Yesterday I talked about how what people want for their dolls goes through phases. Another phase we have in doll making is asking why the dolls are so expensive and if we can make just the clothing. This can be very frustrating to all artists, not just to doll makers. So today I am going to talk about price vs cost. The way I am using those words it will mean the cost of materials vs the price you pay for a finished item. And let me say, there is a reason why every artist prices their items/services the way they do.
Eleven years ago I took this photo at a live show. The FAS was not typical for a live show class, this was a class specifically for him. Not my entry, but it is my photo. And it is a doll I made. A doll I made WAY back at the beginning of doll making. She was something like #30, or somewhere around there. She is a nice doll, her clothes fit, and she rides a horse nicely.
This is a very basic Western pleasure doll I made last year. Not only do I now use dolls that are more realistic, this particular doll has been further customized so we can have some show ring diversity. She is not super fancy, I didn't want her to be, but she is polished and has the benefit of 11 more years of experience (probably 15, the above doll was made way before the photo was taken). Some people likely can't see the difference, but there definitely are people that can.
Here is another live show entry from the same show as the western pleasure FAS from above. This was one of my therapeutic riding entries. I have been putting together therapeutic riding entries since I started showing. Some things don't change, but some things have changed a lot. These dolls I used are nice, could probably still show today (though the hunt seat doll I think I would certainly retire), but the dolls I make have gotten nicer.The guy leading the pony is not a super new doll, but he is still usable. The rider is a custom built youth doll with very nicely fitted clothing. The side walkers both have more modern outfits, nicely fitted clothing and are generally more polished than the dolls I made years ago.
All of the dolls in this post are usable dolls, some are nicer than others, and some are definitely more polished than others. So lets talk about the costs. My costs to make the dolls has gone up significantly over the years. Prices of materials are not a static thing. Dolls have gone up, fabric has gone up, Swarovski crystals have always been insanely expensive, but those too have gone up. And while all of the costs have gone up they are still just a portion of the price of the doll.
Most artists and crafters have probably heard the argument that if the person buying had the materials/patterns/and so on they could make the item for so much less. Sure, that's true. But would you know how to do it? I have paint and naked models, that should mean I can paint lovely models myself and save a lot of money. Right? The reality doesn't work that way. I have paint, pastels, models, and even some practice, but I am not a great painter. Because I don't have the experience.
A lot of people lately have been asking if I will make just clothing items. Removable clothing is never as nicely fitted as permanent clothing and is actually a lot harder to make than permanent clothing. You need to figure out how to fit it as nicely as possible, while also making some sort of closures, that hopefully are not horribly out of scale, plus you have to do all sorts of reinforcement to combat the wear and tear of being put on and taken off. And many people still feel that if they could just get clothing it should be cheaper. The cost of the doll itself is just a small portion of the price of the finished doll. And often a very small portion. I personally will buy dolls in mass quantities to get volume discounts. Which also means I need to put a ton of money out up front. Supplying your own doll will get you a very small discount, but likely not what you are hoping for.
Let's go back to experience. I have over 35 years of experience sewing. I have over 15 years of experience making model horse rider dolls. When you order a doll from me you are not just buying the base doll, the fabric, the ribbon, paint and so on. You are buying a bit of my experience. I worked really hard for a very long time to gain that experience. I can confidently say that no, you can't do what I do, even if I told you exactly how to do it. That only comes with practice and time. I am sure there are some people that find that statement to be rude. Too bad. I keep that in mind every time I feel a bit of sticker shock at a price for anything in this hobby. Just because I can't personally afford it doesn't mean it is overpriced. Those gorgeous painted resins that cost thousands of dollars? You are not paying for resin and paint, you are paying for the artists experience. The tack that is so detailed that you thought it was real? Again, you are not just paying for leather, glue and dye, you are paying for the artists experience.
Sure, there are some items in the hobby that are overpriced. Either the artist felt they could skip the experience stage and just go from being brand new to charging more or they hoped they could. But I know from EXPERIENCE that most artists severely undercharge for their work. They want to try to make things affordable for as many people as possible. Which means we spend a lot of time working and barely scraping by. Which isn't fair. And then we hear that our work is too expensive or overpriced. And it sucks.
This post is a bit about my recent experiences, a bit about the recent experiences of some friends, and a bit about what I have just been seeing from the hobby in general. I thought it was time to say again that there is a difference between cost and prices. And just because you can't see yourself paying the particular asking price of a hobby item, doesn't mean it is overpriced, it just means that is out of your particular budget, for whatever reason. The way we say things does matter.