Monday, 1 September 2014

Handmade value

This weekend I discovered an internet discussion/movement that caught me immediately. It is about the fact that artistic handmade objects like amazing quilts are not getting honored as much as they should in financial means. 
There are lots of people saying "wow" and "awesome" if they see a wonderful unique and artistic quilt, but would they ever pay the price that it is actually worth? 
Surely it is difficult to price a work like that. If you sum up everything from the material to the hours that have been spend cutting, ironing, piecing, you might get a number, but it doesn't include your experiences and your creativity that makes this piece unique. How can you price that? And once you have a number, you can be pretty sure, that you won't find someone paying it to you! 
Find out more about this discussion for example on Sam Hunters blog, she founded the action:
She says that we have to train our customers to be aware of the real value of the piece they purchased. They don't have to pay it, but they have to know it and understand that they made a good deal, because what they payed is probably much below any reasonable figure.
Of course all the article I read about that topic have been from artists that make more or less their living with their art or being creators of incredible quilts, that I could never dream of. I am far from that level, but everybody selling handmade goods should be interested in this topic. How often do I see someone selling a piece in the internet and I think "how can this price even cover the materials - this is unfair for all the other sellers!". On the other hand, how often do I see someone selling a piece and I think "yes, it is probably worth it, but who the hell is paying that price - me not". 

And myself? Do I ask a reasonable price for the things I am selling? 
To be honest, I have never calculated down to the cent how much an article is worth. I know the individual quilts I have made (you haven't seen much of them in this blog jet, as this year I have been a lazy quilter) couldn't be payed by anyone. So I either keep them or give them as a present, but only to those who respect it. And for me it is part of the fun making it, to think during the process of sewing about the person who will get it in the end.
But I am selling lots of little things like bags, accessories, book covers, pictures, post-cards, .... My husband is asking sometimes if I am taking an appropriate price for this article or an other. And I am always responding, that this is the price I can live with. I eyeball the value of the ingredients and then think about how much someone else might pay to have it. So lets see with an example if it is working out for me! (I really just now made the calculations when writing this post, so it is a surprise for me too)

A simple wax cloth bag: They are very useful, I have sold already about 20, showed to some friends how to make them, gave lots as gifts and hear all the time that they are "so nice" and so "practical". 
Fabric needs:
2 pieces 40x40cm of wax cloth for the outside. Good wax cloth is expensive about 26€ the meter by 120cm width. Will be 3,50€ for the outside.
The lining is stable white cotton fabric. I get it cheap at the Swedish furniture house, it is about 10€ the meter by 150cm width. Will be 1,10€ for the lining.
For the handles I need about 50cm of belt, this is an other 0,80€.
Lets count 0,30€ for the thread and use of the machine.
This gives 5,70€ for the material used, not counting the scraps I am producing that can't be used for any project I will get payed for, and not counting the costs for shipping (if bought in internet) or for gas (if I drove to a store).
Fabrication time:
I can't name the time shopping the fabric. But lately I stopped the time for cutting and sewing and it's about one hour, as I have been sewing this simple bag already lots of times and don't have to think a lot about every step. What can I ask for one hour of my time? I am an engineer and those are expensive. Okay I am not a fabric engineer, so let's lower the price. I live in a really expensive region of France, if anyone offers me a job, I wouldn't do it under 20€/h, not including assurances etc. So let's say 20€ fabrication fee.
->> I should price this bag with 25,70€! 
I don't! I take 15€ when I am selling it from my house and 19€ when selling it in the internet, for covering also the fees for the platform provider and the shipping.
And this is the most simple bag I have. I make bags with a pieced outside, that took more time to do and I sell it for the same price. I have bags with flaps and I am selling them for 20€ and those take much more time and material.
You might think that I still make money on that bag, but for every bag I sell there is at least one other that is not sold, because clients always wants to have a choice. 
You might think that 10€ less is good for a piece I can produce half asleep! But if it is already 10€ for an easy product, how much will it be for a more complicated one?
One thing is for sure: I will not get rich in this business!

If you are interested, you can find better examples of calculations for very individual quilts here and here.

The internet discussion is also a lot about why do quilters themselves worship their work low! Is it because needlework has been always a female task that has been done for centuries quietly beside all other works for house and family? I don't want to drop into a feminist discussion here, but there is probably truth in it. For me it is also a big question of self-confidence! Don't panic, I won't tell you about my self image here, otherwise you might lower your opinion of me too :-)

Anyway, this has been filling up my head all weekend and it had to come out somehow. Next time I show something new I sewed.
Today is the last day of the kids vacation, so now we have a lot to do to prepare ourselves for a daily routine after two month of hanging around.

A bientôt,

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