezel cup, orchid purple resin sparkles. Solid silver hand finished marquise setting with split shank, plus tiny little dangle charm with lobster clasp.
Cremation ashes Hannah marquise ring and little 8mm bezel cup, orchid purple resin sparkles

**Which UV Lamp To Use

I’m using a 48w Sun3 lamp with a low heat setting but any UV lamp or torch will do when making breastmilk jewellery. We sell a USB powered mini lamp here (UK only, sorry – here’s the USA version). We don’t recommend you use daylight unless it’s very bright and sunny and you work in extremely thin layers. We had a client contact us recently and we’re replacing their DIY ring after the resin exploded out of the centre after being cured on the windowsill. The sunlight had only cured the very top layer, underneath was still liquid.

If you add too much pigment to a piece too it won’t cure, I’ve had beads that you can crush in your fingertips made by new artists that added too much resin sparkle mix.

Adding Hair

If you want to add hair when following this Filled Marquise Ashes Ring Tutorial then you can cut a little and add it along with, or instead of, the ashes. I find it a lot easier to shape it into a mould though.
There’s a tutorial linked here teaching you how to do that and set it in a rubover setting
This is one of our exclusive hybrid settings meaning you can pour directly into it like I’m doing here or you can glue in a cabochon then dome it with a top coat to add extra security

Now relax and do some crafting!

Please note, this Filled Marquise Ashes Ring Tutorial with Bonus Dangle Charm  contains affiliate links, meaning I receive a small income based on your purchases from Amazon and Etsy etc. This affiliate income is really helpful to me to support my family and if you’d like to know how I set it all up please get in touch (blogs coming soon!).
Nikki
pronouns – they/them

*terms apply – some products aren’t included such as settings and findings, sorry.

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Collecting Prints From Deceased People and Pets

Taking prints from deceased people and pets is an art in itself and will usually take gentle explaining to a client. You can be using an Inkless Wipe Kit to make an engraved piece with handprints, fingerprints etc, or you’re using Silicone Putty to take a 3D fingerprint or nose print etc.

Sometimes our clients are able to take the prints directly themselves if we send them a kit, some artists like to go to the client’s home or funeral home to do it for them. There may be a time issue so we often recommend clients order the kit from Amazon Prime to be delivered to a loved one’s home to bring to the funeral home, vet’s office

Please be sensitive if you’re working with babies who have passed and reassure parents that the inkless wipes or dental putty won’t hurt baby’s skin; we find bereaved parents don’t want to risk hurting the baby even after they pass. Midwives will often help bereaved parents to take the prints

First of all we recommend buying at least one of each of the two different kinds of kits above so that you have them on-hand when needed. Clients will sometimes contact you and need to act quickly before a burial or cremation. There are several ways to go about collecting prints and you may need to advise them on collecting hair or fur at the same time. More to follow, thank you for your patience!

You may be able to take the print yourself if you work in a clinical setting, something Rhea over at Silver Keepsake Co.

 

How to Do Handprint Engraving in 2D

How to Do Fingerprint Jewellery in 3D Metal Clay

 

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How to Do Fingerprint Jewellery in 3D Metal Clay

How to Do Fingerprint Jewellery in 3D Metal Clay – more details coming soon, please bear with us whilst we put together all the info you’ll ever need. You can definitely add cremation ashes, breastmilk, hair and umbilical cord to metal clay but there are a few caveats. Check back soon for more!

you can include an Inkless Wipe Kit and use this 2D image to create a stamp for stamping metal clay, turning it into a 3D piece

fingerprint black and white ready for engraving 2D laser engraving jewellery Photoshop editing
fingerprint black and white with Photoshop editing

Alternatively, you can use a silicone putty kit to create a mould of the fingerprint, thumbprint or noseprint etc then create a master/positive of the finger/thumb/nose to stamp into metal clay. This artist uses more silicone putty to make the positive but I like to use a hot glue gun or UV resin. Always keep the mould and the master in case the client needs to order more pieces from it in the future for any reason

*Taking prints from deceased people and pets

 

Working with Precious Metal Clay


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How to Do Handprint Engraving in 2D

