Friday, 27 September 2013

Handmade: More exclusive than John Lewis & spoilt by high street chains.

Since more or less the beginning of time, there has been "wealth" and "poverty". So, not wanting to get dragged into a deep and philosophical discussion relating to the meaning of wealth and poverty, lets just take it as read that there are people that are fortunate enough to not have too much month at the end of the money.
Image courtesy of Tom Curtis /
For those "fortunate" types there has also been a sort of elitist pea-cockish type behavior of wanting to flaunt this fortunate position - and well why not eh?! Not judging, just saying. Just look at those Limestone fronted country houses, imposing marble entrance halls, and sweeping staircases. There's nothing wrong with this - not at all. who builds these staircases? who cuts these Portland stones, or lays the marble floors, just think about that!

So what's my point? Well firstly, it's the worker, the person who does all the leg-work so to speak. Are these not the richest of us? All this hand crafted, lovely work costs money. But why?

Time and again people come to me and ask how much to make "pick something made from wood", how much will it cost? Either that, or they see something and say "you should sell them" or "you should send a sample to john Lewis". My answer is generally surprising to most people...."interesting Idea".

Now I'm going to be quite snobby here, and go out on a limb a bit, but oh well, hopefully you'll get the point.

Now I'm not just talking about woodworking I'm trying to include lots of crafts, those I know well, those I think I know, and those that I know little or nothing about - these are just a shot in the dark, but I guess the same rules apply?!

Right then. You see a bookcase in Ikea, it costs £40 say, now do we think that a person making One of these, can make the exact same piece for the same price? probably and it should be better as well, and should last longer. But would that person make one for YOU for that money? Maybe, but is it worth their time? No, you have to pay for that persons time.

I trawl the interweb's notorious social networking sites like most people, and see the same question coming time and again - "HOW MUCH SHOULD I CHARGE FOR THIS ITEM?",  and so the answer is always the same: materials cost + your hourly rate = item price. Simples. IS IT?

Now, here's where the likes of pound stretcher come in: if you trawl the aisles in a lot of home furnishing type shops; you know the ones, stuffed full of cushions, candles and picture frames, they've got picture frames that any self respecting woodworker would burn. Blankets that any Knitter or crocheter would suffer hypothermia rather than acknowledge. and they are cheap! Great, cheap is good. REALLY I'm not knocking cheap, not at all. There is a market, fill it. no problem there,the problem starts here.

People start to associate the handmade craftspersons work and hence their prices with this, and well that's not right, it's not accurate, and it's hardly fair! Apples and Oranges. Chalk and Chesse. Cheap is not the same!

If you people REALLY want to show off your wealth in a stylish and understated way, you can forget the catwalk fashion week party dresses. Go buy a hand knitted or crocheted shawl that is the only one, and wear it to work. or invite some friends over to have dinner on your handmade Elm Dining room table.

Image courtesy of "HippyNoodle"

Lets get back to the equation above: My other half crochets, her mother quilts, if you know these crafts - and they are crafts, in the same way as a stonemason, thatcher or potter is a craft. You'll understand that a blanket or quilt hand made for a double bed could take upwards of 100 hours. lets input that in the "equation":

£50 materials +100 hours at £6.31 -  UK MINIMUM WAGE, effective Oct2013 = £681.00 
(This is yarn, quilting materials could be 3 times this, and take longer)

You likely to pay nearly £700 for a blanket? really? course not!

so how much should you pay, or charge? Well from my point of view, that's between me and my Customer. They tell me what they want, I tell them what it'll cost, but I also work out very quickly if they are "just asking", or if they are asking because they want an answer. All my customers get a piece that's priced reflecting the amount of work that goes into it, and how long it takes. That's exclusivity for you.

Since the beginning of time there have been people willing to show of their wealth, people able to facilitate that showing of, and people willing to copy the end result, (which I will be covering in a later article). If you want to go and pay money on home furnishing from a store, great - nobodies judging. I'm certainly not, in fact I frequently browse the shelves looking for ideas and inspiration. But please don't look at a crafter's work and expect them to knock them out fast enough to stock the shelves of a high street store. PLEASE, hand-crated work is far too exclusive for mere "shop", for the most part - You come to us direct. expect quality, expect unique, but expect a price tag to suit the above.

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