Friday, January 10, 2014

Why Handmade: I Can Make That Myself!

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

Clockwise from the Left: Abigail Leigh Handbags; Enchanted Hue; Lush Beads; Prunella's Workshop

“I can make that myself!”

A potential customer has been carefully examining a handmade item in a booth at a craft fair or gallery. They seem interested enough to consider purchasing the piece. Then they announce publicly, mutter under their breath, lean over to their companion, and they suggest they should just make
their own.

When you are shopping handmade, and you find yourself asking Can I make that? Maybe you can make something similar, depending on your skill set. Consider the quality of the item, which has piqued your interest. I may be fairly certain I can put together a dog collar, for example, but have I gone through hours upon hours of quality checks to make sure the collar holds? Do I have the resources available check for reliability, and am I willing to take the risk if my work is substandard? I know how to sew; I have a sewing machine; is that adequate?

Hands Free Leash by Cody's Creations

Do you know how to make it? Are you willing to learn? I have been itching to learn how to throw pottery, and have researched a place where I can take a class. However, personally I have tried knitting and crocheting, and it was a disaster. There is nothing like a hand knit sweater, and I wish I still had all the ones my Nana made me growing up. I could learn to do it if I had my heart set on it.

Do you have the tools you need to make that? Craft equipment can be expensive and take up a lot of space, especially if you only plan to make one item. An artisan has made the investment in his/her tools, as this is their livelihood. A fraction of the cost of having those tools, as well as their wear and tear is likely reflected in the price of the item, but it may not come close to the expense of obtaining necessary instruments yourself.

Prunella's Workshop

Are you willing to spend the time necessary to make that? Maybe you do know how to make the desirable item. You have the tools you need, and you would make it well. However, most crafts are very time consuming. Meanwhile, it is completed, right in front of you.

Are you certain you understand what the artist did to create the work? This may sound trite, but over time, an artist’s process will morph into his or her own recipe. Furthermore, I can’t tell you the number of times I have looked at something at a craft fair, only to have an artist tell me it was something completely different. In these instances, it is often fair to say you can’t make it yourself. You are copying their style and technique, which almost never plays out well. It can be similar to trying to steal your co-worker’s recipe for Swedish meatballs without asking for the recipe-you might have gotten better results if you knew what kind of meat they used!

Original Collage with Encaustic and Upcycled Materials by Jessica Burko

Initially, you may feel the piece is too expensive. Consider how long it would take you to make the item. Figure in the cost of tools, equipment, and materials. Think about the level of quality you would achieve. Often times it is not less expensive to make something yourself.

Sometimes, I purchase something handmade, not because I cannot make it myself, but because I can! I appreciate the craftsmanship of my fellow artists, and recognize their distinct flair. My style of work is different, and rather than try to emulate them, I support them.

Universal Pattern Pendant in 14k gold by Cristina Hurley 

Hopefully, for the artist, a shopper goes through these questions in their head, and makes the decision to buy. Maybe the shopper will still contend they want to make something themselves. Sometimes, the potential customer will realize they are looking for a polite way to walk away.

What do you usually say to an artist when you have made the decision you do not want to buy their work?

1 comment :

Lucie Wicker said...

"Thank you" then smile and walk away. No rude comment necessary!

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