I’ve lately taken to making little scrapbooks. I especially like the ones made with one sheet of paper or cardstock. They’re so friendly and little. I like the interactive pockets and flaps and tags and special things that make the book interesting to flip through, even before adding personal photos.
I’ve made several of these little books for myself, as well as for a few friends. Someone asked to buy one last week, if I would make her one in different colors. I was so happy to have my work admired that I cheerfully agreed, thinking it would be very little work, and enjoyable work at that.
The thing is, working to fulfill a commission (and a TINY-itty-bitty commission at that) is so different from just making whatever I want, whenever I want. This book isn’t being much fun to make. I feel pressure to make it up to the standards of someone I don’t even know for sure what they want. I’m winging it, and hoping my final product will be pretty, in her opinion. Worth all the five dollars she’ll pay me. Gosh, that sounds so awful. I’ve been working every day for the past week on this. Not strenuous eight-hour days with a nasty commute, but still… my creativity is going into this. I’m practically inventing a brand-new book for her. Okay, sure it is my own fault that I’m unable to just knock something together and call it good. I feel compelled to really try hard to make it special. I don’t have a pattern I’m following, though. I’m doing this out of my own imagination and honestly five dollars will just barely cover the cost of the paper I’m putting into it.
That’s why I always feel so conflicted whenever people gasp appreciatively at the things I make, and tell me admiringly that I should SELL these things! Oh, I could make a LOT of money if I opened an Etsy store or set up a booth at a farmer’s market! But they don’t know what I put into things. Everything I make is a prototype. I never make exactly the same thing twice, and usually I innovate some new part of the process (not just alter some small detail of design or color). In the case of this book, I did a totally new page size, layout, binding system, and application system for the decorative paper, as well as custom-made tags and embellishments. But the customer will just see a little 4”x4” booklet with eight pages that she paid $5 for, and will think that’s all it was worth. She could surely have bought something vaguely similar at a store for a comparable price. All my innovation isn’t part of what she’s able to see or value.
This is why I should never sell anything. I should just smile and thank folks for the compliment of their admiration, but should never ever make anything except for myself or as a gift. Selling things cheaply that I spent a week making makes me feel like my life doesn’t really matter.
At least, I will be happy to make someone else happy. At least, she BETTER be happy. If she doesn’t think it’s awesome, or thinks $5 is a lot to ask for my little book, then I will just feel spat upon.