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#1 phill

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Posted 18 November 2013 - 08:15 AM

A little background: in the Misleading Representation post I got some sound advice from GEP (Mea) and John that I shouldn't change my prices according to venue as they said it is unfair to customers. 

 

Here are my questions:

 

How does one go about figuring out pricing then? If it is unfair to change prices, how did you understand where your pots fit into the market and price them without getting your hands dirty selling your work and realizing that certain pots don't sell well at certain prices?

 

John, since the beginning have you always sold your cups for $100?

Mea, have you always sold your pots for the same price?

 

Did you have backlash from people if you did change your prices? 

 

This isn't just for John and Mea, I am asking for anyone who sells work to answer these questions, all opinions and experiences are wanted and valid. It would be helpful to know if you are coming at this question as a professional or a hobbyist too.

 

 

I find that I am ever more confused with pricing as time continues. Although it is embarrassing for me I want to get it out there that I change prices way too much because of this confusion. I must admit I also have a very hard time figuring out if my work deserves a certain price point or not. Have you come to these conclusions and what did you conclude?

 

Thanks in advance to whomever answers these questions as pricing in the ceramics world can be embarrassing to some or in the least intimidating. It is one thing to put your work out there for the world to have it judged, but a whole other monster to actually put a price tag on it. 



#2 Chris Campbell

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Posted 18 November 2013 - 11:11 AM

Pricing ... well, in almost every other business you figure out your costs, factor in your overhead, add in a profit margin and get your price. This will also work for an experienced production potter but does not work so well for a beginning potter.

 

First of all your raw materials are cheap ... yes, even if you use gold paint, mason stains, porcelain ... whatever, nothing in your studio is more expensive than your time. So time is a big factor in calculations ... but a newbie might only make twelve bowls a day while and experienced potter could throw that many in an hour. The newbie does not get to charge more just because it took longer ... so that throws off pricing equations.

 

For most new sellers it is a good idea to attend craft fairs, visit pottery galleries etc to find work that looks about your skill level and see what they are selling for. Use those prices as reference. Sit down and do a little math. How much pottery can you make in a week/month/year? ( Do not do the math based on 365 days as this is not realistic ... you do have a life that needs sick days, appointments, laundry, groceries etc. )

At those prices, how much money would you make? Is this enough to keep you going?

 

If your work sells out quickly at those prices, raise them. This is the way you raise the perception of the quality of your work. If your work does not sell at those prices then maybe you need to re-assess either your venues, your skills or your prices.

 

Your prices should be consistent across the board ... no special deals in your studio, no higher prices at a better show ... one price. It can go up as your sales rise. If a customer complains that it costs more than last year, you smile and remark that they made a great investment last year and the prices will go up again as you become famous.

 

Insecure feelings about prices are very common ... the worst thing new sellers do is to change their prices half way through a show because things are not selling or someone else is selling cheaper or whatever. Doing a little research first into local/average pricing will ease these fears to stop you from doing this.

 

You mentioned before you made $10 mugs and I can only question how on earth you make a nickel on them. The images on your site look fine ... why only $10?? Why aren't they $14, $16, $18 mugs?? The mugs look fine ... is it limited sales venues or do you not think they are worth more?


Chris Campbell
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#3 Diane Puckett

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Posted 18 November 2013 - 01:08 PM

I was once told I needed to raise my low prices as they were unfair to other potters in the gallery, something I had not even considered.

If you have a hard time believing your work is worth a determined price, practice standing in front of a mirror and telling yourself what the price is until you are confident saying it with no apology.
Diane Puckett
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#4 Wyndham

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Posted 18 November 2013 - 04:01 PM

Every now and then a new potter will ask about pricing. I use the example of a coffee mug and a mim wage job.

A wage earner will work about 2080 hr/yr and if we look at $10/hr before taxes, their labor is worth about $21k/year.

 

There used to be the notion that a potter should get retail about $10/ lb and a coffee mug is about 1 lb so $10 for a coffee mug.

