Saturday, December 5, 2015

I Can Buy It For Half That, The Big Box Mentality - A Buyers Guide To Handmade

Just in time for Christmas some words on handmade.  Etsy sellers are now up against Chinese factories, other businesses constantly stealing our ideas and sometimes even our photos and descriptions and then undercutting us.  Etsy used to only be for artisans but those days have long since past.  For many of us our Etsy business is our ONLY business and these tactics can really hurt.  

Look at the "about me" profiles and see who you are actually buying from.  You could be supporting a one woman run business like myself or an entire corporate entity overseas.  Think of the little guy toiling away all by themselves paying huge fees to survive and consider paying a few dollars more.  

A subject on the lips of many artisans is the big box mentality that has gripped many buyers.  Often a prospective buyer will pick up a handmade item and say “but it’s so expensive”.  These words are like fingernails on a chalkboard to handmade sellers.  In many cases they aren’t charging enough.  Is the item REALLY expensive or are you comparing it to something you would buy at a big box store? 



Why do prices vary so much and what am I paying for?  There is SO much more to handmade selling then what many realize.  First and foremost you are paying for the supply of the item, then the artists rate for the time they spent making the item, as well as the quality of the item.  More successful sellers can afford to buy in bulk wholesale but this takes hundreds of dollars.  On occasion a seller will come across items for a good price at an estate sale, flea market or other sellers destashing items they no longer want.  This is more the exception than the rule.  For the most part supplies are NOT at deeply discounted prices even at wholesale, unless you are buying super quantities for mass merchandising.  I've seen sterling silver range from $14 to $40 per ounce over the years.

Some sellers are hobbyists or new to selling and if they were to sit down and actually figure out how much they are making they would find that they are actually paying customers to buy their items.  Sellers have fees they must pay both to the site they sell on but also to Paypal, Google etc.  There are shipping costs for postage but also the gift wrap and shipping supplies.  There are advertising fees, photography, models, licensing, business cards, brochures, websites, blogs, gas, tutorials, classes, show fees and so on.  

More successful shops may have many sales in a single day, but many shops may have only a handful or sometimes no sales at all in an entire month!  When you sell handmade you get paid for your item and then have to deduct the cost of your supply, the cost of shipping, your sellers fees, your packaging, sales tax and income tax.  What is left over is your income.  Many shops put much more then 40 hours into making their craft successful but there is no check at the end of the week for all the hours worked.





Big box shops have warped the mentality of many buyers.  All they see is the dollar amount.  Big box shops are run by corporations that use the cheapest supply possible and hire the cheapest workers.  Many items are made by machine or assembly line.  While these workers need these jobs to survive the conditions are deplorable at best.  Your money is essentially going into the pockets of the already filthy rich.  Most of this work is sent to third world countries where restrictions are lax and labor is cheap.  Child labor is very common.  Then the product doesn’t last.  It simply falls apart sometimes in a matter of weeks.  Mass production is polluting our planet.  Huge corporate entities like this continue to ignore our environment causing the continuous deterioration of our air, land and water.  Is it really worth what you saved?


Resellers have also broken into the handmade market claiming their items are handmade.  Look closely at shops.  Is there a bio telling you about the artist?  Do they have a website?  A face book page?  If a shop opens and immediately has a large amount of hard to make items it’s unlikely they are truly handmade.  These items take time!  Don't be afraid to email or message your seller.  Ask them questions if you'd like.



Shops have been known to buy cheaply made items and resell them for higher amounts.  Or handmade items are again made not by an individual artist but by the same type of conditions I listed above. Some sites frequently steal the exact photos (sometimes watermarked even) from artisan listings, the listing description and all and have the products made overseas.  Due to the lax laws artists can only request they cease and desist but they have no real legal obligation to do so in other countries.  
 
When you buy true handmade you are supporting a person.  Read about them in their bios.  Find out who they are.  What went into making that item?  It was made with their own two hands and if you are buying a quality item it should last.  You might even consider handing it down to a friend or family member.  Really look at the intricacies in the work.  You may not realize the amount of time that goes into making your item.  Buy handmade, it’s good for the soul!



