8/15/13

Anthropologie: Another Reason Quilter's Don't Sell Quilts For a Living



I don't often get on a soapbox about things that tick me off but when I heard about Anthropologie selling king size handmade quilts for just $228-$248, I couldn't help it.

The logo with their description of the line of quilts currently on their website, and I assume in their stores, reads: "what takes 72 hours, 16 hands, 12 different processes and countless colors to create?" My answer would have been a Twinkie, but since it's on their House & Home page, I assumed they meant some kind of bedding. 

As I clicked the link to find the source of such supposed handmade fabulousness, my mind kept saying "let it be some amazing-looking quilt that they are charging over a thousand dollars for..." Not such crazy thinking in my opinion. After all this is the same company that charges $140- $300 for dresses made with a yard and a half of fabric. Lest you think this entire post is me knockin' Anthropologie's game completely, and trashing the goods they peddle, I happen to be a big fan of their aesthetic, style, and fashion forwardness. It's all I can do not to add this and this to a shopping cart.

But something gets my hackles up when I see non-big-box retailers with "style street cred" marketing handmade quilts, highlighting the hours spent making it, all the hands that touched it, all the processes and colors, etc... and then you click on the quilt and see they're not even charging what some of their more expensive clothing costs!

I don't want to be accused of lifting any of their photos from their site, so I will only link to my examples here, here, here, and here. I'll wait while you go look.

I know, right?


So they're telling the world, which is made up of mostly non-quilters (let's face it, we're an awesome bunch, but we aren't in the majority...I think the woodworkers have us beat), that the retail value of a king size handmade quilt can be boiled down to the equivalent of $3.44/hr ($248 / 72 hours)?!?!

Do I even need to rant about how many other jobs, already considered low-wage, pay more than this? I don't think so.

I will say that this angers me because it is devaluing the learning and making of a craft...ANY craft, including quilting, to a level so low no one could possibly compete in the marketplace. It perpetuates the myth that a real quilt, made with quality materials, only costs around $250 to make! And we all here know, it really doesn't.

According to Anthropologie's pricing structure on these handmade quilts, the time put in to make one isn't even worth the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour. This would put them at an apparently unreachable $522, which to someone who has put in that kind of time, energy, and skill into the making of a quilt before (not to mention the cost of materials) is chump change.

So for those people who have already purchased one of these "Hothouse Quilts" and are snuggling down under it, you should feel awesome. Great. Fantastic! Because as far as I'm concerned, you just got the deal of a lifetime. Just don't go asking your local quilter to make you one for that price and wonder why you got such a nasty look in return before being told sweetly (quilters are usually saccharine sweet when giving this reply, don't be fooled though, we want to smack you upside the head....hard) "Sorry, but I couldn't make you that for anything less than $500, plus materials."

As for me, I'll seethe in silence (and on my blog apparently), but stick to making quilts for myself and as gifts.....the only way for a quilter to stay sane and solvent in this market!

Stepping off the soapbox to make room for your comments below,

CGM 

26 comments:

  1. I like how they've basically renamed comforters "handmade quilts". It's rubbish and they look like trash.

    This is ridiculous. Certainly doesn't help people understand why REAL handmade quilts are so expensive. When I have to break it down to someone that asks me to make them one their eyes glaze over not understanding why I can't match the price of a "Better Homes and Gardens" quilt from Wal-Mart.

    I don't think you were on your soapbox nearly long enough for this one Tanesha. It deserves more time.

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  2. Thanks for the "soapbox" I love it. So true all of it. People just need to understand. I re-posted on FB so my friends and family will get a clue, most of them are amazed at how much time and effort it takes, but hopefully it will open some eyes. :) Thanks for the post!

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  3. Anthropology should be embarrassed to write how many hands, processes, etc. and then offer these prices. If they are making a profit (which you KNOW they are), they are paying people (probably women) in India a weekly wage LESS than what we would pay for a large mocha latte at Starbucks. Sadly, when people are used to having so little, even that tiny bit of an income looks good. It is, in my opinion, criminal.

