Thursday, October 27, 2011

What's really on that price tag?

This week I'd like to go a little more in-depth about pricing, and a little more about a hand-crafter's time.

Pricing is something very difficult for a lot, if not all, of us. We have to judge our pricing not only on our materials, but on our time, the relative economy, what people want, how complex the item is, its purpose, its quality, its ability to become a family heirloom, whether it is custom, or a special order, and the all-important "overhead".

For many, or most of us, this "overhead" can be anything from listing/selling fees, table/booth fees and other show or convention related fees, utility fees for electricity or water, studio rental, tools, equipment, and "other" supplies (for example, I would consider "silver cleaner" an "other supply" as it's only used as a finisher before
my products are photographed and put away until a buyer purchases them - it's not a material replaced every few weeks, or part of the actual jewelry I make).
Shipping and handling are another thing that a lot of people will balk at when they see a "high" price (anything over "free"). My shipping (and handling, as I only have one section for it), comprises actual shipping cost (postage), the cost of the mailer, the cost of the packing (extra bubble wrap/protective foam, etc.), the cost of packaging (the plastic zip-top bags and velveteen/flocked velvet/organza gift-bags I ship all my items with, or gift packaging; gift boxes, gift wrap and ribbon if gift packaging is requested - I do not charge extra for gift packaging, something many of us do - though most tend to charge extra, or even often have gift packaging in a seperate listing which incurs its own overhead costs), and of course my gas/car wear to get to and from town to ship the item from the post office, and also the time taken to stand in line at the post office. For international shipping, this cost also includes all customs forms, and so is higher.

Some people choose to include packaging as part of their item cost, and some choose to include it as part of their shipping cost to make shipping cost "appear" lower, even though that cost has only been transferred to the item cost, and is left out of shipping. That shipping and handling cost IS in there, visible or not.
One of the things most buyers do not take into account is the time taken to create an item. Even after the original design is made, if the item is duplicatable, such as my typical design of bracelet or my simple earrings, time WAS taken to design that item. Whether it took 20 minutes or 2-3 hours to trial-and-error design that FIRST item, time WAS taken to DESIGN. That shouldn't be tossed out the window when more of them are made, no matter how simple or complex the design. I might whip out a bracelet in more-or-less half an hour or so, but that original design took me 10-15 trial-and-error runs to make, disassemble and re-make until I liked the arrangement and decided it to be my main design. More complex items, such as my new line of earwraps and earcuffs, take a lot MORE time, and alot more trial-and-error, and many discards before I am satisfied with the item I present to the public. There's no need for someone to see the pile of twisted wire, the mess of cracked or broken crystal, or the clippings of said mess it took to disassemble a reject. UNLESS, that is, someone wants to see the actual process and a time-elapse to find out if said product is really worth its price. Most artists can't stand to show discards or rejects; it's just not how it works. That discard pile is always a lot more than most people think. Cracked pottery that didn't make it through the kiln, glass that shattered when fired, glazes that didn't set right, polymer clay that crumbled when fired, wood that cracked or split as it was nailed into place, glue that oozed and couldn't be sanded away all factor into the design process. VERY few products are perfection on the first try, and usually that product is not even to the satisfaction of the artist.

Custom and special order products are especially prone to this trial-and-error process; since they are specially ordered or custom items, the artist tends to demand absolute perfection. I know I do. I worry every time I make a slave-bracelet that it won't fit JUST right. My father worried that a certain type of book wouldn't fit into his shelves even after careful measuring, re-measuring and testing before final assembly. That vase might be just too short or too tall for the flowers it was meant for. Customer communication is key here, and many if not all artists working on a custom item will constantly ask little detailed questions that might seem "pestering", but will ultimately result in THE product that customer asked for.

Quotes are often given to a customer, but that customer must know that a quote is never a final price. Sometimes, the actual cost is lower, sometimes higher, depending on the final product. That seems like common sense, but often, it is not. I have had customers balk at a final cost, when a design took longer, required adjustments, or required more materials to do just what they wanted - though I have not yet (*knocks on wood*) had a customer NOT purchase the item they requested, and so far I have had positive reaction. This, sadly, is not always the case. Too many people focus on that quote, or the price of an item, and not its quality, or the time it took to create, or the materials, or any of the other costs involved to make an item tailored just for them.

