In ceramics (and in the field of Studio Art in general) pricing work can be tricky. Developing a pricing sensibility and straightly takes time. There is a lot of conflicting information about this, these sources may be helpful, research as much as possible and decide for yourself. Please read Sandy Simon’s, Avra Leodas and Jeff Guido’s interviews in Chapter 9 for more information about working with galleries.
Studio Potter, Volume 38. No.1 Winter 2009-2010 Issue was called Money. An must read issue addressing issues surrounding selling work.
The Basic Guide to Pricing your Craftwork by James Dillehay
A blog about the Negotiating and Discounting to sell your artwork on the red dot blog. This blog is for art marketing and news for artist
Thoughts about selling & pricing work
“Deciding on pricing is not one of those enjoyable parts of being an artist. Even after many years, I sometimes get stumped if I make something completely different. More...I know some people have a mathematical breakdown of total hours spent, etc, to calculate a “price”. However, my process of making work is not so cut and dry that I can use that method.
My advice to people wondering how to price work is to consider the following:
What level are you at in your career? Most likely if you are seeking the advice on how to price work, it’s pretty early in your budding practice. Look at what others with similar work at the same “career” level are charging. One great thing about the internet is the amount of stealth research one can do in regards to looking at various sites (individual and gallery) to see how much people are charging for work. You can use that as a good gauge for fair market value.
I also use my recent past work as a guide to help price new items…is the new piece similar in size and complexity to something else I have out there already priced and selling?
Once you set a price for a particular piece, be consistent! One thing I have witnessed in the past are individuals changing their prices based on the percentage a gallery takes. If you decide a particular cup is $45, it should be that price no matter where you sell it. Galleries do not like being undercut. Why would someone buy one of your cups from a gallery if you advertise that you charge $25 in your studio or on Etsy? And if a gallery knows people will go to your studio to get it half price, what is their incentive in spending time to promote and sell your work?
I heard a great talk by Sandy Besser once in regards to collecting work from the collector’s point of view. One thing he mentioned about pricing for the student artist is to never price work too high. It is better for it to be in a collection rather than sitting in your mom’s basement. And of course, as your career grows, raise your prices accordingly.”
“As promised, I am back to talk about pricing. I have thought about it over the past couple of weeks. I realized that this is an enormous topic, one that should not be summed up on one person’s blog post.More...Oh and one more thing. I am only stating my views on the topic of pricing. These are some of the rules of thumb that I have learned from others along the way and through my own experience. I salute and honor all creativity however one expresses it and feel it all has value. How much is it worth monetarily in the that big world out there? Well. lets try and figure that out together!
My first bit of advice is to find your category. By this I mean, are you a career Artist, will you be making work for the rest of your life? Are you a Fine Artist/Craftsperson? Are you “crafty” meaning you love to make crafts in your spare time, you are not making this your life’s work, but you would like to sell what you make. These are important things to figure out. When pricing (and placing) work these things do matter. For instance, I do believe a person who is dedicated to lifelong career of being an Artist, who consistently and systematically works to build a career, has a regular studio practice and has ongoing shows does articulate a level of commitment that imbues value to their work differently than say those of the weekend crafter. It is only one factor though. We can factor in education as well, though the jury is out (my own personal jury) on this as I do embrace the Outsider Artists of the world and don’t believe it is entirely necessary for all people to jump through the flaming hoops of the artistic academia, to prove that they are “real” Artists. Though education can’t be overlooked. It does show commitment. Those of us who have passed through those hoops and felt the flames of heat on our backs, can’t deny it’s influence on our development as Artists and take that aspect of our commitment seriously. In some circles your work won’t be considered if you do not have the academic degrees to back it up. Next, how long have you been making your work? Are you just starting out? Have you been at it for two, ten, fifteen…twenty years? How long have you been showing and selling your work? Have you been published? Once you have figured this out then that will help you place yourself in your category.
Second, figure out your costs. This is the nitty gritty. Expenses, I mean all expenses, materials, time, rent, photography, travel and everything that goes into making your work. Once you figure out the costs figure out how much time it takes you to make your work. It may vary from piece to piece but get a general idea of the time you spend making your work. Then give yourself an hourly wage for that time. Now this is a tricky one. This might be heavily influenced by where you live and cost of living in your area. I, for example, live in a very expensive place, which translates to a higher hourly wage for cost of living. Do the math figure out (as close as possible) the costs to make a piece.
Third, do some research. Find out what others are charging for an item comparable to yours and by made by people in your category. Look in stores and galleries, take a look at what is being sold online. Take note of the pricing. This can get confusing too, but I do believe if you have figured out your category, taken into consideration where you are at in your career, know your costs for producing the work and how things are priced out there in the world you will get a clearer idea for pricing your own work. Also take into consideration that you might be selling the work at wholesale prices, which constitutes fifty to sixty percent of the retail selling price.
With that said, there are a lot of mixed messages out there. It used to be (as I like to say in the olden’ days, which really was not so long ago) that the boundaries of Artist and the value of work were much more clearly delineated. The Internet and things like Etsy are quickly blurring those boundaries. Suddenly everyone who has ever done anything creative is an Artist. Well yes and no. Just because I make a spreadsheet on my computer and do an analysis of my production costs, does that make me a financial guru? No, it means I did it because I can (and I have a computer program to help) but not because I am an expert in the field. There is a distinct difference.
Okay, now that we have category, costs, done our research on what the going rate is for something of equal value, figure out a fair price that will pay you for your time and cover your costs. I would also like to emphasize that it is very important to give yourself room to grow with your prices. Don’t price yourself too high at first. If you are just starting out it is acceptable that your work be slightly lower than that of the going rate. If you find after doing your cost analysis that it is not possible for you to recoup your expenses as well as pay yourself then maybe consider not making that work to sell. Sometimes we love exquisite materials, which in turn give us exquisite prices or the amount of labor it takes to execute the piece makes it impossible for us to sell the work for what it is worth. If that is so then I would consider making this type of work for special occasions such as a show or a special order from someone who understands the value and is willing to pay for the added cost.
People will (and should) look at your history as an Artist. Emerging Artists are not expected and should not have the same prices as mid career or mature Artists. You think my prices are high, take a look at Ruth Duckworth. One of her cups sells for at least $1200, one of her cups and so she should, her work is phenomenal and she has the resume to back it. I have a long way to go before I can ask for prices like that. I have to earn it, prove my commitment and most of all, make good work. However it is never in your best interest to lower your prices after you’ve put your work out there. It devalues your work. Also, don’t under price yourself. By doing so you not only do a disservice to yourself but to other Artists in your category as well. Once you put your work out there with a price tag on it, you become part of a greater community and it is very, VERY, important to value yourself, your work and in doing so you uphold the same ideal for your peers. I feel very strongly about Artists getting paid for their time. Too often it is assumed that we do what we do because it is “fun” and in turn is translated, as “you should do it for free.” We all know the truth, so many of you have written to me with your truth and the reality of that truth is that until we take ourselves seriously no one else will.”
In addition to her own studio work, Jill previously ran the gallery at Red Lodge Clay Center in Montana and works with many artisans about pricing work and all the issues that come along with creativity and commodity.More...Pricing Your Work:
two cents worth of observation and advice: There is really a great deal of personal philosophy tied up in pricing one’s work, particularly in ceramics. Usually when artists ask for my input on pricing it makes me cringe. There just is no hard and fast rule. It really helps to be self-aware, even more than it helps to be market aware.
What kind of lifestyle are you looking to lead?
There are makers who target high-end markets and envision themselves as designers as much as potters. They may not have had years of experience in the field yet, but they have determined they want less labor more return. Their mugs start at $75 and go up from there, depending on experience and exposure.