How to Do Handprint Engraving for fingerprints, handprints, footprints, pawprints, noseprints, thumbprints etc you can include an Inkless Wipe Kit. We can laser engrave 2D images onto most of our pieces. Ask the clients to email you photos; if the photos are good quality then they can keep the originals. Some clients struggle with getting a clear photo in daylight which is suitable for engraving, so then you might ask them to post the original and then photograph it yourself. Include a label, with your client’s name and order number. Please remember to tell your client that the engraving might not be exactly to scale, ask them if they would prefer the entire print to be shown scaled down, or whether they would like a partial print that’s to scale (such as a fingerprint on the outside of a ring band, looking as if someone’s touched the ring). Although laser engraving is the easiest way to apply an image, there are more affordable options such as using an etching/routing machine or etching with ferric chloride and Press n Peel Paper but this needs to be done safely with training and full PPE.

hair ring footprint engraving and font in Silver South Script. Dark hair and orchid purple resin sparkle mix 2D laser engraved jewellery
hair ring footprint engraving and font in Silver South Script. Dark hair and orchid purple resin sparkle mix

*Taking prints from deceased people and pets

 

Working with Precious Metal Clay with 2D prints


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How To Make Sending Kits

How To Make Sending Kits with downloadable instruction templates from Keepsaker Supplies breastmilk jewellery kit

How to make sending kits for your clients to post you their elements such as breastmilk, cremation ashes, locks of hair and fur, umbilical cord and placenta, flowers, petals and leaves, sand and earth, sentimental fabrics, prints such as fingers and feet (2D or 3D).

How To Make Sending Kits

  1. First of all, you will need to make up a set of instructions for each element. You can save the hassle and download our PDF Instruction Templates here. If your client has a breastmilk and umbilical cord necklace, for example, you’ll need to send them instructions for both breastmilk and umbilical cord
  2. We find using a large letter box is the least expensive way to ship here in the UK, but ask others in your country what they find the cheapest way to send.
  3. Include a ring sizer like this if they ordered a ring
  4. Use washi tape to make pots look beautiful and tell them apart
  5. Include a sealable bag with their name, order number, order dates and details. They will put their tubes and pots in here

Breastmilk Kits
Include two 5ml Breastmilk Sending Tubes which we sell here, mark each tube with an Ultra Fine Sharpie, one line at 5ml and one just above. If they fill the tube to the brim, just include the extra milk when using our breastmilk preservation powder, it will just take slightly longer to thicken. Write your client’s name and order number on each of the two tubes and initials and order number on the lid. Include one bag for the milk tubes and one bag for other elements like hair or cord.

Cremation Ashes Kits
Include one 3ml Sending Pot (we sell them here too). We prefer plastic because they’re see-through, and a small 2ml spoon, and ask them to return the spoon. If they fill the pot to the brim, just transfer the extra ashes into a separate container so that it doesn’t spill when you’re working and make your crafting area messy. Write your client’s name and order number on the lid and the bottom of the pot with an Ultra Fine Sharpie. include a sealable bag with their name, order number, order dates and details.

Lock of Hair and Fur Kits
Include one 3ml Sending Pot and a small length of cotton thread to tie the hair or fur. Write your client’s name and order number on the lid and the bottom of the pot with an Ultra Fine Sharpie. Sending a kit prevents them from doing things like putting sticky tape on the hair, or folding it in foil (which causes kinks).

Horse Hair Kits
Include two of the labelled bags because the hair won’t bend into a pot – ask for around 5-10 strands but make sure they keep half back. You can work with half a single strand if that’s all they have by doubling it up a few times. Once the hair arrives, wash it in warm soapy water and dry thoroughly then wipe with an alcohol wipe to remove any leftover grease and dirt.

Umbilical Cord and Placenta Kits
Include one 3ml Sending Pot. Write your client’s name and order number on the lid and the bottom of the pot with an Ultra Fine Sharpie. Sending a kit prevents them from sending the entire cord and clip, which would be devastating if lost in the post. And orange pip size piece is more than enough for several pieces (although if doing more than one bead or large orb, you may need to add a colour as the ground cord might be a little sparse).

