Friday, May 2, 2008

For the Love of the Craft

I came back a couple weeks ago from the most wonderful vacation that my husband and I have ever taken. We went to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC and stayed at the Inn at the Estate on Monday and Tuesday. (I highly recommend this, BTW). Wednesday night we went to another (cheap) hotel in Asheville so we could look around town a little. We specifically stayed in Asheville for another night so that we would have time to go to the Southern Highland Craft Guild Folk Art Center with the Allanstand Craft store inside. I anticipated this being one of the highlights of the trip.

As much as I hate to admit it, I was disappointed. The exhibits were fantastic. I really enjoyed seeing the various crafts they had displayed and the history about how they developed in the area. Everything displayed had the name of the person who had done it, the name of the piece and how much it cost. Holy. Crap. Thousands of dollars for some of this stuff. I didn’t sweat it too much. After all, that’s why they have gift shops, right? So that people who aren’t made of money can shop a little too. Evidently I was wrong. That particular shop, as well as many others I’ve noticed recently, doesn’t think that way.

We walked into the shop and immediately started browsing. We picked up a pair of ceramic candle holders: $50 (each!). A ceramic coffee mug: $50. A medium sized glass vase: $42. A wooden box not big enough to hold a deck of cards: $112. A hand woven scarf: $66. An unframed print: $100. 5 inch carved figurine: $40. 10 inch cornhusk doll: $40. That’s not even a drop in the bucket. Without a doubt, some of the most beautiful work I’ve ever seen. Would I pay those prices for any of it? No. Not just no. Hell no. And I don’t know many middle class people who could afford to fork over that much money for something that wasn’t necessary either.

I don’t know everything involved in making every craft, not even a little, but I do know enough about the raw materials involved in some crafts to recognize that some crafters are making much more than a 100% profit from their work. Trust me when I say that the person who made those corn husk dolls didn’t spend even $10 in money or time, no matter how beautiful they were.

I realize that there is a fine line between what is considered art and a craft and that’s why such exorbitant prices are sometimes charged, but at what point are we doing whatever our craft of choice is for the love of the craft or the money it can potentially bring? I don’t understand it and probably never will. If I ever charge such outrageous prices for the crafts that I do and the few that I sell, I’d like for someone to kick me. Hard.


Squishypig said...

I agree with your assessment of some crafts just being overpriced. I don't doubt that they were all beautiful but I certainly would not pay those prices either!

When we went to the Biltmore, we also stayed at The Inn and it was wonderful!!!

justkc said...

Wow, that is crazy! I haven't been to a craft show in ages. I was considering going to an upcoming one in town but you are making me scared! LOL!

Monica said...

Craft Shows aren't nearly as expensive! I think this was partly how they set things up.

Vanessa Grubbs said...

What you may not know is the artist only gets 50% of what the gallery price is. Take away from what the artist gets the price of their matrials, the cost it takes to get the work there (shipping or drving it there) and the artist is lucky if they are really getting 20% of what the retail is. So that $50 mug--the maker is lucky if they get $18 for it after all of their overhead. No one, except maybe the gallery owner is getting rich off of it. And as a professional artist, who shows her work across the US, I know all about this stuff. We are all used to getting CRAP from china, that workers make pennies for. For an artist in the USA to be able to make a living (and I'm not talking rich) their work will always be more costly, that what you can find at Target, Pier One.

Monica said...

Thanks to knowing you for so long, I do know that. That's why I will always prefer, when able, to buy from the artist or crafter.