Saturday, March 22, 2014

Joy-Zings and Murmurs

A few weeks ago I heard that The Artisan's Barn in Readfield is closing. Today I was told that the owners of another Central Maine store that carries my work are looking to sell their business. I'm not going to name them here because I don't think it's public yet, and anyway I wouldn't want a google search to reveal something that I said that might affect their situation; they are getting out because they just aren't making enough money for the time they put in. Or practically money at all.

Honestly, I don't think this reflects badly on either store. It's just a marker of how very damn hard it is to make any money selling handmade goods. If my understanding is correct, both stores would have been out of business a long time ago were it not for the owners essentially providing free labor, and labor donated by artists in exchange for a lower commission percentage.

It isn't really anyone's fault. It costs more to produce handmade things, and not just a little more. That makes handmade harder to sell to the majority of people, who work for their money, too, and have to choose how to spend it in the way that best benefits their families. I'm not even necessarily talking about people like many artists, who might be choosing "pay the electric bill" over "handwoven dishtowels." Even people who are very comfortable financially might not see why they should spend $28 on a dishtowel, even if the money would be insignificant to them. Why should they care if a weaver somewhere worked for two hours to make it, if their experience of drying dishes seems no better, to them? If we charge enough for both the maker and the seller to get paid a living wage, the price is out of most people's reach. And if the people who could  purchase handmade don't see what they get out of it, well...

Find them here!
 I myself have handprinted dishtowels, a treat for myself a couple of years back, and you know what? It does enhance the experience of drying dishes, for me. I also have hand-dyed pot holders, a purchase at CraftBoston one year. I bought them because I loved the quilter's work so much it felt like I just had to take some part of it with me, and though they were only $30 for three, I remember thinking it was a profligate purchase, for me. They give me a little zing of joy every time I see them. Years of joy-zings, for only $30! A bargain, as it turns out. I've had mugs that seem to murmur soothingly on some subsonic level, and a pair of salad tongs that make my heart sing. If only everyone heard that song, felt those zings.

I guess I'm feeling a little down with this news; starting to get the feeling that I am a wheelwright in a hovercraft world. So, blah, let's talk about something happier, like NCECA.

Oh, wait, that's not happier, not for me, because I'm not there. Wasn't there; it's over now. Every year I promise myself I will get there next year, and every year there just isn't money to make that happen. But next year is the real next year; NCECA is in Providence, RI, only a four hour drive from Augusta. If I can't get to Rhode Island, I might as well give up. But I can. I'll wear a red carnation so folks who only know me online will recognize me.

See you in Providence.

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