Friday, August 10, 2012

Man Made Seaglass Ugh How Could You?

Today I am going to post about something that has been weighing heavily on my mind.  The man made versus genuine sea glass issue and a nasty message I received from another “genuine sea glass” seller. I carry both in my shop and the reasons are many fold.  Being that honesty and integrity are paramount to me I believe it a subject that must be addressed.  I can personally pick out man made glass immediately but many shoppers can't and I have seen shop after shop that do not note anywhere in the listing that the piece is man made.  No two ways about it I feel that is deceptive.  Period.

In my shop I state in the very first one or two lines "man made glass".  I again list it in the materials.  Calling it "seaglass" or "beachglass" is actually a trademarked name by the companies that produce it and therefor correct.  Not only that someone searching for man made glass of this type is indeed looking for a seaglass product.  However I find it important to let the customer know that it is indeed man made.  I get many inquiries about it and some buy and some don't.  




Sea glass in and of itself is becoming increasing rare.  Most sea glass was born from dumps and dumping off boats and the like.  This is now illegal in most parts so finding sea glass is more rare than in days past.  Certain types of glass were from medicine bottles, dishware etc. from hundreds of years ago.  Once these items are exhausted they simply cease to exist.  

The mere thought of man made glass can make many genuine collectors cringe. That being said sea glass collecting is serious business.  A tiny piece of red or orange glass can be like finding a diamond.  An itty piece of jewelry with one of these colors can range into the hundreds.  

The reasons I choose to use some man made pieces are many.  Rarity of colors is a big one.  There simply is no possible way no matter how many days I searched that I would be able to be able to find this many pieces of orange glass.  In the rare case that I did it would cost thousands.  Between the amount of time it would take to collect and the rarity of it the price would be astronomical!

Second reason is shape.  Many shapes simply do not occur in nature.  Even if you were able to create it you have destroyed the integrity of the piece by severely altering it.  Teardrops, rondelles, squares etc. are an extremely rare occurrence and the likeliness of finding matching pieces is slim to none. 






Uniform nuggets of this size would take literally years to find.  Blue again is becoming one of the rarer colors.  Very unlikely even if you found this much blue glass it would not be all the same color.  Even if you found more common pieces like green, white or brown it would take a very long time.  Finding big chunks like this usually doesn't happen.  Sometimes you can find them from old bottle stoppers but usually sea glass is thin from bottles, dishware etc.


 


Certainly it wouldn't be the cost of the orange but still a hefty price tag.  Some sellers of genuine glass actually buy it from sea glass sellers so they aren't out there foraging for weeks, months and years to find pieces.  For me I feel it's part of my art.  On a rare occasion friends or family will gift me pieces but even then THEY have labored to find those gems and they were not simply bought from another seller.  And I disclose even that in my listings along with where the piece was found.

You simply wouldn't be able to recreate these type of items and as someone who lives solely on the income of my shop having items that people desire that you can never remake doesn't bode well for business.

My tusk necklaces simply don't occur in nature that I have found.  I've never found a tusk shape.  If you could find them judging from my time searching oh it might take you about 50 years of searching daily to create a necklace.  A rare one?  Not even possible.



So does that mean that I simply string together the pieces from a prestrung line of glass and voila?  Hardly.  Each bracelet and necklace is laid out and created over about an hours time.  Many pieces that I feel are not quality are discarded.  Holes are many times not drilled straight, this piece won't lay flatly next to this one, this piece is much too thick etc.  I will string, inspect and remove and replace pieces many times before an item is created.  It may take me a pile of 50 pieces or more to create one necklace trying many different combinations before it is complete. They must all lay properly and complement each other in the design I have created.  Nuggets again cannot be too large and must be certain shapes to be able to give a bracelet the ability to bend and fit neatly against each other or large gaps will be seen.

For this piece it still required me to drill each and every piece of glass to be able to accommodate the leather.



While man made glass is not for everyone it gives new options in shape not previously available and the opportunity to have affordable pieces.  If you are looking for genuine sea glass simply search my shop for "genuine sea glass". 

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