“You don’t have to make crafts for money,” I tell myself for the 700th time.
The reason I have to remind myself so often is because every time I post an even half-way worthwhile craft online some friend or acquaintance or stranger will reply to say “when are you opening your Etsy shop?”
There’s no good way to say uh actually, I already had an Etsy shop and it sucked so I usually just opt for an emphatic thank you and then ignore them.
A couple of years ago I took up embroidery. It was during an independent study on early 20th century fashion. I wanted to embellish a recreated evening gown. I ended up being fairly good at it and churned out a bunch of work over the next couple of months. It was repetitive, soothing and also creative; perfect for an artist with anxiety.
I was certain I’d hit the jackpot. Instagram opened my eyes to the world of professional embroidery artists and I could see I was producing work that was just as good (sometimes better) as many of them. I was going to be rich once I got a hang of this whole Etsy thing.
I set up my shop, sat back, and had no sales. You’re probably thinking oh no, what’s she going to do! And the answer to that is: absolutely nothing. Don Draper would be disappointed; real life marketing men are rolling over in their graves. Networking? No, thank you.
But I did have one thing going for me! A friend had reached out and asked to commission some work. I was thrilled. Three large pieces, some interesting subject matter, a meaningful present meant for someone else I knew. This was perfect. I could make a little money, produce some stellar work, and get my name out there in the “weird, eclectic gift” market.
I even had a whole year to get this stuff done. Easy-peasy. What a lot of time.
“SURE, IF YOU USE IT,” screams the brain that currently resides in my head. The brain from the past is head empty, absolutely smooth.
I started on the project right away. Ran out to Michael’s for thread. Bought some Japanese needles because I heard that was cool. Then day by day, minute by minute, I did a little less and a little less.
Oh there’s so much time, I thought. Practically a whole year, there’s no rush. You see where this is going. One month before the deadline, my friend messaged me.
“How’s it going on the stuff? Will you be mailing it soon?”
“Will I ever!” I wrote back a week later, wincing from the pain of typing with fingers dotted with a hundred little needle holes. “It’s just that the finishing touches are taking longer than I thought! I’ll send you a picture soon!”
The exclamation points did their best to hide my terror and shame.
I finished them the day before my friend left for the event they would be gifted at. I paid an exorbitant amount of money to overnight ship them from one city to another. They arrived an hour before he left.
You’re probably thinking “no wonder she didn’t do well, her time management sucks” and yes, that is very true. I still wake up in the middle of the night certain that there is embroidery to be finished.
But the real kicker here is that I was never paid for the project.
I have absolutely made my peace with that. I will probably always wonder if the lack of payment was simply because my friend forgot in the rush of them arriving late or if it was a tacit disapproval of my conduct, which… fair, but I’m not upset I invested time and effort into items for a friend.
I am vaguely disappointed that’s how I had to find out I’m a terrible business person though. Not only will I not complete projects on time, I will never ask for payment (unless you’re an editor reading this, in which case I love being paid in a timely fashion and I’ve never missed a deadline).
Which brings me back to the second reason I don’t make stuff for money: No one knows how much stuff costs.
Fast fashion has convinced us all that even good quality garments shouldn’t cost much more than a hundred bucks. You can easily go into a mall and buy a well constructed sweater for $70.
If you’ve ever bought a hand knit sweater for that much some granny was being really nice to you, or it’s made of the itchiest wool ever produced on this planet. Maybe both.
I simply will not make things for free anymore. I will not even make things for cheap. I definitely won’t make things out of acrylic but that’s mostly because I’m snobby.
Stuff costs money. I hate to say it. My friends hate to hear it. Strangers who compliment garments I’ve made won’t even acknowledge it.
But lastly, I won’t monetize my hobbies because it makes them less fun! I’m just trying to find some enjoyment in life! Let me knit a slutty sweater in peace.