Makers and Their Ever Underestimated Labor of Love
I still remember the day I picked up embroidery art. Literally. I used to live in a commune in a large hotel turned apartment building in Chicago, Illinois. Often times if someone was spring cleaning, organizing their space, etc., a box of items would go into the hallway in a box marked “up for grabs”. I was rifling through one of these said boxes outside my neighbors door one day and I saw a box full of bright, colorful thread I only had ever used to make friendship bracelets when I was 10 (Also, can we please bring friendship bracelets back? Thanks.) and what I found out was an embroidery hoop. The day I reclaimed those threads and that warped, stripped, old ass hoop was about 13 years ago. No one taught me a single stitch, and yet since that day, I have created countless embroidered pillows, hoops, patches, ornaments, and various doodads. Two years ago, I started Thread Fox Handmade Goods and it has truly been a labor of love.
So now that we’ve covered a good chunk of the “love” part of what I do, I want to talk about “labor”.
Making something by hand is hard.
It’s hard fucking work.
No matter how much you adore what you do, putting aside your time and money and resources to create something beautiful is painful and hard and exhausting. It is physically draining. It is emotionally draining. It is mentally draining. It is financially draining.
It is for these reasons why it’s even more painful to see my prices scoffed at by potential buyers or drastically undercut by other artists (or those rat bastards at Target that sell cheeky, screen printed “embroidery hoops” that are mass produced and sold for under $10 bucks). It’s so hard to wrestle with wondering if my prices really are too high and then I look at my cracked and calloused fingers that ache from stitching through stiff canvas for four hours straight, only to have another six to eight ahead of me before my hoop will be finished and it’s only then that I know what I’m charging is worth it. It’s soul-crushing at times to have so many amazing ideas for your next creative project but they all have to be put on hold because you have a list a mile long of client commissions that need to be completed first.
I love embroidery. But for me, it’s more than just a fun thing I do in my spare time. It’s hours upon hours upon hours of work for just one piece from conception to the final stitch. It’s investing in high-quality materials only to hope it pays off by making a sale. It’s time and care and obsession over making a custom order just right.
Embroidery isn’t the only art form that takes a hell of a lot of work. I know countless designers, stylists, painters, artists of so many different mediums who dedicate themselves to their craft. And every single one of them can tell you how hard it is for them to have their work truly valued by their clients.
So here are some things to consider if you find yourself thinking critically about the cost of someone’s artistic work.
It was hard to make
I know you think you could make it yourself and you could make it cheaper. Even if you could, it doesn’t change the fact that what you’re looking at likely wasn’t thrown together in five minutes and was magically awarded a $500 price tag. Art is hard to make. It takes time to make, it takes time to learn and perfect the skills used to make it. A full-size blanket that took hours and days and weeks to crochet was not easy to make. That drawing or painting probably took tons of careful planning before an instrument even touched the canvas and it likely got completely scrapped twice before ending up the work of art you see at the end.
They aren’t “overcharging” for that piece or service
Seriously. I guarenfuckingtee you they are not. When you add up the total cost of materials used, packaging and shipping (which always has to be “free” now, thanks, Amazon) we are often barely making a profit off of what we provide. Even with embroidery, which is on the lower end of pricey when it comes to the cost of materials, I have to take into account a plethora of items required to make and send each individual piece and we’ve not even talked about the time that goes into it! For an average of a six-inch hoop, I would say it takes me six to nine hours, depending on the complexity of the piece. When you take out the cost of materials, shipping, and handling, I’m making three to four dollars an hour for my time. So please, please for the love of god, don’t tell me or anyone else that we are charging too much for the work we literally shed blood, sweat, and tears over.
It’s not “just a hobby”
Just because this is something I enjoy doing doesn’t mean it’s a hobby. I run a business. And others do too. We file taxes. It eats up our spare time. We have carefully curated business policies and pricing models and formulas and systems in place to make what we do work. And the money it brings in? It goes towards bills, groceries, therapy, more materials, gas, diapers and cat food. It may be something we love doing but reducing it to a hobby insinuates that we do it just for the fun of it and while that may be true for some artists, it shouldn’t negate the skill it took to create and the compensation it deserves.
Don’t steal my stuff
Don’t. Do not. Don’t do it. We already have to deal with Walmart and Target being the one stop shop for mass-produced artwork at prices a fraction of what we charge for our time and skills. Don’t take my design and have someone else make it “cheaper” than I can. Don’t share my pieces without giving me credit.
And, I can’t believe I have to say this: don’t steal someone’s designs and pass it off as your own. This is despicable and one of the worst insults you could make towards someone who has given their life to creating beautiful things. Imitation is not flattery here.
Always ask permission. Always credit the artists. Don’t steal their shit.
Please remember that it’s often hard for us to charge our worth, but we do it because it’s what makes doing what we love possible.
Please consider supporting your local businesses, small businesses and those who make handcrafted art.
We work hard.
We’re worth it.
Here are some #ShopSmalls that we love here at Candor and I hope that you will check them out!