Sunday, July 21, 2013

Excuses Excuses - That Thing You Do and Why You Don't Charge Enough to Do It - part ONE

Yay for all the answerings on the last post! Valuable and interesting stuff, thank you- I digested it all and have come to 3 main conclusions; everyone hates business junk, no one makes enough money from their work and no one makes enough money from their work.

Which is what I suspected! One of the reasons I started this missive (which has grown beyond my intentions, as you shall soon see) was because I didn't feel I was getting enough for my work. I resisted all efforts to counter it and yet constantly, silently, resignedly complained that my jewelry was priced at the same level of Target, which is an abominable situation. I made quality jewelry using unique materials- if I were a charm on a chain kinda girl then yes, Target prices would be fine. But I ain't - and neither are you.

So herein begins the giant adventure I'm about to lead you on. We'll be looking at basic pricing formulas as well as my pricing and how I came up with it (no secrets)! We'll also be looking at a few other things toward the end about perceived and added value, branding and quality, all of which help to determine a price outside of your basic costings. There will be some easy but scary math - scary because it will sound off in your head like a klaxon. Because by the end of this wild ride, you will not only better understand your dream, your brand, your wants and your needs, but you will be unable to properly ignore your prices. No matter what excuse you come up with, you will be able to knock it flat with reason.

Are you ready for this?

Are you sure?

Okay- I hope that answer was yes because here we go!

To begin, I'll explain my stuff- I know you know it, just humor me. 90% of my materials are ethically sourced; they're vintage and/or antique (which gives them another level of value) and I've gone to great lengths to find crystal sellers who work with independent miners. Much of my supply comes from thrifts, which means my money goes into the community around that shop. Every piece is hand made from scratch, there's no sending it off to be put together by industrious Indonesians, no hobby store junk (even thrifted stuff is closely inspected), no glue and almost no plastic (it's just a thing, don't ask). A lot of my elements are fairly hard to get, like raw crystals and certain kinds of vintage chain, and much of the elements are either altered by me or made by other people, like drilled driftwood from England and artisan supplies such as those by Kim and Petra. Most of it is One of a Kind. Every single material is sourced by me and every item is made entirely by hand by me and every single photograph is taken by me. I list it, I write the copy, I answer the 'phones' (convos), process the orders, I even wrap it up and take it to the post office. On foot!

To find all of that in a piece of jewelry in a retail environment, you're looking at a 3 figure price, no problem.

So I said to myself last week  'okay me, up your prices. Go do it now. Go. Use Edit Express, it will be done in moments.'  At first I felt a little queasy. I started to feel the guilt, the fear, the excuses flooded in. But, no, because... I've done this before and fobbed it off, but this time I stopped and thought about it. I had a long and awkward conversation with myself which culminated in my not being able to make any further excuses. Everything I could think of I could shoot down just as easily.

So for this first post in my re-pricing epic, let's take a look at some of those excuses in no particular order. Because sure as eggs if I was making them up until 2 days ago, you're making them right now.

1."Other people sell for less than me, there's no sense in competing" 

Other people sell for more than you too, how do they compete with you? Secret- they don't. Competitive pricing is only applicable if you have multiple areas where you can cut costs and there are people selling exactly the same product. It's rarely applicable in the handmade realm and it's a dangerous game- someone starts out selling something, someone comes along and undercuts them, the other drops their prices to compete, a third player enters, the whole thing starts again and pretty soon someone somewhere is making a negative income.

I'll go over this more in a later post when I delve into who you are and what makes you special and yes, that very much has to do with prices. Right now just take the advice- If someone charges less than you, let them. This may shock you to learn, but not every shopper is after a bargain. Don't price to compete with lower people - price your work to compete with what you want to be. I know that you- just like me, just like everyone else, have at least one shop online or in a nearby town where we creep around in awe-struck heartache and wonder why they sell like they do with 'those prices'. If they can, so can you.

2. "I want everyone to be able to afford me"

This is a very honorable stance to have and I'm sure we all feel it. As artists we instinctively want to provide beauty for the masses. If this is something you have a genuine passion for, then you need to gear your work around it. You have to decide how far into quality your materials go- authentic antique trade beads, artisan lampwork and sterling silver findings will have to work hard to be a part of an affordable jewelry shop. Handmade jewelry can be affordable, but it takes some savvy math.

