Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Handmade vs Imported Sweat Shop Work

When we undersell our own work, we also devalue other Artisans

Today I began a correspondence with someone making fine crocheted juggling balls, in the hacky sack style, I checked her shop out as I wondered if they were imported from a third world country, with the seller still making a small profit, as they were so cheaply priced.

But no, she had made them herself and was only asking $10 for 3 of them, the sort of price you might pay for them in a discount store.

I asked her how long each ball had taken her to make, her reply was probably 2 or more hours each.
She states, "I take a lot of time and put a lot of care into each piece that I make."

So $10, for six hours time and labour, less than $10, because there are still the costs of the yarn, the listing fees, the commission for Etsy, the fee for Paypal, the time to photograph and list her work, and then the time to promote her work.

She asked me what I would charge if I were making them...... I replied
" If I was making them I think I would charge at least $7 or $8 each, with 3 for $20 or $22.50 maybe, which is still way under the time factor but I agree you can't really charge for the full amount of time. That's why I don't make them, when we have to compete with $4 hacky sacks from Guatemala :(
It's very tricky. But think on this.....if you got three orders for 3 more sets to be ready by a certain date or just asap, would you, still feel OK about working your fingers off, to make them to order at that price?"

When I first started making and selling my hats, back in the late '80's, I had prices like $8- and $10- on them, they did sell well, but it wasn't until I was making orders that I began to realise the value of my own work.

To have 3 or 4 hats ordered one week, when I was only charging a small amount, I began to calculate a little bit more into the time factor. Was it worth my while to spend 6+ hours on one hat, usually longer and get paid $1-$2- per hour or so. No way. So, hat prices went up to $30- $50 and more people started buying them.
One sale at $40, was heaps better for my fingers and neck, than 4 x that work-time, making four hats.

But it wasn't until I entered my first Beaniefest Competition that I began to price them for their individuality, creativity, skil, time, etc.etc. because my partner said "put proper prices on them "

I couldn't have sat behind the counter, with a price of $220-, and had to take a BIG breath before I wrote it on the entry form, before sending off to Alice Springs, but it, and another at $180-, but both sold !! (see below)

Fibre artists using the medium of Knitting and Crocheting have the added stigma attached to this work, 'that women do it' and normally don't get paid to do it. Little old ladies crochet hats and donate them to charity shops to sell for $3- !

I feel this must change ! If I make an artwork/craftwork that takes me 5 hours of my time, I am going to charge appropriately. There are hidden costs involved there too, in the time it takes to source the wool and yarn that make my hats unique. There are countless hours unravelleling jumpers and scarves, after washing them first, to find certain colours, and rolling the new commercial 'loose winds' of wool into 'balls' that enable me to work more easily. It is also a meditative process to get wound up for work

If I was a silversmith/jeweller, people might value my time for much smaller pieces that may, have taken less time to create

I have just made and listed, some small clothes for pre-loved teddy bears, the two smallest ones are really priced a bit below what I should ask for them as they took hours of my time,( worked with a small hook), the other 3 (the larger ones), are made with a bigger hook and I switched from small fiddly to faster and quicker styles. I just wanted something to put in our DUST Team (Down Under Street Team)'s monthly sale 'Stocking Stuffers' to try and get back into promotion and marketing after being busy elsewhere for quite awhile. See the full sale Here
After the sale, the two small ones will go back up to a more realistic price.

When we undersell our own work, we also devalue other Artisans

1 comment:

jenny said...
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