I’ve often wondered what one of my embroideries or quilts is worth in monetary terms. As in, should I ever want to sell one, what would be a reasonable asking price?
I do a lot of browsing on Etsy.com and I’m often shocked at the prices – not because they’re too high, but because for the most part they’re too low.
From a purely business point of view, price needs to take into account materials, overheads and, most importantly, labour. Take, for example, this quilt:
I’m guesstimating the time it took me to piece the top at about 500 hours – this excludes preparation, cutting, sandwiching, hand quilting and binding time. Tack on another 100 hours for that. Say I value my time at £15 an hour. That brings my labour cost alone to £9 000. Add a minimum of £100 for 100% cotton fabric, including backing and binding fabric. And another £20 for cotton batting and thread. That’s £9 120, excluding overheads. Using the standard retail pricing formula of 3 x (materials, labour and other costs) brings the retail price to £27 360.
Would you pay that for this quilt? Honestly, I’m not sure that I could afford it. But that’s what it is worth.
I realise I’ve chosen my most time-intensive quilt to date to illustrate my point, but it makes you think. Especially when quilts are being sold online for anywhere from £5 for baby quilts to £200 for double bed quilts. The most expensive I’ve come across recently was £320 for a king-size bed quilt. Buyers are having a laugh.
It brings the question of craft as art to mind. Why is an intricate and creative piece of embroidery more often than not viewed as nice, but not worth much more than the fabric it’s stitched on, while random splashes of paint on a giant canvas and a bit of waffle to back it up are capable of commanding up to six figures?
And why are there so few master craftsmen and women in the world today. Less than 100 years ago, these were lucrative and desirable professions. Could it be because it’s no longer possible to make a living from craft alone?
Mass production, information and technology have ridden roughshod over previously essential trades. Handmade has become a hobby, rather than a necessity. And those who create by hand need to command more respect when it comes to putting a price on their time and talent – or risk undervaluing their own efforts, as well as undercutting those of others in the handmade sector.