Monday, January 6, 2014

No, Really- Tell Me How to Live My Life. I'm So Very Interested

If you've ever been stuck, then you know the first thing to come your way is advice- lots and lots of well-intentioned (or harshly critical) advice, most of which has little bearing on your personal situation.

For a while now, I've been thinking of selling again. I've sold my crafts on and off for years. It is a very bumpy road, even if you make really awesome stuff that people want to buy. I have never made enough money off of sewing to support myself. I always need a full-time regular job to pay the bills. Crafting, at best, gives me a little extra money. I can buy more books or I can go out to eat more often. I get a little extra gas money or I can buy more groceries. Mostly, I buy more craft supplies, make more shit, and still don't come out ahead.

I've been trying to figure out a way to make more money without struggling quite as much. It would be nice if I sold my wares as soon as I created them, or if I could command a higher price. It would be nice if I got regular orders. It would be nice if I had the support of a larger shop or a company that would pay me to design on a regular basis. And it would be really, really nice if I had time to make more stuff.

Ordinary life gets in the way a lot. I mean, a lot. It's hard to be crafty when you work overtime, when you can't afford the materials you need, and when you're stressing about which bill is more important to pay- power or water?

I'll go slow this time. At least that's what I tell myself. I'll just make a few things here and there, no stress. Doing this because I like it. Nope, no stress. It's a fine fantasy until you realize no one wants to buy your ONE thing. People want to see a collection. They want to see baby quilts, throws, queen-sized quilts, and pillows. They want cross-stitched wall hangings (framed, of course), key chains, bags, and pillows. They want a scarf to match the purse that goes with the dress, and hey, why don't you have this in a larger size?

Usually, no matter what I'm selling, no matter how pretty it is, no matter how long I worked on it, I will have that unsold item in my possession for at least three months. I will cart it to flea markets and trunk shows, show it to a dozen local shops, list it online...and it continues to linger with me. People will admire it, like it, reblog it, everything but buy it.

I'll make other things, bigger things, smaller things, finer things, more useful things, raise my price, lower my price, offer a trade, try a new venue, relist it, and suddenly, something I didn't think was all that great will sell. Of course, I still have a closet full of stuff.

All the while I struggle to make a little cash, people will tell me what's wrong. "Why aren't you crocheting?" "Red is the new black." "Etsy." "Artfire." "Your own online store." "Quilted bags." "Clothes." "Sew on patches for soldiers." And then there's the bottom line advice, "Just get a real job and give your work away as gifts."

Thanks, that's so very useless. I'm looking for the venue that accepts me and my work. I don't want to re-invent myself or my sewing, and I sure don't want to give away what costs nearly all of my spare time. Most people don't know how many hours of the day I sew. When I explain it to them, they usually have something dumb to say like, "You can buy these at Wal-Mart." Sure, and it was made by people in third-world countries earning slave-wages.

This year I am going to large outdoor festival. I have until October to get ready. I'm going to have new things to sell. I'm going to have a few old standbys that always go fairly quick. I'm going with people who have done this before, so I won't be alone. And I'm going to be pretend to be a non-English speaking deaf-mute so customers can't ask me to turn a red quilt into a blue one.


Aine O'Brien said...

I worked in retail for about 2 years recently. I noticed that people do not like to shop in a place where there aren't mountains of merchandise. If the store doesn't have much, they seem to think that they are getting the "left overs," or something. They are completely brainwashed by Walmart and stores that carry a whole lot of JUNK. But there's a lot of it, so they love it. So I think your idea to wait for the bigger festivals and markets is a good one. It would be great if you could become a regular at a few - that way those who love your stuff will come back looking for you. Truly I believe that there is just too much online markets and it's hard to get noticed. Also people are looking for unique gifts - so a Christmas market would probably be a great place for your wares. Just my ideas....but don't give up!

FreeDragon said...

I agree, people see more as better, even when more is massed produced, cheap, plastic junk. And for some reason, people think 'more means cheaper' applies to hand crafted. No, I'm not running a factory, it's just me, and it takes 20 times as long to make 20 items rather than one.

I was reading a blog a few days ago about how we are a nation of consumers. We no longer produce anything and our factories (and jobs) are gone. They have been replaced by huge warehouses full of boxes.

We used to have a Christmas festival called Christmas in July. I haven't heard anyone mention it in years. A good many fairs and shows have ended for a lack of interest. It's a sad side-effect of the 'more, more, more for cheap' mindset.

Chrysalis said...

I remember when Etsy used to be THE place to sell stuff... now it's just saturated. I feel your pain..
Oh I wanted to tell you, I shut down my Chrysalis blog a while ago because I was getting some feedback I wasn't ok with. But I am blogging again ... if you want to look it's
Also, if you ever need a "testimonial" for your stuff, I am happy to provide one. I LOVE my magnet that I won!