As you know, I make stuff. I make all kinds of stuff, but sell very little of it. Most of what I make goes out as gifts to friends and family, and there is a reason for that.
Skilled craftspeople are severely undervalued.
I’m going to say that again: SEVERELY undervalued.
Let us take an example of a hand knit sweater, because I get ‘requests’ all the time to knit someone a sweater (“I would totally pay you to make me that sweater in pink!” or “How cute! Would you make me one in my size??”)
An average adult sweater of average complexity takes about 50 hours for an experienced knitter. (Complicated cables, tiny yarn, lace patterns, etc. take significantly more time – we’ll stick with not-very-fancy for this example.)
Minimum wage in Washington is $9 an hour. Minimum wage is, by definition, what is paid to people without skills. A skilled craftsperson, who has spent significant time learning and perfecting a skill that the average person cannot do, should expect to earn at least 3 times that – in this example, that comes to $27 per hour. For comparison’s sake, a journey-level carpenter in my area earns $48 per hour, whether they are sanding floors or operating power tools*. The skill that goes into making cabinetry is right up there with the skill needed to make a cabled sweater.
Back to my example: The average sweater takes about 1800 yards of regular, worsted weight wool.
Using a basic, commercially-available Cascade 220 wool yarn as an example, that comes out to about 9 skeins of wool, which run about $9 each, totaling $81. A set of good quality circular knitting needles runs $15. I won’t charge you for the stitch markers, scissors, sewing needle, and assorted other tools that I already own. I won’t even charge you for the pattern in this example.
If you are keeping track, 50 hours of skilled labor at $27 = $1,350
Materials (yarn and needles) = $96
Your sweater, which you so desperately want me to knit for you, will cost you $1,446. Plus tax, of course.
Would you like me to send you a PayPal request for that?
No? Well, then: trot yourself on over to WalMart and buy a $25 sweater knit out of plastic (acrylic) by a sweatshop slave that earns a couple bucks a day in a third-world country, because my time is worth a lot more than a couple bucks a day.
Here’s some fun reading:
* Source for Carpenter, Journey-Level Prevailing Wage Rates: https://fortress.wa.gov/lni/wagelookup/prvWagelookup.aspx