If on the other hand your high quality, artisan level pieces are kept at a rate where everyone can afford you, you will never have the income and lifestyle and life you want and need. I can't afford my own jewelry- and I never will if I keep charging fashion jewelry rates for artisan pieces. You need to stop catering to those who can't afford your work.

3."I have to be cheap because people don't have any money - it's the economy" 

This one is outright lies. people who close down and blame the economy don't know how to run a business. Sounds harsh but study after study has shown that 'poor management' is the highest cause of business collapse, not economic downturn. Do you think Mr. Gucci says 'oh people are poor now, I better stop making my 5 figure handbags'. No he doesn't. It's not that other people have no money- people have plenty of money; you just have to charm it out of them. YOU make your market from something as simple as your prices. Jewlery is a stuffed full category on Etsy- there are successful jewelery shops there selling on a price point from $3.50 to $3500. There are also people all over the forums, in the street, in your local hairdressers, telling all and sundry that 'no one's going to pay that'. Don't listen to them. Mr.Gucci doesn't!

4. "I don't need to charge retail because I don't have a shop to pay rent and utilities on" 

Yes you do! I'll explain all this later in pricing formulas, but if you sell one thing at a time to regular people, then you have shopkeeper expenses, whether that's a craft stall table, Etsy shop or rented cabinet in an antique mall. Retail prices not only keep you on the same level of perceived value as other artisans (again, I'll explain that later) but they will be your life raft when wholesale comes knocking. And don't say you'll never do wholesale.

5. "I'm afraid to raise my prices in case my current customers get mad and leave." 

We all love our customers, they are our life blood. Many of us have repeat buyers and we love them. But let me tell you something my child, if someone loves your work that much, they will find a way to own it. And if it's not the customers you have now, it will be new customers. Over the years my prices have gone up and up as I gained confidence, and I have always had repeat buyers. If someone chooses to get mad at you for charging what you deserve to be charged, they are not the kind of person you need to sell to.

I'll talk about this later when I look at other stuff like finding out who your customer is- knowing that is the heart and soul of any business and will determine more than anything how much you can charge for your work.

6. "I just don't want to- I like my prices where they are."

What's that supposed to mean? I'll tell you what it means - it means you're finished talking about it. You've run out of excuses and you would prefer if everyone just shut up. This is because we have reached the worm in the bud. We have run out of reason, of excuses- and we are left with the fear.

Fear is the mother of all excuses and in this case it hides the biggest and the worst one of all. We very rarely use it, because we are ashamed of it, and yet there it lurks, right up the back of our mind, under the stairs of hope, in a box marked 'ignore this'. It's more than an excuse, it's a reason, and the reason for all those other excuses.

'I'm not worth it'.

It's true. Just sit there a moment and let that sink in. That's your biggest and most powerful excuse as to why you don't charge enough for your work. You think you suck and what you make is just a bit of crafty junk. Just accept it. No arguments- please; if you did think you were the shit, you wouldn't need me to tell you your shit is too cheap, would you?

bill+murray+you+suck.jpg (JPEG Image, 319x400 pixels)

The truth is you don't think what you make could possibly have that much value. Deep down inside yourself there's a mean person pointing at you and yelling 'how dare you think what you do is any good!? You made that necklace while watching re-runs of Oprah, you didn't even get dressed that day, it cost you $2.50 in materials! $10 is what Target asks for their stuff and it's more than you deserve!!!' That voice in our head is pretty persistent. And you think if you raise your prices other people will start thinking this too. Or worse, saying it. To your face. IN PUBLIC OMG THE SHAME

It's okay- everyone thinks they suck, it's part of being human and essential to being an artist. It is traditional for anyone who produces creative work to think their stuff is all worthy of the bin. I'm still getting through it- people send me letters all the time telling me how great my stuff is, but 90% of the time I stare at it and think 'where exactly is this genius you speak of?'

