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Pricing my work?

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I know pricing has probably been discussed in this forum more than once.

I have been selling my work, Raku, at Art and Wine festivals for 5 years, slowly increasing the prices to find a good price point.

I believe I have found good price points for my work, based on the how many pieces I have sold at my most recent festivals. In fact, I am concerned that my prices are still low.

I believe, for example, and this is just an example, that it is better to sell 5 pieces for $1000.00 vs. 10 pieces for $1000.00.

My partner believes the exact opposite, saying, "Don't you want to sell more pieces and move inventory?".

This leads to a discussion about discounts when customers want to purchase, for example, 3 pieces that are priced at $300.00 total, and the customer offers $240.00(20% discount). I refuse to provide discounts because I believe my work is reasonably priced. My partner can't believe that I would not take $240.00, again asking, "Don't you want to sell them?", and "Isn't it better to sell pieces vs. not?"

I'd like to get some feedback, am I way off base, am I being too rigid about my pricing, and really, is it better to have higher sales volume at lower prices?



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If what you are doing is working for you, why change?  After 5 years, repeat customers know what to expect from you.  

I think everyone struggles putting a number on the work they do, it's a real time evaluation of self-worth.  You can price things fairly, based on the cost of materials and a reasonable hourly wage, but this is more along the lines of a person making functional wares.  With sculpture i feel like it's much more feeling based.

Anyway, I think you should continue doing what you're doing because it sounds like people are buying your art for a reasonable price and that's the biggest hurdle.

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You believe your work is reasonably priced, but this is not enough to justify any price. Lots of artists make this mistake. The truth lies in how the market is responding to your work. If your work is piling up in your studio, then your partner is right. If your work is moving steadily, then you are right. 

1 hour ago, Maraku13 said:

it is better to sell 5 pieces for $1000.00 vs. 10 pieces for $1000.00.

There is no right or wrong here. The right answer is different for every artist. 

It sounds like your work is moving, and therefore you should stand your ground when someone asks for a discount. 

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I think you could experiment with a volume discount if your work is stacking up at the price you now charge, but I don't think I would want to haggle with people over prices.  If customers find out you are willing to haggle over a price and convey that to other customers, you may find yourself haggling about every item in your booth.

I know I wouldn't want to do that.


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I follIow a lot of small business groups online and in real life, and one thing that I notice is that everyone has a family member who thinks they know how retail works. This loving, well-meaning family member is often quite vocal about how you should run your business. Invariably, you are doing it wrong, and you'd sell waaaaay more stuff if only you'd listen to them about how, where and to whom you should sell your work to. Usually this person does not and never has worked retail in a managerial position, and doesn't own a business themselves, let alone one that relates to art or luxury goods sales. 

Taking business advice from this person is like getting tax advice from a baker: They might know something about the subject, but there are professionals that know about some important nuances in the field that don't apply to every case. These nuances can make or break you.

First thing I wonder: do you want to sell more volume? If you're prolific and need the space, then a fire sale may be in order. If you work methodically, then you likely don't want to move thousands of pieces a year, in which case the higher price point is what you want to aim for. 

When you're selling art, and raku falls into the art rather than functional category, if you discount your work it can be seen as a devaluation. This is not a good thing for this particular business model. There are other ways to treat repeat or larger ticket customers well other than by giving discounts. If you wish to show gratitude, why not offer some sort of small extra with a purchase instead? Can you offer gift wrapping or shipping/delivery or other service? How about sending them something on their birthday? Instead of thinking "less money," try thinking about adding value. People like to feel looked after, and will spend more for that feeling, and will return if they feel like they've been seen and heard. We all want devoted fans of our work that come back year after year and buy more. If a customer wants a discount, they can go to a big box store. That's what their business model is good at, and again, they rely on volume. No one goes to Walmart thinking they're going to buy a potential family heirloom, but it's a good possibility with art that you might. Perceieved value is definitely linked to price.

If you're basing your prices off of 5 years of experience with your customer base, then trust your experience. As everyone has already wisely said, if your pieces are moving, don't argue with your customers. 

