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Stephen

Going Price Of Mugs

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Yeah, if you are next to a booth selling mass produced anything you might as well just grin and bear it the rest of the show because it probably is not the right crowd for handmade pottery and you are unlikely to sell much.

 

Exactly, and handmakers need to accept this as our responsibility ... to choose venues where everyone involved (organizers, exhibitors, customers) are committed to handmade work. If you find yourself in a venue where your neighbor is selling mass-produced goods, that's not the neighbor's fault. They have the right to make a living however they see fit. It's the handmaker's fault for not doing a proper amount of research into the event. Been there done that! 

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This is why I would never do an non-juried show, back when I was doing shows.

 

It's a bit of a pain to submit photos (slides in those days.)  But it's the best way to be sure you won't be setting up next to resellers or amateurs who have very low prices (because they don't need to make a living at it.)

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Thanks so much for this thread.  It's a very timely one for me as I just starting the pricing process for my 1st big art fair of the year and I'm struggling with what to price my mugs.

 

I've been selling mugs (^10 reduction, thrown, trimmed, pulled handle, dipped glaze, wax design and contrasting dipped glaze over) since the '70s. I started selling them in a shop ($7.50, I got $5) and I gradually inched the price up to $25 for my ^10 mugs last year, selling at art fair and my studio tour. For the last 10 years I have also started doing work in ^6 oxidation, using underglaze color, sgraffito, carving and majolica. This new work takes me 2-3 times as long to make as my ^10 mugs, yet I've only charged a little more for them (10 years ago my ^10 mugs were $16 and ^6 were $20; ^6 now are $35). 

 

When I first started working in ^6, I did only 10-20% of my total work at ^6, over the years that proportion grew, last year to about half of my work.  At my first big fair last year (same fair as what I'm getting ready for now, on the Mendocino, CA coast) I sold 3 times as many ^6 as ^10 in all categories. (In everything except mugs I priced my^6 to refIect how time-consuming the work is). I wondered why I sold so many more ^6 mugs because my ^10 work is beautiful: well-thrown and designed.  I thought maybe the customer realized what a good deal the ^6 mugs were compared to the ^10 mugs. Maybe... This same thing happened at each of my 6 art fairs, until I was putting my ^10 mugs on sale ($15-$19) and they were still out-sold by the ^6. This was an eye opener, and I made the decision to just work in ^6.

 

So, back to my original question: what do I price my mugs?  I won't have any ^10 mugs there to compare to.  After reading the responses and philosophies on this forum, I decided to 'go for the gusto' and price my mugs at $35 for an all-over carve with a colored transparent glaze, up to $45 for the sgraffito/blackline, dotted work. Wow $45 for one of my mugs! I never thought I'd see the day. (We'll see if they actually sell...  wish me luck)

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Crazy, your work is beautiful and priced just right. When you're at a fair how many people actually are aware that your work is ^6 or 10? Do they ask or discuss it with you or do you volunteer that information? I'm just curious if any one else has that experience of people asking about how high the pieces are fired? In my limited sales experience only one person asked me the type of clay and firing temperature and he was a ceramics teacher in a high school.

 

Paul

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I love this thread. It's just what I needed today.

 

I have my very first art show selling in person in ten days (been selling stamps and small stuff online for 3 years). I really do spend large amounts of time on everything I make. I'm keeping my very first thrown items to remember, or giving them as gifts to friends and family. Nothing I plan to sell is actually crappy, but I do want to sell some of the things that are not my best just to make room for more. I'm refining my process and each kiln load is better.

 

In my head, there's the price based on the time and effort spent, and then the price based on what an item like that is actually worth, and those prices are often wildly different. When I look at others' work for comparison I find that most are underpricing their work.

 

This is my current pricing plan for the sale.

 

kids' mugs 6 oz. $15

 

8 oz. $25

 

10-12 oz. $30

 

16-20 oz. $40

 

I spend at least one hour per mug doing slip trailing and/or sgraffito and special glazing. Plain pottery is better for production, I know, but I don't enjoy making it. All glazes are brushed.

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Thanks so much for this thread.  It's a very timely one for me as I just starting the pricing process for my 1st big art fair of the year and I'm struggling with what to price my mugs.

