Tag Archives: craftspeople

Celebrations

I can’t believe that I completely skipped referring to Mother’s Day in my last post – and that it has taken me all week to post again!  My own beautiful mother (you know – the one who flies in to help at a moment’s notice, who was my super-assistant preparing for the Christmas markets last year, who is amazing in all areas) is worthy of a day of her own.  Last year she was with the chicks and I on Mother’s Day and was part of the celebrations.  This year we missed her and had to suffice with a phone call.  That meant that I got all the celebration fuss from the chicks on my own!  First of all they presented me with the most wonderful gifts including a ‘Mummy Survival Kit’ they had made with their step-mother – chocolates, panadol, throat lozenges (for when I have been yelling too much!!), tea bags, a scratch and win lottery card (I didn’t), a needle and thread so I can always sew, a bottle of gin (they know me so well!), and bed socks, all in a beautifully decorated container!

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The middle chick had made me a jar of cleaning slime (!!), the boy bought me a new mug with chocolates inside it, the eldest chick bought me some bath fizz, and they all gave me a mug decorated with little birds.  Now this was all pretty wonderful, but they topped it all off with my breakfast in bed.  First the menu, then the preparation and delivery.

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(For the record I had ‘Perfect Pancakes, Everything tastes better with Bacon, a cup of tea and freshly squeezed orange juice!)  They even stuck the order up on the cupboard above the stove, and presented me with my bill (to be paid in hugs and kisses) when I was finished.  My little people never cease to amaze me at all they can achieve!

I hope that you were able to celebrate Mother’s Day with your mother, or, if you are a mother, with your children.

The week then started off with a new idea I am pursuing.  I invited a small group of craftspeople that I know to participate in a group mentoring session, facilitated by me, to discuss the business side of having a creative business.  Three amazingly talented women were able to attend and we had a really interesting two hours talking, sharing, and exploring ideas.  It is such a privilege to be able to share the knowledge that I have gathered about having a creative business, and we are going to meet again soon to continue our discussion.  I am exploring the concept of being able to offer this as a service for individuals and groups – including by Skype for those who don’t live close by, so as I develop the concept I will keep you informed.  There is something so invigorating about being in a conversation with other people who are developing their craft and are interested in how they can take it to the public – this is going to be fun!  I added a few new links to the Resources page (at the top of the screen) so do pop by and check them out.

A large part of my week has been spent juggling children’s sporting activities and social lives, attempting to get organised at home, and getting involved in some discussions about my future (wooooo…..scary stuff!)  This has meant that not a huge amount of sewing has happened.  Which is a bit slack given that it is three weeks until the Handmade Markets and I have 1000 ideas that I wanted to have completed for the Markets!  Looks like I am going to have to rein in my ideas and streamline the items I am making (which is of course very sensible, but always slightly frustrating to any creative person who loves to follow bright and shiny objects and ideas wherever they may go!)  I have cut out a pile of fabrics ready to create bags, and will be making bibs this weekend too – all those pretty fabrics have been calling my name all week!!!

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However today I spent the day working with a fellow craftsperson, teaching him how to sew a cushion cover.  He normally works with wood (and makes beautiful creations with his wife that you can see at Creations by Holmes) and it was really interesting as we worked together on designing and making the cover how similar the principles of construction using fabric and wood are.  Although it took most of the day we were both pretty happy with the end result and, as usual, identified how to do it much more efficiently on the next occasion.  The exchange of ideas and concepts in sewing and wood-working was a really good intellectual exercise too!

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I wrote last week about the humour that we have been enjoying about the fact that I am officially a ‘human’.  Another factor in being a human is that we ‘mature’ according to my optometrist.  I tried to tell him that it is just getting older but he insists that my eyes aren’t getting older, they are ‘maturing’!  Anyway – whatever the phrase, I have had to accept that my eyes are changing and after wearing glasses since I was 12 I now discover that I need to move to multi-focal lenses!  Eeek.  Forget the ‘maturing’ thing – that just feels old!  A friend and I had vowed not to move to multi- or bi-focal lenses until we were 50.  I had to send her a text of defeat telling her that I couldn’t wait that long after all.  She was in a very high level meeting and tells me that she saw my text and couldn’t help laughing despite her surrounds!  Ah well – at least it brought a smile to someone’s day!

