Thursday, March 3, 2011

Creativity, Financial Gain & Modern Values

The urge to create and the need to make money are often in conflict with each other but, I ask you, how do you compete in the global marketplace?  Especially when there is someone, somewhere, willing to make it cheaper, typically substituting quantity for quality, and people who are willing to purchase it on the price point alone.  I've found that you need to compromise a lot and 'suffer for your art'.  Hand-made products are not valued as they once were.  How can they be when there are tons of cheap imitations and bargain basement buys imported from countries where the minimum wage is a few pennies a day?

And this stuff comes into the country by the container load!  Do you know how big one of those things is and how much will fit into them?  A large container is forty feet long and fits on the bed of a transport truck, a small one is half of that.  Let's take one item as an example...a beaded necklace, since I make beaded necklaces.  Can you imagine how many single beaded necklaces would fit into one container, even one of the small ones?  I can't.  It must be hundreds of thousands of them! 

Buying an item hand-crafted by a local Canadian artisan should mean something and it should be valued as such.  In the modern world though, it doesn't matter to most people that you've used the finest materials and poured your heart & soul into making this one-of-a-kind item with care & precision. If they can get something at the dollar store or other retail outlet for less that will do the same basic job, they will.

Let's discuss another scenario.  Jerry Penner, The Chain Mail Guy, makes and sells, among other things, chain mail shirts for medieval re-enactors.  He starts with raw wire, winds it into coils, cuts them into rings and knits them together with two pairs of pliers, one ring at a time.  He's developed a special method for cutting them that eliminates all the sharp bits that can poke into you & hurt, and for good measure, he tumbles each finished shirt to get any that may have been missed.  One of his chain mail shirts sells for approximately $600, depending on the metal used, size of the shirt, ring diameter, etc.

But anybody can go online and find a chain mail shirt that 'looks' the same, made in India, for $100.  A few clicks of the mouse and the shirt can be purchased & shipped directly to your home.  The problem only arises after that $100 shirt has been worn once or twice and it begins to fall apart.  The customer has no recourse.  There is no warranty on it.  There is no one to call about it.  Jerry, on the other hand, does guarantee his work and is a phone call away.  He takes pride in what he creates and stands behind it.  One of his chain mail shirts will last a lifetime. 

The majority of people only look at the bottom line though, not considering that the more 'expensive' item might end up being the best buy after all.  It's unfortunate that values have changed so dramatically in our modern world.  I, for one, don't like the shift.

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