How do we value creativity?
I have recently had the pleasure of mentoring two groups of very talented craftspeople and designers which has led me to ask myself about how we value creativity in terms of money.....???
I have been one of the lucky ones...(very little luck...sheer hard work and resilience)....able to establish and run design businesses that afforded me a decent salary and work that truly brought me joy over many years.
However, to achieve this, there is always a trade off ..and for me it was time, stress and knowing that my product may have to be more commercial than I would necessarily want it. This was my choice so that my product would appeal to a wider audience. I spent years designing garments with an end user in mind but always knew how to put a value on what I did and what I brought that was unique to my skills.
Historically, craft and design were well valued as were the many skills of designers, ateliers, skilled sewers, knitters, crafts people and artists of every variety....that was until the arrival of mass market production. Suddenly the goal became to convince the public to consume more, buy it cheaper and de-value the cost and input of skilled workers that made the product. After all it created jobs didn't it??
And this is the argument I still hear today about the virtual slave labour in mass-market fashion. It is as though keeping people in poverty so that some can buy an inexpensive dress (that will only be ever worn once) is a good thing because it might buy a few grains of rice for a struggling family.
Fast forward to today and I am left wondering why only a chosen few can make a decent wage from their art, skills and creativity....When did creative skills become something everyone wanted to possess but nobody wanted to pay properly for?
The truth is that the very top end brands still employ very gifted artisan craftspeople and pay them well...hence the price-tag on the labels which very few can afford.
What about all the other skilled craftspeople that I have encountered over many years that virtually work for free because they cannot ask for the true cost of their labour?
The irony to me is that so many people will buy something overpriced that has been endorsed by a celebrity. Most of the money paid for these products simply makes wealthy people richer.
My last blogpost asked people to think before they buy and to try to choose better where possible. I now seek to reinforce this by suggesting that we all consider buying products from some very gifted and skilled creative local people first when we are looking for something new in the coming months.
It may be simpler to take a trip to a large international store and buy things for this moment in time, but what about really making the effort to buy something to cherish....something you will adore now and in the future. What about taking the time to consider the creativity, skill and effort that went into making the object or garment that makes you feel happy. Why not look at the perfection and imperfections that make each piece individual, allowing you to know that you truly own one of a kind?
Finally if you still prefer to buy something mass produced or imported try to consider at least looking for fairtrade or fairchain so there is a little comfort in knowing that workers are paid for their skills.