Petal and Leaf Kits
Include two labeled bags. Write your client’s name and order number on the lid and the bottom of the pot with an Ultra Fine Sharpie. Sending a kit prevents them from doing things like putting sticky tape on the hair, or folding it in foil (which causes kinks).

2D Fingerprint Kits for Engraving*
For fingerprints, handprints, footprints, pawprints, noseprints, thumbprints etc you can include an Inkless Wipe Kit*. We can laser engrave 2D images onto most of our pieces. Ask the clients to email you photos; if the photos are good quality then they can keep the originals. Some clients struggle with getting a clear photo in daylight which is suitable for engraving, so then you might ask them to post the original and then photograph it yourself. Include a bag labelled with your client’s name and order number, they can cut out one of the prints to send.  For handwriting you can ask them to send a photo – we don’t allow them to post the original item (such as a birthday card) because it’s irreplaceable if it’s lost in the post. In that case, ask the client to get help photographing it.

3D Fingerprint Kits for Metal Clay*
For fingerprints, thumbprints, noseprints etc you can include a 3D Putty Kit. Include a bag labelled with your client’s name and order number, ask them to make two but only send one because it’s irreplaceable if it’s lost in the post. To use the mould they return, fill it with glue from a hot glue gun, epoxy resin or layers of UV resin and that becomes the master to imprint into clay. Buy Precious Metal Clay here and follow tutorials. See our blog here Fingerprint Engraving and Metal Clay

*Please see our blog here Fingerprint Engraving and Metal Clay on taking prints from the recently deceased and using Precious Metal Clay.

More coming soon (sorry, I have covid and I’m exhausted – doing my best!)

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How Having Covid Affected My Small Business

How Having Covid Affected My Small Business

I’m writing this blog to explain how having covid affected my small business in August and September 2021. I’m starting this blog on Tuesday 31st August and I found out yesterday morning. Although super exhausted right now, it seems important to document this for future generations to understand how small business owners in the jewellery industry are affected by the corona virus.

Extremely Vulnerable Status

We conceived Lexi in December 2019 on holiday with Hakun’s family in the Faroe Islands. I had no idea how having covid affected my small business or how it would affect the world the way it has but I’m not convinced I’d have chosen to be pregnant in 2020 if I’d had any inkling. The pregnancy was straightforward but I missed a lot of the social aspects and milestones I’d had with my older two. I did pregnancy yoga on Zoom but it wasn’t the same; the kids would barge in and I wasn’t relaxed any more.

I isolated, only going out for hospital appointments. It wasn’t till after Lexi was a few months old, when I was no longer isolating I had a letter saying I was extremely vulnerable. I went back into lockdown and had my first jab within a week, not long after my mum. My husband, Haks, had his vaccination a couple of months later and we’re both fully jabbed now.

Getting Covid

I felt it was really unlikely either of us would pick up covid after having both vaccines. I went for a few days to help a friend after her baby was born and her partner went back to work. Once I got home I had a message from her telling me he’d tested positive for the virus (even though he was double jabbed) his first day back at work in a care home – I expected to get it then, but it came back negative. It wasn’t till my husband and I took the kids to London this weekend just gone that I suddenly felt ill on the train home. I did a test and when I got the second line I booked a proper home test.

How Having Covid Affected My Small Business

At the moment we’re really struggling as a family financially and emotionally. I don’t share this much but we’re currently homeless. We own a house, yes, but it’s got tenants in it which we wouldn’t evict even if we could. We literally can’t call it our home and we’re at the mercy of my mum till our house purchase completes. We’re used to having our freedom because Hakun works full time as a systems developer and making keepsake and breastmilk jewellery has always given me a fantastic income even part time. The silver lining of living with my mum is that she has Lexi for me every day. But with covid I can’t go in and my husband is too sick to work.

If I really think how having covid affected my small business, the worst part is letting my customers down. I’m pretty emotional typing this (my head hurts and I keep coughing, every time I cough I panic about my bladder!) and I’m sad that I can’t do much more than sit on the laptop. Without the energy to do a tutorial video all I can manage is a bit of SEO. Don’t forget, I still have to pay my shop bills even if I’m not there so there’s no retail therapy on the horizon.

My silver lining is Joanna, who’s shipping what she can from Norwich, on the other side of the country. You’re still welcome to order from here but you might find it faster to order from our Etsy shop here!

