Monday, November 12, 2012

Who Decided How Much You'd Pay for Something?

I had an interesting conversation with a store owner this morning. It regarded seeing if there was an opportunity to either sell to her or consign some of my craft creations in her store. It looked like a match. The large store was filled with all kinds of what appeared to be handcrafted items.

She quickly put me straight. "No, we don't do that anymore. We need large quantities of each item and price is very important. To sell something you've created you would be lucky to get the cost of your materials. You'd never get your time out of it."

I have in the past made three or four items with the same design but because its hand done, they are never quite the same. Quickly going through the store its apparent that the items for sale likely had an original. But looking on the base alongside the creators name and studio were the words sure to chill any crafters heart, " Made In China." So what some crafters have done is, like me, created an original but unlike me, sold some company their design and had thousands made to be sold to gift stores clear across the country.

This leads me to the question, who demanded that original crafts items, hand made and lovingly created, usually one of a kind, had to be cheap? If you are like me, $50-75 for a stamped Santa, one of thousands perhaps is not cheap. Is a $29 birdhouse at Michael's with minimal designs that much cheaper than a one of a kind, lovingly painted birdhouse I created selling for $39 and maybe a little bit more? Are we a nation that needs to fill our homes with cheap reproductions? Have we lost an appreciation for the truly unique? One of a kind?

We complain about how everything is made in China or Mexico or now Vietnam Nam. We lost our jobs. Who made the decision? I don't think it was you or me. It was one CEO after another who tried to squeak a bit more profit on every item, never decreasing their price. So their cost was less, our cost was the same or more and one by one jobs were lost. Crafters were lost, and the options for artists dramatically narrowed.

This gave rise to shops like Etsy, however, touching and handling will never be replaced by a video screen. What's an artist to do? How does one finally breakaway from the pack?

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