Another hard to price category is the One-of-a-Kind. These items can be anything from simple to complicated to intricate to a fluke one-shot that was a first-try item that isn't what the desired effect was, but passes the quality-check to present to the public. Most of the time, an item that is OOAK is either extremely complicated, something that was designed to never be reproduced (or that can never be reproduced exactly), or something made of a limited-supply or limited-edition material. Since these items are the only one, their price is going to be higher than most other items of their type. A knitter might make a sweater with a fluke-pattern that looks awesome, and may never be able to knit it again. Since they can not reproduce the fluke, mistake, or whathaveyou that made that pattern, it is one-of-a-kind, while the same knitter may use a fade or gradient-color yarn on multiple sweaters producing different patterns of color; the same sweater, same knitting-pattern, same technique, etc., but each sweater is unique and could be called one-of-a-kind, provided that no two of those same-yarn sweaters look alike. To make myself an example again, my new line of earwraps and earcuffs are one-of-a-kind - at least the Elemental Series. I may make them again, but I will never use the same bead-weaving pattern, or the same wire-wrapping pattern. I might make it sort-of-kind-of close, but I will never be able to reproduce them, and to be honest, I will never try. I may use similar color schemes and general idea, yes, but they will never be the same. Each piece I make, no matter what it is, will always be unique since uniformity is always a question, but some of them are easily reproduced - like my earlier example of my most simple earrings and bracelets - they will not be one-of-a-kind. The earwraps/cuffs? I'll have very few of those that I could reproduce step-by-step, if any, including very simple ones. The ones that have the possibility of being made again will be, of course, a lower price than the ones there are only ONE of. Since OOAKs are so unique, they are VERY hard to price sometimes. Sometimes, in cases where a normal item becomes a fluke, the price may just go up a little, or not change. Where it's intentional, it becomes a little harder.

Most of the time, a buyer really doesn't look at these factors when they see a price tag. They see only the price tag and think it's "too high" and often "outrageous" for a "small" or "simple" item. So little consideration is given to the work, the nature, or the history of the item they so flippantly deem overpriced.
Too often, a seller of hand-crafted items takes nearly as long to work out a pricing formula and a final price for their work as the piece they're pricing took to create. Since there is no One Solid Formula for every item, every crafter, every venue, and no universal calculator, there is no real way to compare two artists or two items. I have been to conventions/shows where I have been told that someone "over there" is selling the exact same thing I am, and is only charging half the price. At one event, I went over to talk to that someone "over there", since I often look for others selling items similar to mine to connect, share techniques or even just to chat. It turned out that someone "over there" used craft-wire and glass or plastic beads, not Sterling Silver and Swarovski Crystal. Said someone "over there" complimented my work, and promptly requested several of my unique pieces, lamenting that she could never create the same things, though her bracelet style was vaguely similar to mine, and she had only started making/selling her work that very event, where that event had been in my second or third year selling.

Not everyone is unable to tell the difference in materials, but even when that someone "over there" told people it was craft wire and glass or plastic, and my signage clearly states which of my items are silver-plated or Sterling Silver, I still had people telling me that my items were too high priced, and that they could get their stuff cheaper "over there". The most a seller can do in that situation is shrug and inwardly shake their heads, and move on to the next potential customer. But no matter how many times we shrug and shake our heads, that comment stings, if only for a few minutes, particularly when in your mind you wonder "you'd rather pay half the price "over there" or at a mall or large store for craft wire and cheap glass or plastic instead of paying the price here for actual Sterling Silver and crystal...?" Or, as I've mentioned, pay about the same price for particleboard or plywood instead of solid wood, or for wire mesh and cheap clay instead of polished pottery or porcelain?

It all ties into the Big Box Mentality I mentioned in September. Buyers will go out of their way to spend money at large stores, thinking they're getting something far better quality for a mass-produced item rather than spending a little more and getting something that is uniqe or even One-of-a-Kind.
This entry will be in two parts; that whole life thing shorted me a bit on time to select items to post. The second part of this entry will come in the next day or two, and will have those items, and the shops and people who brought them to light.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ignorance. Perception. Reality.

I left a comment on my last post about buyer ignorance, and perception of quality.

I have discovered the "scheduled posting feature" also, so I'm writing this early so my thoughts don't fly out the window, as often happens when I'm riled - and this whole thing is something I'm constantly riled about, now more than ever.

I touched, a few posts ago, on how so many things proclaim in huge letters, "GENUINE!"  I also mentioned that if it has to scream it in your face, it probably ISN'T.

That's a part of what I'm talking about for today.  Perception. Ignrorance.

How many of you shop at IKEA for furniture?  I know I have, and I'm not ashamed of saying so. It was in my budget to do so.  I've also shopped at Wal-Mart, Target and other large brand stores.

The desk I'm typing from right now I purchased in 2004 from Staples, and it's served me well through now, and will probably serve a few more years, provided I don't try to take it apart again - the screws and the drilled holes for them are becoming stripped, and because the backs have been lost in moves, the whole thing is a little wobblier every time I take it apart and put it back together.  The black laminate surface of the desk is coming apart, moisture peeling away the smooth black surface to reveal the particleboard beneath.

I spent around $250 for this desk.  Is it quality? ... eh, it functions... but it's not as attractive as the day I purchased it.  It wasn't as attractive by the second year of use.  But ... it functions.