So suck it up sucker, because you're about to learn how to act like you don't suck. We're gunna fake it till ya make it. If I could just add one thing though- you don't suck. You are an amazingly talented person who makes great work, and you deserve to be paid for it. Let's say that again - You are an amazingly talented person who makes great work, and you deserve to be paid for it.

Here ends Part One! (aw you just got cozy.) I want to hear lots of comments especially if you're unclear about something or you have a question - or an excuse you don't see listed! I'll read every single comment but I'll answer them in the next post which will be in a couple of days.
Saddle up!

image sources: weight baby; shopping mall ; Bill Murray pics - every website everywhere.


Laura R said...

First of all: this is fantastic! Thank you!
I had a few thoughts: Your whole paragraph that began with "To begin, I'll explain my stuff..." As a customer I LOVE knowing stuff like this about a shop! I think it's great when people include this info in the "About" section. It goes a long way especially if I'm in a situation where I'm comparing two similar items from two different sellers. I have a small etsy shop myself, but I'm also a customer and the reason I shop there (and I would like to think why most people do) is because I want to buy a quality item that a person made with their own hands. I know (if you do a little research)it's not mass produced crap form China and I want my purchases to support a talented person. This is what we are valuing and striving to achieve in handmade markets. (Re-sellers aside) I think that right there makes a huge difference when considering how to price because people are already shopping there expecting MORE from their purchase and generally are very willing to pay for it.

The other thing is that sometimes customers will also "grow" with your business. I have two sets of earrings that I purchased from your shop that I very much love. I was suffering poor student status and purchased both at a time when they were heavily discounted because that was what I could afford at the time. Now I am happily a decently employed non-student and I can afford to make more expensive purchases. I will be back! Customer loyalty can go a long way!

Lastly- I think it's great when shops do have some sort of product that may be the cheaper/more affordable option amidst their super quality, super expensive goods. This is a great way to get a customer in that will later return for the expensive items when they have the means. An example would be a shop like ForestBound. (I think selling independent of etsy now)I love the bags she makes, but especially when I first discovered the shop there was no way I could ever hope to purchase one. But what Was affordable were the tote bags she offered with her shop name printed on the front. This makes me a customer who can afford to basically that tote and advertise for her shop whilst I save my pennies for a $300 leather bag. Clever business there... Never underestimate the power of the tote!
Well again, thank you for all this. It will really prompt me to re-examine how I'm currently selling, but more importantly what I wish to do with a future shop I have been planning on. Best of luck to you!

Gardanne said...

As a handmade supplier to jewelry makers I'm a little bit more fearful of raising prices. Even though some jewelry designers may find the confidence to raise the price of their items, would they be willing to pay more for supplies? The price of supplies directly effects their profit margin.
When I was in my 20's and I saw a low price on an item I would say "What a deal!" and buy ten. Now in my wise 50's when I see a low price on an item I say "What's wrong with it." If you price your items too low you can definitely give the impression that your item is of less quality.
When I sell at bead shows my lampwork beads are right next to strands of Chinese lampwork that sell 20 beads for $6. This used to stress me out until I came to the realization that those people never were and never will be my customer. The customers that purchase from me never look at the Chinese lampwork and never ask me about the price differences, because they already know.
As jewelry designers the customers that purchase jewelry composed of supplies from Micheals or will buy jewelry from the mall ( can't remember name of the store) they are also not your customers. Some of them may get frustrated with the quality over time and seek you out, we are here to help educate the customer that is willing to listen.

fanciful devices said...

OKOKOK, I'm going to edit express.... i'm going there now....

helle said...

I´m not an artist but someone trying to make a living of my vintage/antique shop, and you are so totally right in every statement....if we don´t think we are selling great stuff, then it is so hard to convince others of it, and setting prices too low will certainly not help.
I have learned my lesson and intent to make Money!!
Thank you

NuminosityBeads said...

