The Cost of Art

My  husband asked me to make a doily for his bedside table (built by his great-grandfather), that matched one I’d made for my bedside table. My crochet basket goes with me any place I wait. Since I’ve spent some time recently in a lot of doctor offices, I got a lot of crocheting done. It’s much slower when there’s IVs in the backs of both hands.

Then my husband asked me how long it took to crochet. I had no idea so I timed myself. His piece took roughly forty hours.

Art's table

Art’s piece. Pattern: Queen Anne’s Lace

The amount of time got me thinking about how you price on art. Or in this case, crafts. Even if I charged fifty cents an hour, no one is going to pay twenty dollars for a doily. You can get them in thrift stores for fifty cents. They’re old lady things; out of fashion. Taught to me by an old lady I loved, so I crochet in her memory.

Aunty and us Easter 2

‘Aunty’ who taught me to crochet when I was nine. Plus me in the middle with siblings.

What about my friends who create beautiful works of art with glass? Or the friend who makes earrings (that I benefit from)? The friend who paints? The friend who creates amazing landscapes?

The writer?

If you charged even minimum wage your work of art would be priced out of reach for the majority of the people.

How do you price something that is a creation, something spiritual, something you’ve breathed your soul into? Granted, my crocheting isn’t anything like that; it’s simply a way to keep hands busy. But writing certainly is.

I’m a slow writer. I dally and wander and get distracted by the scenery. So it can take me years to write a book. I’d have to sell more books than I currently do, to make a poverty-level wage off of them.

We all know no one creates works of art in order to make money. And isn’t that a good thing? There are so many things I value, made by people I equally value, that would not be in my life if the artists were out to make money.

I just wish I could pay them as much as I value their work.

Steven mumps March 1965

Brother with mumps – and one of the few photos I have of Aunty’s crocheting

Question Creativity

A few posts back (Endless Chains) I came up with a list of questions that no one answered. Some said they were too hard. I decided to see if I could answer them and if that might spark discussions. It was tempting to scroll through the list and pick what interested me but that seemed rather like cheating. So here’s question #2, which I didn’t want to answer.

What form does your creativity take?

The easy answer is writing, obviously. And handcrafts. I love to crochet doilies (and am always asked, ‘isn’t that something old ladies do?’), make bobbin lace, struggle with spinning, and so forth.

Making bobbin lace; image from wikimedia commons

Making bobbin lace; image from wikimedia commons

The harder answer is that I actually don’t understand creativity. Why can’t we pick and choose what form it takes? If we could I would draw. Or at least have an eye for color and design, which I suck at.

Why do we need creativity? How did it evolve? I imagine things started out as survival skills. Spinning to create warm clothes. Writing and painting to create communication. Most likely, when survival became less emergent, those skills stuck around because a few people realized they enjoyed the tasks.

But let’s think about writing, or story telling. That’s been around since the beginning of time. I don’t know that it had much to do with survival other than maybe scaring little kids around the fire so they wouldn’t stray. I think it had more to do with keeping oral history alive. But whatever the reason, why did we, back in the beginning of time, have that desire to tell a story? To use imagination to create a fictional account that did nothing but entertain? There must be some deep-seated genetic reason that we feel the need to create and I’d love to know why.

Back to the question though. Writing is clearly my form of creativity. It’s something that eases my soul, makes me happy, allows me to move through the day and breathe. Whatever it is in our brains that requires us to need some form of creativity in our lives, I’m glad my brain chose writing. Because I really do suck at color. And cooking. And singing. For that matter, I was always terrible playing a musical instrument, too, even though I love music. I have no creativity where dance is concerned, either.

Hmmm. The more I think about it the more I feel lucky to have at least a few things I can claim as creativity.

So what is creativity to you and what form does yours take?