Handmade and prices

23 January 2007

I”ll start with disclosure: I make my shibori here in the USA by hand in my small studio. I sell what I make at Fine Craft Shows. These shows have standards and jurys. This is my source of income.
I feel that there is a real disconnect between handmade and prices. If people walk in the door to a Fine Craft Show expecting to buy things under $50 they will have a bad day and so will the exhibitors.
I have mentioned before that I didn’t think that silk screened T-shirts were handmade but you can see that in the comments others did. We have no consenses on what handmade is. But even without that I bet we have some common ground about handmade.
Handmade is not manufactured the way most of the things in our lives are. Manufacturing has as it s goal to make each item as effeicently as possible, yet relatively well made. The process of manufacturing is well thought out and if a jig or robot makes the process more effecient it is used. The cost of the jig/robot is spread out over thousands. That gets us lots of affordable things. Handmade will take longer for each item and make fewer of them. It can be the fewer part you are after (such as with the silk screened T’s) or the longer part. Longer can mean more thoughtfully, or by a process that is not available to manufactures.
Longer means more labor costs. US (or Japanese or Finnish) labor is expensive because of the standard of living.
So if you want something handmade here at home how much should you expect to pay for it? If someone offered to sell you handmade socks for $22 what would you think:
1) ¡WEEEE!
2) not handmade.
3) not made in the USA
4)all of the above
Handmade is implied by context, there is nothing on the website that says handmade—wise. I found this site from ACRE, they sent me a buyer’s guide and Shiborigirl mentioned them. This is run by the wholesalecrafts.com people. It is for US and Canadian craft artists and I’m interested because they are supposed to be a growing sales venue for crafts. (If you use the figures supplied in the article that is an average wholesale order of $211, hardly the stuff of a solid business.)
Do venues such as this that promote CHEAP crafts help or hurt our market? If you want cheap, manufactured goods are a better value for your money. Fine Crafts should offer you something not available in manufactured goods at a very different price.

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6 Responses to “Handmade and prices”

  1. Jorun Says:

    The socks are not hand knitted, but that info is hidden in the middle of the “Sockstory”:
    “We inport the wool from farms in Australia and then the rest of the production of Sol Mate Socks takes place in the United States. The wool is custom spun, dyed, and pre-shrunk so the socks can go in the washer and dryer. Then the colorful and complex patterns are knit on a machine. The socks are hand finished and purposely “mismatched” because life’s too short for matching socks.”

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  2. sophie Says:

    I believe that, over time, cheap art, cheap crafts, cheap handmade products do create a demand for something more because people develop a better appreciation for art just by being exposed to it. I don’t think that fine artists should lower their standards (or their prices) to compete in a cheap art market, but instead to view those markets as the entry point for future customers.

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  3. Judy Dunn Says:

    Not all of the sales made through Wholesalecrafts.com are made online. Some are done by phone or email.
    Averages can be misleading. There are items on WSC, handmade, that wholesale for less than $10. There are also items that wholesale for more than $100 on the site. I actually have both ends of the range in my own work. Right now the less expensive work is what is selling the most through WSC.
    When buying something on the internet, there is uncertainty about what the actual item will be like. Artists who have done shows like BMAC, ACC, or other wholesale show will have had some of that face to face exposure with their work. So they will be able to sell those more expensive items more easily on-line.
    But there are artists on the site who are making their living and just relying on WSC to generate sales. But they use the many tools to get exposure that WSC provides.
    Love your blog BTW. Some great insights into the world of craft.

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  4. glennis Says:

    I believe that face to face, in person contact is necessary to sell higher end handmade crafts. There is a bit of education that occurs between the maker and the buyer. I want to know what the buyers needs are relative to selling my items and I want to educate the buyer about my craft so that he/she can use that information in selling it to their customer. Online sales lack that personal communication in my experience. Once I establish a relationship/history with a customer then online sales are easier to generate.

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  5. glennis Says:

    regarding the socks, yes definitely a manufactured item. not a handmade fine craft item. I wonder how many other crafts on the site are of a similar nature?

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  6. Diane Says:

    I think handmade is a hard sell online because fabric is so tactile and feeling it and trying it on are part of the experience. This accounts for the bargains available on Etsy. I think putting handmade items in a gallery sends a message that(like any painting or sculpture) it is to be admired and not worn. I’d like to see handmade stores (co-ops?) where they are merchandised as clothing and beg to be tried on. This experience would be like no other for most consumers, to be able to embrace the textiles, try them on, whirl about the room. Pricey, yes. But once you advance to handmade how can you go back? Your Mizrahi suit from Target doesn’t make you feel the same as when you wear your couture Chanel.

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