Counting The Cost

It’s that time of the year when we are either counting our pennies and wondering how we’ll afford the impending festivities or thinking “Sod it” and deciding to worry about it later. Which ever way you approach the cost of Christmas, is your own affair – I have employed both in my time – but it’s interesting that the question of spending can be a divisive topic.

So why do I bring this up? Because there is a related matter that I’d like you to consider.

How often do you browse glossy lifestyle pages for inspiration only  to think “I saw something like that but cheaper in *insert high street store/supermarket name here*”? We all do it. Crikey, my Pinterest boards are full of tutorials showing me how to make snowmen decorations from old light bulbs and how an old Reader’s Digest can be upcycled into a dynamic centre piece that oozes rustic charm. I know there are some of us who genuinely enjoy the making of a thing, but I also know that labelling a thing “handmade” can make people think “I can make that for less money”.

And now we get to the heart of what I want you to consider.

This is not a lecture. This is not a judgement on how people shop. This is a thought I would like you to consider.

The design process can be lengthy. For every finished item, there are several versions that weren’t quite right. Tens of hours have been spent trying to perfect a design. That design is the template for all the things, exactly like that, a person wants to sell but if the designer wants to use a different pattern or image, that process has to be repeated. Sometimes things are variations on a theme but there are no guarantees that these variations will work. Of course in big business this is “research and development” and is factored into the final cost. It’s a bit harder when you’re a designer maker.

Then there’s the materials and the labour. A finished item takes time to make. It doesn’t just appear in 5 minutes. “Handmade” means just that. Usually over a substantial length of time. There is a move to pay employees a living wage rather than a minimum wage, reflecting that anyone who works, and especially those in jobs classed as “menial”, should be able to afford to live independently. This is absolutely right and fair but if this is true for trained machine operatives, why should that be different for people who make a living from utilising their skills in hand manufacturing?

No one expects to get rich when they sell something they have made, but they do expect to be able to charge a price that reflects the time and effort spent in creating it.

Is that unreasonable?


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