The cost of our time – only the well off can afford to buy Aussie made at Aussie prices.

Like all of us makers, I do what I do because I love it!! And that will always be the case!

But every once in a while, I think about what it would actually cost to make if one were being commissioned to make it.  What if I factored in all the hours of making the components, assembling them, and of course, the cost of the materials themselves? – what sort of price should that command?

Everytime I go to an arts and crafts fair in Australia where I live, I look at the items, and I just KNOW that the prices I see just do not reflect the hours put into making them. And I know that by selling at tiny prices is the only way crafters and artisans can actually sell their products, and therefore cannot possibly be making a living based solely on sales of these items alone.  Why do I say this?

For example, the last time I went to a crafters’ fair here in Mildura, I bought a couple of pairs of earrings made from scraps of stained glass.  At $10 a pair, I calculated that if the maker was getting paid $30 per hour for her work, (which is not likely, and also this is about the top rate for house cleaners currently in this locale), that she would have to be churning out a pair of earrings at least every 20 minutes!  And this does not include the cost of findings to assemble the earrings.  Because the price was so low, she was able to sell multiple items, and this was happening regularly on the day.  At the same fair was an artisan also selling her original earring designs, reflecting the true cost, but of course, her stall sales were not moving so well.

The same applies to artists of course, but we crafters rarely get catalogued into the same vein as ‘artists’, so please forgive me if I do not include ‘artists’ in this discussion for the purpose of this article only!

So, my latest ‘what if’ costing was based on a beautiful and simple crochet jacket from one of my favourite artisans, Yasmeen’s Crochet, and have started a project based on this post from Yasmeen.  Often Yasmeen shares freely a chart or a pattern, but not in this case, so I felt free to create block pattern and share it.  Before doing this, I have worked samples, to get a workable size, and also to calculate times to create each motif (square).

Here are my results so far:
Time to work each square: 2.5 hours
Number of squares required: 18 therefore time to create all blocks is 45 hours.

Cost of work to date, not including assembly, blocking, trims etc, based on lower rate in Australia for, say, cleaning @ $25 per hour: $1125 AUD  not including material costs or assembly costs.  You see the problem?

Australia’s textile and manufacturing industries were torpedoed in the 1980’s when this country entered into the massive trade relationship it now shares with China, and most of the garments and textiles we purchase as consumers come from China, Bangladesh and similar. This is not to say against these countries, but in terms of labour costs, Australia simply cannot compete.  People can buy a t-shirt, a bra, a knitted garment all of which I could make for only cents per hour in Australian dollarscompared to off shore manufacturers.

And with the cost of living why would they not?  Only the wealthy or well off can afford to buy Australian made products.

So, here’s the cute little cardy I am making with a view to sell,  the price will most certainly be way below less than 100% of what it cost to make, but happily, I am not locked into a workshop 24 hours per day until I complete my quota, and all the other terrible work conditions which often govern the workers from whom we end up buying such incredibly cheap products, so I count my blessings.  I can make stuff while on my exercise bike, or watching SBS docos, or whatever.  I live in Australia  which has a great support system for the (technically) unemployed, so I move on and work with what I have, and am grateful that I don’t have to sell a child whom I cannot affort to support!

Pix 1-4 from Yasmeen’s Crochet Brand



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