11 August 2011

The Just Price

I spent my usual lovely summer holiday at Clissett Wood - making another chair of which I am irrationally proud. Nothing beats working with your bare hands and spending time in a woodland living with a community of people far from the reach of the internet. It is equally valuable to learn something about craft, and to admire those who make their living from wood. You can find something about the skills involved, and browse the beautiful products, at the blog of the Green Woodwoman.

During the many peaceful hours we talked about the difficulty of making a livelihood in competition with Chinese children or factory machines. We waxed nostalgic about the role of Medieval guilds in protecting their crafts and their craftspeople. We have launched an idea about reviving the idea of the Just Price, which was enforced by medieval craft guilds. Some of the woodworkers showing their wares at the H.art festival have agreed to sell according to a double pricing system. Here is the text we agreed to explain the reasons for this.

'Before industrialisation, prices were fixed by guilds which protected the livelihoods of craftspeople. The 'just price' reflected their skill, the time invested and their needs. We are reviving this custom, which we see as analogous with the system of fair trade. If you earn more than the average wage - and therefore more than we do - please pay the just price.

We also list a 'bare price' which is a realistic comparison with mass-produced and imported goods. We will not sell for less than the bare price because this also prevents craftspeople from undercutting each other.

We are prepared to negotiate between these two prices on the basis of your ability to pay.'

1 comment:

  1. I can understand where you are coming from regarding the Medieval guilds, but it wasn't all good. They limited entry to the trade, effectively ran a cartel, kept prices artificially high, and stifled innovation. Yes, they protected their members, and they did guarantee quality. Inevitably, the merchants found a way to break the monopoly of the guilds, which has had both bad and good consequences. History is complicated like that.