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[personal profile] ayalanya
I'm just getting this out of my system - I'm angry, and not sure I'm right to be angry, but I don't want this simmering in my head right now.

About eight or nine years ago, I had just started selling my jewelry. I was charging almost nothing for the work itself, focusing instead on recouping the cost of materials, and I decided to vend at an SCA May Day event. One woman came up to examine my stuff, and asked "what makes this necklace $20?". I explained, somewhat brusquely, how much it had cost to make it. She said "oh" and walked away.

A few years earlier, a church acquaintance commissioned a set of four drawings/paintings for her family for Christmas. When I told her how much she could expect to pay ($20/painting), she seemed very surprised. She bargained me down to $20 total plus a thing I didn't actually want, a cutesy useless product she had just started making herself. When I delivered the paintings to her, she paid me $5, gave me two of her products instead of one, and returned the one I had done that depicted an African man (it was a fae four seasons set, and he was summer, sitting by a river that I assume was in Africa due to the book illustration I had drawn inspiration from. This was the first really obvious example of the quiet racism that permeated my childhood, which is why it sticks out for me). I wrote her a rather angry email and she delivered the remaining $15 the next day, a little sheepish.

Probably around the same time, I had an account on Elfwood to show off my drawings and paintings. Someone found my work and emailed me, asking for study drawings of people in various poses. I quoted my prices, and they said "forget I even asked". I think I was on LJ by then, I dunno, but I remember getting feedback from various friends online who said that I had in fact done the right thing by not offering to do it for free.

So back to jewelry. I've been told for years that my prices are too low, except by those who told me they were too high because they wanted to chase me out of their store (Broom Closet, I'm worth it now). Or, uh, other vendors who wanted a discount (I gladly offer discounts when I can afford it and when I have good reason - please don't ever *ask* me for a discount, though, because I will be rather peeved). I've submitted to some who were louder than others, foisting lists off to them and telling them to price my work instead (thank you, [personal profile] australian_joe - you taught me some excellent basics for pricing). My prices have remained extremely low for the materials and work involved, compared with just about every decent-sized retail you'll ever see selling work like mine. And the fact that silver was relatively cheap helped enormously; I had a huge stockpile thanks to being financially solvent for a while.

But that has changed.

I started making the elf ears. They've caught on - hooray! I've started to enjoy making them, although now that they're my main work, it feels weird and extremely fast and easy when I make anything else. Not complaining, mind. So now I'm almost out of silver, and it's time to order more, so the guy who ordered 20 pairs gave me an advance to buy more wire. Here's the thing - I quoted him a bulk rate and down payment before checking the current price of silver. I checked the price and...oh my god. It's nearly doubled since my last major wire order. I didn't notice because I always had plenty, so all I ever had to pay attention to was the fiddly details, like earring hooks and clasps and sometimes chains. So I sent in some scrap silver to trade for some of it, I used up almost all my stockpile to make half the order, and used his down payment to pay for the other half, because that's all it covers. Because my bulk rate was too low, I'm going to be making about $5/hour for these ears. For reference, before we had to let her go, I was paying my babysitter $20/hour. Because Scott's job is basically halved, he's been home a lot more, which thankfully takes care of the childcare issue.

So I gritted my teeth and made announcements in three places, spacing it out because I was terrified of the response. Finally today I announced it on my facebook page, and the first response was encouraging and sympathetic. I was so relieved. I'm finally worth my price! The next comment, from someone who is understandably upset at the thought of these things being out of reach, took me down from relief to anger and uncertainty, reminding me of the experiences above. Art is not taken seriously; it is a luxury. I expected this. But I do take it seriously, and I finally have the freedom to wrestle my way to the top without shifting focus. I have the balls to haul myself up. I'm not as meek or timid as I used to be (you can stop laughing - you'd be surprised at the bullshit I put up with when I was younger). I am going to DO THIS, and I am going to make a living at it. I'm not okay with making just enough to cover supplies anymore. I cannot afford to treat it as anything other than a job that's expected to pay me a living wage. If this is going to be my career, I need to make enough to cover living expenses, taxes, and if applicable, the childcare required to allow me to do my job. So yes - my prices are going up. They have to go up, or I cannot afford to do it anymore.
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August 2012

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