One of the things my father offered to do when I moved here was to take this desk apart - and build it out of solid white pine, the way both the bookshelves and knicknack shelves, night stand, and gun rack to display my colorguard equipment from my high school days he built for me are.  Do I still have them all?  Sadly, no. I lost the gun rack and one of the knicknack shelves in a move.  Do the pieces I still have still function? Oh yes!  Are they attractive? You bet they are... just as beautiful, if a little distressed - which makes them even more attractive - as the day he presented them to me some 18 years ago. 

The desk however, was never built, since I only had the company of my father for a scant 10 months before he became a shell of his former, lively self, and two months later, he was gone.

The moment I realized he was indeed gone, and never returning, those "insignificant" bits of furniture became precious and priceless to me.  They were made by his hands, his skill, and his love for his hobby and his love for me.

I will go through much more furniture before I, too, am gone... but I will never, EVER let go of the things he made for me.
... This desk?  I can't wait until I can watch it burn in the bonfire we have to clear the tree limb and brush pile we build each year.  I don't care about it, though it has served me well for 5 years, and will probably serve me longer - until I get sick of its wobbliness and go build one out of the white pine still waiting in the shop for hands to craft once again.

How many of us have things like that in our lives?  How many of us have furniture that was built of cheap particleboard and varnished or laminated to look "real"? ... Is this desk really worth $250? ... No, not really.  In fact, if I went and purchased the particleboard and laminate and build this desk myself.. It would cost about $75, and mmmm... maybe 20 hours of work.  ... so why did I pay $250 for it, when human hands didn't build it? A machine built and shaped the parts the same way it did millions of others absolutely identical to it, and I merely assembled it.  If anything, /I/ should have been paid to assemble it. It was MY time, MY hands and MY tools that built it.

Kinda puts things into perspective, doesn't it?

This desk, made of white pine, solid, light, stained, varnished and timeless would cost me a bit more in the way of materials, quite a bit more, but it would last a lifetime barring physical and intentional destruction (or natural disaster/Act of God, if you'd like a legal term). 
Would it be worth $250? .. no.  If I were to build the desk, I would want $400-600 for it, if I sold it.


Quality materials.
Hand-crafted QUALITY - it would not wobble; it would be built CORRECTLY, and not held together by The Whole, balanced precariously, or depenant on other parts to be fully and completely assembled.
Time - days of time; time to build. Time to stain. Time to varnish. Time to let it set and cure.  Time spent to be sure each little detail was carefully inspected before moving on to the next step.

Just because something is a name brand does not automatically make it "better".

If I had the choice of buying something hand-crafted and "brand name", I would often prefer hand-crafted.
Look carefully at many of the name-brands you know.
What are their products MADE OF?
WHERE are they made?
What are the ingredients of that product? ... wait... what do you mean you don't know exactly what that's made of?
Didn't that product you JUST purchased suddenly get recalled for having Active lead in its paint or plastic?  How did that get in there? WHY is it there?  Because it was ... cheaper.. and a .. filler?  Filler?  Filler.

I'm up front. I use LEAD CRYSTAL in my jewelry. ... but if you want lead poisoning from my product, go get a marble (NOT WOOD) mortar and pestle, take apart about 20 of my products, then crush the beads into a fine powder - no no, not like sand, I mean REALLY fine, like confectioner's sugar.  Now put that in an 8-oz glass of water.  Then stir it so it's suspended. Then drink it.  Now you might get lead poisoning, if you used enough beads.  Now you understand why I tell people that you shouldn't give my jewelry to anyone under 12.  (Other than the CSPIA saying that if it contains any kind of lead anywhere it can't be a child's product, despite the fact that I've gifted my nieces with my jewelry since they were 11 and 13, respectively... Both of them still have that jewelry, too.. they didn't automatically eat it.)

With hand-made products, you usually KNOW what it is, because hand-crafters are a lot more open about what they do, which I also touched on in my last few entries.

If I use Sterling Silver, I say it is. If it's Silver Plated, I say it is. If it's Silver-Toned, I say it is.  I'm not going to pretend silver craft wire is Sterling Silver and try to gougue my prices.
Yet .... it seems to me that big stores don't have those kind of scruples.
I have a ring that's "14k gold" ... well it might have seemed that way until the gold paint wore off.
Beautiful wood furniture... until the laminate wears off and you can see the ugly ply-wood or particleboard that it's REALLY made of.
Priceless porceline... until you drop a piece and it's a layer of poly-clay or pottery over a wire mesh, painted and glazed to look like it was.

Cheap ingredients to make a mockery of the real thing, given a Brand Name.

Brand Name might have been the real thing many years ago - I know that when I grew up, Fisher Price made toys from wood... Anyone here have some of the "Little People"?  I inherited my first set when I was .. maybe 2.  All solid wood, carved and painted and then clear-varnished to protect the paint underneath from teething gnawers, or stain-colored so there WAS no paint.  I still have them, and their painted or papered particle-board houses, all built to last a lifetime.  Even when platic started to become norm, back then the items were so much more sturdy - like the ferris wheel I have that plays "In the Good Ol' Summertime".  The musicbox/ferris wheel gear housing and base are wood, the wheel itself is plastic - looks like it was hand molded and cared for, since there are no "points" or "injection sites" still left on it - and no seams.  The whole thing still plays and runs like new, and I must have dropped it down the stairs a hundred times.

