I love freebies. I don’t care if I never use something or if a free printable sits in a folder on my desktop never to be seen again, the promise that something is free is so enticing to me. The internet has sold us on the promise of free. Blogs provide generally free content that’s new and exciting. Youtube can entertain us free of charge for hours. And why would anyone pay for a newspaper when they can google something and find out infinitely more about that topic essentially for the price of a wifi subscription?
If I love FREE, it naturally follows that if I do have to pay for something, I don’t want it to be expensive. To a certain degree, I feel I am owed a good deal. If I can pay for something when it is discounted, why would I buy it at full price?
I used to scoff at the high prices of fine art and wonder who would spend that much money on something they don’t need. Now that I’m running a business creating art, I realize how much time, energy, and financial investment goes into creating that final piece. Many artists and creators would probably make minimum wage if they were getting paid by the hour. Handmade products of any kind are more than the final product, they are the culmination of hours of labor.
The thing is, there are people who will drop $4 on a coffee every day of the week and think nothing of it, but would never consider paying for something handmade that will last forever. It’s all about what you value.
But it’s also about something gaining inherent value through the process that goes into creating it. I’m all for recognizing and acknowledging when something has worth and being willing to pay for that value. My thing is handmade soaps. I know I can go to Wal-Mart and pick up a two-pack of soap for a dollar if I wanted to, but the value that I get from a homemade bar of soap with all it’s fragrance and beauty is worth the $6 bar. I also know that a lot more goes into making that bar than into the manufactured one. There’s value in shopping handmade, and there’s also a lot that goes on behind the scenes that if we knew about it, we’d be willing to pay even more for a product or a service.
I can’t make handmade soap, and so I pay other makers to do it for me. What I can do is paint. Maybe it’s not worth it to you to pay for my work, but you probably pay to put something on your walls (or maybe you like bare walls, but that’s another post entirely).
My sister-in-law is a musician. I mean, she works full time doing amazing ministry work, but the music is inside of her and pours out of her in such a beautiful way. She would be a starving artist if she relied on her music (plus she’s amazing at her day job), because it’s hard to make it in the music industry. Not to mention, Pandora and other music sites beckon to us with their promise of free.
Creatives do what they do out of a love and passion for their art, but they’re probably also working their butts off to compete with a world that offers many things for mere pennies. We spend money on lots of things, but do we really think about the value of what we buy?
“Art rarely invites instant gratification. Just as Art takes time to create, and undergoes all sorts of transformations and revisions, in the process of being created, art needs to be responded to by countless re-seeings or re-hearings or re-readings. Art literally appreciates as we assimilate it into our lifetimes.
“Even when we think Art comes out of nowhere, Art comes out of everywhere, the everywhere we don’t know until we begin to join words or chisel stone or fling paint. Art transforms us to the extent, and depth, that our lives have informed it.”
– Philip Booth, Trying to Say It
Is the slow beautiful process of creating art inherently valuable to you? Does the re-seeing of it transform your life? Does it point you to something greater?
Next time you want to give into the offer of getting something for free, stop and consider its true value. By paying nothing for it, you’re saying it’s worth nothing to you. Instead, find things of true value that will appreciate with time and understanding. It might not be an object, but a service or an experience that highlights the process of creating. Let it point you to the ultimate Creator from Whom all beauty and art originated.