There is a generally held belief that handmade products are expensive - too expensive. Craftspeople selling their products at fairs and craft shows, and even shops selling handcrafted products hear it all the time.....sometimes said with just a raised eyebrow, sometimes whispered to a companion, but often straight to their faces.....
"Really? Why should I pay THAT MUCH when I can buy something exactly like it at _______ (fill in the blank with the name of any High Street shop) for half the price?!"
There is a legend amongst craftspeople.....
A jeweller was set up at a craft show, handcrafted jewellery beautifully displayed, when a customer appeared in front of her stand and said loudly, "That necklace is OK, but I won't pay any more for it than I would at the shop in town. " With remarkable restraint, the jeweller pointed out that the necklace was handmade, and therefore the price was slightly higher - to which the customer retorted - " I don't see how that makes any difference - it's just a bit of string, some beads and a clasp. Throw in a bit for your time, and it still should be cheaper than the shop's - you aren't paying rent or staff, or for a top designer to create it, after all." The jeweller thought for a moment, and then said, "Fine. I'll sell it to you for the same price as the shop's, but you'll have to wait a few days for me to send it to you." The customer happily handed over the money, and strolled away, thrilled to have made her case and beat down the craftsperson who was obviously intent on ripping off unsuspecting customers less astute than her.
So - What are you paying for when you buy handmade- and why is it more expensive?
It's Handmade. If you think about how machines work, making products faster and cheaper - well, handmade is the opposite. Handmade takes time and care, and not as many products can be made. Along the way, every single step is scrutinized to make sure the product is perfect - taking even more time, but resulting in a quality product. Hardly any craftspeople charge for all the time they take to make a product, by the way - the price would be sky high. Which leads us to........
The Craftsperson does EVERYTHING. Most of the processes involved in making the product are done by the maker - not just the design, but the selection of the materials, the working out of how to make the materials go together, assembling the product, photographing the product, marketing the product, designing the packaging, and posting, delivering, or activity selling the product...even the accounting! This is often done around caring for children, or maybe even another "real" job. Again, most craftspeople don't charge for all of this time and care, but it can't be denied that they put time, energy, heart, and soul into every piece they sell.
Materials are expensive. Most craftspeople try to find the best quality, most beautiful materials - which they can usually only buy in small quantities because they don't have the budget or the space to buy in bulk. This makes the materials more expensive for them than for High Street chains who can buy cheap manufactured components in bulk.
The craftsperson is an expert in their field. No matter how many years the craftsperson has been practising the craft, chances are they know more than the customer. Often they have completed degrees, or years of classes and workshops to learn their craft. Almost always they have invented a style or technique themselves.
And finally....The product is unique. The materials, the way they're put together, the little additions, and flourishes - each item is a one off. Often the product is bespoke. Bits and pieces can be tweaked. That necklace can be made exactly the right length....it can even be made to match that outfit you're wearing to the party next week. Bottom line - it's NOT exactly like the one in the High Street shop. In fact, it isn't exactly like any other product around.
A handmade product is more expensive because you're buying a unique item, made by hand by an expert in their field of the best materials. Included in the making of the product is time, energy, hours of work, and - most importantly, heart.
And the customer who wanted the necklace from the craftsperson - but wanted it at High Street prices? Imagine her delight upon receiving the beautifully wrapped parcel from the jeweller a few days after the craft fair. Our discerning customer was less delighted, however, as she opened the package to find some string, a clasp, and a few handfuls of beads - along with a pair of jewellers pliers and a note:
Dear Mrs. Smith, please find enclosed your necklace. As requested, I've sent you exactly the product you described. It's quite similar to the one I might have made for you at a slightly higher price, however, I haven't included anything which might make it more expensive than the High Street product.
I hope you enjoy your purchase!
Whether handmade is too expensive is a matter of opinion, I suppose - but then again......you get what you pay for.