Do people ask this question during their regular shopping experience such a buying a house or car or a pair of shoes?  What are they looking for with those questions?

I am looking for a better, more tactful way to answer the question, "How long did this take to make?" or its close relative, "How many hours are in this?".

To give you a perspective my projects usually take months to complete.

My current quips are "It was a weekend project" or "I worked on it until it was done", or "I tried to keep track of time on this item but I failed".

I think I need something more elegant but I am having the worst block on ideas.

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  • I usually reply to this, "a Lifetime of learning the techniques, XX hours for this specific project, and I'm still learning!". They usually get a little kick out of the fact that I respond in friendly manner, but with a little joking too. But I am dead serious when I say it. I am continually learning new techniques, experimenting with new tools and improving on my "CRAFT". I don't like to stagnate.. I like to offer fresh, new and inviting me there is always room for improvement. 

  • It is interesting how often this question is asked.  Sometimes it does seem to come from folks that are just genuinely engaged and interested and other times it seems to be motivated by a need to assess your income potential or something.  I struggled and struggled with how to answer this one for a long time and finally I just use ... "gosh, I don't time how long it takes to make a piece, I just work on it until it's finished."

  • Being a photographer that does a lot of digital darkroom work I've gotten this question a number of times and I always say it took be a little over 1/16 of a second.  

    That always breaks the ice and they realize it's a silly question.  I then am 100% honest and say sometimes it's rather quick and other times I've been working on an image off and on for months.  I also explain that what they do not see are the thousands of hours I work on pieces that just plan ol' fail and frankly suck.(I do use those words - people really do love to know that artist fail and it's not easy).  

    Typically I see a light go on above their head and they understand.

  • I think what I am hearing is that its best to give an answer letting folks know that hours are not the whole answer. It also requires skills garnered over time.

    • I think we artists can be a bit sensitive about this. I'm guessing there is the feeling that the customer will do the math in their head and try to figure out what we make per hour on each piece and then make a determination if that piece is worth it. I don't think that is the customer's intention most of the time. It's really an icebreaker question. I think there is a tendency with some people to give this question a snarky answer or be defensive about it. It doesn't need that, it's a fairly benign question.

  • I always say, a few hours and a lifetime.

    • People usually ask "how long to make saddles out of curiosity". Reply is 30-40 working hours for a plain one spread out over 3-4 weeks but, 54 years to learn to do the work that fast without losing any quality. Art work can add 8 hours or 80 hours depending on the job.
  • My husband has no problem with providing actual time, but then he adds a caveat, "after the learning curve and making items similar to this for xx years".  

  • People who ask this question seem to be curious and engaged ... isn't that a good thing? After all, art ISN'T a car or a pair of shoes.

    • Just saw a blip on the news about old car wrecks in fields being photographed as art.

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