Friday, 25 May 2012

Putting a price on value

Measuring Worth is one of those all-too-fascinating websites, positively encouraging digression from what you’re doing.  I was trying to find inspiration – or perhaps justification? – for valuing what I make, creating a formula that relies less on subjective worth and more on measurable practicalities.  I wondered if there was any way of comparing the wages of spinners past and present, providing at least a starting point for context.  The craft itself has changed little, though the modern world has added all kinds of posh parameters, like ‘product positioning’ to the sales equation. 

Thumbing through Christopher Dyer’s book, ‘Making a Living in the Middle Ages’, the merchant owner of Paycocke’s (now a National trust property) obviously appreciated the skills of the combers, carders, spinners, weavers and fullers he employed from the local community, leaving each of them a small legacy that Measuring Worth told me would be around £280 today.  Yet the bringing into one ‘supply chain’ of all these different artisans began the process of detaching textile production from the reality of its parts. 

The product which carried the measureable value became the finished cloth, not the individual contributions of the skilled people who produced it.  Despite the efforts of organisations like the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts in reviving the cultural value of specialist traditional crafts, that medieval shift in emphasis is at the root of today’s problem of making a decent living in the craft sector.  People by and large don’t understand the technical creation process, so they can’t even guess what the product might be worth. 

Juliet Bernard of Planet Handmade highlighted to me this week the launch of a new  CraftWorks Toolkit, supported by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.  There’s a lot in it to help individual makers get a foothold on the business ladder, and to start putting a value on their products.  Yet to me one of the most telling pages on the CraftWorks website is about the value of craft in communities.  The intangible value of making things seems to offer far greater ‘worth’ to individuals and communities than mere fiscal returns.  

'Making’ fulfills something deep inside ourselves as well a creating a beautiful object, and that feels more like a privilege than an act of pure commerce.  Maybe it’s that  slightly ‘woolly’ good feeling that makes crafters less willing to put a price on what they do.  That others may admire – or even want to own – what you make remains a constant source of fascination.  Here’s wishing you a fulfilling week ahead, full of attractively-woolly good feelings.     

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting post. I've never yet got the minimum wage for a spinning commission.