Sunday, 13 November 2011

Devaluing My Work :-(

So I posted a link on facebook.. a rant (well written by someone else).. about how some people undervalue handmade work, not everyone.. far from everyone.. but some people.  The longer I do handmade work.. the more I realize this to be true!!  It is so easy to say.. "brush it off", "ignore them", "pffft.. what do they know?" .. but.. not so easy to do. REALLY .. not .. easy .. to .. do. 

And here's why:

Because 99.9% of the people who create, have home businesses, do craft fairs.. whatever ..well..  they love their work.. it is not just a piece of material, a piece of glass, or some trinket.. it is what they (and I) , have put their heart into.  I can't speak for others, but I know that every single piece I make is something I would wear or use.  So today.. when I was told by someone that they could make the very same necklace I have for $2 .. it is one of those things that gets under my skin and I just have a hard time letting it go.  Obviously.. this person had no clue.. shipping the materials (IF you could buy everything for it from one place) .. would cost more than $2.  But I thought I would give you a bit of a breakdown of what goes into one of my glass tile necklaces as far as labor time goes so that you can understand my process a bit better.

Aside from the cost of materials there is my part .. the labor.. the behind the scenes as it were:

Searching for supplies:  no.. I do not just automatically buy from the first supplier I come across, and no, I do not just buy the cheapest supplies I can find.  I research.. and then I research.. and then I research some more to find not only a good deal, but also to try and find supplies that are going to provide a lasting quality!!  There are some suppliers that I go to time and time again.. now.. because I have had nothing but quality experiences from them.  But I have spent more hours online finding them than I care to post here :-) I would average for EACH necklace that I spend 5 minutes searching for supplies .. and I buy for more than one necklace at a time.. I just averaged out how many pieces I buy compared to how much time I spend searching for items.

Images: I wish I was a talented artist and could just draw up a hummingbird at will, copy it, print it.. etc etc.. but.. alas.. not my talent.  What I do though is find images that fit with my style (again.. searching for hours!!), I purchase them, and then I either print them at the size I receive them at, or I customize them to the shape and size that I need <- yes.. lots of editing.  I also have started adding words or phrases to them.. more time.  Average time for each image including putting together a sheet for printing.. 8 minutes

Supplies come in and I wash and dry each piece of glass and inspect all of it.  Average time per for each necklace.. 1 minute

Now.. I get to actually start making the necklace.. yayyy

I cut out my image (rough cut), apply my first layer of sealer to my glass and image and set it, then.. I get the lovely task of holding this squirmy piece of glass in place for anywhere from 30 seconds up to close to 2 minutes until things have set enough that it is not going to move on me while it dries (guess how many itchy noses I get when one hand is covered in sticky sealer and the other hand is trying to hold a sliding piece of glass in place.. LOL) average time per piece 2 minutes

then there is a lovely wating game played of trying to keep my hands off of the piece so that things can set properly (insert jeopardy theme song here) .  Depending on humidity, air temp, or just the finickiness of the piece, it takes a few hours to dry so that you can work with it at all <- no time counted.. just a testing of patience

after that, there is more trimming, cleaning up the edges, sealing, and then waiting for drying again average time per piece 6 minutes

then, another round of finessing and sealing average time 3 minutes.

think I'm done yet?? nope.. still more...

after all this I do another type of sealing with waterproofing .. sometimes 2 rounds of this - average time 3 minutes.

and Finally, after all this has cured and is dry enough I get to add a bail to it and wait for that to dry. average time for a bail - 1 minute (gotta make sure they're centered and hold them so they don't move)

wahoo. the necklace is done.. that's it right??? ummm no.. now.. I need to sell it.. so there comes the photography, editing the pictures (because you don't want to see some of the background stuff that goes on around here :-P ), uploading it to either facebook or etsy, and the write up!!  The flip side if it's going to a craft fair.. the transport, the staging, the selling.  average time per piece 25 minutes. <- yes.. I don't take 10 seconds on each picture.. no matter that my pictures are not professional quality all the time.

---- for a grand total of:
54 minutes .. for one necklace.

Please remember that this is a generalization.  A custom order may not need all the write up etc, but it requires a lot more time to work with emails, and editing the photos to fit the glass, etc, etc. But hopefully you get the hint.

Now.. I may not be the artist who paints the picture, but my time is valuable.  For the work I do and the attention to the details that I try to provide for each and every piece I should be making $15 - $20 per hour for an hourly wage.  However, living in the real world, there are those out there who devalue what they do for similar items down to the point where they are not making an hourly wage, barely covering the costs of the material.  So to survive in business while I try to grow and expand and bring all of the new creative ideas forward that I have.. I have to devalue my work too and I hate it, but I got into this business, and I have to work with that.  The necklaces that I charge $12.99 for .. should be $25.  My bracelets cost about double what my necklaces do.. but guess what.. I'm not even charging enough for them either.. AND the bracelets I make are completely unique.  I have searched, and seached and I can not find a single other person selling bracelets like mine.  There are some glass tile ones on ebay and such that are glass tiles glued onto bracelet blanks.. but not a single one is hand made by connecting all the tiles by hand with rings.  Why am I not charging more for them?? because I want everyone who wants to buy one to be able to afford them.  Times are tough.. the economy sucks, but I think people still need to have beauty around them.  And I hope that what I make is bringing a smile to someone's face!!  Yes.. this is my business.. I want it to make money, but I also am not a cutthroat CEO who only wants to make money.  I want people to be happy too!!

Thank you for reading this (if you got this far).  I feel so much better after getting that all out.  And please.. the next time you are at a craft fair or farmer's market.. even if you're not buying.. tell someone who does handmade how great their product is.. and what a good price it is for all the effort they put into it.  After all.. they are just doing their job.. and it's nice to be paid a compliment for that :-)

Have a great day (or night) :-)

And here's a couple of pics of my table from this weekend's fair (taken today after I started to move a couple of things around).  Not bad for feeling so unorganized this time!!