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Umbilical Cord and Breastmilk Ring Tutorial

Ayla umbilical cord breastmilk ring, pearly purple breastmilk resin sparkle mix. Making breastmilk jewellery

Umbilical cord and breastmilk ring tutorial – making breastmilk jewellery using a direct pour technique. This technique is ideal for our exclusive hybrid rings here which are great for direct pouring because the walls are curved over, meaning the resin can’t pop out again. You also have the option to use the mould included in the kit to make a couple of cabochons then choose your favourite to glue into the setting and top coat.

Umbilical Cord and Breastmilk Ring Tutorial Video


To learn how to preserve the milk here’s the full blog with instructions and the video:

We include these PDF downloadable instructions with the breastmilk kits for preserving the milk. After your first order you’ll receive a reasonable 15% off future purchases*. If you’d like to work towards your own preservation methods please read our breastmilk jewellery making blogs!

Firstly, when making breastmilk jewellery send your client a breastmilk sending kit, see our Worldwide Sourcing Guides here – including the UKUSAAustralia and Canada (more countries coming soon) for details on the tubes we recommend, which are also suitable for heating directly although that’s not needed for this method.

Umbilical Cord and Breastmilk Ring Tutorial

You’ll need the following supplies

one of our DIY breastmilk ring kits
the breastmilk version of the kits contain:

You’ll also need your client’s preserved, dried and ground breastmilk and a small piece of your client’s umbilical cord/placenta powder or cremation ashes.  We ask them to only send half a cord stump, not including the clip! That way, if it’s lost in the post they can send a little more.

GRINDING UMBILICAL CORD
The pliers are the easiest way to cut umbilical cord
You can use scissors instead, but it’s tricky because the cord is tough and sinewy.
Cord stumps contain dried connective tissue and blood, some have more connective tissue and the resulting jewellery is more beige and brown, some have more blood and have a ruby colour but most pieces are a combination
Cut off some of the cord stump and put the rest back in the pot for your client to return with their finished jewellery
Use the pliers to make the pieces as small as possible. You can see you only need the tiniest bit!
Use the pestle and mortar to grind those pieces finely just as you did with the breastmilk powder.
The more time you spend grinding, the nicer the result
Scrape it from the edges with a tiny spoon
For good measure, give your breastmilk powder an extra grind in the other pestle and mortar
on KeepsakerSupplies.com you’ll find all the supplies I’ve used in this video

FILLING THE RING
Put your ring in the side of the ring clamp
You can also prop it up in an egg cup wrapped with cling film with a slit, or propped up in WhiteTack on a ring dish.
Anything which can be easily transferred into the UV lamp and keeps it up level
On the label backing paper put some pearly breastmilk sparkle mix, a tiny drop of resin and add breastmilk powder.
I’m using our UV top coat today instead of resin because it’s easier to work with and never leaves a sticky residue.
I don’t use it for every piece because it’s a little pricier than our regular UV resin which comes in the making breastmilk jewellery kit.
I wouldn’t use it for a bead or a heart necklace for instance.
It’s no problem using the resin in the kit but I definitly recommend buying the top coat just for a finishing layer of larger pieces

Mix the powder and resin well with the cocktail stick and put a little drop in the ring, so it’s just about half full
Cure in a UV lamp**

ADDING THE CORD
Take a fresh piece of label backing paper and add a drop of resin.
Put the ground umbilical cord next to it.
Use a toothpick to put some resin where you want the cord, in this case I’m making a crescent moon shape so I’m adding it round one edge

CURE AGAIN
Put any unused cord back in the client’s pot to return
You could also add dried ground placenta or cremation ashes at this point, too

SWIRLING ON A GALAXY EFFECT
Clients absolutely love a galaxy effect, so I’m adding some of the pearly breastmilk sparkle mix which comes in the kits.
Add a little bit of resin then take the tiniest bit of the pearly sparkles on a toothpick
This is pearly purple and I’m adding a couple of the opalescent flakes
Swirl in gently, you’ll notice it’s only visible at certain angles so it’s a beautiful surprise when it catches the light just so
We sell six different colours of the pearly breastmilk sparkle mixes, also known as “ghost pigments” because they don’t really contain any pigment.
The photos on our website definitely don’t do them justice!
Cure again

