Over the weekend, Paul and I went shopping. Just window shopping really, browsing around a few of the shops at the local designer outlet. There's a jewellers there and what I saw amazed me. Inside were carousels of silver jewellery. Nothing strange there. What really caught my eye was how tarnished all of the pieces were. Seriously, I thought some of the chains were gold, they had tarnished so bad. There was a bracelet with a flat heart charm and the charm looked as if it had started to rot away, the way the tarnish covered it. It was priced up at £30. I was gobsmacked. And angry. There were 3 women working in there. One was behind the counter looking bored, the other two were jumping on customers seeing if they wanted 'help'. People were actually coming into the shop and looking at the jewellery in the case and actually showing an interest.
What made me so angry? Well, I could probably hazard a guess as to how much those tarnished pieces actually cost to make. It would be pretty low. Then, the items are put on display and left to rot, for want of a better expression. Why didn't one of the women working there spend her afternoon giving the pieces a polish, really making them shine and look their best to the customer? Well, looking back, why should they bother? People were still coming into the shop and looking at the pieces, with some looking like they might purchase. I thought about the pieces of jewellery I make and the effort I put into making them, keeping them clean, making them look their best for the customer, keeping them as affordable as I can. It's not just me, there are thousands of jewellery makers across the country, around the world who wouldnt dream of letting a piece get so tarnished, let alone putting it out on display for people to see.
Further round the shopping centre is a well-known high street fashion accessories shop. You probably know the one, its name is a girl's name. Sounds like eclairs. Anyway, I had a look in there and my heart sank further. Necklaces, earrings, bracelets and more, being sold for a few pounds. How can us handmade artists (for that is what we are) compete with prices like that?
Now, ok, chances are if you're reading this blog you can appreciate handmade pieces and the work and love that goes into each one, be it jewellery, art, toys, whatever. My problem is, how do we express that to the wider world? Money is tight for everyone at the moment and people relish the chance to be able to liven up an outfit for a few pounds. Rebecca at Buttons and Flowers http://buttonsandflowers.blogspot.com/2009/08/bags-boxes.html makes the point when talking about a beautiful bag with charm that her daughter has made. She says "She's really pleased with the end result, but says that none of her friends will like it because it does not come from a shop and they think that, because it is handmade, it is not as good as something bought" - even though, as I said above, something bought from a shop may not be as good quality!
Apologies for my rant. How can we encourage the handmade revolution, dear readers? How do we show people, prospective customers that handmade does not mean cheap, or shoddy, or second rate, but infact premium, well-made and often unique?
Thanks for reading