Pages

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Crunching numbers

 I had an irritating conversation with myself today. Last year someone came to my studio during the Artists Studio Tour on the last day of the show. She was complaining that none of the artists had anything affordable. When I asked what "affordable" meant to her, she said, "you know, something for around $5."  Well no, I didn't slap her, but I think I rolled my eyes and sucked some air in through my teeth.... clearly she missed the yard sales that she had intended to go to!
Anyway, every year when I start getting ready for shows, I have that voice in my head saying, not everyone can afford expensive work, but they deserve to be able to buy something nice as well and I should make some $5 items. After several years of the nickel and dime crowd I have decided that there is plenty of cheap shitty pottery they can go buy for $5 and I'm not catering to them anymore. You get what you pay for, after all.
Last year, I made some tiny houses that I sold for $24 and they were gone quick as a blink. I thought maybe I would make some more of those today, so I began. After throwing three of them away and cursing a bit, I finally got one that I liked. These little ones take as much effort as the big ones, not quite as much time, but still, the effort for a $24 little house is so not worth it. I think they were going in the trash bucket because the whole time I was making them I was resenting how much time I was putting in to get paid so little for them. But no way would anybody give me what I should get for the time involved.
 Sooooo, I decided to time myself and see how quickly I could make one that was worth $24. They wouldn't get fussed over so much, they would be fine, just not quite up to the standards I have for my larger pieces. It took me 30 minutes to get one that was ok acceptable. So that means I can make 2 an hour, thats 16 for an eight hour day, that's $384.
I can make 3 barns in an eight hour day that I sell for $325.  That's $975.
Of course they don't fly off the shelves as quick as the $24 ones, but I'm also not fiddling with a tiny little house that is pissing me off while I'm making it.
So, do I want to make three really cool barns that not everyone can afford, or do I want to make 40 little houses that everyone can afford..... I don't mean this in a snob kind of way, because my budget leans towards the $5 crowd, but I'm trying to realistically think through what will keep me sane. Making 16 little houses a day to sell for $24 is not rocking my world right now, so I might just move on and settle for making work that costs more, does not sell as quickly, but brings me way more enjoyment and peace of mind. When I go shopping at a pottery, I am not looking for a $5 item, I have saved my money so I can buy a nice piece, so that's what folks should do if they come here this year.....artists deserve to get paid a fair price for their well crafted, made with so much love work!
After I made these little houses that were not yet perched on screws, I decided they were worth more than $24, although the general buying public would not get that, so I made them sculptures. Now they are more special, they are making me way happier and I will get more dollars for them. One other revelation I had was this. The stars I make and sell as fast as I can make them and by December are sick to death of, can be made quick and easy. I made a dozen of them in an hour, so there is my inexpensive item! Wouldn't you just know it. I thought I had lost my mold and was sort of happy about that, but then I found it, cranked out some stars and said, oh yeah, I remember you guys. You turn out so pretty every year and I sell out every time I make them. Ta da! Problem solved, except they don't sell for $5, they sell for $18, which is a bargain and that will satisfy the voice that says you should have something for everyone!!! Does anyone know how to hush those voices............

16 comments:

Ashley said...

As Obiwan Kenobi said, “these are not the droids ...i mean customers you are looking for”

cookingwithgas said...

Just make what you want and tell that inner voice to take a pill.
The small houses that you are making are worth more than 24.00 and guess what if you are not in the happy zone move on.
You are trying to please who?
Why do we do this to ourselves???

Laura Farrow said...

I second working in the happy zone! xp

Dennis Allen said...

Who says girls can't do math? That little stuff takes more effort than the bigger stuff.You can't unhappily make work you are proud of and if you aren't proud of it you can't sell it.Good choice for the stars.I throw some $12 whiskey cups but I like them and I can throw quickly.Since they fit anywhere, it's like they fire for free.

Hollis Engley said...

Make the barns, Tracey. Make what you like. Charge what you like.

brandon phillips said...

$24?!! More like $36 or 40. I make some simple little slab dishes, kiln filler is what I call them, $20 a piece. People will buy like 4 at a time. I can hardly make enough of them. But they're super easy. Your small houses are still far too complex for $24.

I second what Hollis said. My philosophy has always been to make what I want and f*ck em if they don't want it.

Michèle Hastings said...

like Dennis, Jeff makes $15 wine cups that are great kiln fillers. They take him no time at all to throw, are 1/2 lb of clay, so two equal a mug in weight and price but take half the effort, since there are no handles.
I just had an etsy request for a special order of a "little pig". She wanted one to match her bedroom (?). I just said no. I have a few listed on etsy and don't plan to make more. I am selling them for $25 and they are more work than the standard pigs at $45... at some point you just have to draw the line.

Tracey Broome said...

Points well taken you guys! What I should do is get on the wheel and throw a bunch of cups or bowls! The $24 houses I was selling were reallly small like an ornament, but still they take way too much time..... I could easily throw some small bowls that I could make a bunch of. If I could just settle on a glaze I like!

JUDI TAVILL said...

This completely frustrates me... My heavily carved pieces, or manipulated pieces thatbare thrown carved altered finessed and so on that take hours going on 20... I dont even know what to do price wise. I charge too little but am frustrated.... Grrrr

ConnieN said...

Beach houses on stilts! That is what the ones on screws have me thinking! And I love your opening line "I had an irritating conversation with myself today." My sanity is hanging by a thread, and you made me laugh. Thank you soooo very much, Tracey.

Liz said...

this post is so well timed. I have been having irritating conversations with myself all summer long. My work has been moving slowly.. I was tempted to lower my prices, or give up all together. I am SO tired of people asking the price, then turning away, or out right telling me I am asking too much. its disheartening, and demotivating. But I think I will just keep prices as they are, or raise them as necessary.

Lori Buff said...

Someone once said "Do what you love and the money will follow." They didn't mention how much money or when it would arrive so we tend to try to second guess and make stuff for people that can't/won't spend a large amount. But if you can't make them in a way that works for you on all levels don't do it. Maybe spend that time trying to find new markets for the larger pieces.

Scott Garrett said...

You drown those voices with cool beer in a lovingly made, well crafted (and priced accordingly) cup/tankard ; )

I know that conversation too well though. I still don't know how to price prints... that i don't actually have to make, just the initial image. I want folk to have my art, but i don't want to scare them off with the prices... i also want to make something on them though!! At the moment i seem to be falling in between.
I started doing cards, which sell in the the pretty swish new art gallery in town... but that's not for the money at a pound profit a card!!... I do that to carry my website/big cartel shop out to a wider audience.
Oy!
I think you're right to forget the small barns and stick to the stars. Small cup/bowls do seem a good alternative. The smallest, simplest things can still be the most beautiful.

Tracey Broome said...

Great comments everyone! I think this is something we all go through with handmade work. If only the schools would educate kids (our future customers) about art!
I raised my prices last year drastically, brilliant right? Hard economic times, raise prices. But it was either that or just quit doing this, I was basically giving my work away. The thing is, my work, in the right place, the right person, sells at $325, so there is no going back. Sells are slower, but I still come out better than a couple of years ago....
Thanks everyone for your thoughts on this subject!!!!

bridgette said...

I love you blog Tracey because although we workbin different medium, I can still relate to the issues that come up for you. And I appreciate your candor. This issue of affordability used to always plague me when I used to make and sell my handmade books which were labor intensive! But I also wanted to have "affordable" items available because I know what it's like to want Han crafted items and not having the funds. But then I would get upset with myself because of the time/labor spent- I found that negative energy in my studio is no good for anybody and I stopped!

bridgette said...

Sorry for the typos- on my phone. :)