How handmade items can be expensive, fairly priced and a complete bargain all at the same time.

People who shop small are generally nicer people
(probably a fact)

Whether in person or online, I get lots of positive comments on my jewellery. When sales are slow they help me keep on making and always brighten my day. When manning the Art Shed we get so many compliments on everyone’s work every single day.  People don’t have say anything, they just want to. (It really is a world away from the daily comments I got when I worked in the more mainstream retail world, but we won’t go there.) 

Just occasionally, the comments are not so nice. Constructive criticism from other makers and customers is always useful. Even a few people telling me they don’t like something or don’t ‘get it’ is fine, opinions differ. What bothered me recently is a group of people complaining about how expensive everything is, even to point of mocking. ‘Only £100? Oh I’ll take two then!’

It’s quite likely it took us almost as long to come up with that price as it did to make the thing…
Don’t be fooled if something looks simple either

I bet you anyone who sells their handmade work has agonised over their prices. The vast majority probably undervalued their work to begin with and has raised prices several times. The balance between making your work pay so you can keep on doing it while trying to offer value for your customers is a hard one and something we try so hard to get right.
Mocking the value we’ve put on our work hurts.

Expensive is not the same as overpriced.

I can’t really argue with the fact handmade work is expensive. Yes it costs more than mass produced items and if you take it literally, the cost of artwork contains many expenses. The problem I have is when many people use the word expensive, what they mean is overpriced.

Take a potter for example. They have done years of training to learn their craft. They’ve the cost of setting up their studio, the rent, lighting, heat. They’ve bought costly equipment and their raw materials. The pot you were gawping at the price of might have taken several days to make. This is their job. So that expensive price tag might actually be a very fair price.

Now imagine you wanted make a pot like that and forked out for the training, equipment, raw materials, bills. Even after all that you discovered you couldn’t make it quite the same anyway. Suddenly, it’s a bit of a bargain.

The other element to a handmade item of course is imagination and that is something very difficult to put a price on. As is that fact that one person can only make a finite amount of work and each piece will be slightly different. I don’t know about you, but owning an item that 500,000 other people also have just isn’t the same to me.

Why does it cost that much?

 

 

 

 

Why shopping small is so important to me

I’ve been a supporter of the ‘Just a Card’ campaign since hearing about it on Twitter a little while ago. The idea is to spread the word that even the smallest of purchases matter hugely to small businesses.  Whether it be a card, badge or other item that only cost a few pounds, those few pounds from everyone who walks in the door can be the difference from a shop staying open and closing forever.

R.I.P Purple & Black

Supporting of small shops is very close to my heart having built up and lost my own alternative gift shop in a very short space of time. The frustrating thing is I had a group of regular, really enthusiastic customers that completely loved what I was doing, but they didn’t act or spread the word quick enough.
A good few years on with the power of social media it’s so much easier to get the word out about great products and businesses, and, crucially, free. So if you love a shop, designer or even your local butcher, baker or candlestick maker – tell everyone and use them. Often! It might be easier for businesses to reach their customer than when I was doing it but with ever growing rent, rates and a billion other costs being thrown at them it’s tougher than ever. My partner now has a high street print and IT shop so once again, our household relies on two small businesses to keep ticking over. Will we ever learn? No. Because we love what we do.

I design and make my jewellery from my home studio and sell through a cooperative gallery, The Art Shed, online through Etsy and also through a handful of the most wonderful quirky independent shops and galleries run by amazing people. The prompt for this post came when I learned this week that one former stockist had recently closed it’s doors and another has been forced to close at the end of the month. This makes me truly sad. It makes me want to go into my local Tesco superstore and march all those people in that greeting card aisle out and down the road to their nearest independent instead!

Being part of a cooperative, I get the best of both worlds. It’s like having a little bit of my own shop again as well as an outlet to sell my work. We sell items costing £1 and items costing £1000. Sometimes I think people feel embarrassed spending just a pound or two but if I told you that some days, gift shops get through that day ONLY selling cards then you see the importance. I want to give every single customer a little hug, but don’t because that would surely guarantee I’d never see them again.

Here’s a few of the small businesses mentioned:
The Art Shed, The Medicine Garden, Cobham, Surrey.
Click, Save & Print, Walton on Thames, Surrey.

If you want to see all the amazing shops that sell Shutter Jewellery see here.
Check out the Just a Card campaign here.

And to prove this isn’t just for personal plugs, here are a few small businesses I have absolutely no affiliation with, but I’d be pretty devastated if they ceased to exist:
Pug and Puffin, Lyme Regis : Funky dog stuff
Juju, Brighton : Amazing quirky clothing
Sophie’s Chocolates, Chesham : Chocolate only for people called Sophie(!)
The Dough Shack, various locations : THE best pizza
Khao Sarn, Walton on Thames : THE best Thai
The Simon Drew Gallery, Dartmouth : My favourite illustrator, with the best puns
Pixxie Rose on Etsy : Handmade clothing in insane fabrics
RichardsonRichardson on Etsy : Acrylic jewellery (my best friend and I want about 70% of their collection between us) 
Littlehampton Exotics : Great reptile shop, of which so many have closed in the last few years
Pampered Pets, Hersham : Where my mutt gets his hair chopped.