Thursday, February 14, 2008

Just Labor?

Today I finished another quilt-for-hire.

I've done a lot of quilting recently, but very little has been my own. I've been quilting for others, and I have to say it takes a lot out of me. When I delivered today's quilt, it was something else.

For the most part, I enjoy quilting for others. As I've said before, for-hire quilts involve colors and patterns that I probably wouldn't choose, and it's fun and exciting (and sometimes challenging) to decide what kind of quilting to do and how to make the piece something that the owner will LOVE. That's one reason I charge more than others: I customize the work and try to give the client exactly what she's envisioned for her quilt. I know that she's spent a lot of time and money already, and I don't want her to be disappointed.

Today's wallhanging was not large. But it was detailed. It had floral vignettes set in attic windows, and the owner wanted the flowers to pop and to have backgrounds quilted (like rippling water and sky). Because of the size, I thought it would take about 2 hours, and I told her as much.

But once I started quilting, I had multiple thread changes. I used 4 bobbins, and probably 8 or 9 colors of top thread. As the 2 hour mark came and went, I stressed a bit, but this was what she said she wanted. It took 2 hours and 23 minutes.

I called her, and she picked up the quilt. She seemed to like it, but wasn't as enthusiastic as she'd been when she first gave it to me. When she looked at the bill, she said, "It took more than 2 hours."

Yes, it did.

And then she wanted to know why I was charging sales tax, since "All you're doing is supplying labor."

I explained to her that no, according to the State of CA, quilting for others is not simply labor. If what I do changes the value of something and adds artistic elements, it is taxable. If you gave me a mink stole, and I remade it into a jacket, that work is taxable. If you gave me a pair of pants to hem, that labor is NOT taxable. As I understand the State's standards, quilting for hire is taxable.

I've collected tax for 5 years, and reported it and paid it to the State. They've never sent it back...

Anyway, the "just labor" comment cut me. Maybe I'm overly sensitive, but I try to give my clients more than "just labor." I try to show their work to the best of my ability, and I like to think that I have a unique style that adds more than perhaps they've envisioned.

But apparently to some, it's just labor. And apparently it's over-priced. Should I have stopped at the 2 hour mark, even if her quilt was not finished? I don't think so. Should I have given her less than she asked for to stay within the 2 hour limit? Again, I don't think so.

I hope that she grows to appreciate the quilt. And that the end result eventually helps her to "get over" paying the bill.

In the meantime, I am very glad to be caught up on my for-hire work. I like to think that I am more than a common laborer. If I'm not doing anything for-hire, I can think anything I like. ;)

I think I'll make dinner, then spend the evening sewing beads on a little quilt of my own!!!

1 comment:

pb said...

Rest assured my dear friend you are not just a labor. More like a labor of love. How can one put a price on quality work. Anyway I am praying for encouragement this week, I know tht it has been a difficult week.