Now depending on what your cost are, clay, bisk, glazing, firing, living, traveling to shows, show fees, etc., the cost per mug might be from $6-$9ea or more.

So if you made $4 per mug and a worker made $80 a day, you would have to make and sell 20 mugs a day to equal what a wage earner makes per day just for his labor..

So the old standard of $10/ lb should be at least $18-$20/lb

 

Just another way at looking at the elephant on the wheel

Wyndham



#5 Diane Puckett

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Posted 18 November 2013 - 05:12 PM

That reminds me of customers who think heavier pieces should be worth more.
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#6 oldlady

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Posted 18 November 2013 - 08:34 PM

ha ha ha!  they are related to the people who buy junk "just to encourage the beginners".


"putting you down does not raise me up."

#7 oldlady

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Posted 18 November 2013 - 08:38 PM

phill, did i see a different post where you said the price of something ended in   .95?    DO NOT DO THIS. prices should be in real dollars not the way that Woolworth sold stuff by concealing that extra dollar by calling it .95.  you are a professional, does your dentist bill you at increments of  .95?

 

edit wednesday  sorry, phill, it is Pazu who puts .95 on his prices. 


"putting you down does not raise me up."

#8 GEP

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Posted 18 November 2013 - 10:32 PM

Mea, have you always sold your pots for the same price?

Did you have backlash from people if you did change your prices?

Well, once I got past the very beginning stages of selling amateurish pottery, someone explained to me why it was important to be consistent, and I have been consistent ever since. No, I've never experienced any backlash because it was never an issue.

Everything Chris said above is a good idea! I will add that learning how to price pots is a long and slow process (just like learning how to make pots). Yes it is confusing at first. It is for everyone. Lots of people seem to think there is a secret formula that makes it easy. There's no formula. It does get easier with time. I've got 11 years and maybe 100 shows under my belt. I collect information about my pricing every time. There is a point where you have amassed enough data in your head where it all starts to make sense.

Phill if you are changing your prices a lot, it might explain why you are having trouble selling a nice cup for $10 - $12. Not necessarily because customers have noticed your inconsistent pricing, but because customers can sense that you are unsure about the value of your work. If you think people can't tell, they can tell!

We could have a whole thread about the psychological aspects of this kind of business.
Mea Rhee
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#9 JBaymore

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Posted 18 November 2013 - 11:51 PM

It's basically a silent auction, for pricing not selling, done by other potters. If you are part of a guild or potters group, you place a selection of your work out with blank slips of paper. Other potters then price the pot anonymously and leave the slip of paper in the pot. At the end of the session you have a range of prices that other potters would sell the work for.

 

From my point of view POTTERS are the worst people to price pots. Almost without fail.... as a group we underprice.

 

Go to a good department store. Got to the tablewares department. Check out the prices for commercial Noriotake teapots, serving pieces, and such. Work produced mostly by machines in huge volumes by companies that buy their materials like clay and glazes and fuel at huge discounts due to the volume of production.

 

Then think about where the pricing for handwork, often one-of-a-kind, that is produced in small ineffieicnt kilns with more costly raw materials should fit.

 

We are our own worst enemies.

 

best,

 

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


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#10 JBaymore

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 12:51 AM

Phil,

 

As to your question on pricing........

 

No, of course I haven't sold at the prices I am selling at now "back in the day". And I should not have. And if I had tried, they wouldn't have sold. (And in looking at some of my work from back then.....thank goodness!)

 

I can clearly remember thinking that I "knew something" about clay when I was just out of UMass. Thought my pieces were pretty darn OK. In hindsight, I realize I didn't know squat back then and my pots were very much barely "so-so". After a certain point of early learning, folks tend to think they "know stuff". Get full of themselves. It is when someone finally matures a bit and realises how darn much they DON'T know and what they CAN'T do so well that they finally are at a point to really blossom in their art work. This is the breakthrough point where the pricing can start to come up significantly becasue the WORK will then change dramatically for the positive.

