Craftspeople don’t go in to their work with the anticipation to earn lots of money. Making things tends to come without the desirable salary of other professions, and if it’s yourself you’re working for then there’ll be no so called ‘ladder’ to climb or the perks and security of a company job. Want a pay rise? Work faster.
It seems an unjustified fact, if you sit and give it any thought, that someone who develops the skills and finesse of a craft shouldn’t be as well paid as other professionals, but I think it’s a fact that most of us accept, and go in to our work regardless because we understand there’s more to life than money, and our craft is part of who we are and what we love.
But being undervalued is something I find much harsher than being underpaid. Most things today are made by machine and produced on mass, so naturally items made by hand will be expensive compared, and perhaps unaffordable for a majority of needs. There are two occasions though where I find the attitude towards the price of handmade items annoyingly wrong.
Firstly is when mass produced items are considered more valuable. People dismiss handmade wares because they know that they’re ‘too expensive’, and yet they will empty the over stocked shelves of a toy shop at Christmas, fighting over the last plastic encased piece of plastic, formed to have a vague resemblance to something which will remain on trend for the rest of this month, probably. This doesn’t only apply to toys; there are examples of almost any object, including furniture, where the price doesn’t relate to the amount of time or skill gone in to making them, or their quality and ability to last (shoes and handbags are excellent examples of this). This suggests that handmade is more affordable than it is perceived to be, but it just isn’t sought after in the same way as a fashionable brand.
The second attitude annoys me the most. This is when I hear people who make things with their hands, call other craftsman’s work overpriced. I see this more than you might expect, and whilst it isn’t as broad a problem as the first, it bothers me and it‘s hypocritical. If a maker can’t respect the work and time of another maker, then do they not respect their own work, or expect other people to? Expensive does not mean overpriced, and not having the need or budget to purchase something yourself doesn’t always make it the later. A craftsman can make furniture, like myself, but they could equally build workbenches (also like me), make beautiful hand tools, or make items that are not out of wood at all. It should come natural to feel equal respect.
One of the quirks of where we live is having a working pottery nearby. This is small in scale and run together by a couple. We could buy our plates and tea cups from a cheap supermarket and save a few much needed pounds, but we don’t need them often and when we do it is a lovely experience to pop down to the workshop and select a couple of bits fresh out of the kiln. I seek irregularities in size and colour because to my eye that’s always where the beauty lies. These are far from overpriced; we could spend a lot more on items from a factory. And there is a lovely cycle in knowing that they have been made with pride and pleasure, and that for such a small thing they can add their own bit of joy to your day, every time you warm your hands on your cup and feel the roughness of baked clay against the smooth glaze. Just a small reward for learning to value our crafts.