Thursday, 17 January 2013

What Value can be put on Hand Made?

I happened upon this blog entry from Simone Walsh, who is a very talented jewellery artist in South Australia. It is well worth a read. So many hand made artists and designers are under valued and under rated. We can not compete with the mass made industry and rely heavily on our customers appreciation of uniquely made items which are not available elsewhere in the same quality or design.
Please read on....

What it means to truly support indie designers

Handmade sterling silver jewellery pieces (unfinished) - by Simone Walsh.
Handmade (but unfinished!) sterling silver jewellery
pieces fresh from the bench.
Recently I read an article about handmade jewellery which indicated that a price of $19 was ‘decadent’ for a pair of simple handmade earrings.
It made me think about how designer/makers who are just starting out very often don’t have a handle on how to price their products to work towards building a successful and sustainable business.
I also thought about how some non-designers simply don’t appreciate what goes into this sort of business, particularly when they are so used to buying very cheaply made mass-produced imports, many of which are created in pretty terrible circumstances.

A decadent pricetag?

I did a rough calculation based on that ‘decadent’ pricetag of $19. I factored in very conservative overhead costs, a rough estimate of material costs and a margin to sell the design at wholesale. Designers of course need to earn a living as well as cover their costs, so I added in the average Australian income (which even designer/makers are as entitled to earn as anyone else!).
What I came up with was the fairly staggering figure of 100 sales at retail or 200 sales at wholesale every single week to simply cover costs and make the average income.
Someone in a one person business who handmakes what they sell would surely not be able to keep up with that volume of sales, even if they were able to attract enough customers. Probably the only option would be to outsource work to a country where labour costs are vastly lower … which of course significantly changes the nature of the business and takes away a large part of what made it special in the first place.
Apart from showing that $19 is really not a decadent price for even a very simple handmade item in Australia, it’s also a good illustration that making very basic designs which are assembled from mass-produced components is very unlikely to build a successful indie business.

Celebrating and supporting local makers and designers

While the article I read praised the ethics behind buying handmade and encouraged readers to support Australian designers, the writer undermined this by having an expectation of pricing which no Australian designer could possibly make a viable living from.
Being truly supportive of independent designers means embracing the fact that that they need to generate enough income from their businesses to get by in their local economy – otherwise they will simply have to find other work and these businesses will disappear.
Such designers should be celebrated for their skills and knowledge, the uniqueness of their products and for keeping these sorts of creative, micro businesses alive in your community (and all of the benefits that come with doing so).
Celebrating cheapness instead will ultimately kill off indie design businesses. Please don’t do it.

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