Friday, June 12, 2009

Glass vs Clay

While flitting through etsy offerings, i couldn't help noticing that artisan polymer clay beads are usually being sold for much less that handmade glass beads. I hope our sisteren don't hate us glassworkers for this inequality. But let's look at it, shall we?

The artist of etsy shop sigaliot (click on photos to go to shop) grabbed my eye with these bead designs. (I'm liking the retro dots thing, and the pink and green color combos, and i love the shapes!) IF, and that's a big if, i could make a bead like this in glass, it would take me at least 20 minutes per bead, i'm thinking. And for me, that makes it a $6 or $8 bead. (I'll explain my pricing system sometime if anyone cares.) Sigaliot doesn't charge that much, and if you look at other clay workers, their prices often look ridiculously low.

So using these beautiful beads as an example, a clay worker would first need to spend a couple of hours to make the canes to get ready to assemble this set of beads. Then there is the cane slicing , the assembling, and the shaping of each bead. I'm guessing, but this step alone might take about 20 minutes per bead. Then after baking, there is the laborious process of hand sanding and buffing to get the lovely, glassy surface shine. I think polymer clay is at least twice as expensive as a similar amount of glass, so there is the added cost of materials, too. Sure, the lampworker has to have a rather pricier oven to "bake" (or anneal) the glass beads, and the gas used in the torch costs something... Okay, so i can' t factor it all in, but it still seems to me that most clay bead makers are getting a bum deal.

At the end of the day, the clay artist has invested hours of labor into one set of beads and it would be nice to see that expertise compensated. I used to tat, and i loved using that classic knotting technique to make a doily, but no one wanted to buy it for more than you would expect to pay for a machine-made, Chinese produced, doily that you can get down at the Dollar Store. There are so many arts and fine crafts that suffer this fate. I'm sure it's a labor of love for the artist, but i wish the buying public could see their way to putting a fairer monetary value on such beautiful little works of art, a value that better represented the time and expertise that goes into the creation of the piece.

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