DOMING WITH TOP COAT
I find it easiest to pick up a little top coat directly from the bottle and drop onto the piece
If you add too much, just use the side of the toothpick and roll it around in the resin to pick some up
I like it just slightly domed, if it’s too high it’s more prone to being knocked

FULLY CURE TWICE
Allow the ring to cool completely after curing then cure again
The resin can’t pop out of this ring because it’s curved inwards at the top making it perfect for direct pours or cabochon stone setting

Ayla umbilical cord breastmilk ring, pearly purple breastmilk resin sparkle mix. Making breastmilk jewellery

**Which UV Lamp To Use

I’m using a 48w Sun3 lamp with a low heat setting but any UV lamp or torch will do when making breastmilk jewellery. We sell a USB powered mini lamp here (UK only, sorry – here’s the USA version). We don’t recommend you use daylight unless it’s very bright and sunny and you work in extremely thin layers. We had a client contact us this week and we’re replacing their DIY breastmilk ring after the resin exploded out of the centre after being cured on the windowsill. The sunlight had only cured the very top layer, underneath was still liquid.

If you add too much pigment to a piece too it won’t cure, I’ve had beads that you can crush in your fingertips made by new artists that added too much resin sparkle mix.

Adding Hair

If you want to add hair when making breastmilk jewellery then you can cut a little and add it along with, or instead of, the umbilical cord. I find it a lot easier to shape it into a mould though.
There’s a video linked down below teaching you how to do that and set it in a rubover setting
This is one of our exclusive hybrid settings meaning you can pour directly into it like I’m doing here or you can glue in a cabochon then dome it with a top coat to add extra security

Now relax and do some crafting!

Please note, this Umbilical Cord and Breastmilk Ring Tutorial contains affiliate links, meaning I receive a small income based on your purchases from Amazon and Etsy etc. This affiliate income is really helpful to me to support my family and if you’d like to know how I set it all up please get in touch (blogs coming soon!).
Nikki
pronouns – they/them

*terms apply – some products aren’t included such as settings and findings, sorry.

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6 Ways To Sell More Breastmilk Jewellery

10 Ways To Sell More Breastmilk Jewellery by being honest, ethical, environmentally friendly and giving your clients great quality pieces.

1. Use Stock Images To Advertise

The age old chicken and the egg question. You get more orders if you can show customers what your jewellery looks like before they buy. But getting the images can only usually be done once you’ve sold one. We can make ourselves a dozen pieces but if you’re anything like me, you will have enough pieces to last you a lifetime already. There’s only so many breastmilk beads this business owner needs!

What some artists do is take a screen shot of the setting from the manufacturer and share that on their page. It does give people an idea of the style of the jewellery, however, it’s not the most professional. Clients can’t imagine what their breastmilk will look like in the setting though, it’s best to show a mockup (photo of how it may look). So you might not be the best at Photoshop but that’s no problem. If you buy our stock images here (some are usually free!) then clients can get an idea of how the piece will look and you can get an order based on it. 

2. SEO “Breastmilk Jewellery”

SEO is a time-consuming hobby but it’s not that difficult. There are tons of courses out there that teach you how to climb Google rankings with SEO and my tip is to install something called Yoast (this bit isn’t sponsored, I just think they’re great). Making lots and lots of small, laborious changes to the way your listings appear online can really help. It takes ages but it’s free and well worth it. Beware of paying  someone to do it for you unless you know for certain they really know your product well.

P.S. It’s “breastmilk” not “breast milk”, “breastfeeding” not “breast feeding” its use over the years has evolved so that the common use is a single word. You tend to see it split into two by people who don’t have much to do with breastfeeding, such as right wing newspapers, but most of the time you’ll see it as one word. Jewellery or jewelry depends on the country you’re in, so you’ll see us switch between the two depending on the audience. Jewellery for the UK and Australia, jewelry in the USA and Canada. Sadly, the spelling “jewely” and “jewerly” both appear a lot on TikTok hashtags over the UK and USA spellings, but I hope you you can ignore those!

