I’m as guilty as anyone for undervaluing both my own work and that of others. I tend to overlook the time it takes to do something, to create something, to produce something – and in doing so I’m invariably surprised at the price of said somethings.
Take some Hungarian cross-stitched embroidery. Beautiful stuff. Hours and hours go into making just one table piece. The patience required is incredible and for me, given my notable lack of same, barely imaginable. And yet, although I know it takes hours of work, I don’t want to pay what the shops are asking and I feel guilty about not paying enough when I buy from source. Somewhere, there’s a mismatch.
In Istanbul, I had the (good/mis)fortune to visit a couple of carpet shops. I was given the whole spiel on how they’re made and where each type is from. The price tags were quite incredible. We’re talking thousands of dollars here for pure silk and a thousand plus for artificial silk and cotton. The smallest one I saw had an asking price in the hundreds of dollars, and even that was out of my reach. No matter. I’m a chobi fan myself (an expensive hobby to have) and have neither the money nor the floor space to mix my designs.
Regardless of the material used though, the same amount of work goes into each carpet. And that’s a lot of knots. A carpet that is 10×10 (I can’t remember if it was feet or metres) in size requires more than one million hand-tied knots and a hell of a lot of patience.
I watched one lady as she worked on a silk carpet and I was gobsmacked. Yes, it was a tourist promotion thingy – she was outside a carpet shop down by the Blue Mosque. What struck me was how incredibly good-natured she was. I can imagine the sort of foul mood I’d be in if I had to pay my bills by sitting at a loom all day tying knots only to have some tourist like me ooh and aah and then cringe at the price.
Her tip box wasn’t exactly weighed down with millions of lira and I couldn’t quite figure out the math. Apparently the carpet she was working on would take six months to finish (she is paid 1500 a month – about $660). It would sell for $4000 and so cost far more to make. I thought I might have lost something in translation but the salary seems right, as an intern at Microsoft makes on average $1200 per month. And with all due respect to said intern, this lady may well have more talent in her little finger. The carpet was exquisite. Perhaps she’s paid more as a performer and some little old dear in a Turkish village gets just a fraction of that. Who knows.
I often wonder how much money buskers make, or mime artists, or others who spend their day showcasing their talent in front of an often ungrateful public. For me, if I like the music or, better still, like the attitude with which the musicians play – it’s worth a bob or three.
I’ve been lifted out of a melancholic haze when walking by a chap playing the sax. I’ve done double-takes when I pass that lad down by Déak tér who looks as if he’s sitting on air. And while I’m no great fan of table-hopping musicians as I eat, I’m all for musicians on public transport.
I just wish that the general public would pay more attention, be a little less distracted, and acknowledge the creative talent of those for whom the street is their stage. Note to self already made.