More on our Marketplace

5 February 2007

I’m thrilled that there has been much thinking and response about the Future of the Designer Craftsmen movement.
Some random thoughts provoked by all this exchange:
•There are lots of things that sell, even like hot cakes, but many fewer things that you can make money selling. Here is a story, ten part, of what is a typical situation for a craftswoman selling a modestly priced item- hand-dyed fabric to quilters. It sure seems to me that she knows her dyeing stuff, has passion and was relatively (I’ve never seen her work) good. It took her a few years to figure out that she wasn’t getting enough rewards for her time. She wasn’t even paying rent, heat, utilities…
•There are many things you can sell cheap. There is a difference in selling and making money on what you sell. You can sell cupcake pincushions, (aren’t they cute!) but it can be very difficult to make a living just selling such things. This also highlights another dilemma; Betz White made these pincushions to use up accumulated leftover felted ribbing from old sweaters, now how does she get an adequate supply to make more now?
•Very small chance of us getting rich doing this. If you want to be rich need to try another line of work. All we are asking for is a decent living and health care, and that is different for every one of us. Since we are not going to get rich we want job satisfaction. Trying to make, by ourselves, hundreds of thousands of things to sell for a pittance does not lead to much satisfaction.
•Creativity is not limited to your product but must be engaged in the process of making it too. Your creativity can be used to make better tools and improve the process. Being a slow knitter does not make your socks more valuable, doing something that no one else has thought of does.
•Some things are better left to the industrial process. Unless doing it by hand makes it better or different, you will not be able to get a fair price for your work.
•I have a small scarf, 14” x 60”, that I sell for $55. I don’t think that if I had only that size scarf I could sell enough to make a living. I do 8-10 shows a year; typically the shows are open Fri., Sat. and Sun. There are a limited number of hours available to sell and it takes just as long to sell a $55 scarf as a $550 one. And the same mirror, and care tags and packaging. I go round and round about the small scarves; do they increase my net sales or do they decrease it?? If I am busy with someone who takes an hour and a half to buy a small scarf and don’t pay enough attention to another customer who would have bought a bigger pieces… Generally if I sell a lot of small scarves, I have a poor show.
•We have many things we have things happening in the marketplace today: low wages over-seas, copying, and unaware customers. But the one that seems to me like a self –destruct button is people pretending to sell handmade items for prices that you would pay for industrial made goods.


One Response to “More on our Marketplace”

  1. glennis Says:

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thanks for that, Karren.
    Your small scarves are definitely worth more than the $55- I see it almost as a service you provide to sell tham at that price!


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