A great post. In the beginning when I was making jewelry I had no problem charging more for several reasons. I was getting high wages at my equipment operating job and was used to getting paid well for my time. I was in the midst of a booming economy in a rich and remote state and it was easy to be a big fish in a small pond. Right out of the gate I was dealing with 50/50 consignment in galleries so my prices reflected that. Then what happened? The ebay and etsy-ization of pricing and economy has chipped away at my confidence in my pricing. I am paying more for supplies and taking longer to make pieces yet my pricing has slid down or stayed the same in many cases. I still try to have higher pricing on my jewelry and have come to realize my failure to successfully market it online as my target market and success is coming from making components these days.

You make some great points here and it's helping me to re-examine my own attitude about my pricing as it seems to be a bit of a dilemma now that my sales of jewelry have slumped. I even touched upon it on my last blog post about how I thought I might need to re-prioritize my strategy if making money is what it's about. I don't want to stop making jewelry, I can't stop making jewelry so I endeavor to find the balance on marketing and creative out-letting as the business person and creative artist within me have their say.

Laura R. makes some very good points about cultivating customers with attaching them to your brand one way or another.

NuminosityBeads said...

Oh, and thanks so much for including me in a shout out on your artisan beads. ...makes me very grateful and proud.

Charade said...

On a freezing cold morning,some reading!!!!!!
The hardest thing is competing with cheap mass produced stuff.Our world is flooded with it.No matter what you love to make.
I constantly have to grit my teeth at markets I do over the summer.Peoples comments of look at this,it's been chucked together from junk......oh look some old lady's stuff....or most precious,what is this?(a mug)
But like Gardanne says when people buy from you,it's because they get something original,Whith a history,a story,handmade!!!
Oh and stop post is insane.sell anything bigger than a pair of earrings and the post lady gets out the measuring equipment and scales,then my toes curl at the price..!
I too but stuff on etsy,and I love the about pages.thats there's a huge community of people out there in the world,all dealing with the same stuff.
So I don't reduce my prices,but what do you with handmade pieces that have been sitting in yr etsy shop for ages???have a sale lol?
I have stuff in galleries,online,shops,I do markets and a partime job.lots of juggling.
People say why should I pay say $20 for that when I can get it for $5 at a Chinese shop.I have to sell them a story of the hands that made it.
Ha ha I should go make something!!!!!!


artistic rejuvenations said...

can't wait for your next installment. now, "You are an amazingly talented person who makes great work, and you deserve to be paid for it." reminds me of an amazing video that i do appreciate. it's titled ~validation.


Birgitta Lejonklou said...

Hi Penny,
You are sooooo right about all this
Dilemmas we all struggle with when creating things people do not have to buy for survival :-) (like food *and sweets* !! that all ways sell..
Artists have been struggling since the beginning of time..

As Swedish I must say the prices on Etsy actually "draw" down my pricing
In Sweden people would pay more for handmade things..!
Lots of competition as so many talented artists about there (Etsy) and some keeping low prices..
A friend of mine who is working with economics says the price is not so important when people shop...if they want something they buy..if unique ..but I dont know about supply ...there is a limit..
Anyhow we should use a price that feels good for us so we do not feel unsatisfied when selling..

I use to say to myself I will not sell too cheep...
then I rather give it away to same friend or charity..

Anonymous said...

How do u get the little face/avatar thingy? Helps

Star of the East said...

Again, great post, Penny.

You are right, Etsy is a retail venue. And that brings us to the problem of wholesale pricing. We get lots of requests for wholesale, but it almost never happens. Shopowners expect to get a 50% discount on the Etsy prices. But the kind of handmade we do doesn't lean itself for factory style production, and 50% off will not suffice. This is an other point to consider when pricing, if you plan to do wholesale, double your minimum prices.

That is also the reason why we never do sales. It doesn't seem fair to the customers that have paid the full price and others will think if you can sell it for much less, it is worth much less. We rather dismount the pieces for the components.

An other great point that you mention is the perception of yourself, your self esteem and what you think that you work is worth. Mind you, this has all to do with the fact that we are women!
Men take themselves much more seriously, and that reflects directly in the prices that male sellers use, check it out.
Some of them seem to think that they shit gold, and maybe some do :) Think dead cow in formaldehide for ten million pounds! Self esteem and good marketing will sell the new clothes of the emperor.

