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The World’s Most Expensive Card

Materials + Labour + Expenses + Profit = Wholesale x 2 = Retail

The above seller’s formula is what most craft business owners are told to use when working out how to price their items.  It’s what is fair.  I mean, let’s face it, as much as we crafters, artists and other creatives do what we do because we love it, if we’ve taken the leap into selling our makes, it’s because we want to see a return for the time, money and passion we’ve invested.

And rightly so.

But, see, there is a fundamental flaw in using the above formula that most, if not all, crafters also have to take into consideration; what consumers will actually pay.  Most of the time the two figures don’t even come close to each other.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a popular item and work it through: The featured image on this post (see above) is a bespoke card I made for a customer whose friend’s last name is Fox. She saw and fell in love with my button fox wall art (see below) and asked if it could be turned into a card. My answer was, and is always, “of course.” Because I love a challenge and I am a people-pleaser to the core.

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My framed button fox took me about an hour to make. Let’s say I pay myself the current UK national minimum wage – because this is work – that would be £7.20 for the labour. The materials cost around £5.00, expenses would be around £2.00 and I always try and give myself a profit of around £5.00 on each piece of wall art. That gives me a total wholsesale price of £19.20 and a retail price of £38.40.  Would people pay that? I’m still undecided – and at wholesale price, Finn the Fox is still unsold!** – but for a piece of wall art, it’s a possibility.

Now, let’s take the formula apply it to my fox card. As a reference point, the fox is the exact same size in the wall art as it is on the card.

So, again, it took about an hour, perhaps a shade under this time, so I’ll set it as £6.30. Materials varied slightly (no frame, different paper) so they came in at £2.20, expenses stayed at £2.00 and it’s a card, so I usually allow a profit of just £0.50.  That gives me a total of £11.00 wholesale and £22.00 retail.

Take a second to digest that.

£22.00 for a greeting card.

£22.00.

£22.00?!?!?!?!

OK, so clearly that’s never. going. to. happen. So here’s what I did:  I took away my labour costs and sold the card at wholesale price, which brought it down to a much more respectable £4.70.

Can I just say here that this handmade hustle is HARD.  Because I can guarantee you that there are hundreds of card makers (and other crafters) out there completely and consistently underselling their work. The main bulk of my business is cards, but there really is no profit in them. When I make and sell a card, I do so purely for the enjoyment, and I’m OK with that. I’ve made peace with that.

What I really want you to take away from this though, whether you’re a creative or not, is that the next time you see something that’s handmade and think HOW MUCH?!?!?! please first consider this formula, consider the maker and consider the time and care they’ve put into creating it. But most importantly consider this:

They are probably STILL selling themselves massively short.

** Somebody very lovely has since bought Finn.  I hope he’s enjoying his new home – I certainly miss him!

niobe

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Wonky Stitches

Life of an artist

I don’t purport to be a true artist.  There are many more talented people out there who deserve that title.  But I use the term “art” to mean anything which is made by a creatively inclined individual.  So whether you are a knitter, as sewist, a cartoonist, a painter or a cardmaker, you are an artist for the purposes of this post.

And as an artist, let’s see if you recognise this scenario: You have an idea for a piece of art.  You plan the piece of art. You make the piece of art. You hate the piece of art.  Sound familiar?  You are not alone.  I truly believe that this is something we all do at some point.  In fact you may find yourself at a point where this happens again and again.  You start to doubt your work, doubt yourself.  You feel like you aren’t good enough. You wonder whether it’s time to throw in the towel (the knitting needles, the paintbrush….)

Your own worst critic

Artists are their own worst critics.  I have a friend who is a cake maker.  Her cakes are stunning (and they taste amazing – a winning yet not always achievable combination).  A couple of months ago I asked her to make a cake for my daughter’s fifth birthday so she asked my daughter what type of cake she wanted.  My daughter requested a pink cake in the shape of a 5.  The day before her birthday my friend turned up at my house and practically threw the cake at me, wailing “Take the bloody thing, I never want to see it again, you’re lucky I didn’t throw it against the wall!!”

After the outburst I looked at the cake (as a non cake maker) and asked what was wrong with it.  Because I thought, as usual, that it was stunning.  She went on to explain that the icing wouldn’t roll properly, the ribbon wasn’t long enough, she couldn’t get the gems she wanted, and about half a dozen more things that made it, and I quote, “the worst cake” she’s ever made.  While I tried to make light of it and reassure her that it looked incredible and that my daughter would love it (it did, and she did) part of me, as a fellow artist, completely understood where she was coming from.

You are good enough

Sometimes we can get so caught up in the details, in the perfection of our craft, that we fail to stand back and take a look at the bigger picture, which is, quite simply; we are good enough. Our art is good enough.  I can tell you right now; that piece you made but tossed aside and refused to put in your online shop because of that thing that went wrong? It’s good enough.  And that other piece that you made, and then hated because it didn’t turn out quite right? It’s good enough. You are good enough.