 

I've been selling mugs (^10 reduction, thrown, trimmed, pulled handle, dipped glaze, wax design and contrasting dipped glaze over) since the '70s. I started selling them in a shop ($7.50, I got $5) and I gradually inched the price up to $25 for my ^10 mugs last year, selling at art fair and my studio tour. For the last 10 years I have also started doing work in ^6 oxidation, using underglaze color, sgraffito, carving and majolica. This new work takes me 2-3 times as long to make as my ^10 mugs, yet I've only charged a little more for them (10 years ago my ^10 mugs were $16 and ^6 were $20; ^6 now are $35). 

 

When I first started working in ^6, I did only 10-20% of my total work at ^6, over the years that proportion grew, last year to about half of my work.  At my first big fair last year (same fair as what I'm getting ready for now, on the Mendocino, CA coast) I sold 3 times as many ^6 as ^10 in all categories. (In everything except mugs I priced my^6 to refIect how time-consuming the work is). I wondered why I sold so many more ^6 mugs because my ^10 work is beautiful: well-thrown and designed.  I thought maybe the customer realized what a good deal the ^6 mugs were compared to the ^10 mugs. Maybe... This same thing happened at each of my 6 art fairs, until I was putting my ^10 mugs on sale ($15-$19) and they were still out-sold by the ^6. This was an eye opener, and I made the decision to just work in ^6.

 

So, back to my original question: what do I price my mugs?  I won't have any ^10 mugs there to compare to.  After reading the responses and philosophies on this forum, I decided to 'go for the gusto' and price my mugs at $35 for an all-over carve with a colored transparent glaze, up to $45 for the sgraffito/blackline, dotted work. Wow $45 for one of my mugs! I never thought I'd see the day. (We'll see if they actually sell...  wish me luck)

Just my opinion here ... But the ones in your gallery are at least $45 mugs ... I would even take a few of the best ones and try $50.

Let us know how it goes!

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Here's something I've learned about underpricing: Underpricing only hurts the underpricer. It does not affect anyone else. So don't worry about what others are doing.

 

I've found that underpricers might hurt you temporarily in a small event where everyone is underpricing except for you. You will stick out, and not in a good way, according to the audience who attends events like that. But still in the long run, it doesn't hurt you, because you have the power to choose not to return to that venue. And that is not the audience you need to win over.

 

If I am in a large enough event, even if there are other potters who are underpricing, I've learned it does not affect me. As long as there are enough exhibitors with professional-level prices, I will do fine. Because this type of event will attract real pottery customers, the type of audience you want to win over. They do not shop based on price.

 

On the flip side, if you are new to selling, don't feel pressured to charge more than you are comfortable with. The right answer is different for everyone. The first mugs I sold were $16, at events where "student-grade" work was accepted. I didn't ruin the handmade economy.

 

The cautions about not underpricing are for experienced professionals, who are making expert-level work. And from my point of view, the caution is only about not forgoing any of your rightful income, and has nothing to do with hurting other potters or the handmade economy.

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Another aspect to pricing is venue . . . where you are selling and who is attending and buying. People shopping in a gallery are not put off by gallery prices; it is something they expect (along with gallery quality wares). People attending a street fair or community art and craft show are not looking to lay down $500 for a Judy Duff or John Baymore tea bowl -- nor would Judy and John bother to bring such wares to that type of event. I do events where there is no need to bother packing higher end/higher cost items as I will only bring them home at the end of the day; other events, I know I can sell those items at that location.

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Another aspect to pricing is venue . . .

 

Key point  to success.... match product to audience.

 

Selling ice cubes in Antarctica in the winter .... tough deal.  Selling ice cubes in Cancun in the summer.... goldmine.

 

 

best,

 

...............john

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I'd like to echo Mea in a way.  I am a student of hers, but I also fit the demographic that Mea sells to - craft fair enthusiasts with upper middle income.  I happen to go to the types of shows she participates in. I went to many of them before she started doing them, like the Smithsonian show.  I've paid up to $60 for a mug.  I bought a mug from Sang Joon Park for over $40 at ACC Baltimore, broke it a week later, and bought a second mug from him at the Smithsonian show.  The reason I'm estimating his price?  I can't remember it.  I didn't really care how much it was. 

