Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Creative Value

Having a variety of interests and a broad (though often general) knowledge of how to make things has taught me the intrinsic value of "handmade." When I see a quilt for sale, I know how good the quality is, how much effort was put into it, if the quilt is worth the price, or whether it's too a good deal to pass up.

I feel sad when I encounter people who have no idea of the value of something that is handmade. When they comment that it's too expensive, it's hard not to respond with a lesson in value. While they believe that $30 for a doily is too expensive, I realize that the maker is probably underpricing it. I get frustrated when someone looks at a $300 painting and says it's too expensive, because I know that the artist underpriced it hoping to eventually become well known enough to make a living from their art.

So part of my life mission seems to be to educate the ignorant, to teach them the value of what they encounter. Since our culture measures value with money, I like to break down the value that way. For example:

That $30 doily took 30 hours to make.
This shop takes a 40% commission on everything they sell leaving the maker $18.
The thread that was used cost the maker $10.
That means the maker's profit is $8 or $0.27 an hour.
Or
That $300 painting took 10 hours to paint.
The gallery takes a 50% commission on everything they sell leaving the artist with $150.
The paint and canvas that went into that painting cost $30.
Since the artist framed it himself that was only $100 and it took him 2 hours to do.
That means that he is only making a profit of $20 or $1.67 an hour.
When you factor in all the paintings that won't sell, he's not making anything at all.

So I guess my advice to people is, if it's hand made, it's value is not just in the money. The value lies in the joy, heart, and soul that the creator put into the making of it. Pay the money, take it home, and let what the creator put into it bless your life. Otherwise, walk out of the store, run down to the mall, and buy something machine made that will cost you half as much, wear out twice as fast, and has no life invested in it. I don't know about you, but I'd rather have handmade.

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