One man’s seconds is another man’s masterpiece

How do I know this without seeing your work?  Because art is about the labour of love. It is as much about the concept, the creative process, the passion of the artist, as it is about the finished piece.  I personally love to see a wonky stitch, a smudged pencil line, a piece of ribbon that is a fraction too short, because it reminds me that is has been handmade, that it was a labour of love, that the artist has given me a piece of themselves.  It reminds me that it was made by a human being, not mass-produced in some factory, and that we are all vulnerable and fallible.

And that, fellow artists, is a beautiful thing.

See it through their eyes

And so, the next time you feel disgusted, frustrated, distraught because of a piece of your own art, don’t discard it yet! First, do what I am *trying* to do myself: Look at it through someone else’s eyes. If you have someone whose opinion your trust (which I know as an artist is difficult), then ask them what they think. Stand back yourself and look at it as if you were not a knitter/illustrator/cardmaker. Ask yourself, would a layperson notice that stitch? That smudge? That wonky ribbon?  Would they care even if they did? Is that flaw the only reason you are not happy with your work?  How about the 99 other stitches that are perfect?  Can it be fixed? Altered?

Does it even need to be?

If at the end of all of that you still don’t even want to look at it, then fair enough.  But instead of throwing it away, can it be used for a giveaway? Sold for seconds? Give as a present? Used for scraps???  Even if the only thing you can take away from that particular piece is a lesson learned, then it still has great worth.

And, hey, if you do still decide to chuck it, I’ll happily take it off your hands! 😉

Here are some of the pieces I have made and then hated… Feel free to share links to some of yours in the comments.

 

niobe

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An Apple a Day

Apples remind me of my mother

My mother is a retired nurse. She came to the UK at the age of 19, all the way from Barbados and moved from hospital to hospital until she settled on one in South West London. She lived out her career there as a paediatric nurse, and a darn good one at that.

Growing up, there wasn’t a pill, potion or proverb that my mother didn’t possess in order to fix whatever ailed us. But more often than not she’d conclude that drinking plenty of fluids, or having a cup of sweetened tea, was all that was necessary.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away

Whilst I only recall mother using this particular phrase once or twice, she loves to come out with these pearls of wisdom, as if she had coined them herself. This particular one reminds me of her and her relentless positivity. Her belief that, perhaps, we are all responsible for, and in control of, our own destinies.

Teacher’s Pet

Apples also remind me of my father. He’s a retired school teacher. 40 years in a boys school in South West London and he managed to earn the respect and admiration of most, if not all, of his students. One of his ex-students is now an MP, and even in his 40s, this man still refers to my father as “Sir” when he’s campaigning door-to-door.

An apple for Teacher

My father would always stand up for his students if they’d been wronged, would always fight their corner when others had washed their hands of them. He was an awesome teacher; firm but fair and so down to earth that the boys always wanted to be in his good graces. I’m not sure that any of them bought him actual apples, but metaphorically speaking, he had an orchard full.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree… Except sometimes it does.

So apples remind me of my mother. And apples remind me of my father. But I am my own person and I’ve always been a bit of a rebel. So while I wanted to create something that reminded me of my parents, I of course had to put my own, silly, sarcastic spin on things.

So I took an apple… made it pretty… and then made it… well… me! 🙂

 

niobe

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Sea Life Trio

It started with blue.

My button art pieces are inspired by many different things. Sometimes something I’ve seen, sometimes a suggestion from a friend. This week I was inspired by a colour. I bought a pack of gems, which were beautiful shades of blue and turqoise, and I knew I wanted to use them. But what to make? Well, the colourway instantly made me think of the sea, and much of my button art so far has been of animals, so it wasn’t long before the idea of a seahorse came to mind.

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After some playing around to get the shape right,  Sid was born.  I should say here that I name all my button art, it started with Eddie the Elephant; he was such a grand labour of love that I felt he’d taken on a life of his own, that he deserved a name, and the trend has since continued.

Sid is stunning – if i do say so myself! -and I was very pleased with him, but for the first time I felt that even though he was finished, I wasn’t.

So the following day I made Doris…

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…and then yesterday, Trevor joined the fun.

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I’m not sure if they are meant to be together, like a triptych, or whether they’re just a ‘range’ within my art, but there you have it. Perhaps i’ll male them some more friends, perhaps they’ll stay as a triple act. Who knows?

Sometimes thats the thing with art, you end up with something that has almost manifested itself. I certainly didn’t plan this gorgeously sparkly trio of sea life, but here they are.

sealife trio

And it all started with blue.

What inspires you?

niobe