 

So, were there cheaper mugs at both shows?  Yes.  Did it matter?  No. 

 

I think you do have to find a mug that you can make for a rational price for both you, and your target market.  I figure making, glazing and firing a plain mug takes about 12 minutes each mug.  Provided that you are a quick thrower, don't trim, and don't do much decoration.  A modest decoration, some marketing overhead, and a retail mug at $25 is my guess for a minimum price for a mug if the maker lives in the greater metro area of Washington DC. 

 

Likewise, $35? Totally an affordable price for a handmade mug.  In 1980, that was about $12.00, and in 1972, that was $6.  Which happens to be right in line with a previous post.  Check this out: http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm, if you want to want to compare a historic price to a current going price.

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Follow-up about my first show on Friday: I did not sell a single thing at the 3-hour show, although I had a customer call me and come by the next day for a mixing bowl.

 

My mugs were $15-$30 based on size and complexity of decoration. There was one other potter there selling entirely plain, dipped mugs for $12. He did brisk business.

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Giselle;

Buck up! Wrong venue for your work. Show was too short. You were undercut by the $12.00 mug guy. Keep looking.

I like the two day sale myself. This gives people the chance to tire kick and then return with wads of cash.

TJR.

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three hours???????

 

you cannot do anything in three hours.  was this a charity thing for a church or something?   it was not an art or craft sales venue no matter what.

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Most of this goes back to the old theory of supply and demand.  However with works of art personal taste also falls into the picture.  

If your making a living at this and it takes you 1 hour to build and decorate a piece.  Then you are probably producing a max of 8 pieces per day.  In a 5 day week you have an average of 40 pieces.  Now on the weekend your working a show,  So you end up with with something like a 50 hour work week.  If you you have various costs for the material to build the pieces, cost for the space in your studio,  as well as cost of entering the show and other things.  Lets say this totals $300 for the week.  If you sell your pieces for  $7.50 each you get nothing for your time.   If you want to earn a minimum wage of  $8.00 per hour you need to get $17.50 per piece.  If you want to make $20 per hour then you need over $30.00 per piece.  

 

Now we are back to the supply and demand portion.  We all would like more than $30.00 per piece.  But at that price can we sell 40 pieces a week?  Are we in the right place to sell them for more than $40.00?  Do we have what the customer wants at the price he is willing to pay?  

With art remember little things can make the difference between a sale and no sale.  We might have the most beautiful blue and green pieces the customer loves.  But if he is looking for something that is orange chances are we will not make a sale.  I have seen many quality pieces here that I love but only about 10% of them match my personal tastes.  This does not downgrade the other 90% of objects it just means I have a slightly different taste than 9 other people.

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Giselle, I agree with the others who say three hours is not a serious event. You didn't know that before, but now you do. You should be proud of yourself for putting it out there. Many artists never take that step. If you read my blog post about picking shows, I emphasized that "everything takes time." i.e. you will go through many more "learning experiences" before you start identifying and jurying into better shows. If you are willing to give yourself time, then keep going!

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The "building the business" phase is no different than that experienced by just about ANY business.  The prime reason for the failure of new businesses?  Under capitalization.  You need to have a business plan that LOSES money for the first X years. 

 

Those "losing shows" one deals with in the early days of the business are part of that capitalization issue.  Eventually because you have done those losing shows.... you have honed the business to get into the winning shows.  Then the business goes from red ink to black ink.

 

Some call it "paying your dues".

 

best,

 

...................john

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  If you want to make $20 per hour then you need over $30.00 per piece.  

 

The kicker problem here is that a skilled craftsman in other fields like a car mechanic, builder, and so on are looking at hourly rates in the $50.00 plus range (plumbers get more than brain surgeons ;) ).  Burger flippers get $10 an hour... and the move is on to make minimum wage $15.00 an hour.  Some places it is.

 

$20 an hour is NOT a good wage these days.

 

So if you are a long term and skilled craftsperson, you SHOULD be looking for at least $50 an hour.  Or well more if you are later career.