There are makers who believe in self-sufficiency and want to live a more basic, off-the-grid lifestyle. They embrace rustic labor and their mugs can be as low as $25, rarely are the mugs over $45. This philosophy seems to have strong mingei roots. My mentor, Ron Dale, followed this philosophy in pricing functional pots. He would talk about wanting people to feel comfortable using his pots.
Usually both mindsets have a serious set of reckoning tools they adhere to:
- material costs
- resource expenditures (electricity, gas, water, etc.)
- hours invested (from education to studio time)
- facilities overhead (rent studio space? built a studio?)
- loss ratio
- production levels
Who is your audience?
In Red Lodge we have a great little history museum and I saw a Calamity Jane Historical Impersonator who illustrated the importance of knowing your market very succinctly. She began charging $200 per hour for her presentation in Wyoming, Montana and Colorado. She found three very disparate responses.
Wyoming: “Well the bank can pitch in this much. The art guild will put up this much. I’ll be able to donate this much. Yes! We’ll find the money and would love to have you.”
Montana: “$200! For one hour?”
Colorado: Not a peep. Not one iota of interest in her presentation. She found out later the Colorado audience thought it couldn’t be very good if it was only $200.
What is your end goal?
- Fame, Glory and Recognition in the Field
- or (Becoming Your Own Greatest Collector)
At some point George Ohr committed to his own visionary status and refused to sell his work for less than what he thought it was worth. He knew he might not get the recognition he thought he deserved until well after his death. Now, Ohr’s work is it’s own economy. Do you have that kind of time and fortitude? George Ohr’s story could have had a very different ending and history wouldn’t call him “Mad” with fondness, rather it would be with derision.
- Building a Sensible Market for Your Work
Relationships are everything. EVERYTHING. Research galleries and find out who their client base is, what their mission is and how thy work for their artists. Then you can make a better presentation of your work and grow a price point as your market develops. Right now the median price for a mug is $55. If you are right out of school, find the gallery that aligns with your work, personality and philosophy and price your mugs below the median. As your work takes hold in the new market you can slowly increase your price point from season to season.
There will be a sweet spot where you can keep up with production, but the work continues to move. A good gallerist will help you figure this out.
As a new maker it can be easy to be in love with your labor and unwilling to let go of an object/s you have invested time, money, sweat and tears into.
Get over it.
Take a long-term view on developing your market. As you continue to better your craft the price point will gradually increase. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to research the galleries you send your portfolio to for review. A maker would be on target presenting to Red Lodge Clay Center if they wanted to showcase new work on a national stage. Our mission is focused on development and education, and that allows us to take a risk on untried products. Artists who need an aggressive gallerist, focused on sales, would not want Red Lodge Clay Center Gallery to be their sole venue. However, sales dependent galleries will sometimes offer artists less opportunities to develop new work.
In short, three things to ask yourself:
- What is your objective as a maker?
- Where are you in the quality level of your work? REALLY.
- Who is your audience?
If you can be honest with yourself about these things, the task of pricing your work will not be so mystical.
Below is an excerpt from an interview with Ayumi Horie where she discusses some of the business of being a potter to be. For the entire article, click here: ACC Interview: Ayumi Horie
What is your relationship with galleries (on and offline)? How has that relationship changed over time? What role does the internet play in your work?More...I have several galleries that I have casual relationships with and several wholesale accounts, but I’ve tried to keep these limited. Over the past few years, I’ve found myself being over committed and overwhelmed so I now try to be realistic about how much I can produce while keeping the quality of work high and carving time out for research. Unlike industry, which makes a commodity, a handmade pot coming out of an individual studio is made with a different intention. Profit is not unimportant, but the relationship created between object and maker, object and user, maker and user are key. Recently, I’ve made a conscious commitment to put even more time and care into each piece, so that the fact that it’s handmade becomes even more crucial.