Meeting the Makers & Discovering the Worth of Handmade with Worthsy

by Jessika Hepburn, Editor

worthsy, the value of handmade, the worth of handmade, underselling handmade, heartsy

It’s a new month and time to start a new theme! In June we’ll be Meeting the Makers, featuring stories about running a business and the creative entrepreneurs behind the brands + practical ways you can bring personality to your business. Tutorials, interviews, studio tours and so much other goodness is waiting for you this month but first it’s time for a big announcement!

I care about creatives and their incomes-in a perfect world artists & makers would be well paid but we still are living in a culture of cheap where discounts make sales. I think that is changing the more we value handmade and talk about it’s worth and I’m honored to be a part of that movement.

I’ve also got questions about money. Specifically how much money we spend on handmade work and the artists who create it. When I first heard of Heartsy my own heart did a sad little bumpthumpthump-handmade at Walmart prices? It feels wrong to me. I feel handmade should be coveted and cherished, scrimped and saved for if needed. It is more than just a thing to be owned at the cheapest possible price, it represents the creative spirit of the makers, who pour their talent and love into each unique piece. I want that to be valued. But how much is it worth?

So I thought, wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a way to auction off handmade items to the highest bidder instead of the lowest. I tossed the idea out on Twitter and Zoe of A Quick Study caught it. Together we threw the concept back and forth, Zoe used her design skills to create a site and design and Worthsy was born.

Worthsy was created as a balance to discount handmade sites that promote lowering the price of our work and to find answers to big questions for makers of handmade. What is a fair retail value for handmade? How much will people pay for one of a kind pieces? How can we price reasonably & still make a profit? Are deep discounts worthwhile for handmade businesses? Does educating about the time & value of handmade change how much we can charge? Will we pay more for more?

Sites like Heartsy can be great advertising and might get shops customers, absolutely. But at what cost? What is handmade really worth? And do you think it lowers the value of all our work to sell handmade at a discount regularly? We’ve got questions & bet you do too.

So here’s the idea:

Let’s find out how much people will actually pay for handmade while building a culture of paying more to get more. More kindness, creativity, originality, prosperity, joy-just more. Not more for the sake of having more stuff or paying inflated prices, but more in the items we do choose to buy. More connection to each other in our buying and selling & more sustainability for the economy we are creating together. Plus show off how talented the handmade community is in the process, make friends and start conversations about the value of handmade.

worthsy, the value of handmade, the worth of handmade, underselling handmade, heartsy

We are going to do it by…..

Auctioning a carefully chosen, handmade item from a featured artist each Wednesday on Worthsy. The 48 artists showcased in our first year will be chosen to reflect the amazing scope of handmade. We’ll be promoting everyone’s work and each auction high and low.

The bidding will start at wholesale price- since we think creatives should be pricing for profit on wholesale sales too. In order to show people how much time and effort goes into a one of a kind or custom piece, the listings include a breakdown of how much time and $ in materials went into each auction item.

Visitors will have one week to outbid each other & win the auction.  They will also have the opportunity to share why they love and want to own the item. Because art deserves affirmation right? That has its own value!

worthsy, the value of handmade, the worth of handmade, underselling handmade, heartsyAt the end of the auction, the winning amount will be paid directly to the seller (via PayPal), along with separate shipping costs. No fees, freebies, crazy discounts, or coupons – just handmade and all it’s cheerleaders. If all goes well sellers will make more then intended, get a better idea of what their market will pay for handmade + get more exposure (& hopefully a warm fuzzy feeling).

We also have a resource page (please feel free to submit something we missed or write a post to be included) to encourage the handmade community and our visitors to think about pricing & profit.

Want to join in?

Submit your handmade fabulousness by visiting our Suggest a Seller page. We hope you’ll join in the fun! Or if you know someone who should be charging more or just deserves to get paid more for the amazing things they create, encourage them to  submit their work. We want Worthsy to showcase the incredible talent, diversity and value of handmade artists and encourage people to pay more for it. But this is definitely a social experiment, we aren’t making any money-we’re just curious and concerned! So we’ll be looking to you to be part of the conversation and help spread the word. Let’s have a real discussion about what handmade is worth.

