I’m trying to get a movement started. I know… it’s a pretty big-for-my-yoga-pants idea, but hey… as they say, go big or go home, right? So I think I’ll aim for BIG.
Having said that, I can’t do this by myself, so I’ll need your help.
As you know – I keep talking about the value of art and craft, the value of what we artists, artisans, quiltmakers, sewists, and craftsters make. And I firmly believe we are not only being underpaid, but along with it, undervalued.
So I’m starting a movement – this foray has a tab of its own on the site (look up and right it you are reading this on the blog). If you’re reading this elsewhere catch it here.
I’m asking you to get on board for educating our buyers that what we make, these beautiful handcrafted objects, have value. That the skills we have developed as makers have value. And that we deserve to be paid accordingly.
And then we’ll see where this goes next. I’m looking forward to becoming the poster child for this movement, and I’m hoping that you’ll all come along for the ride with me.
I think this is a good thing. I make purses and give them away as gifts, and my co-workers keep telling me I should make and sell them. I don’t think they would understand if I charged them $35- $45 for a purse they say they would pay $20 for. Then I have the fear that I would put time and effort into something that doesn’t sell. Argh!! And I’m at a loss as to how to price something I’ve made.
What a great idea! I am so glad you are taking the time to start the battle rally cry and get folks to understand the value of our work. Pricing handmade items has been a serious struggle for me since I started my handmade business in 2009 – and my pricing has gone up considerably over the past 2 years. Luckily, I have come across great customers that are willing to pay for quality, and I don’t apologize for it. Handmade isn’t for everyone, and I’m more than happy to say no to someone who wants a discount or says “wow, that’s expensive.” I’m still trying to figure out the formula, but I know I’m getting closer.
I am a longarmer and my friends just don’t understand the concept. I am constantly asked so you just make them and sell them? Well I can but they don’t realise how much it costs to make a quilt. When you tell them how much just the material costs before the charge for the longarm part and the making they are dumbstruck. I don’t sell my projects they are given as gifts to people who do actually appreciate them.
You are so right about this, and its time has come. It has to begin with us, the makers. We must value our own work, and that of our colleagues, in a forthright, unapologetic way. We must also take on the task of educating others. Buyers, yes, but also casual observers, need to be informed about what exactly they’re acquiring/seeing, and why it’s different than the cheaply made imports sold in department stores & catalogues. More solidarity and support for one another, and less in-fighting over genre and technique, would also be helpful.
Great post! I completely agree and feel that woman have been their own worst enemies! Go on Etsy and see what some are charging for quilts, unreal! Baby quilts for 30.00! Eesh and we are still not making as much as men when doing the same job, time to start taking what we do seriously and respect each other and see our value 🙂
I’m on your side. Our society has become so inured to cheap goods over the past 30+ years–sigh. At least some now seem to understand the idea of a fair living wage for those who produce handmade goods in third world countries. However, they have yet to extend that understanding to include those who live next door!
I sooo agree with your article and all the comments. I also tried to sell quilts, with very little success, as I was insisting on good value. I now earn my money teaching quilting and donate quilts to good causes rather than undersell them.
It always amazes me, as a “for instance” when a woman approaches me at a craft show, carrying a Vera Bradley bag, that she paid upwards of $60 for and scoffs at my price of $25 to $40. My bag was HANDMADE, LOCALLY with fabrics I paid retail prices for. I have to be paid for materials and I have to be paid for my time. VB (who I carry and used to have a serious love affair with) is mass produced, in China, for pennies on the dollar. Why are folks so ready to spend money for that and not for something that is (often) one of a kind and hand made. Please, Sam, spread the word and make us all more valued.
Girlfriend! You have taught me SEW MUCH about the value of what *I* create. Good luck and good hair to you! I can’t wait to hear all about Market. ♥♥♥
Thanks for your article! My grandmother could sell full-size hand quilted scrap quilts for $300 faster than you can blink, but I try to sell one meticulously pieced with quilt shop fabrics, completely color coordinated and professionally quilted by a long-arm quilter and can’t get $150 for a king size! I can only give away so many! Wishing you a good hair day and fabulous time at market!!
As a quilt artist, I definitely agree and support this! Can’t wait to see/hear your Gala speech! We are worth it!
I really hope this catches on! It is so hard for makers in a market flooded by people who don’t value their craft as it should be.
This topic is near and dear to most of us. I agree with what you wrote and am ready to help change things too. You should consider having someone tape your speech so we can all hear it! Good luck and GREAT hair to you!!
Yes, you are so right. When I put $70 of materials into a bag it’s almost impossible to sell so I keep those for myself. Good luck with the movement.
This is pretty awesome! You go girl!
Love this idea! I am always telling people that they need to price their goods at a realistic price. If people ask why so expensive I explain that I have been honing my craft for nearly 50 years & they are getting all that included 🙂
You are sew right!
Eventually people will understand what goes into a hand-crafted item, but until then, I am always willing to explain – in detail – why I am not going to quit my job and go into business selling quilted jackets (“Hey – I bet you could get $50 for one of those!” “Hey, I put more money than that into the materials!”)