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6 hours ago, Maraku13 said:

This leads to a discussion about discounts when customers want to purchase, for example, 3 pieces that are priced at $300.00 total, and the customer offers $240.00(20% discount). I refuse to provide discounts because I believe my work is reasonably priced. My partner can't believe that I would not take $240.00, again asking, "Don't you want to sell them?", and "Isn't it better to sell pieces vs. not?"

I make a lot of yarn bowls for an online store. Order today is for 35. Store owner asked me once if I would give her a discount for ordering so many, nope. I explained that bowl number 35 takes just as long to make and costs just as much in supplies/firing costs as does bowl number 1. She was totally understanding with that explanation. For retail I do the same that you do, I politely say no to discounts because my prices are fair to both myself and my customers. What I do though is give a small $5- ring/teabag dish as a thank you to customers who repeatedly make large purchases from me.

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I've run a couple of fairly decent size businesses over the years with a number of employees (one went over 10 years) and this business is different I think in a lot of subtle ways than normal retail. Yes you have products and customers and a lot of the same jargon but the essence of an art/artisan business is just different and I think a lot of advice from others in our life space might miss some of this even though they might be very capable, smart and knowledgeable people . 

... and ya know I'm learning. Watching my partners sales (she is full time) is really dialing it in for me. She and I both have pots that move through ($20 mugs, $30-$50 bowls for example) but she has a number of high-end hand painted pieces that take some serious studio time on her part and she charges much more for these and gets it. Yes they sell much more slowly and that's just fine with her and she has no intention of lowering the price to move more and I can not image why she would. She loves doing them and they enhance her rack tremendously but they need the right buyer with the right budget that day to sell. That scarcity makes it impossible for her to do just that for her living. Mugs, bowls, platters etc. those are production, a staple and more bread and butter sales. ya might have to have those to keep the lights on, we do. 

By watching these sales I have zeroed in on some absolutes, a pot is worth what people will pay for it and its best value is the highest a reasonable number of people will pay. If you have a number of different priced forms of various complexity then it all works out really well as more simple and therefore usually less costly pots will sell through quickly and more complex and generally more costly pieces will move slow. The balance works if you WANT a number of forms in your inventory and you want to maximize what you get paid to do what you do at the end of the day . As long as the price covers your fixed cost, labor all the way around with a reasonable profit margin beyond cost (that's for the business if you are trying to build one of value beyond just paying you personally a salary, and not everyone is but that's another topic).

While your cost does not define its worth to a buyer it does provide a strike point with profit of the least you can take for that specific form to be profitable and arguably worth continuing to make. If you don't go less than this your golden and if you can command more then your better paid or the slack is picked up elsewhere if there is any. Now there might be other valuable reasons to carry a pot that you don't do well enough to hit what you like to hit, such as a good draw for other sales and such but we don't do that.

I tried to jump out to quickly a couple of years ago, quitting my day job, and do this for a living and I lost some time recovering so now I am determined to go slow and learn the way to do this right (according to me) and one thing I have come to the conclusion of is that inventory and sales are two very different areas in pottery. You have to have pots to sell pots so obviously one somewhat drives the other but Pots don't expire and finding your market and selling pots is its own area of expertise and it does not matter at all if production of good pottery/art just continues to hum while you dial in on the marketing and sales. We (artisans) make what we sell so if you hit a groove selling you can't just place a big re-order when the stock is low so having extra inventory is a good thing. I'm 58 and plan to do this till I kick, full time again I hope at some point, so I'll just let it pile up if it does instead of going for volume. I'm lucky because I have a rack to put my stuff on so I get a lot of input and some dough.

Handmade pottery just does not seem like a good fit for volume.

That's a very long winded way of saying that I completely agree with you that if you have forms that sell, even slowly, for $200 then keep them as additions to your lineup. Find a balance that works for you. All expensive stuff might  be a tough way to sell in enough numbers to make a living but your rack will sell through at different paces and your production will be uneven, it will work itself out. The market is funny that way.   





