What is My Work Worth?

Shelley here. I am no longer willing to do Craft Fairs.  It is almost like there is a stigma with them. I am not 75 and selling dishcloths for a $1 made out of cheap yarn, that I picked up at a thrift store or in some bargain bin.   Not only does our work seemed to lose value at them, the amount of competition is crazy. Hence the devaluing of our Craft in that environment.

The word Craft by definition! 
 This is from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/craft

Definition of craft

  1. 1:  skill in planning, making, or executing :  dexterity“We have not the strength with which to fight this man; we must … win, if win we can, by craft.” — Jack London
  2. 2a :  an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill the carpenter'scraft the craft of writing plays crafts such as pottery, carpentry, and sewing He learned the craft as an apprentice.b crafts plural :  articles made by craftspeople a store selling crafts crafts fair
  3. 3:  skill in deceiving to gain an end used craft and guile to close the deal
  4. 4:  the members of a trade or trade association
  5. 5plural usually crafta :  a boat especially of small sizeb :  aircraftc :  spacecraft

 Alyssa and I work very hard on our Craft, only to not be paid what it's worth. For Example:
Why do quilts cost so much? Saw this on FB and needed to save it. Cost of a square 65" quilt being $852.65 when buying fabric at $10/yard and valuing your time at $10/hr. Homemade quilts are a wonderful expression of generosity from their maker.

Currently I am working on my 1st large quilt!!  I am so excited.  I even had the Hubby helping me lay it out.  I already have 6 hours in on just cutting and layout.  I have been collecting the Coffee themed fabric for years, just to find enough in that theme was time-consuming!

  *Alyssa sneaks in* A couple of years ago, I purchased a planner called Craft Inc. by Meg Mateo Ilasco (here it is on amazon), with the idea that Shell and I were going to do some craft fairs. We did precisely one fair. At any rate, this planner is awesome! It has worksheets in it for planning prices, fairs, trade shows, etc. So, I took a picture to show you what the pricing worksheet looks like:
worth every penny
copyright 2009 by Meg Mateo Ilasco
On the left is the two books together. They are very invaluable resources for figuring out if doing this as a business is worth it. There are some great stories in the Craft Inc book from successful entrepreneurs, who were able to go from struggling artist to a craft professional.

On the right is the worksheet. The hardest part to work out is the price of your time.

What is our time worth? Is it based on the minimum wage in your state? Some things can be priced based on materials, with the markup done with that number. Other things are much more time intensive vs materials, so the markup is done based on that number. In the end, pricing is going to be much more subjective, than objective, no matter how many worksheets or calculators there are out there. Do you see where this is going?  Our Craft has value!!  What is your time worth?  We know that it is hard to balance materials + labor + markup.

  Not only that, we have to be able to charge what the market will bear. When someone goes to a craft fair, the expectations are that it will be like a crafty Wal-Mart. That expectation is strengthened when someone is selling $1 washcloths made from bargain bin acrylic. A lot of people at those fairs are retired, and living on a fixed income for the most part, and make things in their spare time. That is fine, but for those of us who create things for the love of creating, and prefer good materials and uniqueness, this can be daunting. Yes, my washcloth is $5-10, but there isn't another like, it is made of 100% cotton, and I made it with the tiny bit of spare time I had after my kids went to bed, or while riding the bus to work.

Then there are the sellers of Pampered Chef, etc. Don't get me wrong, I love Pampered Chef. I just don't think it belongs in a CRAFT fair. Craft fair culture is now very cut throat, for space and for customers attention. When a crafter has to pay a minimum $35 just for a spot, drive there (gas $), have a table and set up that probably cost over $100 to get together, and then watch as people pass by their table to buy a $1 acrylic something that you could probably buy anywhere, it gets frustrating.

  I have been asked why we don't do craft fairs. There are many reasons, to be honest. One is that we are busy people. We both work, raise families, have husbands and houses, and very little precious "me time". I can make things in that spare time, but it's not going to be 100 little somethings. It's going to be 5 or 10. It's going to be deciding the unique pattern for each material, and what brings me joy. I don't do this to be like anyone else, or to create a collection. Each piece brought me some kind of joy or peace, or saved someone from being yelled at, haha! I am selling, not just materials and labor, but a little bit of me (and no, I don't mean that one stray hair that always seems to get caught on a hook! j/k).

  With that all being said, I quite frequently undersell myself. Why? I obviously know what my time and efforts are worth, considering all that is in this article, but because customers cannot afford my time. No one has the money to pay for my, or Shelley's, time. We have a "big retail business" mindset when we buy items. Sweatshop items, made in mass quantities by children and poor women in a far off country, are in our meager price ranges. It is so very sad. They make a few pennies while a large corporation makes millions or billions. And the customers are cheated out of quality, and it gives us all a small sense of shame. We all know that someone, somewhere, is suffering for our doodads.

 Just Google "toxic lake China" sometime.

  How can we break out of this? How can we, as consumers and creators, make things awesome and crafty and unique again? Buy local. Yes, it is a bit more money than say, a big box store, but if enough people buy local, guess what? Prices come down because that producer will be able to afford to hire more help, create more products, and on and on. That is a very, very basic free market idea. Shelley and I met people from threeriversfibershed at Fall Fiber Fest last year, and it is committed to creating sustainable products from start to finish. So, that is a start. It takes systemic change, at the base level, to get this together. Ugh. Sorry, got on my soapbox. I know I am just as guilty as everyone else, I am no better, but I am trying to be. Support your local artisans! *sneaks back out*

So do you need a list of those Local resources? Well, we just happen to have 1!

Alyssa & I are big into the Crafts! We love sharing local fiber artists, painters, designers, etc.  We want to switch our focus a bit from just crafting to highlighting individuals and providing you with local resources.  We hope you come along for the ride!

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Have a wonderful day!

Alyssa & Shelley  2 Dainty Crafters


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