Trading Your Work


At the beginning of human civilization, people would trade for whatever they needed. If a farmer needed a new shovel, he would trade a few bushels of grain to the local smith. The only problem that arose was when the blacksmith didn't need grain, so the farmer would have to find something the smith wanted, trade grain for that item, then use that item to trade for the shovel. Eventually, the idea of currency was developed. The farmer could trade five silver coins for the shovel, and the smith could trade the coins to anyone else. 

This is the basis of barter, and how currency was developed. However there are still a lot of advantages to trading a good for a good, rather than selling for cash, especially for starting makers. 

First of all, currency (money) is only needed when person A wants something person B has, but person B doesn't want what person A has. If they both are interested in goods owned by the other, there is absolutely no need for cash (unless if the two items are not worth the same). If I bought Tom's pellet gun for $75, and he bought a knife from me for $75, cash really hasn't changed hands. This is, of course, as long as the two items are of equal worth. 

Next, and this is the really important part, is that doing a trade between two makers is mutually beneficial. Instagram has shown huge success for many makers, whether knifemakers, leatherworkers, jewelers, etc. 
If you ask me, it is the media outlet for functional aesthetic craftsmen. Many of you found the broke bladesmith through instagram, so I think it's safe to assume you use it. 

Anyway, the reason it's so mutually beneficial is this: you both get a feel for the marketing of the other person, and bring attention to the other person's work. Many artists, like leatherworkers or woodworkers, have the same target market (same people who are most likely to buy) that knifemakers do.

Thus, if I trade a knife for a nice wallet from Bill the leatherworker, he will post my knife on his page. Many of his followers will then come see my page, and maybe even follow. I do the same for him. This is a huge source for followers, and it shows potential customers that you are trustworthy, friendly, open, and negotiable. 

Second, I can take observation from his work; the weight, little details, especially the way he both packaged it, and the "feel" about it. Is it rustic and tough, or more of a subdued "gentlemanly" feel, or maybe he's got a fresh, clean and snazzy modern feel. If your work has a similar feel, you can use his as a reference point to tweak yours. 

All in all, trading does everything except immediately put cash in your pocket. It increases your following, your trust, you're more likely to make a trade that's worth it to you than a sale (at least at first), your opening for future collaborations (say a woodworker selling you display cases which then boosts your knive's worth), and especially, it gets your work out into the world, and into use. From there, if your work is good, the tradee will publicly say so, and boost more following, potential traders, and then sales. It's a rapidly increasing good situation. 

Caleb Harris

I’ve always fooled around with tools and hardware, but I think my passion with blades started far back in my childhood: wooden swordfights with the neighborhood kids. I became the neighborhood “blacksmith”, using my grandfather’s tools to hammer little crossguards onto wooden sticks. I always tried to find the best scrap wood: lightest, strongest, trying to get the perfect length and shape for each “customer”. This started my passion with blades.
When I was ten years old, I joined a local rock and gem club, learning stonecutting and cabbing, and through that came to take silversmithing lessons from a local jeweler. It wasn’t until around the age of 13, that I turned my attention to bladesmithing, which has captured my heart. 
 My personal obsession with bladesmithing, as I’m sure you can relate, isn’t just the joy and passion of the making: the musical clang of the hammer on steel, the shower of sparks on the grinder, the whisk of the blade over the sharpening stone, but also of the fulfillment in creating something that is twofold: that of beauty, and that of function. It’s trying to make something that is as much an art piece, as a tool that you can trust your life with. That’s what caught my heart, and the pursuit of that perfect combination still drives me.