My handmade soapbox

Sunday, August 19, 2012

My affinity for handmade runs wide and deep. 

Northern Virginia, the place where I live, has a different feel than the southern, western and eastern portions of the state. It seems to me, as if life here moves at a very fast pace and all things are tainted by the odor of politics. 

My craft, rooted in tradition, is misplaced in an environment of continuous negotiation and motion. The art of sewing, is best appreciated by those who value time, or aptly, its relationship to the past. 

Our grandmothers sewed because they or their mothers worked in the garment factories that clothed the people of America. Later in life, they continued to sew, even in the absence of such work --- simply because they enjoyed creating. They took pride in making beautiful things for those that they loved. As do I.

In a broad sense, everything is “handmade”. It’s unlikely a robot produced the shirt you are wearing now. A person, or collection of people made that garment. Someone created the design, choose the fabric, threaded the machine, guided the stitches and snipped the loose ends. 

There is value in that process. Absolute value. 

What would you charge to complete the same process? Two dollars? Ten? Of course not! Logically, you would take into consideration the cost of materials and the time it takes you to make. 

After six years, I am what some would categorize as an expert in my craft. I have logged more than 10,000 hours sewing and am very comfortable with the work that I do. My best selling product, the XL Ultimate Diaper Bag, takes on average 4.5 hours to complete and requires just under 5 yards of fabric. 

Good quality cotton material, which can be machine washed, and result in a long wearing product, costs about $12 per yard, including shipping. The hardware which is incorporated into the design, totals $8 and the interfacing, $5. Labor is calculated at $20 per hour. Bear in mind, no one actually makes $20 per hour. We have two part-time employees, pay rent for the studio, insurance and taxes.

Cost to Make
Labor $90
Materials $73
Total $163

Is that reasonable? I think so. 

Yesterday, in the studio, I overheard a mother in a harsh scolding tone say, “I am not going to pay $30 for that bag.” Obviously, she was frustrated. I doubt that it had anything to do with my product, or her daughter’s desire for a new bag; but, more likely, an external factor which neither of us could control. I am compassionate and I get that, I do. 

What happened next, sorta surprised me. I spent the next few hours, thinking about the value of my own purchases, calculating the labor and material costs. Then began to consider the maker, in most cases, whom I did not have the opportunity to meet. Who are they? Do they have children? How many years have they been sewing? How did they learn? What kind of machine do they use? Do they like their job? 

Then there’s me --- a maker out of place --- sitting at my hot pink sewing table, doing what I love most, ready to share my story and listen to yours. 

While, there is tremendous value in everything handmade, greater value, sustaining the term “handmade” can found in the connections which are forged as a direct result of the craft. 

[Stepping down, off my soapbox]


apdpk said...

Well said Andrea! Your lovely bags are worth every penny and I'm thrilled to support true-handmade. It makes it even more awesome that you love what you do!

I will contintue to support your shop!!

Best to you~ Amy

Watermelon Wishes said...

You are wonderful, Amy!

Deanie's Duffles said...

I totally agree with your comments. I'm still in shock, however, it only takes you 4.5 hours to make your ultimate bag! I've been sewing for years but must just be really slow:) Unless, you sew, most people do not understand all the work that goes into it. I love sewing and creating and appreciate when customers let me know how much they love their purchases.

Watermelon Wishes said...

Deanie your bags are fabulous and stitching is flawless!

Michelle said...

I agree Andrea! It is difficult to deal with comments like that. Sometimes people don't realize how near and dear to our hearts handmade work is and the sting we get when someone makes a comment like that. I overheard a similar comment about my products said by someone who was supposed to be one of my best friends, so I totally understand the feeling! Your products are so beautiful and so incredibly made, they are worth absolutely every penny! I'm still shocked about the 4.5 hours though! You're lightening speed!!

All the best,

Watermelon Wishes said...

Thank you all for your kind words and support! Since this post, I have had dozens of visitors come in the studio and share their story and appreciation for handmade.

Pikachu said...

real wishes:

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