A dear fan, Anne, left a message on my “quilt” page yesterday. She has followed me almost from the very beginning of my blogging/ Facebook days. Anne and a group of her friends meet regularly to quilt together. She mentioned that , in her rural area, it would be difficult to make a living quilting.
Now I know that in Anne´s case, they meet just for the sheer joy of producing beautiful quilts, with no intentions of selling….and I bet her family and friends have benefited from the fruits of her labour. But this does bring me to a subject that I am absolutely passionate about: artists and craftspeople being paid a fair wage in the market place.
Anne mentioned that to sell her work, although in her case she has no intention of doing so, she would have to cost it at €1 per hour. Yes, you read that right, €1 per hour! And that is working on the assumption that her labour is free. For Anne, quilting is a hobby, but what about all the other artists and craftspeople for whom their work is their living? Nobody should ever expect to buy hand-made crafts or original works of art for next to nothing.
This is something I come up against all the time. For every sale I complete I have three (possibly four) people wanting to buy cheap. People need to be educated about the true cost of buying hand-made goods. Already most people are aware of fair trading practises, and minimum wages…….they just don´t think it applies to them when they are buying art or craft. Artists and craftspeople also need to value themselves more. I don´t work for minimum wage, and I certainly don’t sell my work at or below the cost of production, and nor should any artist. Hold your ground and ask a fair price for your time, talent and materials.
A friend of mine bakes cakes for her living…..absolutely beautiful hand decorated creations which she spends hours over. She has people haggling over her price and complaining that she doesn´t match the local supermarket ( well go buy their mass-produced cake, if that`s what you want) One customer even wanted her to make a two-hour round trip on a sunday to deliver the cake, at no extra charge of course……..
Now we all know that big supermarkets make cheap cakes, big stores like Ikea produce cheap prints, and factory made, mass-produced quilts cost a fraction of a hand-made or commissioned piece. And mostly there isn`t too much wrong with these things. If a customer wants to cheer up their home, or throw something cheap and cheerful over their bed, they will probably find something they like in the big stores.
But we are not big stores. Our items are individually made, often after years of practise. Our art work is the original oil, and even the prints are run on such a smaller scale that when the customer buys one, they know that not everyone else in their town will have the same picture hanging on their wall. Remember the print of the child with a single tear on his cheek? When I was growing up, all my friends parents had that picture on their wall.
Don´t allow someone to offer you a low price. Demand to be treated fairly. I am saddened when I see people underselling themselves just to make a sale. And this practise also makes it even more difficult for those who do make their living with their art. If local customers are hard to find, sell your work online….research the market and generally get more business like. It is perfectly possible to make your living through art or craft…….but you do need to get business like in your thinking; this is how you make your living, run it as you would any other successful business.
Yes, I enjoy my work, and I guess many of you reading this love your art, quilting, sewing or whatever craft you do. I have met doctors, teachers, gym instructors, and hundreds of other people who also enjoy their work, but they all expect to be paid a fair wage. And not one of them would work for minimum wage because they had to train hard for their work. Well, we as artists and craftspeople had to train hard too……and we often work long hours. We can and should demand a reasonable price for our work.
As long as an artist is willing to part with a beautiful painting for the cost of production, or a craftsperson sells their one-off pieces knowing they are earning only €2 or €3 an hour – sometimes even less – we are allowing people to have our work without really paying us.
A genuine customer, and a lover of your art or craft will pay you the right price; wait for that customer to come along. Your lovely work has a real value, and like everyone else you should be paid the fair price for whatever it is you are selling.
See you all tomorrow..