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How to Value Craft Work?

Or in the original words of an artisan:

‘The (in) Sustainability of being a Craftsman’.


How can we, consumers, value and price the products of others? How can we conclude whether it's expensive or cheap? Especially when it comes to crafts — an art that not everyone knows how to do.


That's why we leave you with some questions and answers that you should ask yourself before pricing a handmade item.



In case you haven't noticed, Victoria Handmade is much more than a brand or company: it's a family legacy.


Where Esperança — Artisan, Founder and CEO of the company — learned this art from her father — Toino — since she remembers being a person and with the certainty that at the age of 5 she was already weaving her first sides of Portuguese baskets on top of a brick in her grandma Vitória's old house.


From her desire to revive Portuguese art and culture in a sustainable and ethical world, there was also the need to make this craft known in today's world — aka the digital world.


This is where Daniela comes in — Esperança's daughter, granddaughter of Toino da Vitória and Maria Manuela who all her life watched her grandparents at the loom and played among the baskets without ever actually making one, as her mother had moved away from art — despite being always present and give out innovative product ideas for parents to weave — simply because wasn't a fair work, let alone legalized before the state. And you can't really blame young people for not wanting to learn something that doesn't support their families — can you?


However, Daniela had something to add to her family that was always lacking in handicrafts: awareness, communication, making ourselves known to you. Showing the true value — not just price. Because, in the same way that it is necessary to have a product, it is also essential to know how to get the message across to people. Knowing who does it, how it is done: why it is done.


So, nice to meet you — I'm Daniela Gomes, I'm 24 years old, I've been graduated in Graphic Design and Multimedia since 2018 and although the Victoria Handmade brand is a 7-year-old girl that I've been part of since her birth, it's only been 1 year since I officially joined the company's board — which brings me to the subject and why today's blog article.



Now that I can stop talking about myself in the 3rd person: creating content requires a process and research far beyond what you can imagine reading these words of mine — so when my mother, Esperança, comes to me at the end of a day of work and passes 3 scribbled sheets to my hands just saying:

— Here is the content of the next Stories Diary post - I admit I got the flea behind my ear. (Sorry for the very portuguese popular saying!)

This is because, - again - as it is popularly said in Portugal, ''the son of a fish knows how to swim'', my mother's ideas are always something... funny and to take into account, although not always literally :)


In fat letters we could read on its sheets - bluer, the color of the pen, than white, the color of the paper:

'The (in) Sustainability of being a Craftsman'.



Being this title a bit inspired by our best-known article ‘The (de)Valuation of Craftsmanship’ that if you haven’t had the opportunity to read it, be sure to do so here — click.


Without any fixed order or organization, his words questioned subjects that are everything but new to me, but that can make you think twice:


Being a Craftsman:

— Do you do crafts as a hobby or as a professional?
— Are you retired, business owner or entrepreneur?
— Do you have employees or do you have a family network that helps voluntarily?
— Does the artisan contribute to the national/international tax economy, or does he work in a shadow economy?
— Do you value your work and that of other artisans or exploit others for your own benefit (I know this question is strong and raises suspicion, but the truth is that if there is anyone who can talk about this subject, it's those who have lived it and seen others live, so we are speaking with knowledge of the facts).
— ...

The questions keep going, all pertinent, but let's start by delving into these issues that haunt the life of being an Craftsman — or anyone who wants to be one:



— Do you do crafts as a hobby or as a professional?

Studies reveal that only in the art of reed basketry, in Castanheira de Cós, there is a decay of +91% in this craft between the years 1980 to the present 2022.


A village in Alcobaça from where more reeds and wicker baskets came out all over Portugal, Spain and the world — which, by the way, is the birthplace of Esperança and who made many of these 'straw' tote bags at zero cost to help the family put bread on the table, and like her, many other kids of her generation.


From these same baskets, now known as the 'poor baskets' in the past and which are currently the 'rich baskets' — but whoever says so forgets that, in reality, the poor people's baskets were, in fact, made by poor people.


In a village that connects with Porto de Mós — Juncal - Castanheira, Alcobaça — where you could knock on any door and find a craftsman connected to this art of weaving reeds, and who today can go to the same place and find less than 20 people already with shriveled hands and without strength in their legs, preserving this 'work' in a parallel market because they never knew how to work in any other way before.


Therefore, before deciding to be a craftsman, or evaluating the work of one, you should ask yourself: is this done as a hobby as a complement to the salary, or full-time, professionally?


Also because answering this question will influence — a lot — the final price of the piece of art.



— Are you retired, business owner or entrepreneur?

Age here also counts — and a lot.


At the age of 38, Esperança left a stable job of 14 years to work in an art that never supported her parents, let alone her own family. So she only had one option: to undertake crafts. Little did she know that she would end up a businesswoman — since they are two different concepts that I will transcribe from the official website ‘Meu Bolso Em Dia’:


Businessperson:

We can consider that the businessperson is the one who chose to open a company. It is important that he has good knowledge in management - finance, marketing, planning, people management and sales. His focus is generally on keeping the business running smoothly.


