Thursday, July 30, 2009
I saw a knitted hemp pillow online with a $570 price tag. (the one with the patch is only $525, I think it was. I'm still working out the patch bit. . . . 'now just why are we patching this new pillow? So that it looks old? and we pay more for that? And why was that again?') I liked the cable one, but $570?!
"Ridiculous!" I thought. "I'll make my own!" and so I did.
Two weeks later, I had my own completed pillow - in a beautiful celadon cotton.
At some point, I did the math: OK. Two weeks - but not full-time - but yes, probably a good 40 to 50 hours. If not more! (It's fine yarn on thin needles) and then the materials. Hmmm. At $11 an hour, that's just about $570 for the pillow. . . .
Not that the hemp pillow-people are paying anyone eleven bucks an hour to knit pillows for them, but that's part of the problem, isn't it?! Somehow we've lost our yardstick for what's valuable, and what's worth what. I couldn't make a living making and selling hand-knit pillows because there aren't many people willing to pay $570 for a pillow. And, quite frankly, I don't know that I would accept a job that paid $11 an hour. Yet there are other handmade pillows - knit ones, too - for a whole lot less than $570. That's where it gets scary. Somewhere out there, there are people knitting these things for a whole lot less than $11 an hour. They may even be knitting them for less than $11 a pillow for all I know. Meanwhile, we're getting used to thinking that hand-knit pillows shouldn't cost $570. . . . We fail to see the work that goes into it; we certainly have failed to pay for it!
This is what I get for re-reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged after getting my PhD. . . . Add Ayn Rand, the non-instrumentalization of another person (part of Kant's Categorical Imperative) and E.F. Schumacher's Economics as if people really mattered and you get valid worries over the price of knitted pillows online. . . .
Meanwhile, I've got my pillow, to which I do not ascribe a monetary value. That's fine, so long as I don't fall off the other side of the horse and say that nonascription of monetary value is the same as a zero monetary value, or that there is no monetary value to be ascribed to the ability to create something that is beautiful, that goes beyond even the hours it took to make it.
Thankfully, no, the pillow is not for sale.