 

As the work matures, the pricing of that work changes ("evolves" is probably the right term). So pricing DOES change.... but it is not random. And it tends to be slow-ish. Quailty of the work produced, name recognition, "fame", and all sorts of other factors figure in as this develops. As do decisions about market positioning.

 

Personally, I have to say that I can't make a $10 cup/mug. Even wholesale. When I look at annual potential pottery output, the physical demands on my body, the nature of my studio operation, my firing process, and the particular standards that I want to maintain for the pieces that I sell,....... it just won't work. And I've been doing this professionally for a LONG time now....... so I'm pretty decent at execution by now.

 

I talk about this subject with students all the time. It is the "why are you here" talk. Here you are investing in a professional education in a field and likely racking up student loans and such. You are spending money on an education. Your goal is to be a professional. You want to make a living at this. So you should look at what the standard of living for "middle class" professionals in various fields make. After investing in learning a craft well, you want some return on that investment.

 

It is competitive as he$$ out there in the art market. So the clay work and the other skills they need as an entrapanuer better be there. You better be GOOD! Work hard, study hard. Wring every bit out of your studies. You'll need it. And it will also come down to the "last man/woman standing" factor......persistence and determination.

 

Around here a totally unskilled burger flipper gets $10 an hour with some benefits. That is on 40 hours a week. It seems to me that as a skilled professional, folks should be looking at WAY more than that for an hourly AVERAGE for a year. WAY more. In this day and age, the $100 bill is the "new $20". Massive numbers of people drop $7.00 on a coffee at the drop of a hat. Daily. Going out for "a beer" Friday night will kill a $20 bill really fast. An evening at a movie almost requires a mortgage anymore.

 

Personally I think 'why would I want to devalue my education and skills to a level commensurate to those kinds of thoughtless expenditures that people make'? That is "throwaway money" for them. What I do is an expression of skills and vision....... I believe that people have to be aware of that fact and should realize that the work is special. Not a double shot with extra cream ;) .

 

Hope those thoughts are helpful.

 

Chris gave a great example above. People reading this thread should take her words to heart. She's a smart cookie.

 

best,

 

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


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#11 Babs

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 01:33 AM

Yeh, take an analogy from the medical field. Go to your local doc, just graduated or stopped at that place in the learning road, and what do you pay? 

Go to a specialist, what do you pay?

Need a new back, who do you go to? What are you satisfied with?

What are you after? Mug to leave around the garden or one to sit and enjoy drinking tea when you are at rest?



#12 phill

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 08:48 AM

You mentioned before you made $10 mugs and I can only question how on earth you make a nickel on them. The images on your site look fine ... why only $10?? Why aren't they $14, $16, $18 mugs?? The mugs look fine ... is it limited sales venues or do you not think they are worth more?

 

Thanks for the comments, Chris. I appreciate them.

 

Regarding your questions:

I price my cups this way so that more people will be able to afford my pots. For a while I sold mugs for $22, $25, and have tried the higher teens as well. I have had a lot of life changes in the past few years which have changed my business model, my goals, etc. My original intent was to support myself and hopefully a family on making pots. After leaving school and being totally broken finding out this is practically impossible, I had to change my outlook on pottery. Now I have a wife and child. I stay home with the kiddo and my wife works a job, as she can make more money than I can...no one wants to hire a ceramics major for any real money jobs, go figure. 

I am also a Christian, and this plays into every aspect of pottery for me. I give away pots regularly so that people might be blessed and that they might give glory to God. God has called me to make pots, something that has been bittersweet as I journey along this road--if I can't support my family, why did God bring me to pottery? Asking these questions has changed my purpose of making from purely business to a more ministerial purpose. God called me away from a Pre-med degree to an art degree, a move that thankfully has made me rely less upon myself and ever more upon my God. 

