Saturday, 24 March 2018

Why are handmade miniatures so ridiculously expensive?


I am sure all of you have at some point asked this question. I don't make things for sale, so I have never had to decide how much my work is worth, but I have seen what other people ask, and sometimes I wonder who is prepared to pay these fancy prices for a basket, or a crocheted antimacassar or a fluffy cat. But obviously people do, and obviously they see a value in a unique item.

Making flowers for my florist shop has been a good reminder of how much time and effort goes into a single object. As I am not interested in make more of the same, I decided to try and make a geranium (aka pelargonium) because I have seen them made by people I know personally, and they are not gods, so I thought if they can... I found this tutorial that proved helpful, even though I adapted it a bit, and since it looked tremendously time-consuming I decided to see how much time it would actually take to make a bunch.

I started with just one stem, to see a) whether it worked b) whether I liked the result c) whether I was prepared to repeat it.

Well, it sort of looked what it was supposed to look like, and it took the time it took. So I embarked on a larger scale. The flower pot in the tutorial has eleven flowers, so I cut ten stems and attached beads to them for heads - this is the first short cut I took.

I thought that if I used pink beads it wouldn't matter if it was slightly visible. I was right.

The tutorial says you need 15 petals per flower so next I punched 150 petals over a wet kitchen towel (go back to the tutorial to see what I am doing).

No shortcuts here: each petal had to be curled individually. And before that, picked up, one by one, with tweezers.

I don't have the tools recommended in the tutorial so I simply used the end of a small painting brush. The foam is a coaster upside down.

And here are my 150 curled petals.

Of course it took considerably less time than with the first stem, because I knew how to do it, and also because I did it step by step, not on a conveyor belt precisely, but surely faster than if I made one flower at a time from beginning to end.

Then it was the precision work of gluing the petals. I like this kind of tasks because they need total concentration, and I cannot think about my students' theses, or the journal review I need to write, or even what we are having for dinner. My children often wonder why I don't listen to music while making miniatures, but I tried and found it distracting.

15 petals per flower turned out to be inadequate estimate, so I only made six flowers. All in all, from a piece of paper and some wire to six flowers, it took about two hours.

And you can see how much better the new flowers are compared with the first one. So I think I need to add at least an hour of learning time.

But the project is far from finished. Flowers insist on having leaves, and pelargonium leaves are very prominent, and I don't have a punch. So I will have to cut them out, as I did with daffodils and irises. The tutorial suggests two-three leaves per stem plus some filler leaves. Twenty maybe? And the paper needs to be painted with several shades of green to look natural. 

Some hours later: 


I think this is the best miniature I have ever made from scratch.  

So all in all, how much would this project be worth? Even calculating with a minimum wage, there are hours of work in it, and that's not counting materials and tools. Of course, if I had had a punch it might have been faster, but not a lot faster. And each leaf is unique. I would say, a full day of work. How much would you be prepared to pay for it?


  1. I love how they look. And having tried to do flowers I can attest as to their difficulty and frustration level.

    Sorry, can't really offer you much feedback price wise. I'm terrible at these things.

  2. I am not selling, it's a purely rhetorical question.

  3. Well-done and well-said! I enjoy selling minis sometimes as a hobby, but learned long ago the most I can hope for is to help offset the costs on my crafts supply buying habit a bit (haha), and to have an excuse to make things (besides for gifts and for myself).

  4. Hi your geraniums are beautiful, what do you use as a punch to make the petals my craft punches are all far to big. Thanks. Dee

  5. Dee, I bought them in a hobby shop, and I am sure you can get them online as well.

  6. I totally agree with you regarding effort. I also have made some quiet book pages for my grandchildren (people charge about £70-£140 for these books). Each page has taken literally days to make. They look great, but effort to (the kids') enjoyment ration is out of all proprtion.

    1. This is why we buy cheap toys for kids, but make (or occasionally buy) expensive toys for ourselves.

  7. I think that part of why the hobby ends up being so pricy is because people are intent on having the "right" materials and things in their dollhouses and scenes. They go out and buy tissue paper in stead of waiting to do that bit after they have an opportunity to get some for free (birthday presents! Lol).
    I can't blame anyone, I just don't have extra cash to throw at this hobby. I'm a scrounger :P

    1. I am a hoarder too and almost never buy supplies. But I invest in good tools