There has been a lot of murmurs in the fiber arts community about fair wages and pricing of our products. There has been some opposition as well to the views of Abby Franquemont. Abby is trying to explain that fiber artists, in particular teachers of classes at venues, are not being treated or paid fairly. While this saddens me, I don't think it was shock to me. As a person "in the biz" I understand completely the wrongdoing of the market and of other fiber artists. I use to be one of those wrongdoers (on accident as most are of course) so I can speak about my road to remediation and redemption. I have been to three venues (money and travel time aren't my friends so I am limited to what I can visit). When I was in Edinburgh, I went to the first and second years of The Glasgow School of Yarn and to the first year of The Edinburgh Yarn Festival (fun fact if you ever go to this festival if you keep walking to the corner and turn and go about halfway down the street there is a heavy looking door, next to that door is a window... that used to be where I lived! LOL. Don't scare the now resident please though). While now living in rural West Virginia I have been to Maryland Sheep and Wool. I have only taken classes at TGSY, one each year. I don't remember what I paid for them, but they were more then worth whatever menial amount it cost to attend. I took the Plug and Play shawl class and a lovely spinning class on how to spin thinner.
To think that maybe my teachers, who were beyond happy go lucky and very informative, might be mistreated at other festivals was unthinkable. So based on this I took a hard look at my shop, to see if I was part of the problem or part of the solution. I found I was part of the problem, competitively underselling my products based on jaded experiences I had at farmer's markets and craft fairs. So I decided to become part of the solution, allowing for fair market prices of my work AND the work of others. I am responsible for supply and demand, therefore I am responsible for not only myself but my fellow artists getting the value we all deserve. My prices are higher then some other dyers, either due to a wholesale account that would be lower if I actually sold more or the included shipping I offer to not only the USA but to Canada. But, my prices are also lower then A LOT of the market of "big business" indie dyers, I don't have the following for those prices, I don't make repeatable colors, and I definitely don't have the sources to sell at that price point (yet).
I was jaded at the first craft fair I went to, they put me in a horrible place, I was the ONLY fiber artist there, and I wasn't even mentioned in the bulletin even though I paid my dues like everyone else. I sold NOTHING, yup 8 HOURS and nothing sold. I lost 50GBP. My little business can't handle those kinds of losses but it took time to recover. I changed what I sold, rebranded and went on my merry way to Etsy. I sold stuff here and there, fiber just isn't my market, hand dyed yarns and mainly hand-spun yarns are my forte. When I moved back to the USA, I did a farmer's market with some inventory I had left (I did a consignment to Ginger Twist Studios right before I left... she sold out quickly upon opening which helped my confidence). Much to the chagrin of my fellow farmer's market vendors, I sold at least 1 thing EVERY Saturday I set-up, sometimes outselling them as well (not that we were in a competition but you know how it goes).
My hand-spun has always been a struggle for me to price. I want people to buy it but how do I price it? Some of the fiber I got for free and some I had well before I owned a business. So I undersold... by a lot. Now I have bit the bullet and figured out my prices. Again, I am trying to be part of the solution, I need to price so not only my work but my fellow artists' work is taken seriously. So in the next post I will explain my pricing methods, they aren't conventional and its why it makes it harder for people to figure out how I get to my prices but they work for me and my market.
So to finish off this novel of a post, I chose to be a fiber artist. I dedicated YEARS of my life to the business, education of my fiber arts, and honing my skills that now I can dye and spin productively. You as a consumer expect to pay for my experience and expertise, you want good quality items that don't have problems, fair pricing, and good customer service. You as a customer are not paying for my living however, that's not your job, it's mine. You see a good price on a yarn that looks identical to mine and you're going to buy the cheaper yarn, even though it may be the exact same quality as mine. However, that person may just be starting out, they haven't learned how their yarn reacts or how customers react or if the market swings out of favor their profit margins make them go out of business. Only because I didn't get sales, it made me look at my products in a different light. I looked "cheap" so I decided to VALUE myself and my products for how good they really were and what prices they should be listed for on Etsy. The Farner's Market helped with that, I got to see what people wanted, what they liked as colors, what they would change, and what they gravitated towards. That took two years to compile that knowledge base, I live in a county of 9000 people and I made connections where there wasn't any before. Unlike the UK, fiber arts is still this granny or hipster thing to do and it is not for the masses. I am competing in a much more supplied market then before and it has taken its toll but I as I rebuild I hope just sheer perseverance will help, plus my husband is an awesome salesman, he talked bikers into buying pink yarn!