Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A small rant about pricing artisan goods

I don't like it when people tell me I under-value my own work because I price it too low. They tell me, "A handspun, hand-dyed skein of yarn for under $20? Are you crazy? You should price it much higher!"

Oh, really? Should I price it in the high 20's? In the 30's? I've seen handspun priced in the $40 and even the $60 range. I even saw handspun priced in the $200 range,for one skein, and it wasn't any type of luxury fiber.

What would you pay?

Well here's the thing. Recently on a Facebook fiber arts group I belong to, a person asked the group at what price should she list her hand-crocheted cowl in her online shop. It was a beautiful creation with stunning colors. She said that the yarn had cost her $19. People threw out suggestions like price it three times the cost of materials, or they suggested she also calculate and be paid for her time as well, others threw out numbers: $50, $60, $75. When suggestions hit $100 I stopped reading. It was indeed a very lovely and colorful cowl, but $100? Would you pay $100 for a very lovely, colorful, hand-crocheted cowl?

She ended up listing it for $103.56 CAD (Canadian dollars), and thanked everyone for their help.

Okay. Let's go back to the yarn. Let's say that I had made that yarn (which I didn't, but this is to make a point). Let's say that I had made it from 'scratch', meaning I bought a raw fleece, washed it, combed it, spun it, and dyed it all by hand. And we're talking commercial acid wool dyes here, not the natural dyes that I grow in my garden or find in the wild and make. It takes several hours to wash a fleece. It takes a few hours to comb enough fiber for just one skein of yarn. It takes several hours to spin the yarn. It takes time to pick your colors and figure out how they will be placed on the yarn. (And by the way, all of the prep - everything that occurs after the fleece has dried from being washed - is yarn design. A lot of factors are taken into consideration when designing a yarn, and all of this knowledge comes from hours and hours of work).

So I have put all of this work into what has turned out to be a beautiful, colorful yarn. Now, at what price should it be listed? Do I calculate all of my time and make sure I'm compensated for it? Would this apply to naturally-dyed skeins, too, where I have cultivated plants from seeds sprouted indoors under grow lights, then planted them outside and cared for them throughout the growing season, putting in hours of weeding, watering, harvesting, etc., and then made the dyes myself? That's a lot of hours.

Let's say I  do calculate my time, and give myself a fair wage. I'll even be conservative in my calculations. 2 hours to wash + 3 hours to comb + 4.5 hours to spin + 1.5 hours to dye = 11 hours. We can all argue over what a fair wage would be, but let's put it at minimum wage,$8.25 per hour. So my time was worth 11 hours x $8.25 per hour = $90.75.

Let's say materials (four ounces of my clean wool) cost $4. This is my cost for the fiber, plus wear and tear on equipment.

So my time plus materials = $94.75.

But I also have to figure in about 8% for all of the transaction fees I'll be paying; 8% of $94.75 is $7.26, which I will now add on to make the total = $102.01. I'll be generous and round it down to $102.

So I should list my unique, handspun, hand-dyed yarn at $102.00. Would you pay $102 for four ounces of handspun, hand-dyed yarn?

More importantly, would the maker of the lovely, colorful, hand-crocheted cowl pay $102 for my yarn so she could make more lovely, colorful, hand-crocheted  cowls?

 Let's imagine that she would. Now how much would her beautiful creation have to be priced at? Well her materials now cost $102 instead of $19, which is $83 more. Just add that to her current price and we come up with $186.56. Would you pay that much for a lovely, colorful, hand-crocheted cowl?

I'm not devaluing myself or my creations by pricing most of my handspun, hand-dyed yarns under $20. I'm living in the real world. I set my prices so that I make pretty much a set amount on each skein. It is an amount that I am happy with. I could probably set my prices a tad higher and I may in the future, but right now I like the idea of pricing my things affordably, as long as I get something out of it, too.

The reality is, I can't price yarn the way some artisans price their creations. If I did, no one would buy it. It may take just as much time, effort, knowledge and skill to make handspun, hand-dyed yarn as it does to make lots of other wonderful and beautiful things, but the bottom line is, ain't nobody gonna pay a lot for yarn.