Friday, February 20, 2009

I taught a creature craft class last week...

I really can't take much credit for this chicken as being an amazing teacher. The student showed up late, left early and using spacial relation skills beyond her years, whipped this little chickie up out of the scraps on the table. I did help tie off some nice knots discreetly placed under wings and beak. I did provide the scraps and the place to make animals. But, wow. Too bad there are those child labor laws or I would have asked her to be moth and squirrel's first employee.

The rest of the kids were focussed and fun and creative as well. And their animals and uglies and tater heads had all the charm and lumpiness you would expect. They didn't want to take breaks and just kept sewing for almost six hours straight. The devotion to a non-profit craft reminded me of my own beginnings, hand sewing doll pillows out of a dress my mom let me cut. The way they kept adding details without any thought of cost benefit analysis, it made me see how like a tiny factory, a slow machine I have become in just two years of market production. And although efficiency helps me to make a living sewing stuffed animals, I need to make time to sew the things I will never be paid properly for creating. To be patient adding extra leaves or paws or fancy trim around the necks of chickens.

With the economy still as "failing" as it is, there is an urge to make more things faster and cheaper. I see this with all the businesses around town having sales, racing to the bottom. I myself am making a new batch of smaller critters right now. But I want to fight that urge to get by financially by dealing in shoddy bulk. I think instead I should keep my prices what they are and add value to my product, extra details, finer construction, a good story and a personal touch. The fact that my skills are improving doesn't mean the prices have to go up. And yet I see home based crafters underselling their work all the time. Cruise around and you will be amazed. These must be women with lucrative day jobs or lucrative husbands. I am suspicious of anything handmade under $5. I mean, don't you even value the time it took you to take those photos and post the item? So where is the balance between keeping objects affordable as money gets tight and valuing yourself as an artist? Right now it seems to be about $30.

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