We have all heard about upcycling- reusing or repurposing old or unwanted items to create something new and breathe new life into items that might otherwise end up in our landfills.
You might think that the work produced from these discards would yield a low cost product. Unfortunately, unless you are painting a soup can to use as a pencil holder, that's not really the case.
So let’s break down why upcycled items typically sell for a pretty penny.
1) Upcycled items, including the scrap leather remnants I use in my pieces, are not free. The quality of leather scrap I purchase is far superior to what is sold in bags at the craft store. I purchase these highly desirable remnants in bulk from other artists who may not be able to use the tiny bits of scrap leftover from their own projects. As it should be! These are amazing treasures that I am happy to pay for.
2) When I buy in bulk, I may not be able to use everything in the lot, so I spend a lot of TIME sorting and choosing items I can use. I then donate the remainder to other creative friends, artists, or schools.
3) The upcycled items do not make up all the materials used in my creations. I also purchase genuine stones, brass wire, and gold filled findings. Very frequently, the cost of these items exceeds the cost of the remnants.
4) TIME. TIME. TIME. This photo represents approximately 16 hours of time spent creating 9 pairs of earrings. That’s approximately 1.8 hours of labor to design and assemble one pair. This does not include time spent sourcing materials and sorting them, photographing and editing, marketing, website management, order processing, packaging, or shipping.
5) As any maker knows, design work takes time and creative ability not everyone possesses. Remember you are also paying an artist for their work and creative genius. Most upcycled items are one of a kind making each piece special and unique. There is no quick or easy means for reproduction. I let my materials guide my creative process and I go through this process with every single creation.
Each artist's process is different. So, too, is the means by which they source their materials, where they obtain them from, and what they pay for them. As time marches on, and the world becomes more earth conscious, the suppliers and entrepreneurs take notice. Materials that may once have been given away for free are now being sold at increasing prices to artists who intend to use or reuse them. This will not deter Zero Waste artists like myself as the point is not make low cost items, but to create uniquely beautiful designs intended help the earth, adorn the body, and please the soul.
I hope this helps to shed some light onto small business artistic upcycling. I am proud to offer quality product and unique designs, and I’m always happy to share about my process and creations.
Please feel free to reach out if you’d like to learn more!