hey no worries, a lot of people ask this!
for starters, sewing plush is my only job. i don’t do it on the side and have a real job that pays the bills; i need to make enough money for rent and car payments and groceries and textbooks and have enough leftover to maybe have a life or nice clothes (doesn’t happen often). and because of how my time is stretched during school, even at these prices, even if i’m sewing every weekend, i still struggle to make ends meet a lot.
second, i know my time is worth more than minimum wage. one of my professors once kind of ranted to us about problems with pricing art too low, and one of his points was that art is a skill that not everyone can do— that’s why people pay other people to make them art. if it was something grilling burgers or putting merchandise away that everyone could do, it would be worth minimum wage. but since my sewing is a skill that not many people can do, my time is worth more. it’s also worth more because i’ve spend basically my whole life working on this skill and making it better, and i wasn’t paid for all of those hours that i spent practicing. in fact, i paid for a lot of those hours through school tuition, since i’m working on getting my BFA in illustration (“illustration”, but really i’m focusing on toy design) so because of all of that, my time is worth the same as any other professional person with a specific skill. and after everything boils down i end up getting paid about $10-$12/hour.
it probably goes without saying that i spend a lot of time on each of these plush, but i’ll say it anyways. i spend a lot of hours on each of the things i make. sure it may only take me 3 or 4 hours of actual sewing and construction and stuffing, but that’s like… the very very last part of making these plush. i spend a lot of hours thinking about the form of the thing, thinking about what position would be best and stay balanced the most, how many pieces i should split this weird-shaped head into to get the right shape, etc. and this isn’t (usually) just daydreaming during class kind of thinking, while i’m also getting other things done; a lot of the time i just have to sit down and stare at the reference pictures and try to piece them out and flatten them out in my head for a few hours before i can get started sketching and drafting the pattern. THEN i actually get to drafting the pattern, and that requires a lot of measuring and tracing and cutting out and re-tracing and making sure things will probably fit together right. then after that i do a test run of the pattern to make sure it actually works, and a lot of the time i have to go back to the pattern and change some things and re-sew the pattern test. then after that’s all worked out i need to design all the embroidered parts, first tracing them out on the pattern so i have the placement right, then scanning them in and making a vector of them, and then making an embroidery pattern out of the vector, and then it usually takes about an hour of setup and takedown to embroider things. THEN after all of that, i can finally get to the ~4 hours of sewing to finish the thing. i also have to take into account all the time spent at the fabric store matching colors, and all the time spent answering emails and working out the design and the colors with the commissioner, and going to the post office to mail it.
and then on top of that this is a custom piece of art, it’s one of a kind and specifically for you. when you look at what artists in the real world charge, it’s something around $1000+ for an oil painting, about $3000 for a book cover illustration, and lots and lots and LOTS more for a sculpture. my prices for one-of-a-kind art are actually kind of low, and that’s due to the medium. because they’re “stuffed animals”, and considered more toys than pieces of art, people don’t value them at the same level, so i have to charge less.
i am actually thinking of charging more the next time i get back into sewing full time though, because last summer when i was sewing full time (actually more like 10 hours a day) i was making about $1200/mo, and i found out that if i got a full time job at $12/hr i could be making almost $1000 MORE a month than i do sewing. which means i was making less than $12/hr, and i personally think my time is worth more like $15/hr.
so long story short
- i’m worth more than minimum wage
- these plush are VERY time consuming
- you’re paying for a one of a kind piece of art
- at these prices i’m not actually making as much as i value my time at, and i’m just making enough to live on.
i hope that clears things up for anyone who was wondering!!