3. Work With Micro Influencers

I’m not recommending you to start giving out hundreds of pounds’ worth of free breastmilk jewellery, but if an influencer approaches you’d don’t immediately turn them down. Having done a couple of successful influencer campaigns, I’ve been really happy both times – one influencer shot it so far out of the park we’ve stayed friends ever since and I’ll be making her engagement rings for her. You can even approach them yourself if you find someone who aligns really well with your brand, but beware of fees if they are larger influencers.

My top tip is to include an influencer agreement if you’re paying them or the value is very high, make sure they’re clear on timescales and what they can and can’t post. Talk it through, write it down and be prepared for ones that don’t pan out. I think it’s worth trying though, it’s one of the most interesting ways to sell more Breastmilk Jewellery!

4. Find Social Media Platforms

My accountant said to me, regarding social media:

If you could only do one platform what would it be? Make sure you focus your efforts there!

Buhir Rafiq, Totalbooks

Most of us start our journey on Facebook but add in Instagram, Twitter ad TikTok. Personally I’ve never had a single sale from Twitter despite posting there a lot, but I think breastmilk jewellery is very visual so you need to be showing people your products regularly. Hire a social media manager if you can afford it to post photos for you at scheduled times, look up the best way to use each platform and learn when to post. If you’re nervous about doing videos, just do it anyway because there will always be someone that finds it interesting.

5. Run An Advert

I’ve had the best results for ads on my Facebook page, but there are tons of places to advertise such as Instagram, your local baby selling group, even newspapers. I prefer Facebook because you can see actual numbers of people who’ve responded and if you have a pixel on your website then you can even track sales/conversions. I’m not convinced printed advertising is worth much anymore but it’s up to you to try things out and test the waters.

6. Stick Advertising on your Car

One of my favourite ways to sell breastmilk jewellery is to get a sticker for my car with my business details!

Other Ways To Sell More Breastmilk Jewellery

If you have your own favourite Ways To Sell More Breastmilk Jewellery please drop me a comment down below and I will add it to the list!

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Working With Pavé Settings for Breastmilk Jewellery

Working With Pavé Settings for Breastmilk Jewellery

Are you considering working with pavé settings for breastmilk jewellery? Viki Rudkin from Cumbria Life Casting is here to give you some pointers.

Pavé set halo settings are a hugely popular and modern design. The accent of extra sparkle works beautifully alongside breastmilk, cremation ashes and hair stones, helping them sparkle and optimise their beauty. If you are considering working with pavé settings there are a few things you should take into consideration as these beautiful designs often need more care and maintenance than other styles.

What Are Pavé Settings?

Pavé settings are when many stones are set closely together in this fashion, roughly 1 millimetre (0.039 in) apart,[7] covering a surface, this is known as a “pavé” setting, from the French for “paved” or “cobblestoned”.

Round Cut Natural Diamond Hand Engraved 18k Yellow Gold Working With Pavé Settings for Breastmilk Jewellery
Round Cut Natural Diamond Hand Engraved 18k Yellow Gold Pavé Setting for Breastmilk Jewellery from 5ineJewels

Working With Pavé Settings for Breastmilk Jewellery

Due to the delicate nature of these settings, it can be quite a common occurrence for clients to lose accent stones. You can replace the stones with some fairly specialised equipment. We do this under a jewellers microscope by redrilling the seat and beads which hold the stone in. Unfortunately, if you use settings that you have taken the original stone out of, then replaces with a resin stone with your client’s breastmilk or cremation ashes, you will always struggle with stones falling out. The large main prongs have the job of keeping all the other tiny beads and therefore stones in position. Once you’ve moved these you’ve then compromised all the accent stones. The metal holding the stones in is not meant to be moved. Best practice is to have your settings cast and to cut the seat into the prongs using burs or files to exactly replicate the shape of your stone.*

Pavé setting with diamamté missing
Pavé setting with diamamté missing, in need of repair