Until we value our own work – no matter what the medium – no one else will. I have learned to make what “fires my jets” and ask for a fair price. I like to have a work-in-progress to show the client what it takes to put a quilt, a handbag, an art quilt together. I don’t just throw all the fabric up in the air and (hand) sew what comes down first. It takes design know-how, time, energy, effort and a whole lot of persistence. Anyway, if the client “gets” my work and pays for it, that’s great. But if he/she doesn’t get it, well, they don’t deserve to have it. I may not be the most succesful artisan but I am the happiest b/c I’m doing what I love to do.
Love this idea! I post a lot of the things I sew on Facebook, from quilts to kids’ dresses. One acquaintance was interested in a dress until I told her the price. And I even undervalued it, because I haven’t tried to sell anything and I knew that people don’t understand how much handmade costs! Unfortunately it’s hard to sell when cheaply made foreign knock offs are sold for pennies. But I will pass this on! Great idea and I completely support it!
Could not agree more! If we don’t value our work (and many quilters way underprice things) it isn’t surprising that others don’t.
Yes! I am starting to learn how to price my work but it’s been hard! I need money, so I have been guilty of underselling over losing the work, but I try to keep it realistic. I get angry at people on etsy and eBay who sell quilts for peanuts; it doesn’t help.
Education is key! I’m starting by educating those who receive my quilts as gifts. Often they have no idea how much time is put into them.
I agree with you. I make baby quilts for family members and friends having babies. They open the gift and kind of look at it like it’s just a piece of fabric. I’d like to tell them what the value of the gift really is.
Good hair to you. As to the luck, well, we are all backing you. You go girl!
Great idea! I’ve started figuring up a detailed estimate for people who ask me to make them a quilt, using realistic prices and time. The estimates actually surprised me – I would have asked much less if I gave one off the cuff – but most people have accepted them and gone ahead with the commission. I find that explaining exactly how I came to my cost helps them understand just what goes into the quilt.
I love the button idea!!
I agree completely! Cute buttons.i hope you have great hair and fun.
May your hair look awesome and your tongue be eloquent, sew sista!
About 17 years ago I went to a quilt show in Annandale , VA and the quilt guild had a $29.99 quilt from Wal-mart hanging up next to one they had made of similar pattern and colors. They had a terrific display with a list and arrows pointing on the quilt enumerating what made the two items so different from each other. At first glance, casual observers might not notice, but after 5 minutes with that display they had received a valuable education.
I wish you happy hair and receptive listeners. You speak for the artists!
you are SEW right on.. and speak for many of us. THANK YOU!
I love Gail Shears comment. This would be a great idea for a display at our guild’s show. I find that I usually give my quilts to friends and family….I do not want to set a price and have them think I’m pricing them unfairly. We as artists and quilt makers need to rethink our attitudes.
I’m in Sam! The very comments made by all the others is exactly what has kept me in my sewing room, just making for “giving”. I think you will make an awesome spokes-woman for this!!!
May the God of great hair bless you. I love this idea. I create hand embroidered pieces and once donated items to a store to be sold at full retail for breast cancer research because I am a survivor. (Mind you this was in a boutique and fine jewelry store) The prices they placed on the items were appalling. The beads and threads alone warranted more than the $35.00 price tag. They said they have too much competition from overseas. I was stunned when you consider the 500% markup on the jewelry. I know they did not mean to offend me, it was a lack of understanding. Thank goodness you plan to educate the world!
I’m with you all the way. “Handmade” encompasses the value of many salaries. The designers, the purchasing department, the laundress, the cutter, the one who pieces, the seamstress, the quilter, and the binder, each earning more or less than the other, but each should be earning fair wages. Finally, there is the cost of materials, and let’s not forget the wear and tear on equipment used. Machines have to be maintained and repaired from time to time. All of these factor into the price of that quilt, or handbag that the customer just tossed aside as “too expensive”. Ant to add insult, she said, ” I could make that!”
Thank you and good luck to you for bringing the value of what we do to notice. My friend and I have taken your formula to heart. We are pricing our quilts accordingly. It is nice to actually have a formula people can understand. Our selling season is just getting started, so we’ll see how it goes. Thank you again and keep up the good work.
I hear ya loud and clear! I am trying to do exactly the same thing. I’ve only been quilting a little over a year (but an artist of other media before this) and have quickly seen how much time, effort and materials goes into each quilt while so little is expected (by us and others) for their compensation. I’m making a quilt right now with a working title of “No Value Does Not Equal Free”. It’s a complete white on white scrappy Trip Around the World quilt. I’m keeping track of the cost of all materials, the time spent on it (including design, travel, ironing!) and services like long arm quilting. I have 36 blocks made ready to go together, and the subtotal is already at $1000. I can see that inflating still quite a bit more. I’m going to do a full cost analysis and break down once it is finished to expose the true cost of a quilt like this so everyone (quilters included) can see what they could actually be charging. The labour rates quilters impose on themselves are ridiculously low, to say the very least! Anyway, love what you’re doing here and I’ll standby for further commentary. I hope the lecture went well!
I understand what you are doing and wish you success. I was one of the first longarmer in my area and when new longarmers come to me for advise for their business the first thing I say is to not under price their work. We work long hours with both muscle and brain. We need to be appreciated. Your words will be remembered longer then the hairdo, so just go for it.
I saw you today (in Nova Scotia) on Sewing With Nancy.
This was wonderful and I forwarded to my guilds. I am going to start using your printout. I know it will be really helpful. I guess better late than never, right?