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Pricing Your Art

Pricing art seems to be a very difficult task.  In manufacturing we would keep careful watch of the time it takes to create a piece, add in the cost of materials and overhead, maybe add a bit for profit and use that calculation for the price.  This is a good, logical way of pricing but in art we are sometimes more subjective.  We put heart and soul into our creations and sometimes the equation above doesn't fit.  Sometimes we bring our work to shows and watch the reaction of people who typically shop at big box stores and don't understand the difference between Chinese sweatshop crap and local hand made art, even when it is functional.  This will make us think we've over priced our work when really we just want to be able to earn a living.
The other problem that we have as artists are hobbyists that sell their work.  These people have full time jobs but have been creating art in their spare time for fun and relaxation.  After several years they have gotten very good and they have gotten a house full of pots.  What now?  Why not sell it?  They take their work to shows and put a price tag on it like it's a garage sale item.  These people don't need the money, they need the room in their homes.  They simply need to earn back the booth fee and maybe a few extra dollars for art supplies.  They don't consider the artist next to them at the show who is trying to put a kid through college or food on the table.  They don't even consider their work valuable.  It makes me wonder what they think about themselves.
At a recent show a young potter was selling pots very, very cheaply.  I don't know if she had a full time job, a supportive partner or a "I want to be a starving artist" mentality.  It was hard to compete with her prices unless someone realized (as many people did) that a lot more work went into my pieces than her's.  I happened to walk by her table as she was packing up (early).  I heard a clinking noise.  She was placing her pots into boxes with nothing in between them for protection and no newsprint or bubble wrap. My heart stopped, I painstakingly wrap each piece to prevent damage in transport.  Well, every piece but my seconds.  Maybe that's it.  She doesn't respect her work, she treats it and prices it as seconds.  I wonder if she was telling customers that they were seconds?
Here's a good article with information to consider when pricing your work:

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  1. So true, and some of the stuff on etsy is so inexpensive I can't believe it, it takes a long time to pack pottery so it doesn't break, not to mention the time to make it, bisque it, glaze it, sand it, price it, oh you know, why am I going on so, for the same reason you probably posted this, ugh what a world.

  2. I hear ya! This weekend the tent beside me at the Farmer's Market was featuring student work form the local school. It was mostly and information tent about the school, but the pottery was awful, cheap and badly displayed. I did notice however at the end of the day, not one piece had sold and the customers I talked to were pretty well educated about art and knew what they were looking at. I am not doing shows anymore where Billy Bob can't tell the difference between a student's work and an artist's! I heard a funny comment Friday night at an artwalk. There was an area for indie "artists" and crafters and one couple had lots of candy in their tent full of woodwork-birdhouses, trays, boring things. One of them said to me as I took a chocolate, "everyone comes in here for the chocolate, no one likes our work". Jeez, shouldn't you keep that to yourself when you are trying to sell your work? :)
    It's tough out there in art festival land!


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