Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Value of Handmade

Those who make handmade items come across this frequently -- people/potential customers wonder why we charge what we do for our items.  I've had people come to my booth and say "gosh that is expensive!"  Some will walk away in disgust before I can explain.  Now I put photos of me at the torch making a lampwork bead so I can use it for "show and tell" to folks who will listen.  Some people think that we can charge a couple dollars for a necklace, like they see in K-Mart or Walmart.

As a glass artisan I first start with raw glass rods.   There is glass that you can buy for about $5.00 a pound on up.   Most of the glass I use runs from $6 a pound to $25 a pound.   Right away, you can see that charging $2 for a necklace will not work.  Below is a photo of some of my glass.  This glass is then melted, with the torch, into a bead.  It is sometimes mixed with other colors, silver, gold, or frit (pieces of glass) to make our beads more beautiful.

Then we have costs for our equipment.  My kiln cost was probably about $1500 dollars originally.  I have to pay for the electricity to run the kiln when I anneal (harden) the glass beads.  That is about 8 hours, plus the time during the bead making process.   Say you are working in your studio for six hours.  The kiln has to be on because the newly formed molten bead has to be put into a hot kiln.   I had to also  purchase my protective eye equipment (see above) which was probably about $150. 

You need mandrels (in jars above, in front of the kiln), and other forming tools.  You need a torch ($200 on up) and oxygen.  Fuel is required to run the torch--I use natural gas in my Ann Arbor studio and propane in my Beaver Island studio. 

Then you need to market your products, after you have cleaned the beads.  That takes quite a lot of time and sometimes money to buy ads such as the one below I had in the Ann Arbor Observer.  I buy business cards, little handout cards, boxes with Beaver Island Jewelry logo on them, jewelry pouches. 
                                                                                     Moo cards - love em!

If you sell jewelry you will then buy findings (hopefully at wholesale prices) so that you can create a special item and then sell it at a show or on-line.  You may also put it in your ETSY shop, on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.!  Oh - and this is after you have carefully photographed the necklace.  Gosh, I'm tired just thinking about this process.

Did I forget to mention our time spent creating the bead, fashioning the jewelry?  Our time is worth something.  One person I know "charges" or accounts for her time as $1 a minute of time taken to make the bead.  For example, one of the cupcake beads below probably took me about six minutes.  As we get more "famous" we can probably charge more but there is a point where you have to take into account all that went into the product, plus the artisan's time, to come up with a reasonable price.  And we are not getting rich following our artistic dreams!

I like to think that I am creating little pieces of art.  It may not be a Chihuley installation but it is a small piece of glass sculpture.   It is a unique, one-of-a-kind piece that you will not see in Target or similar stores.  So, if you enjoy wearing something that you won't see on other people, you will like artisan created lampwork jewelry!



Erika said...

Great article Nancy, many people don't understand the value of handmade simply because they ignore all the work behind it! by the way you have a beautiful studio! have a nice day,


Mirja Marshall said...

Great post Nancy! I run into the same issues with my sewing. Most people simply don't understand everything that goes into handmade arts.