Why buy handmade? It's better for the planet, of course, but it's also better for the people who produce the goods you're purchasing.
Back when I still sold my crafts, I once had a fellow and his girlfriend walk into my booth and exclaim, "Damn! These are expensive!" I was too taken aback at that moment to respond to him, but that moment speaks volumes about a big problem that almost all indie crafters who make a living from their creativity face: many consumers don't value handmade.
The man in my booth was insulting my aprons, which cost $30. Sure, you could probably go to Wal-Mart and get a made-in-China apron for one third of that price. The thing I think many shoppers don't understand is that when you buy made-in-China crap at a big box store, you're supporting a system that doesn't pay workers a living wage, from the people who produced the product in sweatshops to the associates who work in the store for barely above minimum wage.
The worst part? Those fantastic savings come at the expense of workers all along the supply chain, and every taxpayer is subsidizing those companies, because the workers there have to rely on so many public services just to feed their families and keep the lights on.
Let's take a look at how that $30 apron breaks down.
- Fabric: $2-3
- Vintage Button: $1
- Ric Rac: $2
If we go with the low end for fabric, we are left with $25. Since I was running a legit business, the government takes 30% of that. Boom. Now I have $16.67.
One half apron took me about 45 minutes to make, so that's a wage of just under $17 per hour. And that's not accounting for other business expenses that I paid for out of money from product sales like booth fees at craft markets ($50-$300 per show), my rent at a local co-op ($85/month), application fees for markets ($10-25 apiece), and buying new supplies so that I could make more aprons. I was doing at least 5 or 6 shows a year, so those booth fees were a big part of my overhead.
What I'm saying here is that $30 is a bargain, and I was barely keeping the lights on at that price point, but folks generally aren't going to spend more than that for an apron. Believe me, I tried lots of prices. They sold best at $20, but basically that means I was giving away free aprons.
Honestly, this was one of the reasons I decided to stop selling my wares and start writing about crafts instead. I feel like the handmade movement needs advocates out there who explain the intrinsic value of hand-crafted goods.
That's why I love this video that I found on the blog Those Who Make. It shows the process involved in making a wooden spoon by hand. It's meticulous, time-consuming, and completely beautiful. Check it out: