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Making Craftspeople: Negotiating Work, Price, and Markets in Contemporary Craft

  • Author(s): Morgan, Paul James
  • Advisor(s): Bandelj, Nina
  • et al.
Abstract

Crafts serve as a theoretically and empirically important site for investigating the sociological bases of economic phenomena. This dissertation highlights the convergence of price, value, labor, space, and consumption as integral points for conceptualizing the realities of entrepreneurial craft production. For this project, I conducted 29 semi-structured interviews with craftspeople who sell on Etsy.com and/or at Renegade Craft Fair, ethnographic observations at Renegade Craft Fairs, and content analysis of publicly posted price advice from Etsy and Pricerie to form the empirical foundation of this project. I first focus on the how craftspeople come to pursue craft as an occupation, highlighting familial influence and self-directed education. I point to how this forms the basis for later occupational trajectories that are entrepreneurial in nature, while also precariousness because of the financial instability of craft more generally. From there, I turn to how craftspeople determine the prices for their good. Initially, I highlight how the organizations that facilitate craft markets offer advice on pricing. I contrast this to the actual ways in which craftspeople actually price, pointing toward the variability of pricing practices. This variability is not a weakness, though, but is beneficial, allowing for self-determined needs and goals of the craftsperson, with labor value being the most common factor. Finally, I highlight the uniqueness of craft markets as novel spaces of consumption, distinct from both bazaars and brick-and-mortar stores. This uniqueness allows for consumers and producers to experience extra-economic interactions and build social ties beyond mere consumption. It further points toward the importance for conceptualizing how the space of a market is integral in understanding how consumption operates. In sum, this dissertation serves as a basis for theoretically understanding the importance of craft as a sociological object alongside pointing toward ways that it is important for contextualizing labor, space, and consumption are important for pricesetting.

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