Trader Joe’s Yogurt and $9 Wine

I wanted to blog today about the price of buying handmade. It’s an issue that comes up a lot in our community, and there are a lot of articles about it already online, but I read a Twitter comment about my pricing today, so I felt prompted to talk about that a little on my blog, not really in a defensive way, but more an informative way. As shoppers, we can make votes with our money. Nobody is forcing us to buy anything (as far as shopping for clothing goes).

I’m leaving her Twitter name out, because I don’t want you guys to go and spam her 😛 plus this entry isn’t really about her, but the issue of pricing.

I recently read this article whose point I think was to explain handmade/indie pricing and why we should buy indie. But what was more interesting to me than the article was the RESPONSE. You may not want to spend the time reading the comments, but I did. The article (I think to be funny?) mentioned that handmade designers need to pay their rent just like you do and need to buy their food just like you do, except, she used expensive cities like LA and NYC as examples and said that we needed to buy our Trader Joe’s yogurt and $9 dollar wine. To this, people would respond, “They should move to a cheaper city to live in, and I don’t want to pay for their Trader Joe’s yogurt and $9 wine.” I get it, but it’s like, we do need to eat, and we do need to live. The article made me think about whether my handmade was even a worthy cause to give money to. Are we all just dreamers, expecting people to pay us to dream? (On a side note, I have often wondered whether living in LA or NYC would be beneficial to me, simply because there may be more opportunities there as far as sourcing materials & labor, marketing & PR events, etc. I mean, there’s the internet and everything, but BEING there is much different! Anyway, I digress…)

I just googled this article today, about how indie designers might price their wares. In her example, the person paid themselves $18/hr. If I paid myself $18/hr, my shop prices would be EXORBITANT, like even MORE exorbitant than they may seem now. Sometimes I end up paying myself more like $5/hr. Sometimes, on a brooch, my profit might be like 50 cents. Lexi also wrote a great article about it, where you can see that more than just making an item goes into the pricing. There’s also time for photographs, editing photographs, shipping, etc. And in her example, she is not even accounting for the fact that her final price is actually really a wholesale price, and retail is usually DOUBLE the wholesale. This keeps a lot of us indie handmade business out of other boutiques and shops. We simply couldn’t make any money at all.

Pricing is really difficult. Like, anxiety-ridden. It’s NOT SANE to price your items too high or else nobody will buy them, but you want to be paid for the 10+ hrs you invested in creating something awesome and unique for somebody. Personally, I can’t use the normal models for pricing because it would make my items way too expensive. So, I do admit: I kind of have to make it up, to keep prices LOWER, not inflate them.

I used to sell exclusively on eBay. I’d start the prices at 99 cents and just let the market decide the pricing. Scarves usually always sold over for $100, often over $200, and sometimes over $300. But I realized that it was the same few people winning the auctions. While money is nice (YES IT IS), I didn’t know that this model was working for me, because I wanted more people to be able to have my goodies, not just the highest bidder.

I thought about it for a long time, and finally tried Etsy, where I had to set my pricing, and I did so based on what I’d get on eBay, but a lot lower. So I knew, it was possible that I’d make less money, but hopefully, more of my product would be sprinkled all over the world.

I *am* a real person,  just like everyone else. I know that spending $100 on something, ANYTHING, is a lot, which is why I also tried to expand into writing a pattern book, and also launching Yummy You! by Twinkie Chan, which has been this crazy rollercoaster, all with the intention of making my designs more affordable for more people. Yes, Yummy You has taken a while. It’s harder than you think to source affordable, handmade, crochet labor, especially because my designs are pretty out-there and not just a beanie or a rectangular scarf that a factory might be used to churning out.

All this is to say: I’m trying. I’m not sitting up here on my velvet throne, in my silken pajamas and golden tiara, laughing at all of you for buying a scarf made by me. I’m trying to get you guys some fun goodies that you can afford. That in itself has been a labor of love, with tons of work on spec and like two years of hard work for no profit. I am really hoping I can make more announcements about Yummy You soon!

I’m sorry if this has come off preachy (or boring…no pictures!), but it is an issue that a lot of handmade designers deal with on a daily business. We deal with un-informed, rude people complaining about our prices at craft shows right in front of our faces, and we deal with all those pesky bills at the end of the month. We deal with whether our work deserves to exist or not, whether our ideas and craft have worth, and what that worth is.

At the end of the day, my work stems from something my mom and Auntie Nita always told us when we were shopping: GO HOME AND MAKE IT. Shopping too expensive? Make it yourself. Stuff in the mall too boring? Make an awesome one yourself. Don’t know how to crochet/knit/sew/bead/etc? Hop on YouTube and find a tutorial.

Thanks again for supporting me. Even if you’ve never bought a single thing from my shop, but you still read along with me here or may have said hi to me in the Trader Joe’s parking lot (it did happen and I did not buy yogurt or wine…haha!), I appreciate you!

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110 Responses to Trader Joe’s Yogurt and $9 Wine

  1. alex says:

    as someone who has been a fan of your art since i was 19, six years ago when myspace was still relevant, ive always appreciated and respected that you make incredible high quality handmade items, that are always original. I’ve never had enough money to buy a scarf but one day i hope that i can!

    i think anyone who would complain about your prices obviously has never tried making art on their own. i make and sell collages and people complain when i try charging $20 for something that took me six hours. i can only imagine how much time and thought you put into your designs.

    i say screw the haterzz twinkie, you are the og food ganster and have been an inspiration to me and thousands of other fans for years. anyone who loves diy and originality would never complain about your prices. and at least your art is wearable. abstract art that sells for 1000’s of dollars is way less practical and more pretentious.

    <3 hopeful future owner of a twinkie chan original
    alex mallard

  2. Jody says:

    Loved this blog post. I mostly love it because in my opinion you are a successful crafting GODDESS and you still have to deal with snarky people commenting on pricing. It really makes me feel good that one of my craft icons goes through it too! When I was running Apple Noggin I would get extremely frustrated and even jaded because after all my hardwork there would be so many people complaining about pricing or copying things I was doing (but doing them really poor quality) and selling them for cheaper. I remember when you were on eBay and the prices your work would go for and thinking holy crap! Why is she setting such low prices for etsy? when you made the switch of venues. I guess the moral of the story is not everyone can hack it at their own business and espsecially not everyone can hack it as an artist. The snarky price complainers will never go away, but artists talking about it at least helps alleviate the frustrations of other artists.

  3. Your prices are not remotely close to too high. People often ask me if I sell my work and the answer is “no.” When they ask why I explain that people don’t want to pay what I would want to charge. So who does get the goodies I make? People I deem worthy — how is that any less elitist?

    • TwinkieChan says:

      I always liked selling on eBay for the fact that I didn’t have to set prices, and the market could determine them. But I knew there were like 3 people who would win a lot of the big auctions, and I didn’t like the idea that only 3 people in the world were able to hoard all the goodies, so then I started to sell on Etsy while lowering the prices I would get on eBay. I like how no matter what I do (such as starting my mass produced line Yummy You! to reduce the prices even further on my designs) people will complain. Sometimes it’s hard to filter out the negative comments, but I just have to remember all the positive ones :).

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