Now? Fisher Price is still up there, but how many recalls has it suffered because of cheap materials and manufacturing in other countries?
Give me wooden ones that people make now - give me wooden building blocks instead of plastic, or Lincoln logs instead of Le.... wait no, scratch that. Lego is epic, and I'd like them to stick around, so long as they're made of somthing I know the ingredients to, and that I KNOW are made with quality, like they were when they FIRST came out.

What about Mattel?  I used to chew on Barbie's feet (I never much liked her, really, unless I was making my own clothes for her or combing her hair).  If I did that now, I'd be very sick.  How many recalls have THEY suffered because of cheap materials and manufacturing in other countries?  Give me rag dolls like my grandmother used to make for my sisters and me... they held up through .. so far 30+ years of love and neglect, moves and abuse, still looking like mostly new - well, once they're washed, hair combed and such.

Don't get me wrong - some of the things we import are the best products we could have - but they were IMPORTED.  They were crafted FOR the people BY the people in that country, not paid to manufacture our items as cheaply as possible without caring how they're made so they could be sold at the same prices as the quality it once was.

When comparing a brand name to something hand-made, you'll very often find that hand-made products are much higher in quality, because they were MADE to be.  Hand crafters don't usually buy cheap materials and proclaim they're something they're not.

I don't often use store-bought charms or findings in my work, unless I know the history of the company or item.  I've written to several of them and asked flat out, and bluntly, "I make jewelry and sell it. What is this item made of, so I know what to tell my customers they're made of?"  If a company couldn't answer that simple question, I didn't purchase that company's item, since I can't very well tell people "this chandelier finding is made of metal - if you have allergies, don't bother with it because I don't know what it is, and neither does the company that made it."
If I know something is nickel, I say it, but I try very hard to stick to copper, steel or pewter, silver plated or not, and I state what it is, if I can. Many of my items are silver plated, to be worn on occasion - these items are silver-plated copper, or steel, or brass, all of which are common plated metals.  How many commercial jewelry makers out there do the same?  A lot - but a lot don't care what's underneath, and don't care if their customers have allergies.  I do.  Most other hand-crafted jewelry makers do too.

Notice how many knitters and croceters state their yarn is wool, or acrylic or blend, or whatever, or offer the brand name of the yarn they use, or those who use hand-made yarn will say who made it or what it's made of if they made it themselves.  Notice how many wood-workers state the paints they use or pottery artists say they MADE their glazes instead of purchasing them.

Customers are either informed up front, or get straight answers when they ask.
Can you say that of Big Corporations or Brand Names?

Brand Names are PERCEIVED quality.  Not always REAL quality. I could name off several Brand Names that I refuse to purchase - jewelry, electronics, computers and their accessories, appliances, furniture... the list goes on - this usually is because I have purchased their products and found the "quality" I expected to be cheaply manufactured junk that had to be replaced often or quickly, or something I had to repair many times to get to function again, and I'm no small hand at electronics repair, and I'm no stranger to soldering iron or gun, no stranger to replacing screws or nails, or "making-do".  I also do this with some quality items that have been suddenly discontinued because they were pushed out of business by other companies making things cheaper and "more available".  That doesn't mean "better quality", it just means "more available."

Some people would go out of their way for Lane furniture for example.  This is one Brand Name that has kept "quality" - but look at the PRICES.
My mother recently purchased Thomasville furniture - another example of Brand Name quality... but again, look at the prices!
Tiffany Jewelry? Same thing.

These places still have people - actual humans - making things to order - and not with a push-button machine that does all the work for them - out of quality materials.

Martha Baerreis mentioned in her comment on my last post that people have become separated from the process of making and growing things that we all use.  A truer statement could not have been made, and it's a shame.  While progress is good, and machines were made to AID people in their crafts, they should never have taken over the crafts to be sold at similar prices as work done entirely by human hands with a few simple tools.  I never begrudge those who craft the use of these tools, but at least there is a human hand there to guide them.

I went to have something engraved at the mall one Christmas at a little kiosk stand proclaiming "Items Engraved while you wait."  Instead of pulling out hand-engraving tools to engrave initials into my item, the person working there put it into a little hidden machine and typed in the 3 little letters I wanted engraved into a computer, then pushed a button, and the machine did all the work.
I wished instantly that I didn't purchase that item, and asked right then if I could abort my purchase.  I got a rather interesting tongue-lashing, and I walked away, without paying, without that item.  It was an insult, since said engraving tools were on display in a leather envelope right next to the person working there, and engraving the item was an extra $30 ($10 per letter).  ... $30 so I could watch a machine do it? ... No, I don't think so.  I don't think that machine did $30 worth of work, or required $30 of electricity.  Had it been done by hand, I would have been MORE than happy to pay that $30.
Another lesson in perspective there, isn't it?

