The Morning After…

I woke up, and that’s about the extent of my morning efforts.  If I didn’t have to get out of bed, and get my daughter off to school, I’d have slept indefinitely…

But since I was up, I decided to look at my day as one of reentry, do only the essentials, which consisted of unpacking, doing my laundry, blogging, and beginning the process of tidying up my house.  And I need to process about 30 images from the guild meeting last Monday to send to the newsletter editor.  Somehow I got to be the designated picture taker for the guild…  I’m not sure how that happened.  But I did talk my son into doing that arduous task, he owes me some money, so I put him to work.

Anyway, I returned from my guild sale, tired and full of observations.  For all of my efforts, I sold roughly $600. worth of stuff, mostly books, of which I will give the guild 20%.  I was hoping I’d sell more, but I didn’t have any small inexpensive gift items, and this is the small inexpensive gift item season, and I refuse to make small inexpensive gift items, I’m small inexpensive gift items challenged if you must know…

NativeWoodsFrontLGRibbonScarfDetailI was hoping for more of a response to some of my clothing, I value the feedback from trying things on different bodies, and I haven’t done that with anything other than my jacket pattern in workshops, in many years.  If there were any interested customers, I didn’t see them, almost no one sold garments over $95. that I knew about. (One of the guild members did buy one of my vests, which was more than $200. and I was eternally grateful, it was beautiful on her and another one of the guild members bought one of my new scarves for more than $100, and again, I am eternally grateful.)  The final numbers and a wonderful statistical analysis will eventually come from the guild treasurer, but for now, the guild show and sale, seems to be about selling small inexpensive gift items, which, did I mention, I don’t do?

I will share that I was sort of surprised at how most of the members priced their work.  Almost everything in the exhibit was either handwoven or handknitted, there were a few baskets, and some inexpensive polar fleece hats and scarves and some jewelry.  I’d say about 90% of the handwoven scarves on exhibit, and there were a lot of them, were priced between $45-55.  I sort of feel like I wouldn’t set up my loom for that, especially since the guild takes 20% of that amount.

When I did craft fairs in the 1980’s, the discussion then, was about pricing your work.  Craft fairs have an overhead, obviously, and just having a studio, paying for equipment, rent/or mortgage if you own the home, electricity, internet, whatever, all of that goes towards the price of an item.  Sadly many of the guild members are just happy to sell anything, since it isn’t their real source of income, and it just allows them to make more stuff.  And that reasoning just undervalues everyone’s work.  I actually bought two pairs of hand knit socks.  I paid $30. a pair.  I’ve made socks, once.  I won’t do it again.  I totally respect anyone that can pick up a pair of needles and whip out a sock, and then do it again for the other foot.  A pair of hand knit socks is priceless.  But $30.?  I can’t even go out with my husband to the local pizza place for $30. For a dinner.  A set of four handwoven placemats cost $40.  I sold placemats, handwoven, lots of them.  That was one of my first production items.  I sold them for $40. for a set of 4 back in 1980.  I just looked at four woven placemats in Vermont Country Store Catalog for about that much.  This is 30 years later, and we don’t live in China.  We are American craftswomen/men and we have a minimum wage here.

So this brings us to the larger discussion, how do you price your work, how do you value your handwork, what kind of prices do others set at guild shows?  Those who have guild sales events, do you sell scarves, handwoven or otherwise for more than $100. a scarf?  Have you tried?

I spent a lot of floor time, talking to customers, about what we do as a guild, what goes into the work we do, the fact that rayon is not a petroleum based yarn, and in some cases, the discussion came around to pricing and I was surprised to hear from more than one customer that a lot of people shop at the guild show and sale because it is well known that you can get really cheap handmade items there.

As program chair for the guild, I’d love to do an evening program, panel discussion on the whole issue of selling your work.  And one of the members told me that it really is all about a fund raiser for the guild, so most should look at this as a guild donation of sorts.  Volume sales are important for the guild to make money for programs.

I use to give seminars on marketing your work, back in the 1980’s, and of course pricing was one of the subjects we talked about.  I was, and am still amazed at how many think that if they sell an item for $40. that’s what they actually make.  And if it doesn’t sell, then it must be too expensive.  I’d love to open this up to anyone reading this blog, to feel free to comment, share, give me some perspective here, and some of the logic behind $30 hand knit socks and $45 handwoven scarves.

Off to move  the next load of laundry to the dryer…

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November 16, 2009 5:40 pm

And the yarn for those handknit socks probably was purchased retail at about $20. ‘Nuf said.

November 16, 2009 7:57 pm

I’m continually stunned by craftsfolk who undervalue their work (I dont sell mine, but I share your mindset- why set up a loom to sell something for $50?). Almost none of the people I talk to consider their raw costs, much less their time. And then they bemoan they cant make a living doing what they love.