I have many other exciting things bubbling around in my head, but have to wait a while before sharing them.  What I can say is that I have had great joy this week in making decisions that are good for my family, even though they may not be good for my finances.  The future looks different, but it looks happy.

And now I need to leave the vortex of the internet and get to work sewing!!!

 

Ruminations on value

If you ever want to start a heated discussion between craftspeople, bring up the topic of pricing.  How to determine the value that you will charge for your chosen craft is an extremely emotive topic for many people.  There is a well thought out ‘formula’ that is suggested as the model for calculations.  A post at Ink and Spindle (just one of the many, many places you can find this discussed) explains it well (and if you read the comments following that post you will begin to see the passions that this topics can arouse.)

In simple terms, the theory is that materials plus labour (charged at an hourly rate between $10 and $20 here in Australia) provides you with your cost price.  (I note here that for many craftspeople that rate is covering their skills as a designer, maker, marketer, cleaner, material sourcer, etc.  Just sayin’.) By doubling it you arrive at your wholesale price – a price that allows you to cover your overheads like electricity, insurance, rent, machine maintenance, accountants fees, bank fees, advertising, marketing, product photography, packaging, labels, care instructions, and all those other little things that go into the production of any product.  That means that if you are able to sell your product to a retail outlet to on-sell, you aren’t selling at a loss.  (Because that would actually defeat the purpose, surely?!)  They, having their own overheads to cover, will sell it for double the price they buy it for.  And that makes this your retail price.

Which all makes sense until you start doing the calculations.  Amongst the many, many craftspeople I know, who make items to sell, I can count on one hand the number who actually apply this formula without modification.  Sometimes the modification is sensible – very low overheads for example, or absolutely no intention to wholesale, so a lower retail price that still allows for reasonable profit to put back into the business.  But often the modification is based on a statement like ‘but no one would want to pay that much for this’.  And there you have it.  A self-licking ice-cream, as a colleague of mine once put it so nicely.  Craftspeople sell for lower prices thinking that people won’t pay for higher prices, so the customers expect those lower prices to be the usual price.  Some craftspeople feel guilty charging ‘higher prices’ and will make statements like ‘but I only want to cover my costs so that I can keep making things’.  Which is all well and good if you are making things as a hobby, but is that self licking ice-cream if you are in business.

I am guilty of all of these things.  I have said, both out loud, and in my head, “I couldn’t charge that because people wouldn’t want to buy it at that price.”  I have said ‘oh but I am unknown, so I will have to have lower prices to start with’.  How ridiculous is that when you think about it – takes the same amount of time, materials and skill whether you are known or unknown.  I have improved my processes, reduced my material costs, and streamlined some practises so that my making is more efficient, which means that the gap between my ‘retail price’ under the formula and the price that I sell my products for is slowly getting smaller. (I still couldn’t ‘wholesale’ my bags and properly cover my costs at this point though.)

But I had a revelation tonight.  I was comfort browsing on a discount website that I like (sad but true) when I saw that they had handbags on sale.  I was having a look at what styles they had etc when I looked at the prices.  These bags, made in a factory in China, from synthetic materials, and on a discount site, were selling for over $200.  And no one was commenting ‘oh that is too much for a bag made in a factory out of fake leather that will peel after I use it for a while.  I don’t know the person who made it, or how long they have been making them for.’  Most consumers would look at it and said ‘I like it’ or “I don’t like it” and “I am prepared to pay that” or “I don’t want to spend that much on that bag.”  End of story.  The brands, while well known as being ‘fashionable’ are not necessarily known for having high quality.  Often you are paying for the cachet of the label, the trendiness of the design, and not the care with which it was crafted.

My question is then, why so many craftspeople, myself often included, spend so much time worrying about how much we are going to charge for an item made with skill, love, original design, integrity, and made locally and ethically?  If a customer likes our product they will buy it.  If we are worried about whether they will think it is ‘worth it’ then maybe we need to think about how we are marketing and presenting our product.  Is it a ‘handmade tea towel’ for example, or an ‘artist’s original design hand printed on eco-friendly ethically sourced cloth, that is a piece of art in it’s own right, but can also dry dishes’?  (You will note that I don’t print tea towels so am not using my own work as an example!)

I am not about to hike my prices up to over $200 for a tea towel, but I am going to remember that if I don’t value my work, why should my customers?  Ruminations indeed.