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  4. Thank you so much for putting this out there! I am sick to death of explaining to people why I can't make them a quilt for $50. I even had one request from a cousin, and she offered to pay me $20, and thought she was soing me a favor. Seriously!? I told her to try wal-mart. The next person who scoffs at me when I quote them a price may just get a side thrust kick to the throat. I'm sharing your post on Facebook so that maybe those people will finally get it. I'm always getting requests but they hardly ever respond again after the price quote. Putting it in numbers and terms of an hourly wage may cause them to think differently.

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  5. If would be interesting if someone figured out the per hour wage for their dresses, which some sell for 300 dollars! I don't even think these quilts are beautiful because there is no story behind it. And they look too much like comforters.

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  6. My cousin asked how much ,since she was family I said 200.00 she though that was awfull

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  7. I'm not a quilter but think that you nailed it with the part about quilters being such nice people. All the ones that I know are so sweet and love what they do so much they don't share the time and effort that goes into it. They also make it look so easy that I can see why non-quilters don't understand that even if it's enjoyable, it's work. Glad you got on your soapbox.

    This devaluing mentality is pretty common in my line of work as well- writing. I get a lot of offers to create content for nothing other than exposure. Some people dangle a very meager sum after I give them X amount of pieces specifically created for them to "see if we are a fit". I assume that we are not.

    (Also, the blue tunic? Really cute.)

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  8. Thank you. Every one who commented has said part of what I was thinking.

    I have been thinking along the same lines about Garnet Hill's quilts. They are pretty quilts and I have cut out pictures of some for inspiration, but I would *never* buy one. First I can make my own damn quilts, but I don't think quilts sold in the US should be imported. You really should go and click on the "Our Quilts" link on one of the products. They extoll the virtues of quilting as an important part of our heritage while also saying they demand 3-4 stitches per inch for handmade quilts that are imported. 3-4 stitches per inch seems like toe catchers to me. The Garnet Hill prices are the similar to the ones you quote above. Like Daisy, I quote $1000 'to start' when someone asks me to make them a quilt or to buy a quilt I have. The price does not include materials. That usually stops the conversation cold.

    I think we have a problem with value in this country. We will drive for miles to get a 'deal' and not worry when it breaks in 2 months, but we balk at paying over the Federal Minimum Wage for a quilt. You are right in implying that none of us could make a living at making quilts, so we have to design patterns and fabric to even think about making a living.

    I blame Henry Ford and his damn assembly line!

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  9. Thanks Tanesha, I was not aware of this and your comments are right on the mark. Would you mind if I posted a link to this blog post on my Facebook page?

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  10. oh Tanesha,i am right up there on the soapbox supporting you!! I think Anthropology needs to KNOW the truth!I just love it when a "buyer" stops by my booth and says "well, I bought one 20 years ago and it only cost $60!" Yeah, I wanted to hit him too. Unfortunately, in many parts of the country, quilting is still valued as a "home hobby", not a valued business with skilled, learned employees. If they were looking at a canvas with paint, then suddenly we're artistes. Quilts are works of art too, with color and structure and fabric as the medium! you go Girl, we got your back:)

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  11. You go girl! Get on that soapbox - you are right to do so. The sad part of this is that these quilts are probablly being made by children in a sweat shop in some poor country and they are paying them cents an hour there by making a huge profit even at that ridiculous price.

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  12. Thanks for this thoughtful post! YAY! The sad thing is, when people see these "quilts" at these ridiculous prices, it even cheapens the gift of a handmade quilt!

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  13. Wonderful post. I refuse to sell any of my quilts if I cannot pay myself a living wage. Imported quilts like these are always produced in sweat shops. Anyone who bothers to do the math must realize the hands that make those 'quilts' are paid pennies per day.

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  14. Maybe I'm crazy, but I would rather give away a quilt than sell one. When I give a quilt, I make it because I WANT to make it, and to show my love and affection for them. On the couple occasions when I did commission work, I did not enjoy myself, and was definitely not paid what my time is worth. Never again!

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  15. I love this post - good for you!! If ok, I'd like to link to it on my own blog?? The quilters get short-shrift bc it does take us HOURS of time to make something beautiful and the cost of fabric surely isn't going down....

