Friday, April 25, 2008

Time - How Do You Answer?

OK, first a picture, just because a blog post without any pictures is kind of boring...

It's spring! :) (Thanks so much to Tia Lexi and Tio Ernesto for sending along Conall's funny little ATV.)

So, my question is for the weavers/craftspeople out there who sell their work - when you sell in person and somebody asks you how long it took to make them, how do you answer?

I just know that people that don't know a lot about weaving will take my answer and think "Hmm, she's paying herself X per hour!" And that makes me really uncomfortable. Especially since it's taken me years and years of practice to get to the point where I am an efficient/relatively fast weaver. Oh - and an EtsyFAST person raised a good point - I definitely take *all* of the process into account when figuring out my time, including designing, dressing the loom, the actual weaving, twisting fringe, finishing, etc.

I often try to dodge the question by saying something like "Well, it depends on how complicated the weave structure is, whether I'm using two shuttles, the size of the yarn..." But some people are really persistent... I don't mind telling people that I give things to if they ask (but, understandably, I guess, they tend *not* to ask). But it bothers me in a business context.

Anybody else out there bothered by this? Am I being overly sensitive? Should I just lay it out there and then talk fast about how they're getting unique, high-quality item, blah-blah-blah? (I'm not one who loves to give a pushy sales pitch, either...)



I don't weave well enough to sell anything, but do give some items away. I have been asked, although I think it's a rude question, and I get away with; Well since it's a creative process I don't keep track of my time my ideas come and go so it may it take month's to come to fruition. If they persist then I add; I really don't keep track of my time at the loom, it really becomes unproductive for me. Then go into your quality yarn skit. I don't know if this would quash any further investigative questioning.

Angela said...

I, alas, am not yet at the point where I am by any means a fast weaver so I have, interestingly, the opposite problem.

I just finished my first commission (a 20" x 76" 8-shaft fancy twill scarf in 10/2 bamboo) and would estimate that it took me ~40 hours total (I am guessing that makes me a very slow weaver ;)) That said I usually decline commissions (I actually just referred two co-workers to your etsy shop) because I find it very difficult to decide on pricing when if calculated by the hour the items, even at minimum wage, would be in the hundreds of dollars.

skiingweaver said...

Thank you both for good advice!

And a huge *congrats* Angela - your first commission - that's *very* exciting! I love wearing with bamboo, and your wrap/scarf sounds beautiful. (And, thanks so much for referring folks to my shop, that's very sweet of you!)

I think I am at the point where I'm pretty fast, though it's hard to tell, we all weave in isolation, after all! :)

Maureen said...

Hi Kristen

My mainstay for production is tencel at 24 epi, from the warping mill to putting on the price tag it takes me 6 hours each scarf if I put on a warp for 4 scarves.

SO I tell them 6 hours NOT including design time, materials acquistion time and cost of materials.

And I have never had anyone counter anything

As I understand it tho, you are doing one or two scarves per warp which I would think would make more time per scarf.

I weave 24 pic per minute, are you weaving much faster? Laura Fry has said she can do 54 pics per minute on a fly shuttle.

However the most time consuming is not the actual weave time.

The times I do get rebuttals is when someone says they can do better at Marshalls, etc.

In my experience this type of person is not interested in the process of hand produced goods and I just counter with I realize that I am not able to compete with Marshalls so I don't even try! That usually leaves them with nothing else to say.

I do feel that the public deserves and education of the theory behind traditional arts and I am always willing to put that forth except in the "Marshalls" situation as my experience has shown me that that type of person is not approaching the situation with an open mind.

Frankly some of your work is still underpriced in my opinion, but that is not meant as a chide - so many are on my back for the same and I would not repeat that type of comment with that feeling.

It is an interesting thread.

skiingweaver said...

Thanks, Maureen, that's really very informative, I really *really* appreciate all the detail!

A year or so ago, it took me six hours to weave a bamboo scarf. Now it takes about half that amount of time (seriously). And less for the lace scarves...

I don't think I necessarily weave that much faster (about an inch a minute, generally), but maybe I'm a quick threader/warper. (?) I don't know, but I've timed myself over and over and it always comes out right around the 3 to 3.5 hour mark for a scarf. (I've taken to warping two scarves at once, usually, which helped some, yes.)

Still think I'm underpriced, lol? See, though, it's why it's such a hard question... And also why pricing is so darn tricky. I've worked really hard to get very efficient...

And, BTW, have you *seen* the video Laura has on her website of her weaving? Very neat! (It's not a fly shuttle, so probably not at 54 picks per min., but she moves right along!)

