It seems everyone is talking about #FairFiberWage. It started with teachers being offered contracts for a large show that were not fair. The contracts pushed all of the risk in paying teachers from a shared one to one shouldered mainly by the teachers. The teachers talked, and many decided that they were not going to teach for sub-par wages. Out of these discussion, a hashtag and larger discussion was born. Maybe you've been following it on Twitter, or Facebook, or Ravelry. We wanted to add to the conversation from the prospective of a vendor.
It is rare that our dollars can make a difference on an immediate and personal level. Luckily for us, the fiber world is one place that this is true. You can spend $2.50 for size 6 seed beads at Michael's and you get beads. At Michael's you support a corporate machine that bargains suppliers down to the most rock bottom prices. You can spend (on average) $10 for size 6 seed beads from me. Cheap? No. Choices? Over 200 colors. And we answer questions about how to use them in your fiber work, and we know which beads work best on what yarns, we have patterns and kits, and we bring them to fiber shows and you can match them to your yarn, and we help you to match them, and we are knitters and crocheters who understand your obsession. When you buy from us you have a direct effect on our wages.
We are a family business. When you buy from us you're supporting Ryan's (age 13) drum lessons, Ross' (age 16) bass guitar lesson, Daxton's (age 4) pirate obsession., and Felix's (age 18) college education. You are helping to family to live and be happy. We don't do this for the money. Seriously, we will never get rich doing this. We will be able to home school and work with customers we love. You are the reason we are doing this. We truly love to share our beads and our knowledge with you. You are buying beads, yes, but you are also buying our years of expertise.
When a show charges us exorbitant fees to vend, we can't afford to do it. For large shows, we spend about $1500 on booth fees, $100 on gas, $300-$500 on hotel rooms/Air B&B, $1000-$3000 on stock, and about $50 a day on food. (Our costs are even higher if we have to fly to a show and ship our beads.) Like all vendors, we cut corners: we bring food to eat in the hotel room, we rarely stay at the venue hotel, we rarely go site-seeing, we drive up to 12 hours a day to get to shows sometimes for 2 or 3 days in a row. This doesn't count the prep we do for shows (ordering, sorting, tagging, etc) and it doesn't count the non-monetized parts of doing a show such as listening to customers who (far more often than you think) tell us about their problems and home life, ask for advice on selling their creations, need us to stand next to them and help them decide which beads go with which yarn. We don't mind these parts of our business. In fact, these things make our days more interesting, but they are also emotionally draining. Sometimes (rarely) the show producers will give us a care package with water and snacks, or pay for us to have help with load-in and load-out, or have coffee/tea available in the mornings, or have pizza or cake during set-up. These little things make us ridiculously happy.
If the show doesn't have teachers and classes to draw students, our take home pay is considerably less and we might (and have) lost money doing a show. There is a need for teachers to be paid fairly so that the show model works. We want fiber shows to do well, not only because we want to earn a living, but also because we are knitters and crocheters, spinners and weavers ourselves. We want to be able to learn from the teachers, buy from the other vendors, and still feel like we are being treated fairly. We are consumers of the show experience as well as being part of creating it.
So, what do we actually earn at shows? After spending about $4,000 we are generally happy to clear $5,500. This means we walk away with $1,500 on average. Disclaimer: These are our figures and don't necessarily reflect what other vendors make.
We do this about 20 times each year. Along with web sales and trunk shows, this is how we put food on the table and a roof over our heads, and we consider ourselves to be very lucky because lots of vendors have "day jobs" in addition to vending.
So, where you spend your fiber dollars matters.
We are grateful when you choose to spend them with us!
If you want to read more about this issue, we suggest reading these blog posts:
What does it cost to hire top talent in fiber arts? I’m glad you asked. -Abby Franquemont
The great teaching kerfuffle -Mary Beth Temple
In Response to Diane Piwko on Fair Fiber Wages -Abby Franquemont
No Apologies -Mary Beth Temple
Risk vs. Reward: The True Costs of Fiber Teaching -Miriam Felton
Fair Fiber Wage, a look from the other side -jacey boggs
Labour Day -Laura Fry
Show Time: Teacher Compensation at Larger Venues -Annie Modesitt
I Used to Hire Teachers -Beth Smith
We're just a couple of bead chicks who found fiber and came over to the dark side. It's OK though, we brought cookies :)
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