Time to create
People, on the whole, love the inherent beauty and tactile nature of hand made ironwork. Most of my customers compliment the delicate nature of the work compared to the robustness of its construction, the fact that it looks, correctly, like it will last a lifetime.
The other most common thing that is said to me is that it must have taken ages to make. Very often this isn’t the case, in fact, for a lot of the products I make and sell, the opposite is true. The leaf keyrings I make take about 10 minutes each. The Punched Bottle Openers about 20 minutes. I can make about 8 pairs of my Simple Shelf Brackets in a day.
These stock items have been designed to be simple and elegant. They have also been designed and refined over a long period of time, often with custom jigs or templates made specifically to help speed up the making process.
The time that it takes for me to come up with a new product (which involves testing ideas, making prototypes and refining, then coming up with jigs and templates to make the process as efficient as possible) does take time. Quite a lot in fact. And that’s not even taking in to consideration all the ideas that got to varying stages along the way, only to be retired or consigned to the ‘not quite right’ pile (scrap bin).
Further still, consider how the idea for a new design or product came about in the first place, whether that is a response to a particular problem (my Thumb Latch came about by a customer needing a small latch to fit into a very small space), or a desire to focus on a particular process or technique (my Square Shelf Brackets were designed to make a feature of my makers mark and the punched hole technique). The majority of my ideas have been worked on and considered for quite some time before they even get to see a hot forge.
In other respects the time it has taken me, or perhaps more accurately my hand, to learn how and where to hit steel in order to quickly and effectively make a leaf (see my Leaf Keyrings) has taken years and years of training and practice.
This time is something that I find very difficult to charge for. All products have to exist within a market and for the most part, their price is already determined by this market. The cost of product development has to be carried by me, which is why it’s so difficult and time consuming to add to my product range, something that is vital for me to do in order to expand and develop my business.
The other way of working, and the way that most of the blacksmiths I know work, is to commission, rather than making a range of products. It is something that I do from time to time and has a completely different and unique set of challenges and expenses. This way of working is something I will come back to in a future post.