Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I want to know why everyone assumes that just because you make stuff, you automatically want to sell it. Is it the strong entrepreneurial spirit that is so pervasive in our society? Anything and everything can be bought and sold? I find it hard to explain that I have absolutely no desire to sell my work. I never manage to make all the things I want to make for gifts or personal use, so where would I find the time to make many more to sell? Besides, I like having items around me (and on me) that are handmade by me or someone I know. Items that are totally not like anything anyone else has and completely personal to me. The anti-manufactured goods.

That’s not to say that I’m not totally onside with those who do make things to sell. More power to ‘em! But I’ve found that you just can’t put the same amount of time and effort - and perhaps heart as well - into something for sale. Otherwise nobody would be able to afford your work! For instance, take the Seaweed Shawl I’ve been knitting on and off for the last few months: how much would I have to charge to make even a single dollar per hour if I was to sell it? I can only get a couple of rows knit in an hour. There are a lot of rows in this shawl. And they keep getting longer. Soon it will take several hours to knit a row. And I haven’t even discussed the yarn dyeing I did first, with plants from my garden and several separate mordant and dye baths over a couple of days. Would someone pay several thousand dollars for it? I rather doubt it. And that wouldn’t even give me a living wage from the sale. I consider this type of project a labour of love and there are only a few people in the world worthy of this labour. I would give it away to one of them but I could never sell it for what it’s worth to me. Neither the Queen of England, Bill Gates nor the Sultan of Brunei could afford it. Isn’t that totally cool?

And that’s not to say that I haven’t ever sold anything I’ve made. Every once in awhile I succumb to the lure of money, but not often and not recently. The weird thing is that I mourn the loss of something I’ve sold much more than when I give it away. Particularly if I didn’t make it with an eventual owner (other than myself) in mind while I worked on it. Somehow when I think about the person as I knit their socks or whatever, then of course I have to give it to them when I’m finished because it never was mine to begin with. It was always theirs. Though as I’ve mentioned before, I have to know they want it and will appreciate it or that person never gets another handmade gift from me! I’m mean and stingy like that.

So what’s up currently? Besides the continuing story of the Frustrating Gloves (they have one more finger) and the socks for my BIL The Coach and the painfully slow going on the Seaweed shawl, yesterday afternoon I worked on a pencil case to hold all my PITT pens and other small drawing and painting items. I used some of my fabric swatches that I’ve made over the years at our Spectrum meetings. There’s sun printing, monoprinting, alizarin dye with iron rust patterns, rubber stamping and rubbings with Shiva oil paint sticks. All that in a piece that’s currently 12” X 12”:

Now I have to find some light batting or interlining and practice my free-motion quilting on the piece. And it does need much practice because I’m pretty lousy at it. More anon. I’ve got a weavers’ guild meeting tomorrow so I get to go hang out with my friends. And play in the library. And knit during the boring meeting parts. Good times.


Anonymous said...

You express this really well. Shortly after I took my first weaving class I went to a big-deal guild sale. There I saw tons things I would have *loved* to take home, which at the same time as being far too cheap for the labor that went into them, were far too expensive for me to buy. If I hadn't already known I wanted to weave, I would known then!

Your colors and patterns are great! I get a feeling of mysterious night-time Indian jungles.

Louisa said...

Ah, but wait until you see that fabric embellished with my free-motion quilting! Even more mysterious. Heh! Needs more practice.

Unknown said...

A friend of mine quizzed me on the whole "are you making things to sell" issue last week. I was really surprised, because, like you, I have too many ideas and too many things I feel inspired to make....and no desire to sell anything I make.

Glad to know I'm not the only one who gets that question!

I love the beginning of that pencil-case!! Great material & design!

Louisa said...

I'm actually amazed at how often I'm asked about selling. All I have to say is that I'm a fibre artist (which is easier than explaining all the stuff I do) and the next thing out of their mouth is "Oh, and where do you sell your work?" I used to say that I only sold my expertise not my work, but now that I've "retired" from teaching I can't even use that excuse!

Hope the pencil case lives up to the beginning potential! My FMQ leaves a lot to be desired. That's why I'm doing it on something that doesn't really matter much.

Sharon in Surrey said...

The last time someone asked if I sold socks I said YES. And said I wanted $50 a pair. She paid. I knit. I think I was too shocked to do anything else at that point.

Ev said...

I have knitted on commission a couple of times. The last thing I knitted (Rowan's Butterfly Dress) netted me $10/hour, which was ok... more than minimum wage, at any rate.

Knitting to sell just isn't as much fun; it becomes work, yanno?

Louisa said...

That dress was absolutely gorgeous too! I'm glad you at least made more than minimum wage on it, but you must knit incredibly fast. It would have taken me the better part of a year thus reducing my hourly rate down to about the usual 50 cents. Yup. It's no fun if you HAVE to do it.

Anonymous said...

I love this post!