It is not only the price, people. It is the price/quality balance that we are looking for, not too much, not too litlle, not a hobby, not a brand, it is honest hand work what we sell, and your prices have to make you feel allright.

HenrietteWhiteJewelry said...

I plead guilty! This all sounds so familiar! Feels like I’ve been caught out by the teacher for thinking bad thoughts!

Thoughts like….

May be my jewelry is just not good enough?
May be my prices are just too high?
May be I live in a dream world thinking I make nice things?
There are so many wonderful things out there, why would anybody choose to buy my stuff?
May be my designs are just not that original? Are they? I never ever copy anything, get lots of inspiration from other artists though, is that allowed?
What about the quality – is it good enough? Should it be perfect? Or are some designs too neatly done?
Should I may be stick to one type of thing and not make such a variety? ( Even though I love making totally different things?)

Thank you so much for sharing this discussion! Really nice to know that such very creative and artistic people also sometimes doubt themselves and the way they do things. My Etsy shop is not my only source of income. I do have a day job which is also sort of okay and pays the bills, but which I would give up any time to spend my days behind the bench. If only I could afford it!

I do believe that when you sell your art at worthwhile prices, you’ll get customers who really like your work and will appreciate it for what it is. Cheap goods attract ‘cheap’ customers who buy things to only enjoy it for a short time to then replace it with another cheap item. What we need are those worthwhile customers who enjoy and respect our art and who value the time and money we spend, not only on materials and overheads, but also on dreaming up new ideas and bringing them to life, often only after a second or third attempt!

Looking forward to the next chapter……

Lela said...

Thank you for this great discussion. I agree with it all. As a relatively new Etsy seller (joined last fall) I feel like I've been spanked.

I just removed items from a 'sale' category and added more descriptions to the titles. We shouldn't put things on "sale." It only says..."hey, this isn't quite good enough to charge more and no one really wants it."

And I think Henriette said it best..."Cheap goods attract ‘cheap’ customers who buy things to only enjoy it for a short time to then replace it with another cheap item."

The look on Bill's face says it all.

Onward and upward!

Sharon Driscoll said...

I came here via Fanciful and I'm glad I did. It's been a mental struggle to get back into the "market" after a major absence. I was never totally out but with an outside job to raise children/ life changes and so on I slowly slide down the hill thinking that I'd gotten efficient at "making" rather than skilled and talented. Keep's good to hear and necessary. I'm not an assembly line should be my new mantra.

Woodland Jewelries said...

Thank you Penny for your thoughts. Especially "I want everyone to be able to afford me" caught my heart, because i have been thinking exactly like this. Maybe i have/am been too afraid to lift my prices. And i shall do that now.

Penny your pieces are so unique and interesting, that you should lift prices.

sometimes i feel that i should write how many hours it did to create my jewelries. sometimes i make them easier and sometimes it takes a long time to finish a piece.

i can't wait your next writing about this subject!

Juliette Williams said...

I really appreciated your post. Thank you, and am looking forward to the next installment. You're an artist I really admire,for your strong voice and focus but also your ethics.

Pricing is the most difficult part for me, personally. And yet, as it is necessary I try to think about how much the materials cost, factor in a 'wage' for me while making the piece, and then whack it up a few 'notches.' I admit, however that I tend to take those notches down a bit later, thinking that 'oooh, not THAT much.'

Shooting me in the foot? Most likely. but I also have this idea that if you reel them in, they'll stay with you. Yes, naivete but also just the pure joy of being able to get up and do just what I want to do for my life (FINALLY) really is factored in there somewhere.

Mish-moshily yours,

Lesley said...

Fantastic post that really resonates with me as I recognise all of those excuses. I'm working on upping my prices little by little but it always creates some doubt even ehen in my heart I know it's the right thing to do. Artisans need to support themselves and their community with their pricing and not panic and slash prices if something doesn't sell quickly.

I'm really looking forward to the next instalment and will be sharing this post. Thanks you.

Beatnheart said...

oh girl let it all hang out mama...
thank you so much...i love getting lectured and hollered at by you and I mean that in the most nicest and honest are right on sista and this post really gave me a whole bunch of stuff to think about...

now where's the remote.

