I consider myself a passionate supporter of Indies/Handmade and NZ made, although admittedly I am guilty of habitually buying $10 jeans and shoes at The Warehouse. I am also passionate about supporting and helping others who support, nay champion the NZ Indie cause, but lately I have noticed some little things - comments and attitudes of purported Indie champions - comments and attitudes that to me, are in actuality indicative of not supporting NZ Indies and it really gets my goat! So....I came to the conclusion that this necessitated a Ranty post, so here goes...
For me, being a passionate supporter of NZ Indies is not just all about the Arts, Design and Craft of it all - loving, complimenting, promoting and purchasing the end products that is. It is about supporting the Indies - Independent Designers, Artists and Crafters - themselves. Unconditionally supporting them. This means that we do not undermine Indies' work or value by using such terms as "bargain" and "cheapest" in association with them, or in general attempt to affix a price limit beyond which it is insinuated that an item would be ridiculous and impossible to market, or haggle with Indies over their prices to fit your definition of "agreeable". Those who do this are NOT Indie advocates, although they certainly like to purport themselves as such.
Just this morning I was reading a fab article on "Craft being cool" on stuff.co.nz posted by Lucy of Felt. I was reading along thinking what a great and favourable article it was - that is until I got about halfway into the article and hit THIS line - "The cheaper something is and the more time you spent making it yourself, the better."
Seriously?! That one line ruined this article for me. Here was an article supposedly celebrating Craft and Indie Design, and simultaneously undermining it with that one surreptitious line. What's the big deal you say?! It's all about changing attitudes folks! And we can't change attitudes when so-called advocates are the ones promoting and at the same time undermining us. Those "advocates" need to realise what they are, perhaps inadvertently, doing and make a change before we can change the attitudes of others - both of Indies and the public.
Here's a few quick points that I think need to be made -
First, how is it possible to associate Handmade/Indie Design with "cheap". As an Indie Designer myself - one who buys cheap shoes no less - I KNOW that cheap does not last. As a Designer I painstakingly seek out and test run various Wool and Yarns - be they natural fibres, blends, man made synthetics. I am dedicated to finding the best materials for my items because that is what I would want and I want that for my customers. I take a lot of things into consideration when selecting materials and trying them out - cost is only one tiny part of that. The big deciders actually are whether materials are made in NZ, also comfort (softness, weight, warmth), potential to irritate and tendency to shed/pill. Next I will consider colour. And lastly, I consider cost. I certainly do not scrimp on quality to save a few bucks.
Second, I KNOW my stuff. I know the materials I have used and what works and what doesn't. And if I don't I am prepared to do the legwork to find the right material for you specifically. You will not get that kind of driven, individual service anywhere else. I think not just about how an item will feel but how it will look. I try to think like a customer and if for instance a customer requests an item made with cotton I know that it will be harder to hide secured ends away and that this may concern them, that it is a fine material so it will not fill an item out, it will droop and be flimsy, and if the item in question is say a Poncho I know that because cotton has no body to it, it will potentially look stringy and unappealing in a hanging item. These are the things I think about. These are the things I can advise customers about. I bring not just skill, but educated foresight and expertise to the table.
Lastly, because I said this would be quick - typically Indies are sole traders. This means they do everything themselves - but let's just consider that by the by for now and focus on what I really want to point out. What we do is a job. As much as we love what we do it is a job. We are skilled, dedicated workers. For that alone we deserve to be paid and paid well. But most importantly we are our own BOSSES and more often than not Indies are not considering Profit in their prices, and we pay ourselves worse than poorly paid employees - in fact we're probably paid a tad more than Mothers.
The thing is that things are starting to change. Indie/Handmade and NZ made are appreciated, are sought after and loved and that is great. What remains to be done is to change this perception that Handmade is expected to be cheap or a bargain. Consider - would you want to be paid the way we are paid for delivering such dedicated and specialised service - and that as an employee, let alone your own boss?
So what can be done? We can unconditionally support and champion our NZ Indies by believing in them, their amazing-ness, their amazing Art/Designs/Crafts, their fantastic expertise and most importantly by believing in the value they place on what they do. And we can change the way we think and speak and appreciate all the work and research that has gone into assembling just one item and see them for the gems they are - and we can also start saving up our pennies!
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