Glenda, who also commented on my last post, said she had someone complain of the price of a hand-made lambskin/pig-skin One-of-a-Kind tote that took her 2 days to create, for $205.
What's the going price on Gucci these days? Mmm.. after a quick search, and the first "tote" that comes up on my screen from the Gucci site (Friday, October 14, 2011 at 9:32PM) ... $1395.  ... Seriously?  Is it made of human-leather imported from Mars and hand-crafted by 1-week old infants who are crafting geniuses?  The best details it can offer are "white leather" and "light gold hardware" and "natural cotton lining" ... what kind of leather? Is it real gold? What's the name of the single employee that made it? How much time did it take?
We'll never know.

Every crafter I feature has a name, a story of how they were inspired to make what they make, whether it be how they got into their craft or how they made that one item, or both.  Real humans with real names and feelings.  Feelings that are tossed aside and crushed when they hear buyers complain about their prices, or that they can get it cheaper from a Big Store - when Big Stores won't have 90% of what a hand-crafter can do, unless, like some stores I won't mention (like the Chinese Resellers on Etsy, or other actual Brand Name Stores that have lawsuits in the past), steal designs and copy them to make en masse and sell at "discount prices", often lower than the original crafter that put their hard work into that item to begin with, degrading the craft, degrading the item, degrading the CRAFTER.
The only thing I can think when I see this happen is "How DARE you steal from crafters, degrade what we do, mass manufacture SOMEONE ELSE'S item, and cheapen what it took to create it!?"
Sadly, victims of this get tossed aside, and are suddenly accused of copying the item mass produced.
I know some sites, however, who search for this kind of thing, and point it out - and there need to be more people who do this, in my opinion.  Hand-crafter's are downplayed enough as it is, and as I mentioned last post, taken for granted.

It needs to STOP!

And now... that I've ranted a lot of rage, it's time for me to bring you what you probably came here for - my showcase of the items people make, and the links to the people that made them.

I have not said this before, but I will now - don't just click on the item and the shop.  View the PROFILE of the person who created these items.  Find out who they are, and if they mention it, where they live.  Find out what inspired them.  Find out why their item IS what it is, and what went into its creation.  Don't look at the shop name as anything other than the Brand Name that one person hides behind to be remembered more easily.  Think about the person (or persons) BEHIND that name, and keep in mind that MOST of these are One-(Wo)Man-Shows, and not someone with a mass production factory in their basement.

Take me as an example of this - Dream Weaver Jewelry (and more!) is a name I use on the internet stating what I sell - MY name is Geri Hine.  Each and every item in my shop(s), on my page(s), or in my galleries - were made by my hands, and mine alone - even my "generic" bracelets, which I, over the years, have now prouduced a stock of for when I go to live-venues.  My sister (Cathy) and my nieces (Christine and Elizabeth) and on occasion, my mother (Ginny) model my items while I photograph them.  We are human beings.

And so are each an every one of the people I have chosen to showcase below, this time, just pulling random things I think are awesome examples of their trade, whatever trade it is, for whatever price it is.

I was originally going to do a short blurb about each of these, but then I thought that it would be better to let these items, and the shops, and the people behind the shops, speak for themselves!  There's too much to say, and I know I'd never be able to do it justice.

So on this happier note, I'll leave you to ponder until next week.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pet-Peeves of a Hand-Crafted Seller

Everyone has them.  That one thing (or more) that just makes you want to pop out a set of cat-claws and shred someone's face, or, as a friend of mine who's more dog-oriented would say, "...[I] want to pee in [their] shoes." (Thanks, Ash.)

For those of us in the hand-crafting business, selling the fruits of our hard work, there are a lot of things so many people take for granted - which is why they say such things as "Why would I buy from you if I can get it cheaper at the mall?" or "This is way too expensive for (item)." or "I can just make this myself, right? How do I do it?" or "You're charging WHAT for this junk?"

Have a little insight to my typical weekday - a quick behind the scenes for this crafter.
First off, I'm a night-owl.  Most of my inspiration comes to me after dark.  Which is bad, because that's usually when I settle to play World of Warcraft.  Second off, I'm "Unemployed".  There are no jobs here, and I live with my mother who has had Degenerative Disc Disease since she was 40-something and now has heart conditions, so I do spend time taking care of her - even though for someone with both of those and who is over 60, she's a ridiculously strong and active woman, even though she's built like a twig. When her energy runs out for the day, I take over.
I usually get up anywhere between 9-11AM, sometimes a little later, depending on what I was doing the night before.  I go to bed anywhere between midnight and 5AM, depending on how light my day has been and if I wake up just after I've gone to bed with an idea (in which case I'll get up and make it, then fall back into bed).

