so here’s a question I hate: “what would it cost in a store?” can you guess what I’m talking about? I’m sure all crafters, artisans, and makers are familiar with this. you make something beautiful, unique, and special, you pour your own blood, sweat, and tears into it, you fret over every detail from the selection of materials to the final stitch and snip…and then, when pricing the item, you (or other well-meaning folks) ask, “well, what would I pay for this item at Target/Walmart/any other mass market?”
::needle scratches on the record::
it’s a heartbreaking question because you know that there is absolutely no comparison between your product and those churned out of overseas factories with inhumane working conditions, yet in our culture driven by consumerism of the “what can I get the fastest and cheapest” variety people don’t know how to place a value on a truly special handmade product.
so here I go, trying my best to explain what I think about when I consider the value of handmade goods. a finished product is so much more than just the mere sum of Cost of Materials Used + Cost of Labor equation that I believe many people use when determining an item’s worth. that math may hold true when items are being produced on a mass scale and the Big Corporation is concerned primarily with profit margins and amassing great fortunes, but it doesn’t work so well for the small-scale, home-based, artisan hand crafters. Corporations don’t care if their seams are crooked. Corporations don’t have a personal relationship with their customers. Corporations don’t think about the person buying each item while making it and envision that person’s joy and excitement upon receiving their order in the mail. Corporations don’t imbue their products with loving energy for the person who will use the item after it leaves their warehouse. (hint: I do, and I bet a lot of other hand-crafters and artists do too.) I don’t hate Corporations, the clothes I’m wearing right now were purchased at the Gap, but I LOVE handmade goods and I feel strongly about supporting vendors who take pride in crafting unique, special, made-with-love items.
this presents a dilemma when pricing handmade items for sale, obviously. speaking from personal experience, I find that it’s tricky to find that sweet spot between a price that will be acceptable and attractive to customers, and a price that truly reflects the hard work and special-ness of an item made by my own two hands. I know what I believe my work to be worth, but I also know, sadly, that customers will always think “well, what would I spend on a similar item at the mall?” don’t get me wrong, there are certainly tons of people who also believe in supporting the little folks, the local businesses, the handcrafters; people who understand the Value of handmade. these are the people who will support my business and other small-scale home-based artisan crafters. I know that I will never fully convert the masses who do all their shopping in the bargain bin of the warehouse store, and that’s okay. those aren’t my peeps, obvs. but for the people in the middle, the people who like handmade, unique stuff but expect it to cost what it would at the mall, those are the folks I hope to reach and teach and preach the Value of handmade.