My personal love is cuff bracelets. Leather, brass, copper…wood – Handmade, beautiful little gems of awesomeness- just sayin. Love them! OK, I am s sucker for earrings and necklaces too…. any well-done handmade jewelry piece – what can I say? I appreciate unique handcrafted jewelry designs.
It’s obvious isn’t it?
Sure anyone can see there is a difference between a mass-produced generic bracelet and a well-made handcrafted artisan cuff. But who cares? I do. I’m not bashing the generic, mass-produced jewelry. I own some as most of us do – It is more that I want to shine a light on the unique, the handmade, the work made from a place of passion for what they do. This world is increasingly fast paced, more so all the time. It is impersonal and shallow, get it now, buy it cheap…
So, the differences that matter to me? ….honestly, our work is stinkin hard. We work! There is heart, soul and a lot of effort that goes into everything we do, and not everyone realizes how much. The cost, sure it’s more…. how much depends on technique and materials, but it’s worth it to own at least one piece of unique handmade jewelry. And…as with anything there are exceptions to that passionate artist, there are some who are delusional or clueless on how to price art and yes, it’s good to know the difference and not judge us all based on a few….
No, it is not all sunshine and roses
I can say that for me personally, art in many forms has been a part of who I am for as long as I can remember…except music, just sayin- nobody, I mean nobody wants to hear me sing. It’s painful… but visual art is a different story… I have been drawing as long as I can remember and painting almost as long. Jewelry is new in the past 10 years, but still a huge part of my art story.
As a teenager, getting ready to graduate from high school, I remember being asked by my dad what I was going to do. The answer was easy. Art. That’s what I knew. It was a passion. I had zero interest in doing anything else. My dad replied by telling me it was not practical. He said I needed to be a teacher, nurse…get into real estate. Gag, double gag and no thank you. I saw it all differently. God created everything. If He did that, and He did, it’s safe to say He is the original creator and creativity is, very practical and in fact necessary. Further that if He gave me that gift I should use it!
Fast forward I went to art school and shortly after began working full time as an artist and running my custom framing shop. I also began doing art shows in order to get my work out there as much as possible….. oh my…. the work that goes into the shows alone – not to mention that I was running a business, designing and creating the art, making and packaging jewelry (besides having a family and all that goes with that)…..
The best way to explain the work and struggle that goes into getting the work we create out there to make a living is the story that will forever burn in my brain. The show was to be the next day…. one of the hottest days of the summer… Kathleen and I got the truck loaded (all by ourselves) with props including but not limited to tent, dresser, mannequins, tables, wire walls for the tent…. artwork, jewelry, you name it – the truck looked like the Beverly hillbillies were on the move. Tarp on and strapped down with whatever straps we could find as our husbands (bless their hearts, who leave everything lying around….left nothing good to strap our art and props down with….nothing at my house or hers- literally not one strap to be found… somehow got put away never to be seen again….).
Now to get our T-shirts from the printer, tag, price and fold them. All 300. Lunch comes and goes, as does dinner…. finally 7:45 rolls around and the printer calls us. He finally has our work ready….that was supposed to be ready a week before. We pick it up, get back to Kathleen’s house and begin the process of ironing on tags and pinning size and price labels…. after washing the ones we were told “wash it and the yellow will come out”(great…. It didn’t.) 3:00 am rolls around and clothes are still in the dryer and we just finish tagging the shirts that were not stained beyond ability to sell. So tired….oh so tired…. fall into bed. Wake up two hours later, take the world’s fastest shower, jump in the truck and head out, putting makeup on while driving…grab an extra large, extra shot latte for the road….. Stop a couple times to replace the vintage mannequin and other things that would like to relocate themselves to the highway (before they accomplish that goal)… arrive at our destination barely on time to get set up… in the summer, in our dresses – schlepping everything we just loaded up the day before over to our site and set it all up. Spend all day in the hot sun, melting yet trying to act and feel fresh, happy and ready to joyfully explain to everyone that it’s all handmade, by us and try not to freak out when the one who shows up at the hottest, most uncomfortable part of the day and has to talk about the prices or some other choice, uneducated comments as if we had no connection to the work…. truly, the discussion in my mind when moments like this occur is laughable…well, mostly. But seriously, that alone makes the work hard…. but after that it was time to break it down and pack it up again… in over 100 degrees, with heavy furniture props and a ton of art… I think we were near heatstroke…..
so the next time you happen upon an art or jewelry or craft show, remember it is hard work to get there. Stop and take time to talk to the artist and enjoy what they work so hard to make and sell.