Setting your stone this way means minimal movement of the larger prongs and will ensure your resin stone is safely held in place and protected from damage as best as possible. Some things to take into consideration when offering this style is that resizing rings after they have been made can be extremely tricky and is not recommended. They are not suitable for cleaning in an ultrasonic cleaner either. We do not recommend pavé settings for everyday wear or for those who lead an active lifestyle. The beads of metal that hold the accent stones in place can be damaged by being knocked hard, or if a piece is badly misshapen in an accident repairs can be much harder. We also recommend that clients send their pieces in around every 12 months for maintenance so we can check for any damaged prongs or other issues. Check out some YouTube videos on setting pavé stones, or when restrictions allow there are some amazing courses that can teach you this kind of stone setting. If you are uncomfortable working with pavé settings we specialise in this area and have a huge variety for clients to choose from at www.cumbrialifecasting.com
Viki Rudkin

Working With Pavé Settings for Breastmilk Jewellery

*Please note, at Keepsaker Supplies we don’t recommend working with prong settings as the stone with your client’s elements (such breastmilk or ashes). The stone would need to have a perfect finish around the bottom, which is very hard to achieve. Also, the edges of the stone are prone to damage and chipping as the resin is not as hardwearing as other stones for which prong settings are intended. We find that customers using prong settings will get clients damaging the main stones too!
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How to Deal With Complaints

how to deal with complaints by Nikki Kamminga at Keepsaker Supplies

You can learn how to deal with complaints easily, effectively and without feeling personally harmed. Making memorial or breastmilk jewellery or DNA keepsakes is quite a unique area, somewhere in between breastfeeding counsillor, funeral director and wedding supplier. The wedding and funeral industries receive the most complaints of all industries because tensions are running high, and I believe that passes over to keepsake jewellery. Customers in this industry can be more hurtful than in any other area I’ve worked (from mobile phones to advertising to coffee shop and retail management) and it’s a combination of it being such an emotive thing we’re working with and the fact I feel closer to it because it’s my own business.

How to Deal With Complaints – The Paths

Whether you’re in the right or they are, or both of you, there are several paths you can take together. Please don’t forget that you have the power to guide a customer down a different path no matter how the conversation starts out. I’ll try to give as many examples below from working in this industry over six years.

The Full Refund and Keep The Jewellery
This is the path the most difficult customers often want to go down. It can be incredibly painful to get this kind of message. They’ve received their item and have found something to complain about. They want you to refund them completely but they will almost always refuse to return the jewellery because “it contains something so irreplaceable”.

Example (customer):
“I received a ring from you today after waiting absolutely ages and I’m very angry. It looks unprofessional and the colour is all wrong, it’s too dark! It doesn’t even fit me; I want a full refund but I’m not sending it back because it’s my gran’s ashes”

This is one of the worst case scenario complaints. They’re complaining about quality of the setting, the competence of the artist, the fact that it doesn’t fit and the time it took to arrive. You can apologise and do what they want by refunding without return, but then you’ll be out the cost of the setting and all of your work, plus shipping and overheads. I almost always* try to steer them away from this because I DON’T DESERVE TO WORK FOR FREE and neither do you! 

What to do – start off with an acknowledgement of their complaint and a genuine apology. Look back through any old messages and find some empathy for a client. They’re probably grieving their breastfeeding journey or their loved one. I would say, for example,

Hi Hannah, thank you so much for taking the time to come to me with this. I know it must be difficult to have received something you’re looking forward to for a long time and it’s not what you were hoping for. After your gran passed in March the crematorium have looked after her really well and the ashes were a lovely naturally dark colour. We usually try to let the natural colour of the ashes come through in the jewellery, which can hide some of the pigment we added in the green you chose. I definitely checked the ring size before setting the ashes, but if you feel like it’s not the right size you can take it to a local jeweller (please send me a photo of it on the sizer) or you can buy one here on Amazon. Please forward me your Amazon receipt and a photo of the ring on the sizing stick and I’ll refund the sizer.

