Dollar value or functional value?Posted: November 24, 2013
A family member, for reasons I can’t fathom, felt the need to post this link to my Facebook wall in reference to my baby quilts. It’s a woman’s reflection on the “true value” of one of her quilts. All it really did for me was convince me further that I have no interest in ever trying to sell my quilts for what they’re “worth.” I mean, I think her prices are outrageous ($30 an hour for labor? My mother has a master’s degree and makes less than that teaching disadvantaged four-year-olds, several of whom have special needs. There’s no way that the time I spend on my hobby is worth more than the time my mother spends changing the lives of small children! And don’t get me started on $15 a yard for fabric, because I have NEVER paid that, even for the designer stuff!), but that’s not my real issue with the idea.
Nobody’s going to use a quilt that costs four figures. Even if, by some miracle or while smoking crack, someone actually paid $1500 for a queen-sized quilt (which is a fair market price if a crafter’s going to get their labor out of it), that’s too expensive for something that’s going to go on the bed. There are two categories of quilts that I make: quilts for people I know and genuinely care about on a personal level, like the baby quilt for Jack and his wife, and quilts for babies whose families can’t afford baby blankets. When I give someone a quilt, yes, it’s a one-of-a-kind original, but you know what? It’s also a warm blanket. It has a purpose. If a quilt costs that kind of money, it’s too expensive to actually use, and it ends up hung on a wall for decoration. Honestly, as much as I’ve liked some of the wall hangings I’ve seen, I’d be a bit hurt if I put hours of work into a warm, comforting, useful quilt and the recipient just hung it on the wall. A quilt is, in many ways, the closest I can come to giving someone a long-term hug, and hugs are for people, not for walls. I would hope that anyone for whom I’d make a quilt is going to actually use the thing, because otherwise, all the work I’ve put into it has gone to waste.
I have to wonder about a society in which we value the dollar cost of an item so much that we’re willing to sacrifice the item’s reason for existing. And it’s not just the quilts. Think about antique cars. They were built to be driven, but instead they’re “restored” and parked in garages where people just look at them. Low mileage raises their value. Collectible toys and action figures, meant to be played with, but kept in the boxes to be resold at a higher price later on. Why do we value the price tag more than the use for which the item is intended?