I grew up in a family of crafty people. One grandmother could take thread and make lace so pretty that it made your heart squeeze. The other grandmother wrote beautiful poems and hand-wrote them down into books that people lined up to receive. My grandfather could take wood and a few tools and turn them into absolutely anything. Daddy is a craftsman on so many levels that I don't even know where to start -- wood, gun-smithing, hand-tying flies for fishing, the list goes on and on. Mama can draw, paint, sew, write and when it comes to wrapping gifts... well, let's just say that you would be astounded at what can be done with wrapping paper and ribbon. As a kid, it rarely occurred to me to "just go buy" something -- I was much more inclined to reason out how to make whatever it was that I wanted.
I have a huge appreciation for hand-made items and it is the foundation of my business. I stay home to care for our two children and I stay up late making jewelry and paper crafts to sell. Over the last year I have noticed that the price of my materials has gone up dramatically, while the prices that the market will bear for me to charge for the finished items has dwindled. I am blessed with a wonderful clientele who purchase from me regularly and are willing to pay what my time and materials are worth. What troubles me is how difficult it has become to attract new clients. There are plenty of people out there who appreciate hand-made items, but simply don't have the budget for extra purchases. I know that the state of our economy has much to do with it, but there are other factors too.
The biggest issue I have lately is the cost of raw materials. We all know that the prices for silver and gold have sky-rocketed, which has pushed me to work with copper lately. That's not a bad thing since I find that I enjoy copper's properties and I am pleased with what I have been able to create. There are so many talented lamp work bead artists out there whose work inspires me on every level. A prime example is Blissful Garden Beads, which you can find at http://www.artfire.com/users/blissfulgardenbeads. (If you've never seen her work, then definitely give it a look. I warn you though -- you'll be seized by the overwhelming urge to buy 'em all!) I wish that my business budget could afford to purchase her lovely work, but its just not feasible. Her costs for raw materials have gone up, just like everyone else, and her prices are very fair and reasonable for the finished product, but still out of my budget. I hear the same thing from just about every artisan I know and we all look forward to the day when we can afford to create based on inspiration rather than what our budget will allow.
My point to this post is simply this: support your local artisans! We are all putting love and good energy into our work and turning out things that you will never find in a store. Remember that we are as affected by the economy as everyone else, but we continue to create what we can within our own budgets. While the chain stores and manufacturers are raising their prices, most artisans are lowering theirs to try to keep their business alive in hopes that it can thrive again one day. Most importantly, if you see something that intrigues you but perhaps you'd like a different color -- tell the artisan! Most of us are willing to work with clients, both new and established, to create exactly what they are looking to purchase. Please help us keep the world of handmade alive!