Friday, August 24, 2012

Committed: the "Sanitarium" line

A few years ago at Camp Lejeune I attended an event where there was this old, retired devil-dog hawking handcrafted pens. All I remember was being SHOCKED at the sticker price. "WHAT?!? Fifty dollars? It's a PEN for #$%& sake!"

If you do the math on labor hours invested, etc., etc., it's still a stretch to ask so much for a no-frills natural grain pen. There's a guys who offer his for as little as $8.50. So I figure a) he's buying really inexpensive kits in bulk and b) cranking them out at a cyclic rate. He wrote somewhere that he can produce THREE pens an HOUR, which really impressed me at first ... until I started thinking about what the quality must be like. They'd be natural grain with no special cuts or shapes, no stain or finish, and with a wax coat.

So where's the balance? What's the difference between a handcrafted natural pen and a handcrafted pen with a stain and a durable high gloss? And where do mine come in? When you start cutting and shaping blanks, the labor time exponentially increases.

Some helpful critics on LinkedIn pointed out that I needed to offer different price points. Not everyone wanted high-end products, especially from a new, untested vendor. So there was my challenge: make something just as beautiful at high, medium and low price points to offer visitors real choice.

It just so happened I was toying with an abstract design at the time, a jumble of shapes put together with no discernible outcome. The result was "Sanitarium." I really liked it. And it hit me, this was a solution. This was a design that was both beautiful and relatively simple to make. And using different kits, I could make a line of unique, striking pens at different price points while keeping overhead down.

Now I see what that old guy at Lejeune was talking about. These aren't PENs, they're art. Sure, they happen to write, but their primary purpose is to be something pleasing to look at, to show off and enjoy. I've never been a big proponent of abstract art, but I know what I like. There will be several more Sanitarium pens to come.

I want to know! What are your main considerations when buying art? Have you ever given art as a gift? Why or why not? Comment below!
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