Many people already are aware of this but growing up, I spent a lot of time watching my Mom and my Great Grandmother doing some kind of task which the end result would be a new outfit, a new stuffed animal, or a new afghan/blanket. I personally started learning to sew at a very young age using a needle and thread to make small pillows for my baby dolls. I even had a cabbage patch doll that had fallen apart somehow in which Mom saved the day by giving her a new body which lasted much longer than the original. Eventually my interest grew or decreased as time went on. In high school I was much more interested in making large scale paintings (something I don’t do as often due to lack of space to put all my creations) while during college age/young adulthood I became more interested in technology, mechanics, and marketing design due to ensuring my own self becoming more marketable. Now, I find myself slowing down a little more and being more thoughtful in my creations. I’m drawn moreso to fiber and textiles again. Buttons and beads have grown into a vast collection and I can’t seem to dissuade myself from buying a new hook or needles if the opportunity arises. The only downside to my desire to create is a great many’s short sighted view of cost vs value.
Let’s be real. I realize that artists very rarely make a killing financially as a maker unless they’re trying to fill some kind of niche or trying to compete with big box stores and retail such as Walmart. I had recently made some “stash beanies” and sold some to the local smoke shop for about $12 a piece. My husband questioned me concerning the cost. I had to explain that they were hand made whereas factories can afford to minimize cost due to low cost labor and machinery that encourages high volume product. What I make is special.
Of course this is a concept that has been muddied by assuming cost and value are the same thing. In our economic consumer driven society we have an abundance of services and products at our fingertips. When something tears, breaks, busts, or we simple lose it we just go out and replace it. This began during the Industrial Revolution (http://history-world.org/Industrial%20Intro.htm) when factories started making products more readily available, increasing convenience, which in turn lowered the cost to make such goods. The idea was great because the time it took to make such goods lowered the cost so access was more available. This also increased job availability and in some sense improved the quality of life (save for those who unfortunately had poor working conditions which improved by implementing the dept of labor). Fast forward to now, though, we have the problem with massive textile waste in land fills, overwhelmed thrift stores, poor working conditions in third world countries and other environmental factors. These points have been covered already but what I want to focus on is the individual crafter who handcrafts one single item by hand. An average knitted or crocheted hat can run at around $15-$18 depending on the maker, what this maker has made the item out of and the time spent. The average person who see’s this same hat tends to scoff at the price, proclaiming “I can get that same hat at Wal Mart for $3-$5”. The underlying issue is because we equate dollar value as personal value, we’ve essentially devalued the items we own. Products are now made cheaply and in such a way they become easily destroyed within a certain time frame which in turn causes the consumer to purchase the same item over and over. Mathematically if you lose that WalMart hat, you’re less likely to feel upset about it because it’s easily replaceable, however you end up paying roughly more replacing that one item multiple times than you would paying for one well made item that you’ll cherish more because it isn’t as easily replaceable. Same idea can be placed on a priceless piece of art. It is more affordable to buy a print than the original because the original cannot be replaced, therefore has more value than the print. Value can drive cost but sometimes you cannot put a price on value. I hope I have explained this clearly.