Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Value of Handmade...

Recently it came to my attention that I needed to really re-work my business model.  As you may have noticed I've been a bit in a flutter about this lately as ideas and inspiration are pouring into my psyche about how to get to where I wish to be.

In this issue coming up I received a bit of a "rude awakening" at how I was putting myself in a hole when dealing with a custom order recently.  The long and short of it is that the consumer wanted to pay half of my quote.  This figure only just covered materials costs and some hidden fees I as a seller have to pay.  The remaining amount didn't cover the skill or effort I'd put forth thus far by a long shot, but as I had given the estimate prior to re-working my pricing formula I wasn't about to go back on it now.

The nitty gritty behind the issue is that I am an artist & crafter dealing with a non-artist.  Now I've had this issue before, even when dealing with another artist.  In general people don't understand art or what they're asking and paying for.  When the average person goes to work it's for 8 hours and aside from management or anything complex it's a so-so level of effort or skill involved.  (And please don't think I'm downgrading anyone's work.)  But to be frank, going into the office to type things up, file, deal with customers, or anything remotely clerical doesn't involve a lot of hard skill.  It doesn't require you to go to school to do, you learn mostly on the job.  For those things where education or extensive training is required most of the time you learn what you need to and that's it.  You then go to work and apply this knowledge.  Innovations while they are present aren't such that it's necessarily a norm in non-art industries.

When I work for 8 hours I can easily get a nominal portion done.  This in part is due to the nature of my particular work.  Fiber arts are notorious for taking a lot of time to be done handmade.  And while some of them, like weaving and knitting, may be done via machinery things like crochet and cross stitch/needlepoint cannot.

Another factor of the problem is trying to compare output of handmade versus machine made.  A person's hands in nearly all cases just cannot keep up with a mechanized version.  They are literally two different animals and comparing them is a moot point.  But while you get speed and efficiency as well as consistency of product every time for mechanized work you cannot get the human element.  (Thankfully!)  When  you go to Target they have shelves and racks full of garments.  Garments that likely took a machine less than an 8 hour workday to make, which would take a person several weeks depending.  When you shop handmade you'll likely find one or two of a single type of item and often in a wider range of colors or styles versus a huge stock of green sweaters.  However, one of the big differences between the two is you're unlikely to find anything handmade in a major store.  Where you could find something made by a simple machine in a handmade store.

This is perhaps a good and bad thing.  While it lends uniqueness to the work it also adds scarcity (ever wonder why handmade items cost so much?)  This on top of other factors like wage (based on skill, experience, and time) factored in make a big difference in cost.  Also consider that your typical artist, even when in business for themselves is typically a small business.  Not equipped to mass produce anything complicated.  They also may or may not be able to get anything wholesale in the way of supplies or may be limited by other factors (like space).

So when you go to Target, Walmart, or wherever next time and you see that cute sweater for 20.00 realize the actual value of it.

No comments:

Post a Comment