This morning I had a horrible experience at a craft fayre. I’ve already had a bit of a whinge and a moan about it over on instagram, but I thought it deserved a blog post. Let’s get one thing straight: do NOT expect handmade to be cheap.
It’s not the first time someone has disappeared after hearing what I am charging for an item, nor is it the first time someone has politely smiled and said “I’ll think about it”, which means “no, thank you”. It was, however, the first time I got a look of utter disgust. The lady lifted my mini hot water bottle, remarked how beautiful it was and then reached for her purse. When I thanked her and asked politely for the £15 I had put on it, her face dropped. Her eye brows furrowed, she looked me up and down and said “No, you’re far too expensive.”
Part of me wanted to tell her that’s her opinion, and she could have kept it to herself. The other part, the more dominant part on this occasion, wanted to cry, pack up and take myself and my hot water bottle home. I felt belittled, suddenly uncomfortable, unconfident and lacking in talent and value within a split second of her glance. How dare she make me feel that way. How dare I let her!
The thing is, I bought the little 500ml hot water bottle, then I bought the yarn and the little star buttons. I sat down and made a prototype, then I worked on my pattern to perfect it. I made the front, and then I made the back. I sewed on the buttons, I crocheted the star, then sewed it on. I crocheted the two sides together and crocheted a pretty edging along the top. Then I sewed in every yarn end. It took me about 4-5 hours. If you do the maths, without payment for materials, I’m asking for £3 per hour. Would you work for £3 per hour?
To add insult to injury, news on the radio on the way home consisted of reports of the 1,000 people who waited in line from 7am for the reopening of Belfast’s Primark store. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very glad to see our city centre thriving again and happy for the businesses and employees who will benefit… but something seems a little off when people will queue for hours for mass-produced products – without a thought for the people who made them and how fairly they’re paid – whilst others argue with those who ask for a fair price.
Personally, I would rather buy well and buy once, and will be sticking to my guns where my pricing is concerned- as should everyone who spends hours making. You wouldn’t do your job for less money. You wouldn’t barter the prices in a shop. Don’t devalue a person or their work by asking them to offer it to you for less. If you want to buy handmade, please, please be prepared to pay the maker for their materials, their ideas and their time. Be willing to pay what they believe it’s worth, because I could nearly guarantee they still aren’t doing themselves justice.