Friday, April 23, 2010

Lampwork pricing - any thoughts?

Well, I have some. This is getting to be a hot topic among many lampwork beadmakers and everyone has their opinions and input. The debate is whether or not some lampworkers are cheapening all of us and destroying the marketplace by grossly underpricing their work, just to make sales in this poor economy.

It's true - there are a LOT of cheap beads out there right now. The market's glutted with unanealled, sub-par sweatshop garbage from China that cracks when you breath on it. There are also piles of bad lampwork from amatuers who are just out to make a buck and care nothing about the quality of their product.

Then, there are the rest of us.

Those of us who do this for a living by choice - because we love this ancient artform and because the worst day behind the torch is better than the best day behind a desk. We don't do it to get rich, that's for damn sure. We do it because the passion to create in this meduim - to grow and learn and innovate - is something so strong that it just won't be denied.

And, yes, lot's of us do also earn our living from this passion. We pay for our kids braces, pet vaccinations, autism treatment, food and rent with the money we earn. And so, because we must earn, we must price according to what the market will bear.


This is an example of how the market has changed. The first set of beads sold for nearly 10x the price that the second set sold for. Same basic beads, same glass, same beadmaker, same sales venue. Whatta ya gonna do?

Believe me, I don't want my work under-valued any more than the next person. I know how hard this work is, how many hours I spend in my hot studio in the relentless (almost endless) Florida summer with sweat running down my face, pouring water down my throat as fast as I can to make up the difference. I know how much time and effort and love I put into each bead I make and I know the cost and quality of the materials I use.

However, I also know that there's a jewelry designer out there somewhere who's struggling in this economy, too. And I understand that this is a partnership. She loves making jewelry as much as I love making beads but if she can't sell her designs, then she can't buy more beads. If she can't buy my beads, then I can't keep making them. Then we both end up in a cubicle somewhere, browsing Etsy on our lunchbreak, thinking to ourselves, "That used to be me." (I'm actually thinking, "I coulda been a contender" but that's a movie reference I'm not sure everyone is going to be able to recall and I don't want people thinking I'm all crazy and stuff.)

That's just not an option for me. I'd rather cut prices in half for now (and I have) to make this work than to go back to 9 to 5-ing it.

So, in order to keep this machine running until the economy rights itself, we're going to have to work together. Beadmakers need to keep prices fair and reasonable - without trying to undercut the competition - and designers need to hang in there and stick with high-quality artisan work instead of jumping ship for the cheap stuff, no matter how tempting it might be.

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on this issue.


mairedodd said...

fabulous post and one i think about is a symbiotic relationship of sorts... i know that for me, the beads i use reflect an overall standard of quality that i will not compromise... i will use less beads if i must, but i will not cheap out... and i prefer to know the people i buy from... your work is incredible and it is an art form that is admired by me... let's hope for a reviving economy... until then - and i know it is so hard with kids, trust me - can you get involved in selling at bead shows/higher quality craft shows? i would feel so sorry if you were to stop creating and am so glad that the passion burns so strongly within you... this was a necessary discussion - glad you brought it up...

Createology said...

I very much appreciate your post and how you have voiced your concerns with inferior products and the true value of your time, materials, expertise and artisan's ability. I too struggle with using quality materials and pricing my jewelry fairly. I never get paid for my time like I feel I should, however, working my passion as opposed to a job for some ungrateful boss...well I choose my passion and pray for the economy to recover. Thank you for sharing and Marie for your comment I agree with. Happy creating...

La Dolfina said...

I feel for you...
this economy is rough for everyone but somehow we'll all get through it and come out better in the long run. Keep the faith and live your passion I say.

Mermaid Glass said...

Thanks so much for sharing your opinions. It's hard out there right now for everyone who makes their living creating something that's a 'non-essential'. (Not that I really believe that jewelry or beads are non-essentials. I mean, seriously, that's just crazy talk!)

And, even if the economy stumbles along, we'll all ride it out. We just have to come up with some creative ways of doing things now. I have some ideas about this and I'll be putting them out there in my next post.

Good luck, everyone!

Beachcombing.... said...

Great post, and great reminder for all of us struggling girl entrepreneurs out there. My sister-in-law is a lampwork artist, and I am always thrilled an amazed at what she creates. Keep up the good work!

Beach House Living said...

I'm dropping in from La Dolfina. Just yesterday I posted in an Etsy forum about the under pricing and for some it's undercutting. Even though I cut pricing there are sellers still at less....and clients writing saying I think your work is nicer but can you match so and so?
It's a tough position.

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