I am a plush collector. I mainly own MLP plushes but hope to be expanding that. I'd love an Eleventh Doctor plush. Maybe a pokemon one. But that's not what this journal is about.
I've been seeing posts by plush makers about the rude comments they've been receiving on their prices. *MagnaStorm has apparently been receiving ignorant comments on the cost of her life sized Pinkie Pie and *Serenity-Sama has received rude comments at conventions. *WhiteDove-Creations often has to put up with people questioning her prices too. I'm sure other plush makers have commenters making rude assumptions about the cost of their creations. This journal is addressed to the MLP community at large, specifically those wanting a pony plush.
Firstly there are plush makers at every price range. But you pay for what you get. The majority of well-known plush makers charge anywhere from USD$200-400 for a standard standing pony. You can of course get plushes for under $100. I've seen comments bemoaning the USD$200+ price tags and I don't think they quite understand what they're paying for. For the most part the ponies in this price range are made from minky, a material that is USD$14 a yard. Ponies usually stand at 12" or taller, most average out at 14"-15". It was hard for me to envisage how big the ponies are just from a number, but you can get an idea from My foalsitter Cadance I commissioned from *fireflytwinkletoes stands at 15", almost 16" and she is a big girl, perfectly proportioned to be cuddled. These creations are not exactly small and they are completely made from minky, every last centimetre (usually, unless the artist works with mixed materials).
Ponies are often more than one colour so there is also the cost of every additional colour that the artist had to order. For RD alone that's eight separate colours, eight separate orders of minky. If the artist uses an embroidery machine, there is also the cost of the embroidery thread to take into account. When they use applique or other materials for eyes and cutie marks, there's the cost of the material they use for that. Cost of sewing thread to hold the entire pony together.
Most of the artists working in the USD$200+ range also created their own pattern. There are plenty of pony patterns out there for free or to be bought, but the majority of plush makers spent hours upon hours drafting their very own pattern. For painters/digital artists, a plush maker's pattern is similar to your lineart. The pattern is the foundation for their work, and when created individually result in absolutely one of a kind creations. Compare the patterns of *WhiteDove-Creations to *SpaceVoyager's, *eebharas's pattern to *fireflytwinkletoes. Sure they're all making ponies, but the shapes are different. The curves of legs are different, the emphasis of hocks are different, where the ears are placed and the curve of backs. Then there are the patterns that must be individually created for each pony's mane and tail. Applejack's mane/tail are different to Pinkie's, Rarity's mane/tail shouldn't even be able to exist in the 3-dimensional world. In the case of Twilight and Rainbow you have more than just one piece to cut out for a mane/tail. You have to contend with different colours, placement of the colours, sewing them into the right place.
When you buy from a plush maker you are buying from one person, not a company with a mass production line. You are paying not only for the materials they had to search for and order, but you are paying for a one of a kind pattern which cannot be gotten anywhere else. And perhaps the biggest cost, you are paying for the artist's hard work. While I have never created a plush - I simply do not have the talent for such things - I have an idea of what it takes to make one. You are paying for hours of that person's free time, usually days; and instead of watching TV, browsing about on DA or taking some time off, the artists are spending their time to create a plush for YOU. They are taking the time to meticulously cut out pieces, digitise patterns for embroidery and to sew the whole thing together stitch by stitch. And as if that weren't enough, they are doing it all in a show-accurate manner. Twilight must have a nick in her bangs, Pinkie Pie must have the bouncy gravity-defying forelock, Rarity's mane/tail have to be curled. They are bringing 2 dimensional characters into 3 dimensions, and they're doing it with a finicky material so the ponies will be soft, cuddly and oh-so-squishable. I own a total of seven ponies now, each made by a different artist and while the patterns and characters are different, each was clearly made with dedication, love and patience.
Most ponies can take 20+ hours to create, after the patterns have been drawn and tested. Many plush makers are only making minimum wage per hour considering the amount of time it takes to make a plush. I believe most are creating plushes at a loss to themselves. *WhiteDove-Creations is one of the most well-known plush makers in the fandom, and demand is insane, but plushes aren't her full time job. She creates her plushes in her spare time, balanced with a full time job because making ponies does not finance the costs of everyday life. I personally do not believe that many plush makers profit all that well from selling and making plushes. I believe they do it for the love of the characters and the fandom rather than to make money.
You also have to consider that commissioning a plush is a uniquely one on one experience. The commissioner often has the ability (depending on the artist of course) to request certain expressions, accessories to be added or other miscellaneous items all of which take up the artist's time to pattern, find and order material for. I requested socks for Cadance from *fireflytwinkletoes based on Shining Armour's colours. Cadance was already five separate minky colours (the pink for her body, the hot pink/purple/yellow of her mane/tail and the sky blue of her ribbons), then there is the material for her eyes/cutie marks (six different colours there). The socks are an extra four minky colours on top of what was already being used to make Cadance. That's a total of 15 differently coloured fabrics which Firefly somehow got together all at the same time to create exactly what I wanted. I half believe that plush making involves a small amount of witchcraft to make sure all the material you need is there at the right time.
This is turning into a very long journal. What I'm trying to do is to get people to understand why plush makers charge what they do. And if you don't agree with an artist's price, it's all very simple. Don't commission them. If you think their creations aren't worth what they're asking just don't buy from them. Don't complain at the artists about their prices, don't talk down to them about charging excessive amounts when they probably have spent a good deal of their lives creating this singular piece of artwork.
Do your research. There is a wealth of plush makers out there and as I said at the start of this long journal, there is a plush maker for every price range. If you're looking for something under USD$50, you'll have to try your luck with the Hasbro-licensed plushes. If you want something under USD$100, you'll probably be getting a pony made from fleece rather than minky. But if you're willing to spend the money I can pretty much guarantee that you will be getting a one of a kind creation you will not be able to find anywhere else.
I'm going to list some lesser-known plush artists whose work you should have a look at if you're serious about getting a pony plush but are nervous about spending a LOT of money on your first pony.
A pony plush collector.