Friday, October 17, 2008

If you're going to get bad news and good news on the same day, it's probably good that they come at the same time.

I don't like to focus on bad news, so I'll post the good news first. My Yellow Windowleaf beadwoven cuff made it to Etsy's front page today! See?

I've been busy and hadn't even seen the treasury before I saw it on the front page (and thanks to a couple of Etsy friends for pointing it out to me). The treasury's title is CHAZ (a cross between cheese and jazz and has nothing to do with the treasury), and it was curated by aslibinal. Be sure to check out her shop for some cool Blythe stuff and some even cooler stuffed critters (ya gotta love a stuffed critter called Mr. Toofy).

Okay, now the bad news. I was literally in the middle of capturing that screen print of the front page when the phone rang. A few weeks ago, I was approached by a jewelry representative who told me she really loved my beadweaving and wanted to market it to high end gift shops and boutiques. Now I'm normally a bit skeptical about things like that, but I knew how she found me and did some research to determine her legitimacy, so I went for it. I packaged up some pieces for her to take to her clients, made up a price list for her; and I've just been waiting for word. I was a bit nervous, actually, that I'd wind up with orders and would have to race to finish a bunch of bracelets. I needn't have worried.

She told me that everyone who saw my work really loved it, but they all thought the prices were too high. Their expectation was that a beadwoven cuff should cost them somewhere in the range of $15 to $20!!! Eegads! These are the cuffs you see me writing about here on my blog, all designed by me, all handmade by me, and all made from the best materials I can find. The rep told me that the shop owners said they could purchase Fair Trade items much more cheaply than they could purchase mine, and they didn't think they should have to pay so much.

Even when I manage to purchase the materials for my cuffs on sale, there are a few dollars tied up in the cost of each piece. That doesn't even take into consideration the amount of time it takes to craft one of these pieces. It takes a long time to weave all those little beads together, and I'm pretty quick. I really do enjoy every aspect of making these pieces, from working on the designs, to choosing the colors, to weaving all the beads and watching them turn into "fabric." That being said, I'm not willing to sell my artistry, my skill, and my time for what would amount to less than minimum wage.

I don't think anyone should expect that. I'm dismayed when I see someone selling their beadweaving (or anything, for that matter!) on Etsy for what I know to be a ridiculously low price. It doesn't help any of us to sell at bargain basement prices. What happens when someone wants wholesale pricing? There's no room to provide that unless you actually LOSE money on your craft. Yes, there are those out there who say they're just selling their work to make money to pay for materials. I kind of started out on Etsy with that thought, but I eventually abandoned it. Some of the reason for abandoning that is that it's not fair to the people who are selling their work at the higher prices they deserve if I'm undercutting them. I've made a lot of cyber friends on Etsy, and a lot of them are beadweavers. I would feel absolutely horrible if I sold my work at prices substantially lower than theirs just to garner extra sales.

We really need to educate people about handcrafts. I think all of us who create do so because we love it, and we'd probably make things whether there were an Etsy (or eBay or DaWanda or eCrater, or wherever you sell) or not. Our friends and relatives would just receive lots of handmade gifts. But if you ARE selling your handcrafts, don't undersell yourself. Don't undercut your fellow sellers. Place a value on yourself and your art/craft, and stop trying to sell at prices charged by those third world countries. Use the best materials you can, do the best work you can do, and take pride in your art.

I will now step DOWN from the soapbox. I just had to vent some of the frustration I experienced when I received that phone call today. My beadweaving is on its way back to me, and I'm fine with that. Discerning buyers will understand that they're purchasing something special when they purchase my beadweaving.

26 comments:

thebeadedlily said...

Well ML, if they want fair trade pieces, I think there's a market for that, but it's not the same market and I'm aghast that they actually compared the two. I'm sorry about your deal falling through.

Waterrose said...

Wow...that is a shock to the system. It does show you that many retailers, even speciality, do need to be education. The question, is how do you do that?

Periwinkle Studio said...

Great post! It is too bad that people don't understand the work, time, and materials involved is such a magnificent creation. I hope many read this and start to understand. :)

Carol Dean said...

yes.

BeadedTail said...

Congratulations on the front page!

I've always wondered why people undercut the prices on their items and just can't understand the logic. The cost of the actual materials is one thing but the time involved in searching for materials, making the product, packaging it up, etc. etc. does add up - quickly at times! It's something that has always baffled me and maybe, with more people understanding what goes into making products, this will change someday.

Jean9 said...

It is a little discouraging to me to put my heart into a jewelry article and then to have people turn their nose up at the price of it.

Designing Hilary said...

I've been in turmoil over pricing for quite a while, but I finally relented and raised all my prices by a fair amount, although they are still not at full retail.

But now I can no longer compete with "fair trade" items either. We could all raise our prices to a even level, and we'll be undercut by cheap imports and make no sales. It's a hard reality of global economics.

So we need another approach. I have no idea what it is, but I know we need it. Maybe if we all got our heads together, we can figure this out.

There is one selling point we have over the imported "fair trade" items ... we can guarantee our craftsmanship. If an item breaks, it can be fixed. I challenge the boutique owners to offer their buyers that guarantee with low-priced imported items.