Beatnheart said...

all of it is well and good but what bums me out is seeing people who do make stuff from elements and cheap stamped findings from China and a bit of "brass" chain...selling a whole lot more than me and getting the same prices I am what does that mean...people like cheap crap and are willing to pay for it....most young hipster types that buy from some hot style guru that is 18 and blogs about fashion and sells these brass feathers and airballon charm necklaces...

lynsey said...

Such a fantastic and uplifting post, thank you so much Penny.
I have just opened two shops on Etsy because I work in metal and bead weaving and felt it better to split them as they are so different and my inspirations and stories behind the pieces are so different. Because I'm studying a degree in jewellery making and silver smithing, we are constantly talked to about pricing and I work one day a week in a contemporary jewellery gallery so I've never had any qualms about charging what I feel is right for my metal pieces. But funnily enough I actively charge less for my bead work, because here I concentrate mainly on material, I think to my myself "no one is going to pay that for besds" which I now see is totally ridiculous and destructive. Although the material I use for my metal pieces (I.e. silver), is more precious, I can create 2 to 3 pieces a day, but my bead work can take me sometimes 2 days on one piece, and I am just not charging for my time. The problem is when you work with the public you hear the rumblings " I wouldn't pay that for that", and " that's not worth that" oh and the classic " my 5 year old could make that" it's easy to get caught up in this and feel devalued because of it. What you really should be thinking of course is that these people are not my customers and re-focusing on the ones who are. There are many who appreciate good hand made work, I serve them every weekend in the Gallery, and although I've not made a sale yet from my two shops I'm still confident I will one day, although I am going to go and tweak my bead work prices now :-)
Thanks again Penny

Louise said...

Brilliant Penny! This is of such value, to so many, thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to write it and say it like it is - and having the guts to do it. Way to go. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm a dancer rather than a jewellery maker, and all of these points really apply to us too. I hear lots of these excuses whenever a discussion comes up on charging fair and sustainable rates - 'but I'm not as good as X, so how can I charge what she does?', or 'but I want everyone to be able to afford to hire a dancer!' are the most common.

I think the only sane approach is to work backwards - how much would you need to earn each month to have a decent standard of living? How many gigs can you reasonably do (or how many pieces can you make) in that time without exhausting yourself? How much profit would you need to make on each sale after *all* of your expenses are accounted for, in order to make your minimum acceptable income?

The only trouble with that is that so many people in all arty fields are doing it as a sideline or hobby, and those people often don't see why they should price their work as if they were going to make a living from it. My answers to that would be 1) if you don't charge what you're worth for your time, you will eventually feel undervalued and resentful, and 2) if you charge below what a full-time artist would need to charge to survive, then you are making it even harder for *anyone* to make a living from their art, which can only damage the overall quality of work that's out there...

TesoriTrovati said...

This is a brilliant post! I have been there. But from the very beginning I knew the value of pricing right. I wasn't making anything near the complexity or with the artisan materials in the beginning as I do now, but that didn't stop me from pricing the way I did and standing tall about it. I find so many of my favorite jewelry designers are selling at such a reduced rate and it makes me angry. Because I know they are talented and they are undervaluing that. Which in turn undervalues what I do. I stopped selling on Etsy for that very reason and now only sell my jewelry in art galleries on commission. I would like to find more but that takes time that I don't seem to find. I do sell artisan polymer clay pendants and components on Etsy. I feel comfortable with the prices now as they are double what I started with and more clearly reflect the handmade nature and the time that it takes, but I still struggle with that sometimes. I want people to use them but I also know that they are not for everyone. I remember when I started making jewelry, I thought that ever woman walking down the street was my potential client. But then I came to the realization that I couldn't be everything to everyone and I could not compete with those that only wanted that throw-away jewelry from a big box store. I had a cousin's daughter come to me recently with a picture of some simple necklaces (faux pearl on a chain with a leaf bearing an initial) that she wanted for her wedding. I found the exact pic on Etsy...many times over...which tells me that it is a reseller. She wanted me to make four necklaces in a similar dainty style, with four pairs of earrings for her wedding party for a total of $60-70. What?! I gave her an idea from my own store, with my own handmade pieces and even gave her a generous discount to $100 for four (basically eating the cost of the earrings) and she refused. Gah! She thought she was doing ME a favor by 'keeping it in the family'! Ha! That is a favor that I don't need. I am looking forward to reading more of your insights and also sharing thoughts with your wonderful commenters. Maybe we can start a revolution ;-) Enjoy the day! Erin

Anonymous said...