I’m kicking off our launch by auctioning the item (pictured in the screenshots) that made me seriously rethink selling handmade. My shop is still closed so if you want to get your hands on something I have made, just for you, now is your chance-go on over and make a bid! I’d love to know what you think is a fair retail value for handmade and the chance to stitch up something special. You can also sign up to learn more about upcoming auctions or follow us on Twitter @worthsy

As always, please leave your thoughts & ideas in the comments, tell me what you think of Worthsy and if you think it’s all worth it!

35 comments

  1. This is such a beautiful concept! I went through a process as I moved out of the corporate world where I had to retrain myself to slow down. I had to learn to appreciate the 5 pieces I could lovingly produce in a day and not regret the 20 items I didn’t get to. I had to learn to recognize the value of taking the time to painstakingly sew on buttons by hand. I was used to creating absurdly long to do lists and then moving through each item as quickly as possible throughout the (10+ hour) day. And then one day it clicked so completely for me. To have more, buy less, do less, want less. And what you do spend your time and money on, do it thoughtfully. The last year has been a lesson in the beauty and fullness that comes with simplicity and gratitude. I’m so thankful for communities like Oh My Handmade that are helping push these values out into the world. I can’t wait to see how Worthsy goes! I think it is a brilliant response to sites that devalue handmade work. I did my own experiment when I was asked to do a pop-up shop with one of these sites. They take close to a wholesale percentage so I set up my pop-up shop at retail value. No one on that site was interested in paying full value. These sites may draw in people who otherwise wouldn’t buy handmade, but they certainly don’t help add value to the handmade community! Thanks again for your support of the handmade community! I’ll be happy to help spread the word on Worthsy!

    Brianne
    PetalPetal and VintageChild:Modern

    • Jessika says:

      Such a great comment Brianne & fuel for a bunch of other posts! I love applying the idea of the slow movement (http://www.slowmovement.com/slow_living.php) to business & teaching myself that slowness isn’t stillness. One of the reasons I choose to hand stitch & dye wool that is either locally sourced or upcycled in my own handmade is that I want to appreciate each step of my process. It’s also part of the reason everything takes me so long!!! I want more simple & beautiful things, more gratitude & sustainability + I don’t think creativity should be hurried. If it’s cheap we need to hurry to get it done so we can make more, if it’s valued we can take our time and make it more of a true expression of our talent. Thank you for sharing how you have grown to appreciate the beauty of slowness. Your creations & shops are both lovely and clearly show your time and talent.

  2. Donna says:

    What a fabulous idea! I love it! Thank you Brianne of PetalPetal for stating such great advice! I am entering the handmade world after many years in a corporate environment. I am always rushing, rushing and trying to get everything done. I have to start realizing that it is ok to stop, breathe and enjoy my day, and to remember why I started my etsy shop in the first place. A big thank you and much continued success to you!

  3. Isa says:

    I love it! I’m so proud of you both. Such a great site and a great idea. I really hope we can spread the word and get people realising the true cost of handmade and the value of paying what things are worth. We needed this site so much!

  4. Katrina says:

    I am so incredibly excited about this idea! I saw a tweet about the site, checked it out and loved it, only to then catch up and realize it’s from YOU – now how’s that for synchronicity?

    I’ll be eagerly watching the results – thank you Jessika & Zoe!

  5. Clara says:

    This. Is. Awesome.
    My day job has done a couple of those half-off email coupon deals, and while I do think it’s probably good marketing for our type of business, the more I read about these types of discount offers, the more I think it’s sending values of anything down the toilet never to return. I can’t imagine ever offering these kinds of deals to my customers. I’d rather provide high quality products and service to bring people back.
    This idea is a great way to turn the tide!