 

It is WAY easy to underprice for your skill set.  And when you price correctly...... your market narrows fast.

 

best,

 

........................john

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I'm back from my first big fair, (one day, Mendocino, CA coast) and I'm exhausted but happy (not ecstatic, though). I sold well, although only 75% of what I did last year, but I did raise my prices 25%, mostly to offset the 20% of gross fee for the fair. Talking to the other artists, the consensus was that sales were less than last year. I'm reasonably sure I did better than the other potters and the organizers were very pleased with my sales  (there was a central cashier).  They'll get hundreds of $$ from my sales. It comes out to be my most expensive fair (by far) but I do well enough and will do it again next year. 

 

Been looking at my data compared to last year and see that I had the same number of sales and my average per pot sold was the same. Where the difference came in is number of pots sold (-25%) and average sale (-25%). Last year 30% of the pots I sold were $80-$100, this year I didn't sell anything in that price range, although 10% of pots were $120 and over. What does all this mean?? I sold fewer pots and people didn't buy as many higher priced pots and/or multiple pots. I guess...

 

I'm still struggling with pricing, finding that 'sweet spot' where the price isn't too high and scares them away, but high enough for me to make some money. I had a huge amount of interest, touching, appreciation and admiration for my mugs (and all my work), although I only sold 6 mugs (at $45-$49 each). No one actually commented on the prices being too high, but with the amount of attention they engendered, I expected more sales. Also I make large (for me, 5#-6#) bowls and last year I sold 8 of them at $75-$85. I raised the price to $90-$110 and sold none. Ouch! They take me at least 3 hours to make and they are just as beautiful as any I make, but maybe the $100 price... I don't know. I sold lots in the $40-$60 range (avg per pot for the fair, $52).

 

I feel that I need to become more clear on what my goal is with my pottery.  Do I make pottery because I love the creative outlet?  YES, YES, YES!!!  Is it because I love the process and the finished accomplishment? YES, YES, YES!!!  Pottery satisfies me on so many levels, not just the making it and feeling a sense of achievement, but also the compliments and adulation from those who see it. And yes that has value also. Is my goal to make money? I have to admit, that's a real consideration as my teacher's pension only goes so far. So I'm still struggling with pricing everything.

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The kicker problem here is that a skilled craftsman in other fields like a car mechanic, builder, and so on are looking at hourly rates in the $50.00 plus range (plumbers get more than brain surgeons ;) ).  Burger flippers get $10 an hour... and the move is on to make minimum wage $15.00 an hour.  Some places it is.

 

$20 an hour is NOT a good wage these days.

 

So if you are a long term and skilled craftsperson, you SHOULD be looking for at least $50 an hour.  Or well more if you are later career.

 

It is WAY easy to underprice for your skill set.  And when you price correctly...... your market narrows fast.

 

best,

 

........................john

 

 

Yes that is the ideal  And perhaps 2% of the potters can even make more than that.

 

But lets look at that $50 mark then.  Working  50 hours a week would mean $2,500 per week and your producing and selling 40 pieces per week that means you need $70.00 per piece with only $300 in overhead a week.  Now how many people can honestly sell 40 pieces at $70 on the average week?   Sure you could make smaller pieces and spend less time per piece maening can produce 80 pieces and sell them at $35.00 each.   Or you can go with larger pieces that are more intricate and get more money per piece however that will probably mean less pieces per week.

 

 

 

The "building the business" phase is no different than that experienced by just about ANY business.  The prime reason for the failure of new businesses?  Under capitalization.  You need to have a business plan that LOSES money for the first X years. 

 

Those "losing shows" one deals with in the early days of the business are part of that capitalization issue.  Eventually because you have done those losing shows.... you have honed the business to get into the winning shows.  Then the business goes from red ink to black ink.

 

Some call it "paying your dues".

 

best,

 

...................john

Yes John I'm aware of that.  From my old business class I was told most business run in the negative the first 2 years, break even the 3rd year and do not show an appreciable profit till the 5th year.  However I have seen business that have made profit in the first year as well as those that did not have a plus year in five years.  