This is a very thought provoking article. Often, when I use one of the pricing formulas that you see online, I cringe and think, "Omg, no one would pay THAT much for this necklace." Then I price it downward, because the price seems so exorbitant. I haven't gotten past that excuse yet.
I look forward to your next post.

Jo Archer said...

Bloody brilliant, Penny. Thank you. You have highlighlighted every excuse I come up with, when my friends say I should charge more.

I am now filled with more confidence and will look at my pricing with fresh eyes.

crankypants said...

What a great discussion and way overdue. It is comforting, if sad, to hear these comments from the artists I admire from afar. I'm not really part of the community and feel like I'm creating in a vaccuum, since my friends in real life don't do Etsy or craft shows. So this discussion is really really helpful.

I'm not trying to make a living from either my feather creations or jewelry but I struggle with all of the issues you've touched on. I still want to be able to charge for my time and materials, so that maybe someday I could drop to part-time work (need insurance).

My love making things for Crankypants but it is so depressing to see other feather shops using pre-made pads from China, with a little bit from Michaels selling for more than mine, having 10,000 positive feedbacks. I have a huge box of vintage feathers (a finite resource; when they're gone, they're gone), dye them myself, cut each base out of wool felt, glue the feathers, make the beading or use pricey-antique bigs and couture-
level trims from France.

Is it because some made-of-China-bits thing is on Etsy that all of a sudden there's this perceived value? Do people feel better getting the same thing from someone they think is an "artist" rather than getting it at Target, which is a "corporation" even though both use the same supplies? Are people really so dull as buy something from Etsy that is just like what they've seen everywhere else, so they feel comforted by its commonness??

I've given a lot of thought to perceived value, and honestly people are so baffled as to what is quality and what isn't. I almost brought a set of my materials to show alongside craft store materials at a craft show but decided it was too arrogant. There ended up being a girl there who did craft store feather things so after people saw my booth and went to hers, they came back to mine.

And even with all the positive feedback, happy customers, encouraging comments, ego boost (let's be honest here :), money that I can use to pay for my hobby, what do I remember? The 3 times exactly that people muttered under their breath "God, this is so expensive." Crushed me. It shouldn't. They aren't my customers. They kept on walking. But to have all my work, time, attention to detail, love, schooling, knowledge, everything that I AM reduced to nothing by a sentence from an idiot.

So again, thank you for this discussion. Your insight and the comments have helped me re-center, review, and renew my confidence as an artisan craftsperson. Because that's what we are, right?

Jenny said...

Fantastic. inspiring, bloody wonderful post! Your absolutely right!
Thanks so much Penny .

annamei said...

A fantastic post!
I´m a little late for jumping in here now but beatnheart send me your link yesterday and i went through your post the whole morning.
What was touching me deeply was:
I´m not worth it
....I'm still getting through it- people send me letters all the time telling me how great my stuff is, but 90% of the time I stare at it and think 'where exactly is this genius you speak of?'
i feel often the same and it makes me thinking about where it possibly come from.
My childhood wasn´t that good as it should be and it took me quiet some time and struggle to learn that i´m a valuable person which deserved to be treated respectful,I daily life situations i´m taking care about that.
But coming out ,showing and selling my jewelry is a completly different thing and i feel trapped by your reason*I´m not worth it*.
Thank you for pointing this out i should work on this!
The statement from Dawn from deserttalisman *what you make is an expression of who you are.Honor that,and the time and effort you´ve put into it* is great!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Debora L Griffin said...

Totally correct. I am of the "I'm not worth it" fallacy. I AM worth it! I'm late to this post but that just means I get to read them all!!!

Debora L Griffin