The first piece of jewelry I ever sold was to a friend. The amazing woman who got me hooked on beading had regular girls night hang-outs at her house (to watch Project Runway, of course) and one of our mutual friends there bought a necklace I had made. And that was truly awesome.
Around the holidays last year I shared a link to my flickr jewelry album with some folks I work with and that turned into bringing a display in for a couple days and selling several items to people who, while they are not all close friends, are my colleagues and folks I see regularly on the small boarding school campus where I work. And that was great too.
Now that I've moved into selling online I somehow figured that most of my customers would be complete strangers. But of course, my friends are showing me once again how much they rock by not only leaving supportive comments, hearts on my Etsy page, liking my Facebook fan page, and those easy free things that take but a moment of time... But several of them have now purchased my work and I am humbled and so thrilled that they want to spend their hard-earned money on things I've made.
Some folks seem to think that the ultimate judgement of quality is when the average consumer who doesn't know you personally wants to buy your items. But I feel just the opposite... My oldest friend spending money on a pendant when she knows if she just hinted around her birthday or Christmas I'd be completely likely to give it to her as a gift... that means more to me than managing to tap into a market or find a niche that makes strangers clamor for my work. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I don't want my business to take off and be profitable (preferably to levels beyond my wildest dreams).
But I hope that no matter what happens I'll always make stuff that my friends think is cool, and that I'll always have friends like the ones I have now.