Saturday, February 23, 2013

On Growth and Uncertainty

I admit it - I've sucked big time at blogging for the last few months.  Ok, perhaps more than a few months.  Many months.  I took a day job (an office job!  EEEK!) around the time my blogging trailed off, and I was knee deep in stress and madness.  As I've stated before, I am not cut out for the 9-5 office job world.  I think, fingers crossed, that I've finally convinced myself of this and won't second guess and embrace fear and doubt when people question me on what I "really" do for a living.  That question always cuts me to my core.  It hits at the heart of my self-consciousness and insecurity.  If I'm not working in a way that most people see as actually working, what I am really doing with my life?  How can my version of success actually be capital S success?  But, damn it, this is what makes me happy.

I do not - I repeat, DO NOT - need to be sleep deprived, miserable, and stressed out to be successful.
I do not - I repeat, DO NOT - need to fit myself into the mold of other people's vision of my life.
I do not - I repeat, DO NOT - need to work traditional hours to satisfy conventional views.

I do - I repeat, DO - need to work in a way that is fulfilling and productive.
I do - I repeat, DO - owe it to myself, my loved ones, and my community to use my gifts the best I can.
I do - I repeat, DO - need to manage my time in a way that is healthy, and not value myself by how busy I am.

So true confession time: I undervalue my work and my time.  I have a complex about being a maker and not an artist.  I have undercharged for the things I make and put out into the world because I've been afraid they weren't good enough.  As a result, my business has been handicapped.  You know how most of us artisans and crafters make a living?  By consigning and wholesaling our work.  You know what that costs?  Anywhere from 20% - 60% of our retail price.  You know what you can't do if you keep your prices incredibly low?  Afford to consign and wholesale.  And so my business has been handicapped.  Forgive me, friends, but I'll be raising my prices as of March 1.  I deserve to be compensated for the incredible amount of work I put into each piece that leaves my hands.  I deserve to not work myself into the ground for a profit of $5 a piece.

I deeply believe in breaking down the barriers to everyone owning handmade work instead of imported, mass-produced pieces that were made on the backs of poverty stricken children.  I use reclaimed materials to keep useful things out of landfills and to combat our disposable culture.  I try to create joyful, durable pieces that connect people to the everyday items they use and increase the value they see in them, so that those pieces stay around for years, instead of ending up in a garbage can every year.  To that end, I make things in a variety of price ranges.  I still want someone to spend $20 and have a handmade soap dispenser made from vintage, eco-friendly, and responsibly sourced materials.  I want them to keep that for years and enjoy it every time they see it.  But I can't afford to sell a robot lamp for $50 that has taken me over a week to hand craft and wire.

It was easy for me to undervalue myself for the last 4 years.  What really hit home was when I realized that by underpricing my work, I made it hard for all of my fellow makers to fairly price their work.  And I NEVER want to be responsible for that.  What can I say?  I'm a giver :)  

I hope you all understand.  And for all of you craftspeople out there, value yourselves! 


  1. I just did the very same thing at the end of last Summer. I had been selling my work at a farmers market all summer for about half of what I should have been (which, as you said, leaves no room for wholesale). I was terrified to raise my prices and loose customers. I have to honestly tell you though... I gained more customers than I lost. I think people started seeing the value of my work as handmade, and worth the price and hard work (as opposed to the "value" of a low price). If you are selling "handmade," then your customers know that they are buying one-of-a-kind, sweat-shop-free items that they know are going to cost more that if they shopped at Walmart. they are prepared for that ahead of time, and (I feel) not only expect I higher cost, but even understand and respect it. Best of luck!

  2. That is so reassuring to hear! Thanks for sharing your experience. I'll take all the confidence building I can get :)