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?