 

Your other questions, Chris, about limited sales venues and if I consider my pots worth more than I price: I do not try art fairs anymore...not profitable for me and because I am married and now have a child to take care of, these venues are even further from my mind. I am doing a home sale for the Christmas season, and I profit the most from these types of sales. Home sales are the easiest on my family as well. So, yes, limited sales venues probably factors in pretty largely. I also do value my pots. It can be a struggle sometimes to see my work go for $10--I know that those pots are worth twice that.

 

Just two years ago potter Guillermo Cuellar's prices were very low. He has recently increased them to about double what they were. But before then he was selling his yunomi's for $12. And he is a well known and established potter. I wonder how he made a living? I think he sold a lot of pots. 



#13 Chris Campbell

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 11:25 AM

"Just two years ago potter Guillermo Cuellar's prices were very low. He has recently increased them to about double what they were. But before then he was selling his yunomi's for $12. And he is a well known and established potter. I wonder how he made a living? I think he sold a lot of pots."

Yes, the famous wisdom of losing a bit on every sale but making it up with volume. Ugh.
Gotta go bang my head against a wall for a while .......

Chris Campbell
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#14 neilestrick

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 03:04 PM

Pricing is tough. Every time I think I have it worked out, the economy tells me otherwise. This year my prices seemed to be right, however nobody wanted to spend more than $60 at the art fairs. I sold more pots than I ever have, but they were mostly at the lower end of my pricing. So it was more work than previous years, but I still made decent money. Luckily, those smaller, cheaper pots are fast and easy to make.

 

The public doesn't really understand what it takes to make pots. They think bigger pots are worth more money, and in some way they are because it shows a level of technical skill to make them. But from a design standpoint, small pots are just as difficult. I make a lot of lidded jars, and I often have customers ask if I have any little 3" tall lidded jars to use for salt, sugar, etc. I don't make lidded jars that size, and when they ask why not, I ask them if they're willing to pay $60 for a little salt jar, to which they always respond 'no'. I then explain to them that the 3" tall jar is the same amount of work as the 6" tall jar, and the cost of materials is negligible. They don't get that size doesn't matter up to a point. One pound jars are the same amount of work as 3 pound jars.

 

There is also the matter of perceived value. If you underprice your work, people will think it's not as good, and they won't buy it. You can be less expensive than the competition, but you have to be close. Too much cheaper and the product appears inferior. Most people don't know how to value art and craft, they just feel that in general, if it costs more it's better. I have a friend who was selling mugs for $8 at a fair, right near a guy who was selling mugs for $16, and her mugs were just as nice. I told her that he was going to sell twice as many as her, even though hers were less expensive. Based on price alone, his appeared to be the better mug. I convinced her to raise her prices to $16, at which point she sold twice as many as she ever had at a show.


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#15 Mark C.

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 09:12 PM

I after 40 years in this business I still enjoy pricing the LEAST of all things I do with clay.-That said its what keeps me alive as far a supporting myself with clay for 4 decades.

Pricing needs to be consistent -I try to keep it about all the same so my pots sell for the same on the street and wholesale or consignment all within a few dollars of each other.

My studio sales (20 year's worth) where the same as well-I gave them up for an out of state show I do past 20 years now.

I just raised prices which is something I try to think about at least every year after x-mss. Thats when my inventory is lowest and change is easiest for me to do.This year it was done a few months ago-everything has gone up-gas -materials you name it.

Neils points above reflect what I have been doing since the downturn a few years back-make smaller stuff which is more affordable . Its more work but the sales have increased well.

Their have been many posts about this and the search function may help dig that stuff up.

Finding the right price for your pots is personal-try and not under price yourself but also keep it so folks can buy them-its a two way street.

Mark


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#16 Frederik-W

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Posted 20 November 2013 - 07:49 AM

"I price my cups this way so that more people will be able to afford my pots".

 

That is a noble idea, clearly for you not everything is about business and profit. I would like to raise some ethical issues here.

 

I read somewhere on the forum that you should not change your price because you might upset customers.

I think the idea is that it won't be fair if different people get charged different prices.

