This week I had a rather discouraging reminder. People don’t want to pay what a handcrafted item is worth. I mean, I guess “worth” is in the eye of the beholder – or the beholder of the pocketbook. Even so, as an artist and crafter, I put my heart and soul into the things I make, so when someone wants to pay the same price they would pay for something off an assembly line or from some third world country, I am insulted and disappointed in humanity.
My niece, Allie, is a barista at a local coffee shop.
I had purchased a few of the empty coffee bean, burlap sacks from the place at the local farmer’s market a few years back and made a bag out of one of them.
I carefully cut the bag, centering the beautiful green logo, so the bag displayed the brand.
I lined it with a matching fabric depicting a somewhat Monet type garden print.
I made sure it had an inner pocket, because we all know how important that is!
Then to set it off, I put authentic leather handles on it. It turned out very “French Country” looking.
I took it to a holiday craft show, but it didn’t sell.
A few months later, I listed the bag in my Etsy shop, and when the app offered to post it to Facebook for me, I let it. This was a big thing for me. I don’t know why, but I have trouble sharing things or rather – selling things!
The bag brought about so much praise and appreciation from all of my FB followers, and I ended up selling it to a local person for $25. The person who purchased it has expressed a wish for two, but I only had one. Some of my FB friends, who thought the bag was “so cool,” suggested I sell them at a local artsy shop that sells things for people and keeps a commission. All of this inspired me to make another bag. Unfortunately, I had used the other two coffee bean bags to cover my dogs chair cushions. I asked my niece to check on more bags at the coffee shop.
Allie texted one day and told me the coffee bean bag guy was there and told me to come down for my choice of bags. I went there after work and purchased a few.
Right away, I got to work making another bag.
This time, I decided I put more into it.
I’d give it more usability.
I zig-zagged the burlap to prevent fraying.
I double-stitched the weight bearing seams.
I gave the lining an inside slip pocket AND an inset, zipper pocket.
Then, as an added bonus, I made an attached lanyard with a lobster clasp to hold keys (great for preventing one from digging in the bottom for one’s keys).
Last, but not least, I installed a magnetic closure.
I listed the bag on Etsy, again posting to FB. Although it got rave reviews from followers, I got no offers to purchase it. I set it aside with my other Etsy listings (at the bottom of the haystack. I think listing on Etsy is like putting your things on the bottom of a haystack.)
One evening when Allie and I were creating together, I showed her the bag. She suggested she take it to work and see if her boss wanted to sell them in the coffee shop. I shrugged and said, “Sure!”
Long story short (wait, this is already long, so longer story shorter?) After a week or so, the manager of the store texted me and wanted to know how much I needed for the bag. She then suggested $10-$15. I assured her that the bag had more in materials and hardware than that price. She wanted to know if I could just make some basic ones without all the hardware to sell at that lower price. (I wanted $30 for my bag.) I replied that I would throw some together if I got time.
So, keeping it real, I was actually pretty upset. It would have been different if she hadn’t had the well constructed, designed and thought out bag right in front of her, but to think it would even be worth my time to bother sitting down at my sewing machine – after work, in my fun sewing time – to spend at least an hour to make a bag to let them sell for $10-$15! And that would include the price of my materials! The manager had even consulted with the wealthy owner of the coffee shop on this!
People don’t know what goes into making things. They haven’t priced a yard of fabric or know how much time it takes to make things. I get that. I’ve tried to sell quilts before, and it is rather insulting what people want to pay. I guess we can thank Wal-Mart and other stores who sell “faux” quilts for the price of a few yards of fabric. (I call the faux quilts, because they are really just mass produced flat comforters.)
I don’t create for a living. I guess I can be grateful for that. No starving artist here, but this all sure explains why artists starve! I sew because I love it. I love creating! I love sharing my craft!
I guess when you get into selling your creations, the rejection factor jumps in there. I mean, if you are an artist, sewist, whatever, you know what I mean. People are always willing to give praise, but it’s when you ask them to get out their wallet that you realize the real appreciation isn’t there.
As an artist and creative person, I remind myself that I create, because that’s what I do! If someone else likes it, then that’s just icing. If someone is willing to pay money for it? Then that’s a great bonus (more money to buy more fabric!) But rejection will not stop me from creating. Creating keeps me sane!