Marie said...

Cute picture!
I have been asked the same thing about my knitting. I always answer honestly and just mention the knitting time. Then, I mention that I designed the piece. Most people shake their head in amazement. Say they would never have the time for such things. Which isn't true, of course. We all make different priorities. I try not to let people's perception of my craft/career get me down. They are entitled to their narrow opinion. And I am entitled to do what I love.

skiingweaver said...

Hi Marie! I guess my problem is kind of the opposite... I'd feel more comfortable telling people how long it takes if it took me longer. :)

I got this as an attorney, too, actually - I literally had senior attorneys give back my work without even looking at it and say "You didn't spend enough time on it." Ah, the joys of hourly billing...

blackmustard said...

I've been asked this question a lot when it comes to my knitting/felting. Mostly though it's been from friends with whom I'm sharing my work, so I've never really thought to be offended by it. However, I can see how it would be uncomfortable if someone were challenging you from a pricing point of view.

I'd be tempted to answer, "Well, how long do you think it would take YOU to make it?" Lol. I read your thread on the EtsyFAST board and you make a great point about the years of practice and work you've put in to learn your craft. I think when it comes down to it, THAT's what people are paying for. Like the guitar strap I commissioned you to do for example, I got it in my head that I wanted a really beautiful, original hand-woven guitar strap. Now I could either put in the work and money to buy a loom and materials, learn to weave, then slooooooowly (at a beginner's pace) weave it myself, and probably have it look like crap, or find someone to make it for me. (Luckily for me I knew just who to ask) That being said, I probably wouldn't bring myself to pay a fair price for something knitted, since I am capable of doing it myself for the most part. So other weavers may not be your ideal target market, even though they'd probably appreciate more than anyone just what goes into it.

I for one think your prices are more than fair. Maybe a little on the low side, but then again, high prices are worth too much if no one pays them (something I'm struggling with). Very interesting topic!

skiingweaver said...

Hi there Joline! I hate to say it (sorry, knitters) but I agree on the knitting front - I generally know I can do it myself... But, that also makes me a really good audience for patterns! (Re: your doubleweave guitar strap - I *loved* doing it, but it took me *forever* lol! A *lot* longer than a scarf, but I thought of it as a fun experiment/learning experience, and you were fantastically patient with me!)

gonga said...

As a student on a craft design course, we had lessons on how to price your work, which generally boiled down to working out how long you spent on it multiplied by a given rate. This usually resulted in an extortionate amount especially for a weaver (ceramics worked out much more reasonable)Maybe suited to city prices, but not for the average customer. A few years later and living in the real world, it is obvious that I have to bring my hourly rate down. I would never want to under charge. but I would prefer to sell my work than to have it sitting on a shelf.
I now teach weaving and it is quite grounding to see a new student being daunted by the thought of warping a loom, and taking 2 or 3 sessions to get to the stage of weaving. They suddenly appreciate anything hand woven.
I can warp a loom pretty quick now but it's after years or practice, I always include the time it takes from designing to finishing off, each part of the process is important. and when I am telling a customer how long it takes I usually tell them the weaving is the easy bit, explain how many ends there are and tell them that each one has had to be threaded through the loom, That helps but I think that unless they have set up a loom them selves they couldn't completely apreciate how much goes into each piece.

Alpaca Granny said...

This was such an interesting read this morning. I can sort of relate to the weaving process when I consider dyeing, spinning, then knitting something. To say nothing of feeding, cleaning up after, and shearing the alpacas. I'm so happy that there are folks out there who value our work and are willing to pay us for what we love to do.

madison t said...

Since I haven't even begun to start to sell things yet, I'm only asked that question by people who ask it because they're thinking either, "Why would anyone make something that takes that long when you can just buy one?" or "Sheesh, that must have taken a LONG time." so my standard answer is "Like an hour a foot, not counting preparation." And they nod, and I leave it at that.

If I were selling my things, I bet I would give the same answer, not thinking that the questioner is doing the math in his head.

Renee said...

Hi there! I back-tracked your comment and found your blog! I will put the address in my Fiber links and explore when I have a breather. To answer your question, one that plagues us all, I also sell my work. When asked "how long?" my first response is "many pleasurable hours." Not mine originally but credited to one Virginia Harvey who was a legendary fiber artist in this area. You are right, weaving is a long process and breaking it down into hours doesn't work easily. There are good suggestions here in your comments. Education of the public is the key. I usually stick to the answer above and smile. -Renee