Good point, but there is also another point: The fact is that some people can afford to spend a lot on art and others cannot.

A lot of people who have limited income (through no fault of their own) do appreciate art and fine craft and would like to own something decent.

I am NOT saying that everyone should be charged differently though, and I am NOT saying that potters should live in poverty because they should dish out all they have to the poor.

 

I think a lot depends on how you view your work and what it means to you. A lot of artists died very poor because business was not their priority or because people did not recognise their work at the time, while others have made large profits by selling anything to whomever paid the highest price.

 

If I was an artist (and not in a bad financial situation) and someone really likes and appreciates my work but cannot afford it, I would definitely negotiate a good deal for him/her.

There are many rich people who buy art simply because it is an investment and not because they appreciate the work at all.

It might be very flattering if someone like that "invest" in your work, however it would leave a sour taste in my mouth if I knew the person has no taste or appreciation and is only buying it as an investment. Some artists would go as far as to refuse to sell to some customers and some donate some of their work to art galleries or art foundations rather then sell it.

 

Hypothetical scenario:

Say you normally sell through a gallery in an affluent area and you get good prices for your work. You then go on holiday to a little place on the coast. You decide to take a few pieces of your work with you to sell at the local arts & craft market.

You find the small community appreciates your art/craft a lot but it is clearly not the place where people can afford what you normally charge. What would you do?



#17 Cass

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Posted 20 November 2013 - 09:18 AM

my prices vary by venue...if the fine craft gallery can't get more for your work then imo, they are not doing their job properly, or they are not all that 'fine' 

 

art show prices are lower, maybe 20%, and if one of my regulars finds me at a show they are happy to get a piece for a bit less, i even use that to push them saying,'get it from me here, cuz next week in the gallery it is going to be a bunch more!" and it always works. perfect opportunity to give them your cell # and say they can call you direct , anytime, if the want to come see the latest batch at your studio, they love that (and saving $).  it's ok for prices to vary is the bottom line,  my job is to get as much as possible for my work over various venues so i can get groceries and send my boys to college, period.if a conflict comes up (very rare) you explain why the price is different. people with money understand business, everyone is happy in the end.



#18 neilestrick

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Posted 20 November 2013 - 10:28 AM

Cass, I like your attitude. There are very few things we purchase that have the same price at every store. We understand that internet warehouses have lower overhead than brick-and-mortar stores, and can therefore offer lower prices, so why shouldn't our work cost a bit more at a gallery than at our studios? Customers know that galleries get a commission on every sale. The only thing I would add is that I would avoid selling in a gallery that was nearby my studio, to avoid those conflicts.


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#19 Wyndham

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Posted 20 November 2013 - 10:39 AM

Phil,I understand your calling.I have times when people order Communion sets for newly ordained pastors or simply giving a church a new or  replacement set. Small  churches or congregations might want a small chalice and "salad" sized plate and others more elaborate settings for larger congregations.

I have learned to gauge the needs and adjust the price as needed for the churches. 

 

It seems to me that setting your prices at an affordable range in keeping with other potters works allows you to be on par with your peers and at the same time discount to those who truly would appreciate  a well made piece of your work but at a price that fits their budget . 

 

The Apostle Paul worked as a tent maker to support himself and his ministry. He had to be skilled and productive to be competitive even in those times so there is also the scripture that a "workman is worth his wages "

 

Remember the price paid for us, not low ball by any measure.

Wyndham



#20 GEP

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Posted 20 November 2013 - 10:40 AM

When I sell my work wholesale to galleries, I price it so they can charge the same retail price as me. I know some of them charge more than that anyways, because they can, due to the customer base and reputation they have built for themselves. But it is their choice, I am not expecting them to do that. 

 

When I meet a customer who first found my work in a gallery, I would never ever tell that customer to NOT buy from the gallery because they can get it cheaper from me. That is unethical. I would expect a respectable gallery would drop me if they found out I was doing that. A gallery that does a good job selling your work is a valuable business partner. Those relationships should be treated with respect. 


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