Upon waking, I grab some coffee or breakfast, depending on whether I'm actually hungry, and then the DAY starts.  I have a To-Do list, like most people.  I pick 5 things that GET DONE no matter what.  Things like "Kitty-Litter Boxes", "Kitchen", "Dining Room", "New Creation That I Made Last Night And Don't Like The Way It Came Out", "Photography", "Vacuum (insert room here)" and such are on the list typically no more than every other day.  The rest of the time, little things get done as I pass through rooms, as I live by the rule "If you enter a room, leave it cleaner than it was."  This could mean as little as straightening cushions, picking up a dish and carrying it to the kitchen, dusting something, etc.  As I move through the house either checking on Mom, or in the act of just heading into the bathroom, to get a drink, or whatever, little things add up FAST - which most people wouldn't believe.  Whatever Room was on yesterday's list typically stays clean, or at least reasonably so for the next time it's on the list.
I stop housework/To-Do list at 5-6PM, other than The Rule, and settle to do more jewelry work.
Around 7-8PM, I settle for "ME" time... which is hanging out with the boyfriend, and/or playing WoW.
About half the time, I'm crafting during this time anyway, which is how I wind up staying up so late.
All in all, I spend about 5 hours of my day on housework, and about 5-8 on my jewelry - this includes blogging, keeping up with the forums, Facebook, deviantART, checking stats, other paperwork including price calculations and filing incoming and outgoing invoices, editing and polishing photos, photography, designing and creating, supply organization and inventory, creating and printing business cards, creating and printing Craft-Table (for flea-markets and shows) signage and price/color lists, stock-item inventory, creating shopping lists, and posting.  The filing/invoice paperwork of course, is dependant on my sales, which are very low right now.  The rest of the time I'm cooking or taking care of Mom and our 3 cats, or playing World of Warcraft, or some other video game to relax.

This kind of schedule is something many buyers take for granted.  I don't get paid for my day.  If I average out my sales for all of last year, I think I would get paid about ... 5-10 CENTS per hour actually worked on my jewelry over all.  I get paid properly PER ITEM sold.  My payment for caring for Mom and the housework is room/board, and if I am doing a custom item, Mom will front me what I'm missing for special order items until said custom item's payment arrives.  All of my proceeds go back into supplies and the household - for me? Not really.  I tend to not spend money on myself - most of any money I make all-around, including gift money at holidays goes right back into my jewelry/advertising so I can expand what I do in the hopes of more sales.

So.. is that item REALLY expensive all of a sudden?  My hands worked for 2-4 hours EACH on the new Earwraps I've done.  The techniques used in them are not all easy, getting that wire to do what I want it to do and be sturdy enough that they're not going to fall apart the first time they're worn is a trial and error, and takes TIME, MATERIALS and PATIENCE.  (Remember my rant on Quality in my last blog post? Here you are.)

A lot of the things I post up, from random finds from Zibbet, are made much the same way.  Remember that cake topper? How long do you think that took? How many tries did it take for each component to be perfect?
Remember that art bowl?  How many shattered in creation before that one was made?
Remember that vase/vessel?  How many were fired before one came out that wasn't shattered or cracked?
Those earrings?  How long did it take to perfect the techniques to create that pair?
The mirror? That table two posts back?  How long did those take, and how many trials and prototypes were made before the finished product?
What about the things I have featured in this post? They weren't done on assembly lines to a programmed precision - each thing is unique and has more than likely been the products of MANY a trial and error.

Most crafters make 3-4 of an item before they are satisfied with one enough to sell it.  Hours of time, lots of materials, creating, destroying, recreating for the quality piece buyers find "too expensive" because it's not Department Store or Big Box Store cheap.

Our time as crafters is taken for granted - which angers me.  I could spend 8 hours in an office and get paid up to $25 an hour.
I can spend 8 hours creating jewelry and get paid $1 an hour after it's all said and done - if all the items I create in that 8 hours are sold.  - To be clear, these 8 hours are spent cumulatively on items that make it past Quality Control and are listed.  For me, that would be 2 Earwraps, and 1 of their counterpart Earcuffs.  If I wanted that same $25 per hour for that 8 hours, I would be selling those items for something closer to $120 EACH, including all shipping, provided all three items are shipped to the same person - figure in materials/material shipping/gas and car wear to get materials, posting fees, shipping fees (including purchase of the bubble-mailer or box), gas and car wear to get to and from the post office, and of course handling/packaging (which includes plastic baggies to protect the item, the flocked velvet pouch I send my items in if no gift boxing is requested, bubble wrap and foam padding to keep their shape and to keep them safe - and/or gift packaging/gift wrap, which I offer at no extra charge).  And that would just be for the silver-plated ones!  Since I personally think that's a little steep, I obviously don't gouge.  I do try to pay myself for my time, but reasonably, even though I personally think my skill and time are WORTH $25 per hour or more because it IS a hands-on skill that I taught myself to do, and I feel I do it well.

Am I different than any other hand-crafter?  Likely not.  We SEVERELY undercharge a good 75% of the time.  Do buyers realise that? No, not usually. 
They take it for granted and tell us we overcharge.

