I've been contemplating this a lot lately. Ever since I made the decision to not do the fused glass this weekend, I've been thinking about the prices I put on my beadwoven and bead embroidered pieces.
Back when I owned a fine craft and bead shop, I wanted to try selling my finished beadwork. When one of my business partners saw the price that I had put on one piece, I was told:
"You can't put that price on your work because you don't have any name recognition."
Huh? So, just because no one knows my name, my beadwork isn't worth anything?
I hate to admit it, but that's a comment that still stings when I think about it. It implies that my time is worthless because I am, for all intents and purposes, a nobody.
When I was set up at the Jay Day festival a few weeks ago, there was a goldsmith set up across the green from me who was selling her handmade gemstone jewelry. She came up to my booth and looked at my prices and then asked me if I had sold anything and if anyone was complaining about my prices.
I told her that I hadn't sold anything, and that I didn't let the complaints about my prices bother me anymore. If someone complains about my prices at a show, then they aren't going to buy from me, anyway.
She told me that she had people who were complaining about her prices so badly that she was beginning to feel like she was trying to steal money from them.
I've probably said this on here before, and I'll probably say it again, but this is how I feel about including a charge for my time in my work:
If I worked in an office or in a place like a hospital, I wouldn't work a 40 hour week and then tell my supervisor, "Hey, that's okay - just pay for the gas I used to drive here and my lunches this week and I'll be okay with that." But by not including a charge for my time in my work, this is exactly what I would be doing.
My time is precious. If I sit and put in the 10 hours it takes to make a handmade piece of beadwork, why shouldn't I be compensated for it? Is the time of an artist worthless when compared to the time of a secretary or a nurse?
Maybe you can't compare beading for a living to being a doctor or an attorney or working to save the rainforest. But I feel like I am still doing something worthwhile with my time when I sit down to bead. I'm creating a piece of art, something of beauty. In some cases, I'm designing a project that may appear in a magazine or as a pattern in my Etsy store - and in those cases, maybe I'm helping someone who uses beadwork as a way to relax. I'm making someone feel special and unique when they wear my one-of-a-kind pieces. Maybe I'm even teaching someone about the significance and history of beads and how they make the human species very unique. (We're the only species on the planet that creates and uses objects purely for self-adornment.)
Whatever the case, I am tired of the stereotype of the "starving artist". Artists shouldn't have to be poor if they choose to pursue their craft - they should be encouraged to create and compensated fairly for their time, just like anyone else who holds down a job.
I hate when I go on Etsy and see someone selling a peyote-stitched bracelet or a hugely intricate beadwoven necklace for a pittance. I understand that some people consider themselves hobbyists, and they "don't care" if they make any money selling their work. I don't think they are doing anyone any favors, least of all those of us who are trying to earn a living with our craft.
My advice to them? If you "don't care" about making any money from your work, then don't sell it at all.
I know that my feelings on that matter are hardly going to win me any friends, but it's how I feel about the whole thing. I ask for what I feel is a fair price for my work, and that includes a charge for my time.
What I really hope for is that more artists will follow suit and start to treat their work like it's the precious commodity that it is.