Friday, November 19, 2010

The Cost of DIY & Artisan-Made

I like to make things for myself -- I'm a crafty chick, & I get this tendency from my mom. In fact, Mom & I went to a huge bead show recently where I picked up a ton of amazing beads to make some more jewelry for myself.

But don't be fooled. Doing it yourself isn't necessarily a budget-saving option. It *can* be, if you're extremely careful & get all your materials from thrift stores & are rehabbing stuff that's already in your closet. But obviously, that ain't always the case, particularly if you want a specific style, you're trying to match things, or you want unique materials.

In this necklace, the black & white beads are hand-carved, hand-painted bone from Africa, & one strand cost $12. I used about 2/3rds for the necklace. The black beads are real jet from Morocco, which cost $15 per strand. I needed about 2/3rds strand. I don't recall the cost of the beading wire, lobster clasp, crimp beads, & head pin, because I bought them all in bulk. Let's just say about $2 total for all of those items. The black & white, hand-painted bead at the center cost about $10. The pearls on the top & bottom of this pendant were part of a bulk purchase, so I'd estimate about $2 for them total. So we have approximately $32 in materials for one necklace. That doesn't account for about an hour's labor on my part either (minimum wage in California is $8/hour, & I'd like to think this is skilled labor). And it doesn't count the driving around (actually to two bead shows, 2 years apart!), admission to the bead shows (which I guess could be divided among *all* the stuff I bought there ;-), & shipping on some of the findings.

Would I have bought the same necklace for $40+ in a store? If I knew that the materials were high quality & not plastic imitations, yeah, there's a good chance.  The problem is that we see so many crappy versions at chain stores these days. Stuff made of resin & stamped from tin, assembled by kids in third-world countries who are paid pennies a day. We don't know the real value of goods anymore.

Doing it yourself isn't really about saving money. It's about realizing the true value of goods. When you have made a necklace or a shirt or a pair of pants yourself, you gain a better understanding of what goes into that item. You can value workmanship & skill more intimately. The more things you make for yourself, the more you'll understand, appreciate, & value quality. And you might not mind paying more for it.

All of this applies to artisan-made goods as well. A necklace on Etsy or at a craft faire may have a similar cost-of-materials list going into it, plus more labor, plus overhead for workspace, plus all the costs of running a small business.  A $40, $50, $60 necklace starts to seem like a decent value when you consider what really goes into it.


  1. This is exactly why I really have a hard time justifying the expense of DIY projects. Usually it'll end up costing me 2 or 3 times as much in materials and labor as it would if I just bought the thing off the rack.

  2. Yeah, I tend to DIY if I want something specific or I'm in a mood to create. I do it bec. it's fun.

    The one thing that *is* a budget-friendly upgrade, tho', is replacing buttons.

  3. That is a lovely necklace, though. I love that centre bead - it looks like a lady!

    I DIY very seldom, mostly if I have some vintage beads that I want to re-work into a necklace.

    Thanks so much for commenting on my blog, Trystan!


  4. Thanks, Shelia! That center bead really inspired me & I was determined to find the right pieces to frame it - so striking. Took 2 years & a couple redos of what I strung it with.

    I'm enjoying reading your blog :-)

  5. I was just commenting to see if anyone else saw a lady in that bead! :) Glad it's not just me.

    Fun accessories! I like making stuff, but it does get pricey. Therefore I wind up reworking old stuff or stuff that isn't quite what I wanted.

  6. Definitely -- the abstract "lady" was why I had to have that bead (well, that & the b/w scheme)! Looks kind of Art Deco to me.