Happiness

A weird thing is that my dad seems to be becoming increasingly annoyed by the fact that I don’t sell my afghans and I won’t make crocheted baby clothes for people to buy (he found a little shop where I could sell them). I don’t especially like making clothing. So, I’m not at all excited about the idea of making them to make money.

But the afghan thing is a conscious decision. Take the Baby Batman cowl I made. How much would you pay for that? I think somewhere between $30 and $15 bucks. The yarn cost me $10 (though I didn’t use it all, so let’s say it cost me $6). It took me about ten hours to make it–that’s $72.50 if I pay myself minimum wage. So, just to break even, I’d have to charge $78.50. Who would pay that?! It’s not that hard to learn to crochet yourself.

And with an afghan, it’d be even worse, unless I didn’t charge for the labor, which…I mean, that should be what you pay for. Anyone can buy yarn. When you buy an afghan, you’re not buying a pile of yarn. You’re buying an amazing amount of work you don’t want to or can’t do. That is where the value of the afghan is. To take that out, to pretend like the labor isn’t worth anything or isn’t even worth minimum wage is to lie about what it takes to make an afghan. And it devalues my work.

(Here’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about along these lines–if you went to an art gallery to buy a painting the size of a full bed, you wouldn’t think twice about paying thousands of dollars for it. But paying hundreds of dollars for a blanket is ridiculous. No matter how beautiful.)

So, I come at it from another direction. I like making these things. I think they’re beautiful, especially as I’ve improved my skills. It brings me great joy and satisfaction to have an idea and to execute it and to find that it worked how I hoped it would work. I like the repetitive nature of it and how it gives my brain a chance to unwind. I like the ideas that come bubbling up because of that.

And I like getting to a name on my list and contacting them and telling them it’s time–they’re getting an afghan. Do they have any requests?

The giving is pleasurable to me. The refusal to attach a value to it other than “I like you and I wanted to make this for you” is pleasurable to me. It’s not a commodity. It’s a gift.

I can’t figure out what makes my dad so upset about that. I think he thinks people are taking advantage of me, maybe. But I don’t feel taken advantage of.

I feel subversive–deliberately doing something that makes no sense and has no monetary value to me.

And I guess the other reason I don’t at all feel used is that most everyone I’ve made something for–even the people who’ve paid me or who’ve specifically asked for something or who’ve provided the exact yarn they want used–looks unsure when they see what I’ve done, like they can’t quite believe this is a thing that is for them.

There’s no entitlement–like, yes, you made this for me. FOR ME, because I’m so awesome and that’s just what you should do.

There’s a moment of hesitancy. And then delight.

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6 thoughts on “Happiness

  1. I’m fascinated by your blanket and painting comparison and all the reasons for people’s willingness to pay more for a painting.

    I have periodic conversations with the kid about her blanket that require me to confirm that: someone made it for her even though they’d never met her (this is a huge source of honor to her), that someone is a friend of mine, and yes, I agree that it looks like a magic princess turned some moss and flowers into a blanket with a spell.

    I hope you enjoy being a magic princess. :)

  2. Yes, welcome to the dilemma of creative people everywhere. Painting, jewelry, pottery: people are willing to pay for. Unfortunately, it seems as if the fiber arts are the most underrated, and they often take the most time. But you do it anyway, because you love to do it.

  3. I’m not sure you’re right about what people are or aren’t willing to pay for afghans. People pay all sorts of money for quilts (rightly so), and I bet that in the right store, catering to the right people (i.e. rich people who are used to spending lots of money for the best things), you could get hundreds for any one of several of your afghans I’ve seen in real life or in pictures.

    But I think that’s a completely different question than why you make them. Which is a good reason both in the sense of being generous and praiseworthy and in the sense of bringing you happiness. So laugh at your father for not getting that, and go on having fun.

  4. I totally get it. When my friends get married, they get hand-embroidered hankies. Cost of materials is about $5. Cost of time, energy, and years of learned skill, well over $200.
    My fleece quilts are similar. They can be VERY elaborate and the most detailed custom one ran almost $500, they start at $50 for some really basic ones and people think that’s just too steep. I had some custom orders for a while but I eventually ran out of people (it was my aunt’s philanthropic sorority and once they all had one, they stopped ordering). So now I just make blankets for my nieces and nephews and people I love.

    FYI, the going rate in Nashville for skilled sewing craft (and related arts) is about $12-$15/hr.

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