About Me

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I enjoy arts and crafts and dabble in just about anything. I've been doing so since childhood. My Etsy shop consists mainly of decoupage light switch and outlet covers. I also paint (mainly with acrylics), do mosaics, and draw with charcoal and other mediums.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Who Would Pay THAT MUCH? (The cost of handmade)

This blog post was inspired by a blog that a fellow EtsyLush team member posted in a forum http://whatthecraft.com/overpriced-cant-afford-handmade-pricing/

Check out her post.  It is very informative and really sheds light into the reason why handmade items cost more than the crap you find at Wal-Mart.  Really makes you think twice.  Well, since reading her blog post, I decided to really put some thought into my own process of making items and share it with everyone since I have heard comments from people I know who think it is ridiculous that people pay what they do for my handmade light switch and outlet covers.  Custom orders in particular are what I hear comments about from people.  Well, let's explore the reason why.

Sure you can buy a light switch cover at your local hardware store or even a department store for cents on the dollar.  Not many people really give much thought to their light switch covers and usually go this route.  You can even get a nice looking fancier one for maybe $2.49-ish.  However, what if you are looking for something a little more unique?  Something to make your entire room come together.  You are likely to find what you may be looking for if you go handmade.  Of course that may cost a bit more.  My individual handmade covers go for $5.99 + s & h.  That price may not sound like a lot to most, but to some that sounds like a ridiculous price for a single light switch cover.  Before I go into the reason why I price my single covers at this price, I would like to point out that I see some decorative light switch covers (handmade or not) going for a lot more.  Like this for example.

$14.95 for ONE single light switch cover!  This is also handmade.

My custom package orders usually appear to go for a big chunk of change and I hear comments all the time like "I sure wouldn't pay THAT much for 10 outlet covers!"  Well, when it comes down to it, these orders are usually custom made for what a particular customer wants.  They want multiple covers in a particular design which takes extra time and some of their covers are a little tricky like this one.
Can you imagine trying to cover this with fabric and cut out those holes and cut around that cable jack?  It can be done, but that is definitely NOT easy!  I've had to do it before though.
This was part of a custom order along with 4 outlet covers.  Since my shop was still in the early stages and she sent me this cover that she had gone out and purchased, I gave her a significant discount, but this particular cover was definitely NOT easy!

So let's move on to the process of creating these covers shall we?  First off, I usually have to go out and purchase light switch covers.  I usually have a ton at home here, because I tend to buy a few while I'm out and about.  Although I have noticed that the local hardware store has drastically increased the price of standard covers while making them lower quality.  I can barely get the darn screws in the holes anymore!  As a result, I have started buying the mid sized ones, because they are half the price of the standard ones now and if I REALLY hunt through the pile, I can find a few decent quality ones although they are few and far between which takes up my time.  Perhaps I should find another hardware store.

Next, I pick a pattern of fabric I want to use and decide on what I want the cover to look like.  Most of the time, it is pretty easy.  Small repetitive patterns like the one in the above picture work best, because I don't have to worry about strategic placement of the holes or making sure the whole picture fits on the cover.  If it is a larger pattern with larger pictures, then I have to sit there for a while placing the fabric over the cover at different angles trying to find which placement would be most appealing to the eye without destroying it with the holes I need to cut.  Like this one for example...

Now that I have spent about a half hour or more finding the ideal placement of the fabric design on the cover, I need to cut it out and stick it to the cover with adhesive hoping that I remembered where exactly to place it after removing the cover from the fabric to paint on the adhesive.

Once that is done, it is time to fold the edges over and stick them on.  Usually pretty easy with fabric, but if I happen to be using wallpaper border, I need some extra help keeping the corners down.  I will have to use some large black paper clips and clip the edges down until it dries a bit.  That can be a little time consuming.  However, with fabric, it is just messy, but the edges usually cooperate.  This is still the most time consuming and tedious step in the process.  If it is just one cover I am doing, it can be done fairly quickly.  If I am doing several at a time, this step can take hours, because I tend to do the same step at the same time with all the covers at once.
Once the edges are folded down a bit and have had some time to dry a little, I'll flip the cover over and use an X-acto knife to cut out the hole for the switch and the two screws.  Once they are cut, I will add some adhesive to smooth out the edges and make the holes with either a paint brush handle or pencil.  A process that is fairly quick on one cover but again very time consuming and tedious when doing several covers at once.

Once the adhesive around the holes has dried, I will begin the process of painting on the clear gloss medium to the covers.  I typically do 3 coats and have to wait for each coat to dry before applying the next.  The first coat hardens the fabric and brings out the colors in fabric or wallpaper border.  A second coat is necessary, because once the first coat dries, it just looks blotchy with patches of shine and matte.  After the second coat dries, I usually do my photographing, because it is nearly finished by that point.  I have to do it at the right time of day to have the right kind of lighting to ensure a good photograph and I usually have to take several and pick and choose which one is the best representation of the item.

I then add a third coat to ensure shine and quality.  I will sometimes even add a fourth coat if I am not satisfied with the look of the cover yet, but that is usually with covers made with wallpaper border.  I take pride in my work and insist on producing good quality items.  So, now we're done right?  Not yet.  Now I have to paint the screws to match the cover.  A cover like this would just look silly with plain white screws don't you think?

I usually end up painting several at one time, because I make more than one cover at a time.  That and I sometimes put this process off until the last minute, because this is another long and tedious process.  Mixing the colors to get a close match and then waiting for the paint to dry so I can apply a clear gloss coat to the screws as well.  A matte finish wouldn't look right on a cover that shines.  Sounds like a silly detail, but look at the difference it makes.

Then, there is shipping.  Once I sell an item, I will hand write a thank you to the customer and include a coupon for repeat business.  I will then package it up in a neat little package and drive to the closest post-office drop off, pray that I don't get approached by any crack-heads on peddly bikes in the parking lot, and ship the package.

All that work for $5.99 + shipping.  Now, I've basically taken you through the process of making just one cover.  Imagine now for a custom order of one triple switch cover and 6 outlet covers.

I'm sure some people would probably think this person was crazy for paying $40 for light switch and outlet covers, but after seeing the process it takes to make just one and then taking into consideration, that each cover is 5.99 and more if it is a double or triple cover, this person got one heck of a deal.  This order was for a close friend, so of course I was going to give her a good deal, but I'm sure there are people out there who would think this price is highway robbery.  I can usually finish one cover in a matter of a couple hours, but an order this size takes days.

Same with one like this.  A custom double light cover and 10 outlet covers for $65.
I actually did hear someone say that this person was crazy for paying this much for covers.  Well, you do the math.  Each SINGLE cover is 5.99 and doubles and triples are more.  This one was customized to what the buyer wanted.  Half one design and half the other.  This order took WEEKS, because they wanted specific patterns on each one and I had to hunt for these patterns.  I gave her a discount for placing a large order and I also gave her free shipping since she sent me all the covers.  An order this size is incredibly time consuming and I will never cut corners in my steps to get it done quicker.

Well, there you have it.  Now that you know the process, does $5.99 still sound outrageous for one single custom handmade light switch cover?  When you break it down like that, it is easier to see that I'm not making a huge profit here.  It is the same across the board when you are looking to buy handmade.  Handmade items are always going to cost more, because of the work that goes into them.  Whether you are looking to buy a scarf, a painting, or in this case a light switch cover, it is going to cost more than it would if you just walked in to the local big chain discount store.  Those of us who sell handmade products take pride in doing quality work and providing excellent service.  We also need to eat.  This means these products are going to cost a bit more.