I’ve been making and selling handcrafted jewelry for over 30 years. First as a hobby, then exclusively at craft fairs. I added a retail location in 1992, a 500-square-foot space in historic downtown Cocoa, Florida. I continued to do a number of craft fairs for several more years, then added internet sales and phased out the craft fairs. For awhile in the late 1980s I had a helper, but for the most part I personally handcrafted every piece of jewelry I sold.
Thousands of pieces of jewelry. Produced by my hands.
Mostly I’m proud of what I do and what I’ve been able to accomplish. Sometimes it still boggles my mind that people are willing to pay me money for the creations that I have such fun making!
Do you realize what you’re saying?
In that time I have heard it all, from swooning compliments to completely ignorant insults. I take what I do very seriously, and any comment on my jewelry is a reflection of me personally. Any compliment feels great. Any criticism cuts deeply.
The people who come back and buy from me again and again…oh, how I treasure them! They are a blessing not only to my bank account but to my soul as well. They understand–and appreciate!–that they are acquiring something that is unique and special and means something to me, and THAT means something to them!
Those that come in my store and pick things up and literally toss them back down, don’t make eye contact, say “My Uncle Joe makes this stuff”, or worst of all, talk on their cell phone the entire time they’re in my store…those people hurt me. I am inconsequential. It seems like I am not worth their time, let alone their money. (And by the way, your Uncle Joe may be a wirewrapper or jewelry maker, but he doesn’t make “this stuff”. I make this stuff! And I take it very personally!)
The irritation factor.
After bidding on and winning an ear cuff, an eBay customer recently asked me to change the shipping method to “the slowest and cheapest”, and refund the difference to her PayPal account. Two things wrong with this picture–1) when you bid on an auction on eBay, you are accepting the terms of the auction as presented, and 2) for the size and weight of the package containing an ear cuff, First Class IS the cheapest way.
It makes me wonder if people think handicraft artisans in general–and me in particular–are trying to rip them off? That we’re arbitrarily making up prices and padding the add-ons to make more money? I promise you, at least in my experience, that is so incredibly NOT the case!
Quite frankly, it’s insulting.
Have you ever really stopped to think about what might be involved in the creation of that handcrafted item you’re looking at?
The cost of the raw materials. Of course, we look for the best possible quality materials at the lowest possible price. It’s an ongoing, never-ending search. Searching takes time, yes?
The education/learning curve of our expertise. Either the artisan has gone to school or taken some classes, or as in my case, spent many years experimenting and playing and getting better and better at my craft. Granted, the “talent” came from the good Lord, but what I’ve done to capitalize on it is all me. And I’ve spent a small fortune on a shelf full of books for education and inspiration!
The tools of the trade. I can’t even tell you how many pairs of pliers I own. Different sizes and styles and shapes. People who sew have closets full of material and expensive sewing machines on their desks. Those who paint have brushes and canvases and palettes. Do you have a hobby? I’m betting it costs money!
The sales venue. I have a physical store. A location where people can come in and look at my jewelry. There’s rent and electricity and phone and internet…all of which has to be figured into my overhead. Others may spend money applying for and traveling to craft fairs, where they have to figure in hotel and food and gas.
All of that HAS to be a part of the price of the artwork.
It’s been quite a number of years ago, and I’ve gotten better and faster at what I do, but I remember the first time I sat down and really figured out how much it cost me to make my jewelry. How much in precious metals and gemstones, how much in electricity and tools, how much in learning and traveling, and I divided that by how long it took me to make each piece, and I averaged that out. It was $1.83 per hour.
I’m not kidding. $1.83 per hour.
Would YOU work for $1.83 per hour?
Please, please, please think about all that the next time you pick up a handcrafted item!
Do you truly appreciate the creativity and the workmanship that goes into a piece?
I can assure you that the artisan you are purchasing from truly appreciates you choosing their creation on which to spend your money!