For what it's worth... A few thoughts on value

Posted by Nicole Duranton Sigl on

Hello folks,

How are you all keeping? These are trying times and I'm thinking about you lots, wondering how everyone is coping as well as sincerely hoping that you're all staying healthy. I've been meaning to sit down and write a post for days now but my mind (like everybody else's, I guess!?) was too frazzled to write a suitable text for this platform here.

Anyway, I'm not writing to address the current climate any further than I already have on my social media, I feel that's not my place. Now that I have established a new kind of "normal" at home and in my mind though, I'd rather focus on a subject that I do have something valuable to say about. Which is right on topic: value. Today, I wanted to write to you about why I am doing what I am doing and how I go about it. In short, about my values as well as the value of my work.

To avoid this becoming a novel in its own right, I'll try to be as concise as possible. Some might consider it bold and overly straightforward even but it cannot be helped - it is a rather emotional subject for me and so many more makers out there, no doubt. And it's necessary for people to hear (or read), I feel.

It starts with my motivation to make jewellery for anyone, to be worn anytime and anywhere. I've often said that life itself is the occasion and I still believe that. Why wait? If you like it, just wear it already. Don't be afraid to make a statement and express yourselves, your tastes, who you are or trying to be. "What if it's 'different'?" I hear you say. So what? Then be different, there's nothing wrong with that. Dare to be different! Another thing I cannot emphasise enough.

I've been told that my jewellery is 'different' so often that it's made me think... maybe I'm on to something!? Because to me, 'different' is definitely a compliment. I mean, why would you spend good money on something only to be like everybody else? No way. That's why I keep making one-off pieces and nothing is ever exactly the same. This is not the way to create anything fast or cheap. Again, no way. Price-wise, my work can't compete with all the mass produced or cast pieces out there. Neither do I plate my jewellery. I don't see the value in that. It's high maintenance for you, more work for me, yet less value for all of us. Everybody loses.

So there it is again. Value. The value of things. I work with precious metals and gemstones. Everything is individually handmade, from scratch, by me, here in Ireland in my little workshop. So my work can't and shouldn't be compared to work mass produced under different circumstances in other parts of this world. I can't and won't work for free, hence I will never underprice my work just to sell more. It's not about selling or, from your perspective, buying more at all. It's about buying better. That way sustainability (which will be a separate blog post) becomes a happy byproduct. I don't expect anyone to work for free when I go into any shop, café or restaurant. Ask yourself, how much value do you place on yourself and your own work (whatever it may be)? So why do people expect free work from individual artists and craftspeople then? 

Do you spend a lot on things that have no intrinsic value? It's the shopping habits that also have to change. Otherwise something of actual value becomes devalued by comparison. People's false expectations that everything should be cheap, readily available and immediately accessible need to be corrected.

I know it's an unpleasant topic and we all find ourselves discussing this from a privileged position to begin with, even in times like these. But bear with me, we need to talk about this and rethink. Especially when hashtags such as #shoplocal, #supportlocal or #shopsmall are floating around everywhere. If we want something of good quality and we can possibly afford it, then we should pay a fair price for its value - not haggle and sneer.

Nobody should work for less than a normal working wage and artists/makers shouldn't be the exception. We shouldn't have to be ashamed of charging what we and our work is worth. For example, look up the prices of precious metals. Add working hours, not to mention design, customer services, overhead costs etc... Then do the maths, look any craftsperson in the eye and still tell them it's too expensive. Moral being: pay a fair price for what you want to have rather than devaluing it by uneducated comparisons and unrealistic expectations.

Craftspeople are expected/forced to compete their prices with big companies or brands that more often than not contribute to unfair working conditions. This is wrong on many levels. People have to learn and understand what goes into a piece of art or jewellery, in my case... Materials, time etc... I see it as part of my job to educate people about this. Perhaps this helps those who read my last posts understand what I meant by 'making less' this year. I refuse to devalue or undervalue my work to suit those who have no understanding and appreciation of what I do to begin with. That is not sustainable for me as a businesswoman, let alone as a person. I am not a commodity nor a convenience - especially not now, by speaking up in this way, I reckon...

My intention, however, is not to put you off. On the contrary! You who took the time to read this will surely understand that nobody likes to work for free. You hopefully also see the value in my work. And you probably also get why I'm writing this, namely to be able to continue working true to my values. I want to continue to create beautiful jewellery for anyone, to be worn anytime and anywhere. But I won't do it at any cost and certainly not for free. Because where would be the value in that?

Are you still with me? I sincerely hope you don't mind my little (ie very long), straight from the heart pep talk but honesty is another core value for me. And I simply felt I needed to get this issue of my chest. So thank you, as always, for reading, maybe thinking about these words next time you're making a considered purchase, and perhaps even for helping me spread the word about the value of craftsmanship. 

Stay safe and healthy everyone, big love,

Nicole x