Are you a fellow maker? Have you ever done a craft show or possibly the whole circuit? Packed up all of your handmade lovelies, driven long distances, set up your display, small-talked with customers, whiled away the day (or twiddled your thumbs), only to repack the remaining lovelies (which, if you’re lucky, won’t be many), count your pennies and head home to be with your friends and family and pass out on the couch?
If you’re a crafter/artist/maker, you know just how small that profit really is. If you’re not, but you’re a supporter of handmade, you’ve probably given it some thought and have an inkling of what kind of time and money goes into a handmade piece. If you’re neither, and instead fall into the “I could buy that at So-and-So for two dollars,” then I encourage you to read on.
A recent blog post by Molli Sparkles over at SewMamaSew outlines just how much a little handmade baby quilt costs and touches on the subject of pricing. When you buy something handmade, you are buying something original. You are supporting local. You are giving or keeping something special. Something that has heart and soul. In essence, you are changing the world. Maybe just a little bit, but that little bit is better than nothing at all. It’s still a change.
And so quite often I find myself feeling like Meg Ryan. But not the Meg Ryan faking it while sitting across from Billy Crystal in a diner. No. Sorry to disappoint. I’m talking about Meg Ryan, lover of children’s books, shop owner extraordinaire and unknown object of Tom Hank’s affection. If you’ve seen You’ve Got Mail, then you'll know that she’s the underdog, the owner of a local bookstore struggling to make it against the big bad Fox Books. If you haven’t seen it. Watch it. I love it. And if you don’t. Maybe we shouldn’t be friends...
Every maker has their moment at a show when a “potential” customer walks up to the table and says something incredible. Unimaginable. My all-time favourite happened this year at the fall edition of Handmade Harvest (best show ever). Me, a trilingual graduate with degrees in language translation, Spanish and teaching, stood at my table and listened to a francophone mother discuss the price of my cup sleeves with her daughter, en francais. The daughter wanted to buy one. The mother said, “Why? I can get the same thing somewhere else for $2. The. Exact. Same. Thing.” While I know that they couldn't get the "exact same thing" because the cost of my materials alone is more than two dollars, this continued at length while they touched every item on the table and ignored me. Because they thought I couldn’t understand them. But I could. I speak French. Fluently. So the joke is on them. They should actually be embarrassed. If they read this, I hope they are.
Most of us makers are smarter than you think. And that’s why we think about our pricing and try to be competitive, but also realistic, about the time, effort, process and materials that go into our final product.
Makers: don’t cut yourselves short. Buyers: thank you. Others: don’t make a fool of yourselves in public.
For a good laugh, check out “Sh*t Craft Show Shoppers Say,” put together by none other than the Handmade Harvest ladies themselves. And then let me know which of these has happened to you. For me, the list is endless.