This weekend, for the first time in two years, I set up at a local festival. The last time I set up, I had a piece stolen, which left a sour taste in my mouth. Yes, when you set up in crowds, things get stolen — it’s a lame, shitty occupational hazard. However, that combined with the fact that I don’t particularly like setting up at festivals was enough to keep me away all last summer.
This summer, however, when my favorite festival came around — the same festival where some teen got sticky fingers with a Jac & Elsie necklace — I couldn’t stay away.
The festival is one that features street performers. It’s full of minstrels and fire eaters, belly dancers and animators, drummers who use trash to make music and guys on stilts.
And it. Was. Awesome. Not only was it a successful day for Jac & Elsie, but it was fun. Unlike most festivals, this particular one puts the vendors in the heart of the crowd. Usually, we are relegated to the outskirts of the fun, so people are required to go out of their ways to pass by and view our wares. Yesterday, however, the performers had zones in which to perform all over the two-block radius, including some in and around where the vendors set up shop.
Despite the rain, as I said, Jac & Elsie did well at the festival. And yet, there were a few comments that stuck in my craw (as there are bound to be anytime you set up like this).
My town is … let’s be nice and say “thrifty.” My pieces are by no stretch of the imagination expensive, but they’re not two-for-$1, either.
I over heard this conversation while seated behind my table.
Woman to child: “What would you like, honey?”
Child: “Oooo!” ((looking at some Jac & Elsie bauble))
Woman: ((looks at price tag, which reads “Top two rows, $8 each)) “Oh, that’s too expensive. Let’s go.”
I would never say anything to this type of comment. Ever. However, if I were a different type of person, I would say, “Go the shit to Wal-Mart, you cheapskate.”
When I started Jac & Elsie, one of the goals was always, always to be affordable. I sell costume jewelry. It is well-made, and it is trendy. I care about quality, but I want anyone to be able to afford it. Over the years, a few higher end pieces have drifted into my shop, but still, most pieces fall in the $15-to-$30 range.
That being said, I also understand the importance of paying myself for my work. When I figure out a price, which I do by a formula, I consider the cost of the material, the time I put into making the piece and profit. For vintage pieces, I consider how much the piece cost me, how much it is worth. For all my jewelry, there is time in photographing the piece and listing it on Etsy. There are Etsy fees. This is not my full-time job (and I would be a poor, poor lady if it was), and I enjoy my work immensely, but I have no interest in working for free, either.
When I sell in person, I don’t have to worry about those Etsy and shipping fees, and I know my audience is different at a table than it is on the world wide web. As such, I price my pieces accordingly. I am wiling to forgo a few extra bucks because I understand the buyers who will peruse my pieces.
I don’t go bargain prices, however. I have made sales to Australia, Italy, Paris, India, Greece and more — I am not going to demean my process, or my product, by pricing my items as though I am simply desperate to make a sale. I want to make a sale, sure, but I am more interested in selling to people who understand and appreciate the process and product, folks who love the idea, say, of finding a vintage brooch and giving it new life as a necklace. People who look at my jewelry and see an updated version of something that would have been popular at another time are my market, as are those adults who want to wear a piece of whimsy, and maybe buy one for their bff, too. And of course, there’s always the little girl who just can’t turn down something that is sparkly and pink. (One such little girl walked up with her birthday money and, after looking at my table for about 2 1/2 seconds, pointed at this necklace, in pink. She was all but silent, but her face was shining. It was pretty much the cutest thing I saw all night.)
I don’t mean to make it sound like the evening wasn’t a blast. It was. But as someone in the handmade market, I feel like this point is one that can’t be made enough.