 

The big thing is you want to minimize your losses even in those first years.  We all have some form of a budget and limit on how much of a loss we can handle short term and long term.  Some of us may depend upon the income to survive and meet our basic needs while other may have alternate income sources.  But with a good business every year your into the business your profits should increase until they hit a plateau after which point they should stay up with inflation.  If this is not the case then either the business model is wrong or the product is not priced in line with demand.

 

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three hours???????

 

you cannot do anything in three hours.  was this a charity thing for a church or something?   it was not an art or craft sales venue no matter what.

 

Giselle, I agree with the others who say three hours is not a serious event. You didn't know that before, but now you do. You should be proud of yourself for putting it out there. Many artists never take that step. If you read my blog post about picking shows, I emphasized that "everything takes time." i.e. you will go through many more "learning experiences" before you start identifying and jurying into better shows. If you are willing to give yourself time, then keep going!

 

It's called Art After Dark. It was not what I would consider a serious event, even as a baby beginner. It's for local people to connect with local artists. I mostly wanted to meet people and see their response to my work, but I really did think I would sell at least a little bit since I had quite a few things for under $20. I'm not exactly swimming in cash but I'll drop $20 or less without a second thought on an item from somebody whose work I admire. Usually what I fall in love with is $200-$300, of course. I murmur sweet things to it, give it one last loving caress and go home with a pale substitute. ;)

 

I don't remember if I mentioned this but one lady called twice after the show to make sure that I had not sold the mixing bowl that's in my avatar and she came over to buy it the next day. 

 

GEP: I loved your blog post that Chris Campbell shared recently about shows, I devoured it. :)

 

 

I'm still struggling with pricing, finding that 'sweet spot' where the price isn't too high and scares them away, but high enough for me to make some money. I had a huge amount of interest, touching, appreciation and admiration for my mugs (and all my work), although I only sold 6 mugs (at $45-$49 each). No one actually commented on the prices being too high, but with the amount of attention they engendered, I expected more sales. Also I make large (for me, 5#-6#) bowls and last year I sold 8 of them at $75-$85. I raised the price to $90-$110 and sold none. Ouch! They take me at least 3 hours to make and they are just as beautiful as any I make, but maybe the $100 price... I don't know. I sold lots in the $40-$60 range (avg per pot for the fair, $52).

 

I feel that I need to become more clear on what my goal is with my pottery.  Do I make pottery because I love the creative outlet?  YES, YES, YES!!!  Is it because I love the process and the finished accomplishment? YES, YES, YES!!!  Pottery satisfies me on so many levels, not just the making it and feeling a sense of achievement, but also the compliments and adulation from those who see it. And yes that has value also. Is my goal to make money? I have to admit, that's a real consideration as my teacher's pension only goes so far. So I'm still struggling with pricing everything.

 

I think what I'm having a really hard time with right now is that I have mugs I spent an hour on priced at $15 when I've been selling my stamps for 3 years online. I price those to make an absolute minimum of $30/hour. Those sell like candy. So I'm sitting here thinking, why am I switching to pottery again? The answer of course is that I love it nearly to the point of addiction. Perhaps the stamps will always be my real income and the pottery will only ever pay for its own expenses. I have to decide if I'm willing to accept that possibility. I'm just starting out, I know.

 

I have a studio tour in October that is two weekends here on my home turf. I plan to have lots of demonstrations so they can understand exactly what is going into each and every item. 

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https://www.etsy.com/shop/SilverLiningCeramics/sold

 

These wacky crystal mugs which are crazy cool are selling for $125-$175 a mug. They do have gold on the handles and in the crystals, which increases the price of the mug and the cost to make it, but she can't even keep them stocked. I find it pretty interesting, thought I would post it here. Since we are having a lot of discussions about price points per work amount.

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https://www.etsy.com/shop/SilverLiningCeramics/sold

 

These wacky crystal mugs which are crazy cool are selling for $125-$175 a mug. They do have gold on the handles and in the crystals, which increases the price of the mug and the cost to make it, but she can't even keep them stocked. I find it pretty interesting, thought I would post it here. Since we are having a lot of discussions about price points per work amount.

 

Definitely not my kind of thing.  Especially for that price.

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