My personal biggest pet-peeve is being taken for granted.  In everything I do.  I've been taken for granted a large part of my life.  I've done things for people in the past and been burned severely.  I've given up parts of myself to do good for someone else to be tossed aside when they got everything they wanted out of me and I was no longer "useful".  I've given time, money, and often trust, to have it thrown back in my face - I'm not here to be walked on, and I resent letting anyone walk on me when I offered something of myself to them.

NO crafter should be walked on, taken for granted that they should be charging little to nothing for things they WORKED for to offer to other people.

One thing I ask people is "Do you feel your time is worth the money you get working at your job?"
I always get an answer of "Yes." or "I probably should be paid more for what I put up with."

So why is it, then, that the time I spent working on this jewelry, or the time other crafters spend on their crafts, isn't worth the same amount of time?  Why is an athlete playing a sport more important than a Hollywood actor or a Broadway performer dancing or singing or playing music more important than typing, answering the phone, transferring calls, writing invoices, writing memos/letters/reports/whatever, working to deadlines any more important than the retail worker who is on their feet for often more than 9 hours on their shift because they work overtime so often, dealing with bitchy customers, dealing with stupid customers, dealing with customers who make impossible demands, dealing with managers who make impossible demands because they have had impossible demands placed on them, more important than the private butcher or baker or small restaurant employees or small ice cream parlor or candy shop, or more important than the factory or manufacturing worker who works to make things that will find themselves on shelves to be sold ... and why is their time more important than those of us who hand-craft to make ends meet after our daily jobs or as a full-time thing, or as the only thing that's going to bring us income?

Our time spent working on our hand-crafts is just as important as you sitting in that office, or you working that retail job.  It's just as important as that cook in the restaurant or the baker or butcher or the person running the candy shop that gets up at 3AM to make fresh things for you to buy when they open. The difference is, someone else isn't handing us a paycheck.
We have to do that for ourselves as the owner, CEO and sole employee all in one, and so often, the money goes back into the craft or towards something else.  FEW are lucky enough to make enough of a profit on the side or as a full time job to have money for savings or to splurge on something for ourselves.

Just because we are hand-crafters, don't take our time for granted.  Don't take US for granted.  We work just as hard, sometimes harder, for our respective crafts, and we present to you our work for sale.  Just because we're not a huge corporation doesn't mean we're not quality, we're not worth the money, and we're just lazy nobodies who don't have or won't get a real job.
We have a real job.  It's about time we were recognized for it, don't you think? 

Not everyone can make jewelry. 

Water Element Earwrap by Me

I know people who can't knit....

...or crochet.

...or throw pottery.

...or sculpt.

...or spin.

...or sew.

...or work with leather.

...or woodwork.

...or make candles.

...or make soap/lotions.

Each of these hand-crafters spend time, money, and give of their own designing minds to each of their products.

Yet we are taken for granted because of huge corporations who do half the work for twice the profit, and too often the work is done by machines - automated machines - and those products never feel the loving touch of human hands.

Everything I show on this blog IS crafted by human hands.  Such beautiful things, useful things, taken for granted as muuch as their creators are.

It's time that stopped.  Stop taking us for granted just because the corporations and big stores can give you a cheap imitation of what human hands can do.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

*gets up on a soapbox*

I know, many of you are thinking "Oh great, it's that nut trying to get people to buy handmade crap again" - and you're right.

I was actually poking around on my deviantART account, after posting my new line of shiny.  Within 24 hours, said shinies that I posted were suddenly FLOODED with +Favorites, comments, watches on my account and more.  As I said there "I've created a monster..."  Maybe I did.  And Maybe I LIKE It!

Though I did mention this blog, and linked it too.

I made some interesting points in my journal entry that day.  For those of you who came over from dA - bear with me, there's more than just this.

Quoted from Journal Entry "What have I done?!" on Monday, October 3, 2011 at 4:23 PM on Kallamoon on deviantART:
"... I seem to have created a monster.

I think I've finally gotten caught up on thank yous and such for the message FLOOD I received so far on the earwraps I've done. I'm almost afraid to make more for fear I'll never be able to do any of my other work - but if they're popular... I suppose should really sit down and start designing more of them... With any luck I'll sell a few of them this holiday season.

And there's what I want to talk about.

My main blog ([link] -Dream Weaver) has been dedicated this season to bringing those of us who hand-craft to light. SO MANY people go to malls and big stores to get decorations gifts and more just because they're "cost effective". In other words - cheap.

I've been trying to spread the word to support local sellers of things, hand crafted (local or over the internet/long distance), and/or small shops this season. The huge companies don't need our money. They already have too much of it, and so many of them are sending their jobs (which are much needed here in the US) to other countries where they can waaaaay under-pay and still get products, often cheaply-made, not up to standard, and many that fall apart with one use! For some things, that's fine. I mean, if you really want to reuse those Christmas Crackers, you go ahead - just tell me how you cram all the stuff back in and get it to seal up again.

