Owning the energy…

Having worked my way thru countless art fairs, craft fairs, harvest festivals, farmers markets, gallery openings and gift shops, I have watched varied reactions to the price of fine art, and hand crafted items.  Too many times i have seen someone pick up one of my favorite pieces from a recent firing, one that shouted to me from the back of the kiln with its fire touched glaze, saying “look at me!! I’m here! I survived!”— and watched them glance at the price and quickly put it down, even saying to a shopping partner, “ooof, toooo expensive!”

A spinner friend of mine, Sarah, recently put a beeee-autiful piece on etsy.  Its a cowl (pictured to the left) that she knit from wool that she not only spun, but dyed previously to that.   She has taken workshops and worked for years on her own to perfect some gorgeous spinning technique.  When I asked her how she had made this piece- what kind of knit stitch and dying/spinning questions, she replied:

“This was the second half of the 8 oz roving I dyed in fiber form. I spun a singles in thick and thin, then coil plied it with three different colors of cotton/poly thread held together. It’s knit into a moebius – three rows of knit, three rows of purl – alternated.”

Wow…she did everything short of go out to the pasture and shear the sheep!  Sarah probably wouldn’t view any of what she did as a ‘big deal’… but not everyone can do that… and that is why hand crafted things cost more. They are not made by some machine in a foreign country, from a machine made polyester fiber that was made from recycled water bottles.

Items like this are made by real people, with lives and kids…pets and spouses…people that are trying to figure out how to fit in some ‘art time’, some spinning time, some potting time, in between their jobs, their obligations, their kids’ soccer games.  Real people that had a vision for the piece before it was birthed…a vision that they mulled in their mind how to make tangible, a vision that they wrestled thru with the fiber, the dye, the paint, the clay, the wire, the beads, the glass, the paper…real people that then created and breathed thru that process…and offered it to the public…

When you pick up a piece of art, a hand crafted item, you are picking up the experience of the making, you are picking up the energy of the artist, the process and birth of the piece.  You are being given the opportunity to own the evolution of the piece from birth…the story…

how do you put a price on that?

Love the one you’re with

Did I tell you about the Farmer’s Market!?  Last week i was out and about doing a bit of garage saling, and came across a sign – itty bitty sign- for the Farmers Market here in town.  I thought maybe there might be vegetables, and i LOVE homegrown veggies.  There wasn’t.  But what there was was a little collection of a few souls braving a chilly Saturday morning selling their wares.  There was Herb- selling home made scones and bread, Sarah- selling fiber and handspun yarn- and a wonderful woman (whose name escapes me at the moment) selling home made jams and jellies.  I spent a bit of time talking to Sarah, telling her i learned how to spin last winter, of course buying over $30 of fiber, and asking if the market was open to anyone.  She explained that for the small price of $20, one could set up and sell handmade crafts.

Many years ago I used to sell at many craft fairs- paying up to $300 for a booth fee. There are ins and outs to this game, such as picking the right fair, and time of year, bringing the right merchandise, and gauging your competitors.  I gave up the craft fair circuit, deciding the cost and difficulty of traveling- often with children- didn’t pay in the long run.

But here was an opportunity, right down the street, for $20/week…no travel required…i didn’t have to pack pots for a trip equal to a covered wagon voyage over the Rockies…and only 4 hours of time, not an entire weekend eaten up in travel and sitting.

this could work.

So i finished glazing a load of pots, threw them into the kiln and fired on Thursday, hoping to unload on Friday and take them to the market on Saturday.  It sortof worked out that way.  My kiln didn’t fire the way i was hoping- a pyrometer malfunction late at night left me firing blind til 3am.  The pots were …eh…OK.  Not my best work, but I had a challenge and i was determined to take something to the Saturday morning soiree.

I persevered.  Priced pots, packed them and procured my bags/newspapers and a money box.  Got a table, figured out a way to display and packed the car.

Saturday morning found me sitting in the sun, drinking coffee out of a thermos, eating one of Herb’s home made scones, and chatting with Sarah.  The buying crowd was scant, preferring fresh rhubarb (from Mr. Gordon at the end of the market) and Herb’s bread to pottery.  I sold one mug, which paid for my booth fee.

but you know what? I had a fabulous time!

connecting with people that are willing to come out on a Saturday morning to buy a scone or look at pottery was invigorating!  when i used to do big fairs, it was about the money and could i recoup my booth fee? Could i deal with the fact that a guy next to me who was selling plywood cutouts of women bending over in the garden was selling out, while i was only managing to unload low dollar items?  Was I going to clear enough inventory to make room for Christmas items for the next fair?  It really all came down to money- and it soured me on fairs.

this on the other hand was about sunshine, scones and simply sitting and enjoying the day… i have grown.