A stroll through a craft store in town rarely ends without a number of questions. The most common requests from buyers relate to the price of products for sale.
In most cases, artisans or salespeople have a lot of explaining to do with the price tags. Kagina Innocent, a 31-year-old resident of Ntinda has already been frustrated in several craft shops.
“A lot of times I come across prices attached to crafts and think they are too expensive, especially for an ordinary person like me,” he told Daily Monitor.
Like Kagina, many Ugandans believe that handicrafts are too expensive. Some subscribe to a school of thought that believes that only foreign tourists or people with considerable financial resources have what it takes to make a real purchase.
While the public struggles to understand the price tags attached to crafts, artisans find it laughable and have more than enough reason to dismiss the narrative that crafts are expensive.
Kyetume Town, Mukono District, is home to Byentaro Ceramics Limited in Uganda. The four-year organization has 20 employees. Byentaro, who is also the General Manager, is an artisan who has dedicated his life to art.
As he applies a touch of finesse to one of the many ready-to-sell products, I could tell he was cut for the craft. “Some people see craftsmanship as work done by people who have failed at some point in their lives. I think that has been the state of mind for a long time.
People tend to overlook those who make crafts, but that narrative needs to change. Crafting is a skill like any other and you can reap benefits from it, ”says Byentaro, when asked why he thinks people want to pay less for crafts.
Byentaro oversees the production of ceramic and pottery products, including tableware, cooking utensils, decorations, and animal sculptures. All this takes place in two unfinished houses separated by 500m. On a random Friday, the place is buzzing with activity as there are orders to follow.
Even the cameras cannot distract the workers in Byentaro. He introduces his team and the role played before they get back to work. It’s easy to say that there is a long, structured process before a product ends up in a store.
Byentaro insists that the craft isn’t too expensive, and the numbers have everything to do with what goes behind the scenes before a final product is rolled out.
It is common knowledge in all businesses that the cost of production determines value and price and this theory applies to the craft sector, according to Byentaro.
“The production process involves certain technicalities that inform my decision of a price for each product,” explains Byentaro. He explains that ignorance is the reason people think crafts are expensive.
“People don’t know the different stages of production. They just see the end product and assume it was a ride in the park, ”he explains.
Byentaro reaches out to choose a salad bowl, one of the products ready to be marketed and it costs 200,000 Shs. It is black in color with silvery lines and good for the eyes. But to be fair, the price is questionable and Byentaro has to stand up for it.
“It took us about seven weeks to get here,” he said, hoisting the bowl into the air.
During the seven weeks, Byentaro oversaw a chain of events preceded by the collection of raw materials in the form of clay. On the site, a small clay truck costs 250,000 Shs, but before Byentaro separates himself from the figurine, he has to pay whoever digs up the clay in addition to paying the transport bill.
Once the clay arrives, it is left to dry for about a month before being crushed and brewed in buckets of water into a thick slurry. It is then sieved to remove impurities.
“We strictly use fine clay to obtain high-quality handicrafts,” Byentaro emphasizes. At this point, the fine clay is then dried for another three weeks in a usable form.
“Each stage of clay refining has a different responsible and they all have to be paid,” he adds.
In such a business, it becomes risky to have one person responsible for multiple steps, as this could stifle the process, leading to delays and possibly losses as orders are suspended.
The amount of clay used to bring a product to life also determines its cost. More clay calls for a higher price. The time spent in the production process is also taken into account. “I have to charge for the time I spent making sure the product is credible. More time, more salary, that’s how it works, ”explains Byentaro. According to Byentaro, the trickiest part of the process involves fire. Here, the clay is fired in two phases to obtain the black color.
This step comes with a certain level of expertise to prevent the products from cracking or breaking if more than enough heat is applied.
Byentaro is convinced that his works speak for themselves and that price should never be an issue.
“When I make a product, I make sure a customer looks at it and feels it. I don’t need to explain the quality of my product because I am working on quality control, ”he explains.
This explains why his works are sought after in Kenya, Zanzibar, Europe and the United States. It also supplies three stores in Kampala and rents another in Jinja, 75 km from the capital. The entrepreneur urges the public to embrace craftsmanship as a functional part of everyday life, as opposed to luxury goods. He adds that while some handicrafts are intended for decoration, others can be used daily.
Perhaps this is the reason why many cannot imagine spending on them, after all they present themselves as a luxury that people can do without.
“Not at all. Ceramics is something that we use daily and that disqualifies it from being a luxury. A salad bowl is used to serve food every day. When you get a cup, it will be used whenever you want. will want to have tea, ”he explains when asked if craftsmanship is considered luxury.
Local market vs international market
International tourists tend to appreciate handicrafts more than their local counterparts. Ultimately, it’s about knowing the value of craftsmanship as there are locals who embrace the craft as much as foreigners.
In some companies, foreigners are charged more, but Byentaro opts for a uniform figure regardless of the nationality of the buyer. However, there is always room for haggling. “You can’t rule out negotiation because it’s part of business,” he adds.
Grace Barya knows the craft industry well. She has gained knowledge and experience working with various communities of craft producers. She worked with the International Trade Center (ITC) on the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife (USDP) Ugandan Handicraft Souvenir Development Project, which is financially supported by the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF). Barya goes out of her way to ensure that craft producers thrive.
“The price of craftsmanship should be based on the quality, finish, time spent in production and the aesthetic nature of the product.
The seller must be willing to buy this same product at this price from another producer, must appreciate it, find it as usable as he sees it for the buyer ”, his school of thought is similar to that of Byentaro.
But she is quick to mention that some products are too expensive because some producers are into hobby crafts. “Many producers work part-time and only do crafts as a hobby. That’s why they don’t pay attention to details and for this reason they see their products as a salvage product for extra income, ”Barya explains.
They tend to price on impulse and according to the money they need at the moment. “This is why there are negotiations in all of our communities. For example, a basket whose price was 45,000 Shs could possibly be bought at 15,000 Shs ”, she adds.
Buy Uganda Build Uganda
Barya accuses Ugandans of despising local products. This mentality helps promote the idea that locally made products should be cheap by default. It is a state of mind devoid of gratitude.
“Many Ugandans don’t like products made in Uganda. Many are happy to buy a pair of imported sandals at Shs 12,000, the sole of which will crack within two weeks of purchase and refuse to buy a pair of leather sandals made by a local craftsman at Shs 25,000 ” , she says.
“It feels good to use a product where you know where it’s made, how it’s made, who makes it and you can even design it yourself what works for you. Barya encourages Ugandans to spend on local products.
“For example, I have locally made orange tie-dye curtains in my living room since 2009. I have asked the Nubian communities of Bombo to make decorative baskets in the shape of bread baskets and flower vases for my living room, with scattered elements. cushions from TEXDA, ”she says.
How to say a good quality profession
Barya says there are different ways to differentiate the quality depending on the product. Uganda is endowed with a variety of items and raw materials, which makes the quality measurements massive.
“If it is a basket, the cleanliness of the manufacture, the consistency of the size of the edges around the basket, the type of color and dye used (natural or chemical), everything includes the quality controls of the basket. basket, ”she explains.
This also applies to textiles; thread size and color. The dots should also be aligned, sharp and straight. It is always important to pay attention to detail, especially with the finish. The materials are good but the finish is what determines the final quality of the product.
The price of handmade crafts in a society where only a handful of them appreciate and appreciate them remains a challenge. Although artisans go out of their way to get the job done, most customers are happy to engage in a debate over product pricing.