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I am a bit different than Stephan meaning I try to sell in volume. wether its at a show or just thru my outlets. The price point is what drives those sales.

I want to sell thousands of mugs not hundreds at this point in my potters life for example.

If I was making art (raku) I would not be thinking volume as its a completely different market.

My fellow ceramic artists as well as high end artist friends who make art do do more deals than me as they have way more margin to begin with.

If you feel this is true than work with a customer-If you only have a little work on the booth than I can see no way to cut a discount there. Also its whats are trying to do make as much money as you can or something else-this all comes into play-or another way of saying it is how hungry are you?

The public will always ask for deals it up to you to choose on the right answer and its different for each of us and can vary on the circumstances -if you drove two  or three days  to show and are away for a week you may want more $$ than the local one day show and hence have a different response-its not one size fits all.

Also are you doing this full time or just as a hobby as that also will determine some price points.

If you have 5 year experience than this hold already be second nature.. I'm a bit like you in that my price points are reasonable and I do not give a discount for more sales.

I tend to be firm on this point as the price is not at the high end and most realize this without mentioning it. When asked for a deal I just kindly say that are reasonably priced and 99.9 % get that and agree.

Now Art is different animal as I make functional wares.

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I spent many years pricing my work too low. One day I decided that my time was worth a minimum of $20/hr, and I priced my work based on that. Now, I am getting into some really unique work, which in addition to taking longer to make, also has the underlay of everything I have learned in my 25 years of interaction with clay. I ask a lot for these pieces and by golly people are buying them. So don’t be afraid to price your work based on your financial requirements, there is a niche market for you. Potters who compete on price are not always factoring in anything beyond the amount of time they took to make a piece...and in so doing, they deny themselves the financial reward they are due.

Cheers, Mosey

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ill give out 10% discount when I feel like it. If the customers have brought some happiness or enrichment to my life (outside of fiscal), then Im happy to show them some appreciation back; 20%...no way!

Id rather sell 5 mugs at $20 each, than 1 mug at $100. Cash flow is big for me. During show season Im shelling out $20k over the period of 4-6 months just for booth/travel fees. Waiting for "that" customer who will buy that $100 mug aint gonna cut it for me.

My original prices were based upon a number of factors; average prices for like items that I "shopped" numerous ceramic artists for. Compared my work to theirs, and made honest assessments of what I thought mine were worth in comparison. How much time did I have in each item...? How much materials...?

 I believe your prices should start low and work their way up gradually. No customer wants to see a mug selling for less than what they paid 1 year ago from you because you couldnt sell enough to justify a higher price point. WAY easier to take prices up, than bring them down.

My prices go up about 10% across the board every 2 years. Some items go up more, some less depending on supply/demand. I dont like to change prices more frequently than that as all my galleries really dont like having to reprice all the stock they have.

Pricing is one area where I think a lot of folks can get goofed up easy; I saw an article in CM years ago where a girl talked about her process to calculate her price points, and I mean she did CALCULATE her prices. There was a page of documentation, formulas, comparisons, etc. (yikes....to much info!!)She likely had her prices spot on whereas I might "lose a little" on this pot, but make "a little more" on this pot. For example, I make wine stoppers; when I make them, I make 300 at a time. At $12/each, thats $3600 for something that takes me half a day to throw, and maybe another "whole day" to sand/fire/glaze/fire/assemble, and materials costs are practically nothing. I could also spend an entire day making 4 teapots at $400 each. I learned a while ago that "hourly" rates need to be averaged over a period of months/years to find a real cost per hour. However, when it comes to custom work I do charge $80/hour and find that to be fair for me.

Like others have said, if you are selling your work well, and are making money, then I wouldnt worry too much. If you sell out at every show, either you have really amazing work and patrons, or too low of prices. Find that happy balance where your're making good money, but not killing yourself to make inventory.

Had another local potter post to FB here recently that if he sells 5 or more of the same item at a show that weekend he will raise his prices. I think this is bogus; slow and steady wins the race. You'll adopt a bigger patron/collector base, and sleep well at night.

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