Wednesday, November 23, 2011

the true cost of handmade | somer sherwood

the true cost of handmade | somer sherwood

I recently did my first craft fair. And at that craft fair, one woman picked up every one of my hats, tried them on, and made a sort of a noise in the back of her throat indicating disgust. Then she muttered, “I don’t really like these hats” before looking at the price tag for one of them and looking at me over her glasses: “Do you really charge this much?”

Ok, I managed a retail store for many years, so I’m used to this type of customer. I’ve met hundreds of them, and I know it’s less about whatever she is looking at and more about what is going on in her own crazy brain. Some people just have this need to be nasty. But this was a little different. What she was cruelly and callously saying to me was that what I created had no value. My art has no value. It is worthless and ugly. And I won’t lie — it stung a little.
But back to her question about the cost. The particular hat she picked up was $150 and it was this one:

The offending freeform crochet hat: Lettuce Go to the Mothership. $150.

You can’t see from the photos, but it is made of thousands of tiny little stitches, all folding in on themselves and creating a pretty elaborate underwater sea creature type effect. It’s made of hundreds of yards of very nice wool in colors that I carefully selected and put together in a way I thought would be pleasing. I spent probably 18 to 20 hours making this hat.

So let’s do the math.

Without accounting for the cost of materials, at $150, I would be paying myself about $7.50 per hour for this hat. This hat that I created. This hat that is my art. This hat that is one-of-a-kind, that evolved from a tiny little round of crocheted stitches into its own Thing. This hat that I made with my own hands, that I kept working on until my hands began to hurt. $7.50 per hour. That is less than minimum wage.
Let’s add in the cost of materials, which were probably somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 for this hat. I used a combination of a handspun wool and some other more commercially available wool. That drops my wage per hour to about $5.50.

Now let’s consider all the other costs: sales tax, for one, which I don’t charge to customers (too messy), but I must pay on every item I sell. Sales tax in most places near where I live & work hovers right around 8.75%. So on that $150 hat, I will pay $13.13 worth of sales tax. My hourly wage is now $4.84. Is the customer paying with a credit card? That’s another 3%, or $4.50 I don’t get to keep from the sale of that hat.

How about the cost of the tags I make and print out at home? The tissue paper I wrap the hat in? The bag I put it in? My business cards?

I could make two of these hats per week, assuming they are all this intricate. Even that is pushing it; 40 hours per week of crocheting would be pretty hard on my hands and wrists. But let’s assume I make two such hats per week, priced at $150. My income? $193.6 per week, or just over $10,000 per year. And that’s before all those pesky other business expenses, like licensing fees, the cost of office equipment, gas, my craft fair booth display, and self-employment tax.

Can YOU live on $10,000 per year? If anything, I set my prices too low. And I acknowledge that. I do it because this is my art. I love it, and I will continue to do it, even if no one ever buys one of my hats ever again. I’ll just be that crazy lady who compulsively crochets a bunch of weird stuff. My future grandchildren can inherit all those bizarre things that crazy Nana Somer made back in the olden days.

If you are still reading this, I ask you: please. Next time you are at a craft fair, or on Etsy or another handmade site, think about how much work, love and time went into handcrafting that item you are thinking of buying. If the price seems high, I assure you, it is not.

EDIT, 11/23/11 9:22 a.m.: Due to the surprising, overwhelming response to this post, I’ve expanded on it here. Thank you to everyone who has commented so far! What a discussion! Lots and lots to think about.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Inspiration ~ Szarka and Magpie Gemstones

 All through this incarnation of my jewelry making, there has been one consistent--Szarka
and her Magpie Gemstones Network.

What I have learn from Szarka is;
  • authentic relationship that goes past seller and markets and to a fluid exchange of information, knowledge and share interest that sometimes takes the form of material goods.   
  • how to be on-line...she is everywhere, as you can see from the list of URL's below.
note:  One time when I was driving on the freeway I got a call on my cell phone from Magpie Gemstone--a male voice (I believe it could have been her husband, but I didn't ask).  The person on the other end of the phone conversation called because my order had been returned to them and they wanted to make sure what was the correct address.  (I have to make sure you know this was before all the concern about driving and talking on the phone. I wouldn't do that now.) 

The following is from her Facebook Information Page:

~ Great Beads for Great People ~ ~ to contact Szarka
Company Overview
This fan page's purpose is to show you the new beads as they go in, to stay informed of specials and promotions, and to network with other jewelry designers to discuss gemstones and everything related to jewelry design.

We have a $200 shopping spree give away twice a year to people who are signed up for our newsletter.
...See More
Why Magpie Gemstones?

Gemstones and beads directly from the source, great wholesale prices, honest descriptions, excellent quality, and exceptional customer service is what you can expect.

My goal is to help you succeed. If I can provide you with stones that make your product fly off the table, and get them to you at an amazing price then you will succeed and so will Magpie Gemstones.
Clients Blog ~ Turquoise Magpie's Gemstones blog has a bunch of new gorgeous work by clients. Go take a peek and leave a comment to encourage and support these wonderful artists. If you have any work to contribute please sens it to

Thanks Szarka

My Company strives to make this the most enjoyable online gemstone bead buying experience you will ever have. With over two decades as a successful jewelry designer, I know what sells and I use that knowledge to find unique, high quality gemstone beads for you. I have the resources and knowledge to get those beads to you at prices that will guarantee your success. With fast free shipping and a 100% money back guarantee you have nothing to lose. Welcome to Magpie Gemstones where you get "Great Beads for Great People." Thanks, Szarka

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Earth Has Weight

The symbol at the center of the cage is from the Adrinka people of West African and it means "The Earth Has Weight." It is a reminder of we must live with care for this planet. Copper collar with caged wired stones. Two colors of green Aventine, turquoise, glass seed beads and Swarovski crystals.

Other articles on "wire cages";

  • A necklace of tumbled red jasper undreilled nuggets 
  • I reposted a video from Youtube.  The artist is creating a necklace from - sea glass.  The glass is undrilled so she uses cages to make the sea glass a part of the necklace.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Just Finished

That's my sister Sharon Terry.  She is my artistic consultant.  The hair ornament is just completed. Early this morning I placed it in her locks and started taking photos.  I made the earrings some time ago.  I've made a lot of this style earring--different lengths, different combinations.  The hair ornament is for the CCC Group (Color Combo Challenge)