But for the most part, you don't want something "Genuine Silver!" to suddenly turn coppery-colored and turn your ears into an infected mess or your ears green. "Genuine Gold!" doesn't flake off rings after you've washed your hands either. I've been victim to this. It's actually part of the reason I started making my OWN jewelry.

If I make something silver-plated, I state it. If it's sterling silver, I state it. If it's silver-toned wire, I state it. Why lie to my customers, if I want repeat business after all?

Most of these "Big Box" stores say one thing, but... weeeeelllll. No.

If I may, I sink to begging. Find at least one decor item, one gift, or one SOMETHING that was hand-crafted this holiday season. Support someone who works with their own two hands, locally or even someone you know over the internet. We hand-crafters are very overlooked, underpaid, and are SO often insulted by people who look at the hard work we've put our heart and soul into creating and tell us "it's too expensive - I can get this (or something like it) at the mall for half this price". Slap in the face. Nails on chalkboard. Stab through the heart.

We're all artists in this community, and I'm sure that we've all had something like THAT happen to us. We all deserve better. Spread the word! Share the love! Support the cause!

Thank you.

*gets off her soap box, trips, and slinks off to keep showing wire who's boss*"
Though I'm not quite ready to step down from said soapbox for THIS entry.
What I said is true.  All of you think back for a moment.  Have you bought something that has said in big letters "Genuine (Insert Item Here)!" that was really inexpensive?
How long did it last?
Okay, I can see someone selling something that's "Genuine Silver!" with a "Genuine Cubic Zirconia!" in it for about .... $60-75 if it's something like a small-band ring with a single oh.. roughly 5-7mm stone.
.... But no. You find "Genuine Silver!" rings with "Genuine Cubic Zicronia!" in it for about $10-15.
And then you wash your hands after a week or so of wearing it... and the "silver" plating flakes off it, and the metal underneath is a greenish-mud color, and you wonder to yourself "... what IS this?!"
Junk.  That's what it is.  Metal that doesn't really match any "grade" system; filler so someone can paint it with a layer of "silver" that's probably more than half-chrome.  The Zirconia? May actually BE genuine, or it might be a chunk of cheap glass.
Or you might have said "Well crap, this was my favorite ring!" And you go replace it with another $15 "Genuine Silver!" ring with a "Genuine Cubic Zirconia!" in it... and the cycle repeats.
After about $75, your ring is likely no longer available in your size or at all, and you've spent $75 on 5 rings that were cheap crap.

Tip: If it has to proclaim "Genuine (Insert Item Here)!!" ... then it probably isn't.
.... If you bought that from a hand-crafter, you might just have gotten actual Sterling Silver and a very lovely gemstone, if not the same type of Cubic Zirconia you paid for to begin with for the same price, and could still be wearing it 2 years later.
See, hand-crafters don't need to lie to sell.  I know that some DO, but for the majority? No, we're more concerned with making quality products.  If we use something that's not real, we usually state it, as I said above.  I'm not going to sell my Silver-Plated work and try to pass it off as Sterling Silver.  I honestly don't know what grade of silver is ON that wire.  I just know it was silver Plated, so it's likely a decently high grade of silver but only a couple of molecules thick... so it will wear off.  Yes, it was inexpensive for me to buy, but I still took the time to SHAPE it, and if you want the same thing in the Sterling Silver, I may have to order the supplies speically if I don't usually keep that gauge of wire or that kind or length of chain in stock. 
If I make something in Sterling Silver - it's GOING to be more expensive.  And I, as well as many other hand-crafters, will STATE that if you are looking for one of their items that they can reproduce in a higher-grade material.
Right now gold is well over $1,000 an ounce.  If I buy an ounce of gold wire (assuming the gold wire is 14K, half-hard, round, 22guage since that's what I most commonly work in), I can get it - at the cheapest I've seen online - at $7.95 PER INCH.   So... my most COMMON bracelets in pure 14K gold would be... about $140 or so for me to make, considering wire, the 14k chain I'd have to get, plus the crystal - which means you'd be paying me about $200-250 or more, since you DO pay also for crafter's time and skill, not JUST the materials.
I could get 12k gold-filled wire, and drop that price down to about $75-80 or so.  Or I could go down one more and go "Gold Plated" and drop that price down to $25, or possibly less.
Really folks. You get what you pay for.  If you want quality, go handmade.  MOST hand-crafters don't lie, don't cheat, and don't gouge.  We ask for a price that represents the quality of our materials, our skill and our time - and as I said last entry, don't automatically throw "material" costs in our faces.
Just because something is made of Polymer clay doesn't mean it takes less time, less skill, and less WORK to create.
Just because plated wire is cheaper than non-plated, doesn't mean it takes less time, less skill and less WORK to create.
The same goes with pottery, 
... or any other material.
Respect the time and skill it took to create something, as well as the materials.
*steps off her soapbox, hopefully having brought a little more insight to hand-crafters to others*