November 16, 2009 9:16 pm

When I’ve commented about this at guild sales, the comment made by long time guild members is that they just want enough $ to may for more materials – time is a non-issue. I can’t compete with that so have stopped selling at guild shows. A $100 scarf cannot compete with the $60 one. The dialogue goes nowhere.

November 17, 2009 2:45 am
Do you follow Laura Fry’s blog? She’s quite practical about “weaving for a living”.

November 17, 2009 8:28 am

Well, most of my work is $75 and up. I do have one line of scarves that I sell for $50 a pop – but, before you leap to judgment (!) – they take me an hour and a half (1:40, tops, if I get sidetracked a lot) to weave (start to finish, including warping, twisting fringe, all of it). I’ve timed them about 10 times… And I buy my yarn at wholesale prices, so it costs about $7 a scarf. Interestingly enough, people do buy them, but they buy the more expensive pieces more often – they may start… Read more »

November 17, 2009 8:45 am

I don’t sell a lot but these are my thoughts: If it hurts me to part with something for a certain price, then the price is too low. I don’t do guild sales and craft fairs, I only sell at a fine art gallery on a sheep farm. My friends run this gallery and only charges me 10% commission which I know is really rare, but I could never sell the stuff I do with 40-100% commission for the seller. At the beginning of the season, I take her boxes of handspun yarn and some items which I have priced… Read more »

November 17, 2009 10:17 am

Yes, we are priced low. Guild sales seem to be about cleaning out the stash at any price. Maybe just above rummage sale prices. Materials + 30% was a guide years ago. Of course that can be about $2 per hour. It seems that practical items sell best. We do have some guideline prices but even those are low.
I agree that selling at galleries and high-end gift shops enables one to sell at a price worthy of the work and style but… I’m lucky if I get 60% !! What is the answer? I don’t know.

November 17, 2009 10:38 am

Add my comments to the pile Daryl. As a weaver/craftsperson who still makes a living at the craft fairs around the country, I choose what items I bring to a show based on what that particular market will bear, realizing that my prices will be in competition with the other artists there. There are only so many dollars to go around at a show. Guild shows and small local shows are more impulse item priced. One thing, I do try and bring a range of prices to any show, no matter where. I can always cover my expense that way… Read more »

November 17, 2009 12:37 pm


I can’t comment on this right now as I have to teach all day until 9 tonight but boy–is this a subject dear to my heart! I will give you my thoughts on this tomorrow morning.

November 17, 2009 2:06 pm

This is one of my pet bug-bears down here in New Zealand. Folks just want the cost of materials back so they can make more to get the material cost back!
It takes us as artists many years of learning and practise and expense to acquire the skills to make a marketable product and I find it a little insulting to be told my work is too expensive because the work it is being exhibited next to product that is actually way under priced.

November 17, 2009 4:21 pm

Thoughts from the creator of $45 scarves–at this price I’m earning about $5-$7 an hour. Is my time worth more? Yes. Is my scarf worth more? Yes. But this is the price at which they sell. Is it better to sell at $45 than to sell nothing at a fair price? I don’t know.
Handwovens offered for sale do vary in quality of execution and design. Some of us weave Chevys and some of us weave Cadillacs. Yes, often Cadillacs are priced as Chevys, and sometimes Chevys are priced as Cadillacs.

November 17, 2009 9:06 pm

Some folks weave to sell, others need to sell to weave

November 18, 2009 7:31 am

There is that concept that if the weaver doubles her price resulting in selling 1/2 as much – she is better off. Is it our price driven shopping style that has kept us from realizing that there is real benefit for society to pay artists, artisans, makers, a fair price? On the other hand, some scarves are correctly priced at $45.00 in terms of value (based on skill, design, etc). I have sold $100.00 scarves (well ok $95.00) in guild sale where many were priced at $45.00. Some customers know the difference, some can be educated to know, and others… Read more »

November 18, 2009 9:04 am

I will not make anything to sell if I can’t get at least $15/hr timewise, plus materials. I am curerntly working up a small handfelted “Winter Holiday Tree” item to sell at Rhinebeck next year. I tally time and materials and they have to fit the price range I know the market will bear.

If an item can’t be reasonably profitable to sell, I won’t make it for sale. Also,I would rather just hand out cash than sell hours of work for next to nothing to benefit an organization.

Katie Lacewell
Katie Lacewell
November 18, 2009 4:58 pm

When I started selling 6 years ago, an artist friend (who makes his living with his art) told me to figure my time at $20.00 an hour, and to be sure my end price was such that if I got picked up by a gallery, I could afford the 40-50% the gallery would take. So, I try to do the first part of that equation. I figure my hours in my textiles, and try to get $20.00 an hour for my time, plus the cost of materials. I’d say I’m in the 10% + or – with my end prices.… Read more »

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