    • Jessika says:

      “I’d rather provide high quality products and service to bring people back.” exactly! The time people spend rushing to fill orders at 1/2 price so they can go back to making other work usually means that something has to go-quality, service or for the artists sleep!

  6. Jessica says:

    I absolutely love and support this concept!

    One minor tweak I’d suggest would be to highlight that as independent designers the price of our items is partly the time and materials to create them, and partly the time and overhead we need to spend to actually sell our work.

    If I were to say that one of my items takes an hour to make and $10 in materials (hypothetically), that’s misleading pricing-wise for the buyer. The time I spend photographing the piece, writing a description of it, marketing it, then packaging it for shipping, etc. are all real costs associated with being a full-time crafter. If a buyer were to only see the time I spend making the piece, they will likely (and rightly) undervalue my work.

    My recommendation is for the artists featured to accurately account for all of their time- from the initial design, the making, and the photography and description of their work.

    I might also suggest that the artists mention whether they are full-time artists (and therefore need to pay for their own health insurance, etc.), or part time with another full time job. I don’t mean for that to be a disclosure of salaries or other highly personal info, but as a further means to educate buyers about the reality of running a handmade business.

    • Jessika says:

      Thank you for the great comment Jessica! I agree with you completely-those are parts of the equation we will definitely encourage people to include in their pricing breakdown. I should have for our first auction, I didn’t even think of the time spent photographing/editing/writing the listing/replying to emails/standing in the post office with two small children….oy, handmade businesses typically don’t get paid overtime!
      I also really like your tip about full time/part time, health insurance/business insurance (especially for children’s products) legal/studio fees. It’s a more expensive business then most people imagine.

  7. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see this!! After years of being made to feel like I had no right to charge a fair price for my handmade items, it is so refreshing to see a site like this.
    The last 2 years especially have been tough because of the economy and I am tired of hearing people at shows saying they can buy a hat like that at ‘WidgetMart’ for $5.
    You go girls…and thank you!!

  8. MOXIELisa says:

    This is an absolutely awesome idea and definitely support paying more for a quality handmade product than a big box plastic whatever. Kudos to you girls for being inspired and following through with the wonderful idea of worthsy.com! As always this site is such an inspiration and I am proud to be part of such an awesome community.

  9. Cheryl says:

    What an awesome idea and initiative Jessika & Zoe! Good on you! Handmade items are so sorely undervalued. It is getting harder and harder. I know when I go to the markets and I am surrounded by people selling cheap imports my handmade items don’t stand a chance. There are only a small community of people who truly value the love, care and attention that goes into a handmade item. Handmade has soul, it has a story and it has a piece of the creator infused in its goodness. I think the concept behind WORTHSY is such a great idea! So many people don’t think about the material, labor time and effort, they just think of the end price. I think most handmade artists have resigned themselves to the fact that we never back what we put it, we to do if for the love of creating. I think this will help people to reflect and understand the true value of buying a piece of handmade.

  10. This is an awesome idea! I often feel trapped becasue customers buying invitations feel that the price should go down dramatically as the quantity goes up. But when invitations are handmade with embellishments more cards equals more time. I can’t wait to see what items will be auctioned!

  11. Indigobjects says:

    As a buyer, I look for handmade items almost exclusively. As a seller of handmade jewelry products and other handmade items such as wood wands, original antique items, and unusual vintage objects I stress the OOAK one-of-a-kind unique quality of Indigobjects on Etsy and eBay, and offer discount coupons to customers for repeat sales and on the Indigobjects blog. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about Heartsy and Worthsy. I’ll check out Worthsy now!

  12. Bethany says:

    I found this post, and Worthsy as a result, while researching a blog post on pricing handmade items. http://boojayknits.blogspot.com/2011/07/youre-worth-it-and-i-am-too.html

    The concept of Worthsy is absolutely brilliant and I’m confident that it will catch on. I hope Worthsy will help artists value their art a little more and I won’t get emails from friends with similar items so underpriced so as to barely cover materials. So frustrating.

    Thanks for creating such a great blog and site!

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