But as I was thinking that, my brain skipped to a stream-of-consciousness thought and pondered if people in different parts of the world were making what I was making. I wondered if there was someone out there manufacturing ruffs and doing what I do by machine instead of by hand. I wondered if I could justify what I was charging, because my next thought was imagining a customer criticizing my prices and saying, "Why should I pay this much when I can get it from China a lot cheaper?"
And that prompted me to come in and type this blog post.
You see, there are LOTS of reasons why I charge the prices I do. And for all those boutique/art fair participants who might have shared this same train of thought as I have, this is for you, too.
First off, most items in art fairs, shows, and boutiques are just that: boutique items or art. These things aren't what a manufacturer is even interested in making---the profit margins are commonly too low. Manufacturing is about making large quantities of identical items, creating an assembly line process that makes the making cost effective. Most boutique and art fair items are generally created in such limited quantities, no manufacturer is going to bother spending the money creating the set up and buying the small amount of materials for such a small return on investment. It just isn't practical. My pieces are all made one at a time. And none of them are exactly the same.
Third, most items sold at fairs or in boutiques usually have a story behind them. Manufactured items generally do not. In fact, most manufactured items strive to rise above their origins of mass production, sometimes downplaying it and seeking a sense of individuality and uniqueness that simply isn't truly possible. The mass market is collapsing in certain areas as it becomes overtly obvious no one is really interested in owning exactly what everyone else has. If you're making 10,000 of the same thing, how original and unique is it? And why would someone want to pay a boutique price for it? I make my pieces for customers that don't want to look like everyone else, who value individual and dramatic appearance so they can stand out in a crowd.
Fourth, the specialty items at art fairs and in boutiques are sometimes made of materials that aren't optimal for manufacturing. Either the materials are too expensive (making the profit margin decrease to unacceptable levels) or they are too personal (vintage family fabrics, backyard views, local supply chains) or they are too unique (ruffs made out of scrap silk upholstery fabric, for example). Manufacturing can replicate the effect, but not the integrity or authenticity of their base ingredients. The materials themselves can be as important as the resulting art pieces. No one can make the neckwear I make with my great-grandmother's hand painted porcelain pieces. No one can exactly replicate my hand painted garments with the quality of my lines. And while it's possible to replicate some of the things I make... Well, honestly. Would you bother? Really? Truly? Without any creative input of your own?
So I'm not going to feel guilty about why I charge what I do. I'm not going to feel weird about making stuff that's so unique it's a novelty. I'm not going to stop moving forward in my efforts to create beautiful one-of-a-kind pieces that I know someday someone will figure out how to manufactur. Because what I'm making is only part of what I'm selling. And the same holds true for all you art fair artisans out there, and all those looking for that special boutique to sell your wares in (like me!).
And if I'm ever asked, "Why should I pay this much when I could get it from China a lot cheaper?", I'll simply tell them in return, "Go ahead. Good luck with that!"
Anyway, food for chain-of-thought.
Live Life with Relish!