Entrepreneur:

Unlike the businessperson, the entrepreneur is one who uses innovative ideas to promote changes in processes or even in the lives of a group of people.


An entrepreneur does not necessarily need to own a business. He can put his ideas into practice and generate transformation in any environment in which he is inserted. This environment can be the company he owns, in his formal or informal work, or in a social project.


Conclusion:

“— Being an businessperson is a profession, while being an entrepreneur is much more linked to a posture, a way of seeing the world” - reports Millor Machado, founding partner of the social network Empreendemia, for Exame magazine.

For the curious:


Retired:

Who is in a situation of retirement, or has definitive exemption from the effectiveness of the service, due to physical incapacity or for reaching a certain legal age, receiving a certain pension or remuneration.



— Do you have employees or do you have a family network that helps voluntarily?

Recently, we had the pleasure of welcoming a couple to our studio shop who were passing through to Fátima and they looked at the facade of our store in Corredoura, Porto de Mós, deciding to stop.


The lady commented to us that she knew this art of basketry well and that a few weeks ago she had even purchased a traditional basket at the fair from an artisan who was even working live at the loom.


However, the price she paid for the basket at the fair had nothing to do with the price of a Victoria Handmade piece of art, and despite recognizing and feeling the difference in the quality of one of our pieces and when arriving home, after buying the basket at the fair, realizing that it was not so well made after all and that she had not used it even once, the question emanated in the air that was impossible to ignore: the reason for our price vs that of the artisan at the fair? This is one of the main questions we are asked.


Let's see: in addition to having in our pieces a greater investment in terms of achievement, as synonymous of high craftsmanship means investing more time of Esperança's hands, opting for better raw materials in terms of durability and environmental sustainability, we are also comparing the price between: a) buying from a retired artisan, who works in basketry as a hobby and complement, and who has the voluntary help of her husband — facts proven by the couple who visited our atelier —, b) buying from an artisan entrepreneur, businesswoman and who has employees to pay salaries at the end of the month and still has a house open to the public – physical and online.


So you can conclude that the prices are incomparable.


In the meantime, I find myself talking — or writing, if we want to be even more realistic — without stopping on the subject, which is something that happens easily when it comes to this Portuguese art, legacy and culture. As such, I will reuse my mother's work and stick to her words written on the paper she gave me to create this article for you, in the hope that you can read it to the end and have an opinion to give - which you can write in comments section below this article:



Being a Craftsman:

— …


— Does being a craftsman force you to make art accessible to everyone's financial capacity? Aka have prices to suit all pockets?


— Why is 'being artisan' connoted as 'the poor thing' (since he doesn't have a real job, but a hobby), who works at live fairs to wake up and entertain those who ask him and often don't even buy his work, or if buy is just to help, as if it were a contribution?


— Does the artisan have to justify the value of his work?


— Because the artisan does not have, nor does he work, with machines, can we consider that he does not have any investment in his business?


— Does the artisan who produces and promotes his project have no cost to do so?


— How many hours does the artisan work per day and weekdays? How much do he invest of itself in a single piece of art?


If we sell cheaper, we would sell more. But how do we ask our hands ability to produce more? Selling more means producing more. In crafts, it means putting more hands to work. More hands to work means more employees to add to the company — how can I sell cheaper, to produce more, if I will have more costs at the end of the month that the price of my art does not pay?


— Do we look at handicrafts as if they were an industrial product?


— Do we take on quality to produce faster? Do we work more hours, or days, to produce more?


— Do we sell more abroad than to Portugal? Does Portuguese not have purchasing power? Recent studies reveal that the Portuguese dominate the purchases of the luxury real estate sector, followed by the Brazilians and only then the North Americans.


— Why does the artisanal products have to be valued abroad first, and only then be valued in the national territory?


— Why do foreign designers buy from artisans in Portugal at low prices and end up selling with their own brands, taking advantage of the manufacturing, for hundreds of euros more?


— Why does the artisan have to lower his professional status in deference to any other artist?


— Why is it that in reed basketry, the main raw material, being a plant, is considered 'straw', and the knowledge that portrays a culture and identity, as well as the art of knowing how to transform, is ignored and devalued? Is it because the reed is not noble? Isn't it gold, silver, bronze? Only that is worthy?


The new generation of artisans has the right to live not survive — from their work. This is the main reason for the disinvestment, disinterest and extinction of Arts and Crafts.


We are good professionals and appreciation has to come first from us, artisans, and only then from us, consumers.


Valuation is not synonymous with purchasing power: but with financial, environmental and social sustainability.


Valorization is in our hands, which work and transform what nature gives us best. Appreciation comes from how we look at ART and to the CRAFT ARTIST.

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