Transforming Nature To Art

What it takes to complete a cast leaf pendant and necklace...

Sometimes I'm asked, "How long did this take you to make?" or, not as pleasantly, "Why do these necklaces cost so much?" Since a lot of people just do not realize the time and labor it takes to create craft or art pieces, I decided to add up the time it takes to make just one of my pendants (because, actually, I want to know, too!)
(The numbers in parentheses represent the approximate time for each phase).

First, I have to select a leaf. Do I just run out to the garden and cut a leaf off a plant? No. The leaf has to be without rips, bends, bites, or blemishes, it has to be pleasingly uniform and the right size, and if I'm making earrings they also have to match! THAT alone is a toughie! (10). Then I have to mix the cement and carefully spread it on this light, flyaway 1" leaf. If the air temperature is not just right, it may be too thin and I then have to apply another layer in a day. (20) I then have to peel the leaf off a day or two later, file any messy edges and soak it in water a few days so it cures (20). Then I hand paint it (15). Next the bail is glued on and the "dewdrop" is attached (FYI, I make the dewdrops by actually SPLITTING beads in half!) (15).
 The final procedure is mixing the two part polyurethane THOROUGHLY and spreading the sticky, messy compound on the leaf, going back several times to brush off the excess that pools on the piece (60) It takes 24 hours to dry, and if at that time I discover it had not been mixed enough, the poly will be cloudy and the piece is junk! There is no way to determine that while it is setting. This polyurethane was developed for furniture and the like ~ as usual for me, I use a lot of products for reasons NOT intended for that product, so I have to improvise ~ there are no guidelines or instructions!

SO... once that is finished, I can choose to sell it as a loose pendant, in which case I only have to place them in ziploc bags, punch a hole in it to hang, place a card of heavy black paper (I cut out myself) behind it with the name of the leaf written on it, place the care and description card (also written, printed and cut out by hand) in the bag, and price it! (10)

I sell these for $18.50 (plus tax). So, for 2 1/2 hours of work,this comes to $7.40 hr.

If I do make one of the custom neckchains for it, with the "organic" components such as Freshwater pearls, beads made from semiprecious stones or shell, terra cotta, brass, silver, copper, horn, etc., that adds at least another 45 minutes to the piece (along with the extra cost of the beads). Stringing beads is not brain surgery, BUT it does take time to think about the design and determine which colors and components to use. I sell the pendants with these for about $28, which sets me at the same hourly wage.This is not counting ANY materials cost! Unfortunately,for a lot of artisans, these are GOOD wages, too!

Do they LOOK as if all that work goes into them? I don't think so, and I don't feel that they SHOULD ~ they should look as if the leaf and colors just quietly came together. And that's what I believe is just an element of good Art.