Here’s a resolution I would like to offer. I will remake the ring for you in the size you like, please use a sizer exactly like this one to find your correct size. Please post me back the ashes and this ring, we will remove and return the stone, so the ring can be recycled, and make a new one. We can hide the ashes behind the pigment so you can’t see so much (or any) of your gran’s ashes if you’re not keen on their colour. We’ll send you a photo of the cabochons/stones we make to check you’re happy before setting one in the new ring setting. As a goodwill gesture we’ll even ship the remake to you free of charge by Special Delivery. Please let me know if you’re happy to go ahead
Yours Sincerely
Nikki Kamminga
Owner and Artist
Tree of Opals

The Partial Refund and Replacement
If your customer starts off with asking for a partial refund then don’t feel like you necessarily have to give them money back. When I first started out making memorial and breastmilk jewellery I was in need of every penny to pay for childcare, let alone contribute to bills. If I had an order it would either be spent on stock and consumables like moulds and settings or it would go to my girls’ nursery. I didn’t have business savings and I couldn’t afford to refund, so if it was necessary it would have to come out of our personal account.

This isn’t a situation I’d recommend you be in, with good profit margins you should easily be able to cover your overheads, childcare and some put aside. I lost £100 in my first year in business (I started off with £350 of my own money from a child tax credit) then I made a profit after about six months. If you can, put aside 10% to cover any refunds.

Still, you can avoid a refund at all by offering something of equal value. For example, if they want £50 back why not offer a £50 necklace, that may only cost you £10 to make?

How to Prevent Complaints To Begin With

The best way to prvent complaints in the first place is to try to do everything you can to get them to understand the important points about buying jewellery from you. That could be in the form of a phone call or email before you take payment, or an extra box on your checkout to ask them if they definitely read the product description and the FAQ’s. I make my customers write “I promise” in the box on the checkout on Tree of Opals and it does help cut down on complaints in the first place. Customers often won’t read them anyway, but at least you have them there to back you up in case you do get a complaint.

Always let customers know, regarding lead times 1. your maximum lead time (orders can take up to four months from receipt of payment and the milk/ashes etc) and 2. an estimated lead time (most orders take about a month right now but this will be longer during the school holidays). Also let them know if any of your settings are handmade, such as rings from us which are soldered or cast by hand in small batches and look handmade. I like to include a sizing disclaimer in my terms and conditions, along the lines of, “due to different tolerances in ring sizers the ring provided may be up to one whole UK (one half US) ring size larger or smaller than requested”.

I avoid most complaints in the first place with two important tools:

  1. Proof Photos – Prevent them saying they don’t like the colour by sending a proof photo – just make at least two cabochons (stones), on the back, email the client a photo and ask which they prefer.  Let them know that you’ll always return the unused ones free of charge but you can make extra profit here by offering to set the extra in silver for another £20/$30 (over half will say yes). They feel more involved in the process, fewer complaints about time too
  2. Free Ring Sizers – At Tree of Opals our way to remove ring sizing complaints is letting customers know we prefer to send them a free ring sizer with their kit to borrow. You can find kit supplies here in our country specific buying guides, here’s one from Amazon that’s ideal, we just ask for the letter that fits best so they don’t get confused about which number we need. The letter is the UK ring size and they’re a little more accurate than US sizes


How to Deal With Complaints When You’re In The Right

This one’s carefully phrased, the flip side of “you’re in the right” is “you’re not in the wrong”. Or even the possibility that your customer’s in the wrong. Whether that’s true or not, it’s always best to treat the situation like you’re both in the right. Don’t accuse the customer of being wrong, having misread something, having demanded too much, too soon or being cheap. It’s not going to make you or them happy and it’s going to lead to hurt feelings and bad reviews.

Then again, you don’t have to give in to a customer’s unreasonable demands just because you’re scared of a bad review. I like to try to find a middle ground for each situation so I’ve given as examples above. If you have lots of good reviews then don’t give in to demands of a refund if you’re in the right just because you’re afraid – real customers will see through a bad review if the rest are great!

Do you have any tips for dealing with complaints?

 

*The only situation where I’d give a full refund and allow them to keep the piece is where it’s not too expensive in the first place (perhaps £50 and under) and/or the client has my home address and has threatened me. If I’m worried about the safety of my family, I’ll do anything to get rid of them as fast as possible. I had a situation once where a client I think was mentally ill turned up at my home at 9pm and I honestly wish that I had given her a full refund. Preferably before I’d made the piece, when I knew she was a problem. You do need to put your family first and if a customer gives you any sign of being dangerous then please refund in full and block all contact. If they leave you a 1* review anywhere then you can fight it with any evidence of threats you’ve received from them.