Lately, I've been perusing the Etsy.com site. For those of you who aren't familiar with it - Etsy provides (for a very reasonable fee) a lovely storefront for handmade items. Each craft artist has their own virtual "shop" and a link to show each item in detail, along with the option to pay, mark it as a favorite etc. The quality of work varies a little but is largely very good. It's tasteful, easy to navigate and the Etsy folks charge such reasonable prices per listing and sale that it's almost irresistible.
Until you see the prices. Now, in fairness, there are some knock-you-dead designers who sell at what their work is actually worth. But it seems to me that the majority of sellers are underpricing to the point where you have to wonder if they cover costs. And a further perusal of forum discussion reveals that many people are only recovering their material costs and don't (and I'm quoting here) "charge for my time."
I'm familiar with this point of view. I've been there myself. Back when craft was a hobby, I was thrilled just to fund my addiction and recover enough to buy new materials. I understand the viewpoint.
But here's the thing: It's a similar mindset, I think, to someone not being willing to join a union because, really, they're just working because they like to be busy or they're just working to have a little extra money. They don't actually need the job. This leaves their coworkers (who may love their jobs) a person shy of the power to make the employer understand that their labor is worth anything at all. That they deserve to earn, say, at least minimum wage. Why should the employer (who is the buyer in this story) pay fair remuneration if he/she can get people to work for spare change?
Me? I'm not working for spare change. I can't afford to do that anymore than I can afford to volunteer 25-30 hours a week. I pay to register my business name. I pay to have my taxes done. I pay income tax on what I earn and extra rent to have a studio space. I deal with wholesalers whose minimum order ranges from $150 - $500 U.S. I pay for shipping, supplies,
an Internet domain, business cards, and the extra expense of a business bank account. Just for starters.
But just as important, I spend hours thinking, sketching, trying different ideas. A cuff can take anywhere from 15-40 hours to produce. My designs are original. Imagine, just imagine what we would pay for a pair of handmade shoes that were one-of-a-kind.
What do we pay for shoes, come to think of it? Not the kick arounds we get in the bargain basement - but the juicy ones we fall in love with and just have to have - in spite of the price?
What do we pay to have highlights put in our hair - a job that takes the hairdresser maybe one hour of actual working time? I don't know about you, but I go to a mid range salon and it costs $100. One of my cuffs might be priced at that - and I've labored a day and a half. The hair color will fade in a couple months, the cuff is so well made that it could be passed on to the purchaser's great grandchild.
There's nothing wrong with being a hobbyist and covering your costs. But I wish there was a site similar whose clients were all professional artisans. A juried site. If anyone knows of such a mecca, please tell me!
And! I would love to hear the opinions of other beaders and glass makers. Thanks!