The cost of creativity: you get what you pay for
“You want HOW MUCH for that?!”
Words no creative professional wants to hear. Pair it with an incredulous look and it’s enough to make blood boil. The truth is, real artists and artisans put a lot of time, blood, sweat, and tears into the creations they make. They toil for hours. They lose sleep. They forget to eat. (Trust me. I’ve experienced it all.)
When someone implies (or outright says) that they think an artist/artisan’s creations are somehow worth less…
Honestly, I can’t even describe it.
Here is the best example I can think of: say you just interviewed for a big promotion at work. The interview went well, the committee seemed suitably impressed, and you feel confident that you are the best person for the job. Later, your boss comes up to you and says, “We like you, [name], but that raise you’re looking for? We just can’t afford what you think you’re worth. I mean, [so-and-so] would do the same job for half that price.” Then, the company low-balls you on their offer.
How would that make you feel? Pretty crappy, I’d imagine.
I have wanted to do a post on how much an artist’s or artisan’s time is worth. Recently a friend posted a blog post that perfectly illustrates just what goes into an artist’s creation, so I thought, why mess with perfection? The post, titled “Materials, Time, Creativity,” written by Matt Munson (on the site The Project Workbench) goes into detail as to why artistic creations are worth so much more than the average person assumes.
As the name implies, the cost of most artisan pieces can be broken down into three major categories:
“This is the easiest one for people to wrap their heads around. These are the hard costs of the stuff used to make the thing you’re looking to purchase.”
Simply, these are the supplies we use to create the finished product. For someone like me, it would be things like paper, paints, brushes, etc. These numbers are easily quantifiable, and oftentimes they are the numbers that most people assume should encompass the entire price.
Just because I spent $20 in supplies does NOT make my illustrations worth $20.
“Contrary to what you may believe or understand, the time of the artisan is worth something. Just as you would not do your job for free, it’s a bit short sighted to expect an artist to do their job for free.”
I love the quote above especially. Developers may love their job, but they still expect compensation for their work. Teachers may have a passion for education and children, but they still spent a lot of time and money learning to do the job they do, and do it well. Is that not worth something? Should they not be compensated for their skill and knowledge of their profession?
Artists and artisans should be no different.
“And here we reach what I believe is the toughest pill for a potential customer to swallow. The idea that the product you are creating has some value all its own, independent of the materials and time used to create it.”
When I am looking at a priceless painting by a world-renowned artist, I would never presume to think that the item has no intrinsic value. And, while we cannot all be Picassos or Van Goghs, I believe that an artist’s creations do have value all their own.
After all, if a person does not love something about that artist’s work, why on earth would that person bother approaching them for a custom piece? It makes no sense.
As for me – if someone comes to me thinking they’ll get something for nothing, they are sorely mistaken. And if they claim that they can make the same thing for a fraction of the cost, I will smile at them and say:
“By all means, then. You’re welcome to do it yourself.”