Thursday, November 4, 2010

Don't Call Me Daughter

I was poking around on Etsy today, as I am wont to do on days when there are chores to be done which I would rather avoid, when I came across some knit and crocheted items that looked like what I was cranking out in junior high. I smiled, nostalgic. And then I saw the prices. Holy moley! Were they spinning yarn from the previously unshorn hair of virgins? No - as a matter of fact - upon further inspection, they were using the sort of yarn one can pick up at any chain retailer. My immediate thought: If I had attempted to charge half as much for something like that, my father would've been outraged. I heard his voice in my head, "Daughter, be humble."

Back when I did sell my wares, he was constantly accusing me of over-pricing, even when my prices barely covered the costs of my materials. "Price things fairly, Daughter, and remember yourself."

Some parents tell their kids they're great - the best - the sky's the limit - that they are worthy of all the world has to offer and more! I was told to remember myself and be humble.

Back when I did sell my wares, people in the know about such things would tell me not to sell myself short - that people would only desire it if they thought it was expensive. If you don't pay a lot for it, it isn't worth anything. That's some screwed up logic, right there, but I'm sure there's something to it. I tried to compromise - not going as high as they suggested, but not staying as low as the voice in my head - the one that calls me Daughter - approved. I'm sure you've guessed that that pleased no-one. "You are robbing these people, Daughter!" he would say, when he saw my price tags.

I can assure you - I never robbed anyone.

My basic formula was a relatively simple one: I would estimate the cost of the supplies I used and charge 1 1/2 times that. There were variations, of course, when very intricate work was involved, but that was how I typically determined cost. Using my formula, I made pennies per hour - sometimes fractions of pennies per hour - but I rationalized that by saying that I worked while I was watching TV or spending time with my family - things that I enjoyed doing and would've been doing anyway. Plus - I enjoyed my craft. How could I assign an hourly wage to something I loved?

This is all sounding pretty negative and perhaps you're thinking my father was a little harsh with me. Well, he was. But there were other lessons that went hand in hand with those of humility and fairness. By reminding me of those things - remembering myself - he reminded me that I was worth neither more nor less than anyone else. That NOone was worth more or less than anyone else - regardless of how much some folks thought they were - were TAUGHT that they were. Remember yourself, Daughter. Don't put yourself on a pedestal - you don't belong there. But don't denigrate yourself, either, because you certainly do not deserve that. Remember yourself.

I was taught - sometimes directly, sometimes by inference - that it didn't matter what the circumstances of your birth were - that didn't determine your worth. That the color of your skin, or your height, or the size of your bank account didn't determine your worth. That your character was not determined by the gender of the person you chose to spend your nights with. That the size of your house said nothing about the person that you were. That - in a word - you just needed to remember yourself.

Well, I remember myself pretty well, I think.

But a few extra bucks wouldn't hurt.

I'd re-open my Etsy shop in a minute if I thought I could make money like that for things I could churn out in a couple hours while I watched a movie. Or would I? "You're robbing those people, Daughter! How can you sleep at night?"

Well, not on 1,000 thread count sheets, that's for damn sure.


Eva Gallant said...

What a great post. Your father was a wise man. You learned what he taught you well.

BONNIE K said...

This was very timely for me. I work with some selfish people who don't get common courtesy. And I really believe they were brought up to think that they were TOO wonderful and didn't need to treat others right. I also think your father was a wise man.

Cheryl said...

"Remember yourself" and "Pay attention to yourself" are things the monks used to say way back in time. It's a great reminder to check my motives and check my ego.

Most of my family creates. All have come to terms with the fact very few creatives get paid fairly for their time. Times have changed very little. The prices we see on etsy don't tell us whether or not sales are being made.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

My mom taught me to be humble, but sometimes I wish I'd gotten a tiny bit more confidence early in life.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a good thing to be humble.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a good thing to be humble.

Laura J. Wellner (author pseudonym Laura J. W. Ryan) said...

I really love your blog, and being 48, many things you talk about here resonate with me...we were both raised to be humble (for me it was: "keep your head down" and "don't be a show off" and "the world isn't fair") which seems to have hobbled us almost as much as it makes us more determined to do what we do with our creativity. I just want to say that reading your blog today has been a delight.

I found my way here from Goodreads, I saw that you had signed up for my giveaway of my novel The Fractured Hues of White Light, (I'm always curious about potential readers, how can I not be, right?) So, thanks for signing up, I appreciate the support. I just added your blog to my blog list so my readers can find their way to you, and I can stop by to visit again.

I especially loved the Smells Like Teen Spirit post, it took me back to the Fall of 1982 at Syracuse University when I was in Art School and my brother was in the Music School and I'd visit him at his practice room...the sounds and smells were all too familiar, and goodness knows, we all thought we knew everything back then!

Best wishes,


(P.S. Your adventures with 'cussing' were hi-lar-i-ous!)

Pam said...

Yet another post that confirms the fact that your Dad is a wise man. Lessons to live by...

Swine said...

The one thing that does matter? Size of penis. I never sell myself short.

Unknown Mami said...

Lessons aside, I think you should re-open your Etsy shop and revise your formula to include time invested. I've seen some of your goodies and you have skills.

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