    And I too get looks like "HOW much is that??" it makes me sad that people think in terms of Wal-Mart or Target pricing for a handmade quilt.

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  16. I was at a small local arts/crafts show yesterday with my sister--she commented on how low one vendor's prices were (stone work, not quilts). She'd said something to the vendor and the vendor replied, "Oh, I price low because I just do this for fun, I'm not trying to make a living or anything." When my sister told me that, I responded, "That's great for her, but she's undercutting every other vendor out there who IS trying to make a living." My sister's husband is a professional musician and has the same problem--everyone expects him to play for free or dirt cheap because "it's great exposure." Very little in the world of the arts is really valued. And when Anthropologie, or department stores, sell "handmade quilts" for less than we could buy the fabric to make the same quilt for, they're undercutting all of those people who really do try to make a living at it. Plus probably gouging the people who are making those quilts. Thanks for your blog post--it's fantastic!

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  17. Your comment as well as your post are also the reason I would never make a quilt on commission unless I was getting professional prices as only a very few quilters achieve. I went to an art sale for pottery once and was shocked at the pieces going for upwards of $7000 dollars. I wondered at the time if it was because pottery was formerly not a woman's domain? Keep writing Tanesha and thank you for your wonderful podcasts.

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  18. Thank you for this post, Tanesha. I have been trying to sew for a living for the last few years, and often get the "stink-eye" when I tell my potential customers the price, even though I am rarely charging more than $5 an hour (which is so below standard it's ridiculous). I love what I do, hence the low hourly wage, but it still makes a twin-sized quilt cost about $500. I have a friend who is famous for telling me that she can buy a nice apron at Home Goods for $15 (I charge $30), and I tell her that $15 barely covers the cost of materials, and if you feel good about having a 5 year-old child from another country make your aprons, then go for it. Grrrrrrr!! I feel like flailing and throwing myself on the floor. I am sharing this post on Facebook, and I pray that people will get a clue.

    So, if we decide to picket in front of Anthropology headquarters, can we do it with quilted signs?

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  19. I'm on my phone reading this and have no patience reading the comments before me and I am sorry about that. Totally agree wih your rant about his. Let's not forget what the label on these quilts say: made in China. Which means they have no reason to match the minimal hourly rate o$7.25 when they're paying the people who are making these very far from custom made bed covers. I'm not sure if you've seen the up close and personal, but they're far from what we call our quilt aret and quality. And people who care about quilts know this. Whoever want custom made will pay for it, and whoever wants it for cheap will get what they pay for. Ah-men :))

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  20. How they feel good about selling an outfit for 348.00 that I CAN make for 20 bucks, and not too much time, and sell a "handmade" quilt for less than the fabric cost, unless you haunt 2nd hand shops. Even I have to have new fabric sometimes. There is someone on Etsy who sells beautiful pincushions for not nearly enough money, because she does it for fun. So many people do that, though at the same time I do see jewelry artists who are able to make fair prices for their wares.

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  21. I'm a quilt artist and I'm not such a nice person. I haven't sold a bed sized quilt for less than $3500 and have no problem showing someone the accounting behind it. When quilting someone else's top, I have met those who think I should charge $100 or less like some people do, yet want the custom feathers and intricate fillers that make quilt show judges swoon. My customers now are very used to paying $1200-$2000 for custom quilting on their quilts, because they are artists, and they know what 2-3 weeks of my life is worth. If we want to change the notion that our work is worthless, we need to stop being nice and sweet about it.

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  22. I love you so very much for this post!! Thank you!
    I the same, "I would rather give away a quilt than sell one", like Coleen, but lately, I start learning to be "not such a nice person" like Frank...And ha-haaa! I feel good now. Good luck to everyone of you my friends!

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  23. I SO ditto all comments! I don't even want 10$ an hour to quilt make or long arm machine quilt. If I DO want 10$ an hour, I can work at Starbucks AND get benefits there! Geesh....People are ignorant.
    The only commissions Ive taken have been from doctors who don't care what the price is....
    Here in my city the longarm machine quilters have banded together trying to ensure standard prices for machine quilting work.
    Graeat post! :)

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