Are you really charging this for that?
Yes…..Yes we are…. $40 is a very realistic price for a handmade cuff. It is important to understand the work involved in handmade items…. most understand this, but some need to be educated… Artists are involved in every part of creating the work. The artist is the buyer of supplies, designer, creator, does the packaging, shipping, bookkeeping, delivery and pick up from galleries, packing and schlepping to and from shows. Besides all the jobs involved in the art itself, if one is balanced and not overly obsessed with art, we have homes and families to take care of. There alone are several full time jobs being done by one person. It is unrealistic to expect to see quality handmade items for cheap department store prices….the artist, besides being the creator is the one doing the selling as well, which is the hardest part. We are connected to our work – it’s hard to be devalued by someone who does not understand or see the value in handmade items. Those comments usually come from a man, out shopping with his wife and does not understand why she would pay for artisan jewelry, but there is usually a clear difference between reasonably priced items and those who are too attached to their work or delusional about what it is worth. For the artist pricing their work, do the research and find out what work of similar quality is selling for…. and be realistic about your work if you want it to sell. If you have a handmade cuff you are trying to sell for $150 and it’s (I will use mine for example) etched stainless with a stone center bead and you see something sorta similar in materials selling for $50 it’s pretty much a sure thing you won’t sell as many, if any at all……
For example, I was part of a show years ago and walked in to the opening reception to see all the other work entered into the show. The room was full of (mostly) nice work…. then I came across one that made my jaw drop but not in a good way. It was about 3×5 pencil drawing, fairly well done…. not amazing, but nice. It was in a simple little black frame, nicely drawn and well shaded….but – it was maybe 15 square inches of art priced at $1200. Yes, you read it right. One thousand, two hundred dollars. I could not figure out if he thought his work was worth that (A.K.A delusional), if he did not want to sell it or if he just did not understand realistic pricing. It was, at best $150 piece and even that would be considered a little high. For the buyer, sometimes… I mean there are some times that an item is over priced, but generally the buyer can spot that, if they are being realistic as well. Think of it this way, when you go into a restaurant you expect to pay for the food – at the doctor there is no question about paying them. The artist is one of the least understood and most underappreciated of trades. Like others, we too have families and need an income – we too have a skill that is worthwhile. Most of us price our work realistically for what goes into it…. just something to consider.
We are not all crazy as the stereotype would dictate that we are. There are some who believe that as truth so they try to be weird as if that makes them a true artist…. its strange but true. I have seen it. And, the stereotype, cliche saying “starving artist” does not refer to our actual value… it is hard to make a living as an artist, but a sacrifice we make because we are passionate about what we do. We understand something that many others are missing… The world we live in now is increasingly fast paced, losing sight of the human connection that is so important. It is, more and more becoming a get it now, but it cheap – mass-produced half a world away and sold here by the millions, generic way of thinking. Artists who make a piece of art, be it a vase, sculpture, painting or jewelry create something and spend hours/days preparing for a show and hours to set up a show to sell it to you and make a human connection in the process – to keep you, the buyer and us, the maker from becoming a nameless person in a number oriented society. Yes the work may be a bit more expensive but you can’t put a price on human connections, real, actual face time and well….. We believe in slow down a bit and take time to engage with our customers… so take time to look at and talk to the artist, learn about who they are. What you find is a person of value, a person who knows their trade and knows its value (but likely prices it a bit lower than he/she should). Remember that handmade is special, especially in the world we live in where the art of handmade, creative art is slowly disappearing. Remember how hard we work for the art that has our hearts and souls contained in the details…. We look forward to meeting with you and taking some time to talk to you!
Please leave a comment! We want to hear of artists who create beautiful handmade items – it is always a joy to hear of the success stories of artists and see the treasures they create! names and websites welcome. We want others to find you!