In these posts we take a look at some unique members of the OpenBazaar ecosystem. Today we interview a vendor selling his own hand-made jewelry, Tom Woods Jewelry, who was connected enough to be shared by his friends with us on Twitter! You can find Tom Woods Jewelry on OpenBazaar here and on Duosearch here.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a retired educator having taught incarcerated adults in the Vermont state prison system. In addition, I’ve had longtime interests in computer programming and electronic design, oil painting, and collecting rocks. I live in the heart of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, which has pretty good rockhounding sites. I got started faceting stones after finding a beautiful green gemstone while walking along some abandoned railroad tracks. It took a long time to gather the equipment and expertise I needed, but after probably six years I was faceting. I started to amass lots of finished gems and I wanted to do something with them. I couldn’t afford to buy jewelry settings for them all, but I told myself, if I can facet a stone, I should be able to make my own jewelry settings. So as soon as I retired and had the energy and time, I took soldering and metals classes at the Littleton Studio School in Littleton, NH. I’m still involved with L.S.S. It is just so great to be able to talk and share ideas with the great artists and crafts people there. (Read more about Tom on his website at tomscooljewels.blogspot.com!)
What do you make/sell?
What I like to do is collect stones, both locally and around the country. I fashion them into faceted stones or cabochons, which are smoothly shaped and polished stones. Finally, I make the jewelry into which I set my finished stones. I am especially interested in working with stones that have some fascinating local history, or legend. Almost all stones have not just their physical beauty, but they also have deep metaphysical properties that have spiritual, magical, mystical significance. I try to weave this lore into my work because some people, including me, are keenly interested in it. I can’t say for sure that stones possess magical or healing powers. I suspect some do, and I know for a fact there is one stone that I cannot keep close to my body because it makes me sick. But the ancient traditions and mystery wrapped around stones is terribly fascinating. It gives us different ways to appreciate stones. It helps connect us to the earth, and sometimes, beyond.
Why are you selling your product on OpenBazaar?
When I taught, one of my classes was about personal finance and investment. Through that, I became interested in macroeconomics and where money comes from. I was shocked when I grasped the implications of our present day fractional reserve system, and I began looking at Bitcoin and other crypto currencies as a possible hedge. I offer jewelry on a blog, TomsCoolJewels.blogspot.com, and have accepted bitcoin there. I probably never would have tried OpenBazaar were it not for my Twitter friend, @BitcoinBelle, who encouraged me to have a look. So I did, and I liked the store format. It’s neat and simple, way easier than adding new jewelry to my blog. So the store went up, with some bumps to be sure, but I am happy with how it looks.
How has your experience been with OpenBazaar so far?
I am extremely pleased with how my store looks and how easily I can add new products. There were hurdles to jump to get there. The two main problems were overcoming connection problems and making a server that would be up all the time (I finally settled on a low power single board unix computer called the NVIDIA Tegra TK1).
The disappointment is there does not appear to be throngs of willing buyers jamming into my store and taking all my product, paying in bitcoin Part of this might be an OpenBazaar critical mass problem.
Another piece of the puzzle is bitcoin’s volatility. When the dollar value of bitcoin fluctuates 30% up or down, the coin becomes more a tool for speculators than for trading in goods and services. When Bitcoin goes up, it’s the equivalent of deflation in the fiat world. There is no incentive to buy now when you can hold onto your money and buy the same product for less if you wait. This is an impossible situation for business, whether we are talking about dollar deflation or bitcoin deflation.
How familiar are you with Bitcoin?
I feel I am quite familiar, actually. I understand the way the blockchain works and how blocks must be solved, I’ve tried mining my own bitcoin, but soon gave that up when the block rewards didn’t even come close to paying the electric bill.
What changes would you like to see to OpenBazaar to make it more useful for you?
Keep improving the client and server software to make it easy and idiot-proof for users so OpenBazaar can increase its user base. Prospective store owners are not necessarily wanting to spend hours of time fussing over computer issues. I would love to see a sort of bitcoin/currency exchange system developed whereby buyers could pay in dollars or maybe other fiat currencies. Right now, I suspect a good piece of business is lost because there aren’t enough buyers that hold bitcoin they want to spend, but they might be willing to use dollars. Along a similar line, a great improvement would be to make it possible to update all my prices so they reflect fluctuating bitcoin exchange prices. Right now when bitcoin goes up a lot versus the dollar, I have to edit each of my products to bring the price in line with the new dollar value. If I could tie my prices to the dollar and then list a bitcoin price that adjusts automatically, it would be a great time saver. (EDIT: This is possible by setting prices to your present fiat currency in Settings!)