Rose Works Jewelry said...

Congrats on the FP appearance!

I totally agree that they are offering you WAY to little for your work! I still struggle with pricing my work high enough, but I know that's WAY to low! Hang in there!

Deronda said...

Pricing~it would be so nice if there were a magic formula. Materials is easy, but how do you determine your labor costs?

Leah said...

I've done some beadweaving, and was never able to get what would be minimum wage for the amount of work involved. Granted, I'm not particularly fast, so a more skilled beadweaver could make it faster, but I still think that for $15, you'd be making maybe $1/hour, and that doesn't include overhead costs, time spent on the business side of things, etc.

Melody said...

Sing it, sister!

I don't have any answers, of course. But I surely feel your pain.

Lorrie said...

I'm so sorry that your deal fell through. I know how frustrating it is when dealing with thr procing issue. I've had people ask me about doing custom scrapbooks, then think I'm nuts when I tell them the price.

You can definitely tell crafters vs. non-crafters. Non-crafters try to compare your prices to imported stuff that they can by at SuperGiantMegaMart.

AJ said...

$15-20? Are they kidding themselves?

I'm sorry that you received such disappointing news, but thank you SO much for sticking to your principles on pricing. I get very depressed sometimes when I see people on Etsy who have their work priced at barely more than the cost of materials -- how am I supposed to compete with that?

And if they're so interested in buying Fair Trade, they need to think about what Fair Trade means -- it means that the people making that jewelry are being paid a livable wage *for their area.* Our jewelry is more expensive than Fair Trade because a livable wage is much higher here!

Hot Rocks said...

Sorry to hear that happened to you! I cannot believe that people would think that they could get beautifully handmade pieces, by a telented artist for Wal Mart pricing!!! Thats crazy!! Don't feel bad, people like that don't appreciate the thought, and hard work that goes into making beautiful cuffs the way that you make them. Chin up...something better will be around the corner!

Triz Designs said...

Sorry to hear of your dissappointment!!!! yes people do not realise how much work goes into it and if they did they would not expect to pay less than minimum wage for it... your work may not have been right for that particular shop, and how they could even think of comparing it to fair trade items is beyond my comprehension!!! but it will be right for others!!! big hugs!!! :-)

Ragtree said...

First, congrats on the good news! YOU deserve it!

Secondly, I dealt with that with my sculptures and my soap and decided I wouldn't wholesale. Actually, I DO wholesale in my Etsy shop but I refuse to sit on a store shelf trying to compete with mass-produced goods. Luckily, there is a market for people who appreciate the time and love that goes into what we do!

Renee :)

Beadwright said...

Thanks for posting this. I am in agreement with all of the above. I have been selling my beadwork for 41 years and teach a class on this very subject. Not only do "new" or "I really don't need the money" beaders make it difficult for the true artists trying to make a living, our government has made it more difficult with so called free and fair trade. I will tell you this that the fair traders over the past few years have been raising their prices and the not so expensive items that comes over are now costing more. That is one up for us. However, one other thing that hurts us is the people that will consign their work out. People think that if they don't consign they won't have a place in a store or shop. NOT TRUE. However, I am getting off the subject and a bit wordy. I am sorry you didn't make the sale, on the positive side you are a true artist and true to yourself for saying "NO" to their price offer. Good for you!!!
Nicole/Beadwright
Bead with Honor

Dancing Monkey Jewelry said...

People have no idea how long it takes to create jewelry - I think that was an unrealistic price they quoted you.

palleikodesigns said...

ah... Such is life as an artist. If these really are high end boutiques then they won't have items that are selling for $15 - $20 for bead woven work especially. You need to find boutiques that are geared towards contemporary craft and high end folk art; they are out there I promise.

I am a metalsmith and have been in my field for 15 years. All I can say is that you need to stand up and brush yourself off and keep going. Among all the denials and things that fall through there are some wonderful gems to be found.

Good luck.

HEALTH NUT WANNABEE MOM said...

Your artwork is beautiful and I can understand your frustration. I would much rather have something original like what you create than some bulk items at a store.

Kerrie Slade said...

Congrats on the FP MaryLou and I'm right with you on the pricing issue! :0)

Pamela Plumley said...

Your "Soapbox" is quite warranted! I sell on Etsy too. I've heard the traditional pricing is something like, "Materials + 2-3 x more for time." Makes sense. These people do not want to pay for the time put in, much less the material. They think it's mass produced, or can't comprehend something NOT made in Taiwan or Mexico in a factory on an assembly line, apparently. It makes my fellow polymer clayers and I angry too, these attitudes!

dj said...

Good for you for not lowering your price! Fair trade and hand created are not at all the same thing. I'm afraid most retailers will feel this way unless they are selling in an artist community.

Nothinglikeit said...

First off - I love the inspiration heart pendant. Second - are we long lost twins? Our Avatars look frighteningly similar!

Robin

Kim said...

oh wow, that would BURN me up!!
I'm sorry :(

Melisa Sriwulandari said...

Oh my, I can't say it any better than u did. Exactly what I feel.