Numbers - they’re difficult things! They need working out, looking after, keeping an eye on, predicting in advance - and, dare I say it, sometimes they need justifying.
I remember a conversation with a visitor to my workshop some years ago about the price of one of my sterling silver chainmail bracelets. It was £120.
‘How long did it take you to make that?’
’About eight hours.’
’Oh, so based on that price, you’re paying yourself £15 an hour.’
We had a nice chat, and he bought something for his wife. I was glad he’d come in.
Then I had a think about the hourly rate thing. He hadn’t realised it, but there are of course lots of other things that come into my pricing. Not what I supposedly ‘pay myself’. For instance, there was over an ounce of silver in that bracelet. Plus of course I’d had it hallmarked. It was presented beautifully in a gift box.
Not only that, it costs me money to go to work. The gentleman in question was employed at a large company. He wasn’t expected to pay the rent on his office building himself, and pay for heating, lighting, power, broadband, telephone, water supply. Or the tools and equipment he needed to get his job done.
My previous workshop was a shed in my garden. My bills for it were rolled into my existing household utilities. It was of course my choice to wave goodbye to it, when I moved house and got married. My household of one became a household of two. We use our garden space for growing vegetables, and the only shed we have stores sacks of bird food, dried-out bag-ends of compost, paint tins and a whole load of nails and screws that Mr LFI might need for DIY projects at any moment.
My rented workshop is great. I can accommodate four students at a time on my range of courses. I have storage space for my stash of glass, tools, frit, enamels, tubs of bead release. The workshop is bigger than the shed I left behind, and it’s an amazing place to come to work. The only thing is, my use of this building is not free. Nor is the heating, the lighting, the power, the broadband, the telephone, the water supply. My work needs to pay for these things. I pay to go to work. In a good month I might see some of it back.
My beads are precious. They’re special, and unique. Just one artisan lampwork glass bead, surrounded by gorgeous neighbouring beads from anywhere and everywhere, is a stunning ‘wow, where did you get that?’ feature in a piece of handmade jewellery. Just one. A £2 or £3 spend. Some people buy multiples of beads, or larger sets. That’s great - but I’m happy to sell individual beads too. In fact my imminent shop update is much more geared towards the individual bead.
They’re not factory-farmed. They’re not batch-made, like cookies or cake mix. They’re made one at a time at the torch flame - an engrossing, captivating process which I absolutely love.
There is room out there for every kind of bead. There are big beads, small beads, narrow beads, wide beads, beads of wood, stone, plastic, crystal, seeds, wool, clay, resin, paper. There are beads from every country in the world, there are rare ones, common ones, machine-made in bulk ones, handmade ones, beads made by a single process and by many. There is space in the world for all of them.
I used to be taken to the toy shop as a child. There were shelves of toys I would admire from afar without wanting to spend my pocket money on them - the big big Lego sets, the big dolls, the shiny new bicycles, the basketball hoops, the toy hospital - and I loved to look at these. But I knew too just which shelves contained things for me, though - and I’d go home with a bouncy ball, or a novelty pencil sharpener, or something little that went BANG (yes, I had to hold my own with my big brother). Sometimes I would spend my money on something bigger, more expensive, rarer, prettier. And it was always a considered spend. Then it was loved, admired and played with for ages. Appreciated.
I love all of my customers - even - especially - the browsers who don’t buy. Please have a look round my website. Come and see me here at the workshop, or come to one of my events. You don’t even need to buy - that’s absolutely fine too! Thank you for looking, and for appreciating.
I’m Rebecca, at Let Fire Inspire, and I love what I do. Thank you for reading about the numbers.