Friday, April 12, 2013

Getting Back To Pricing

I told you I'd get back around to continuing the discussion about pricing.  Here are some more thoughts I've  jotted down since my last post.

Because demand is a slippery thing in the art world -- with personal taste being so prominent in the mix -- the relationship of cost of production to sale price is probably more willy-nilly than in any other marketing endeavor. I'm not exactly whining here -- my pots have sold extremely well and still do. But many of my potter friends can ask for and get 2, 3, even 4 times more of a return on their effort than I can. I marvel at it, really. And sometimes I understand it. Sometimes their work is so exceptional that I see reason for the disparity. I'm not trashing my work -- I'm just acknowledging a difference in kind in theirs. Sometimes I don't get it. And (I believe) art will always be that way.

I do know that sometimes it's a matter of living circumstances. I'll bet King Solomon wasn't the first to point out that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Or, as my mother-in-law used to say, "Poor folks have poor ways".

Pottery makes a better second income than it does a primary income. Many of the potters who can demand a higher price for their work can do so because they don't really need to sell it to survive. As such, they can "hold out" for a better price. If they can do that and still remain ambitious with their work (if they love making pots), then they can add to their inventory in such a way that allows them a HUGE bonus when it does sell. And it usually does sell because most of us, in the final analysis, DO know our market.

But if you have bills to pay and there's no other way to pay them than from the sale of your work....buster, you are not going to be holding out for a bigger payday on your precious mug.

Many, like me, made money extremely well for a period of time -- had pots that were just the hottest thing going at times when the market was just ripe for 'em. But even with eyes wide open to the probability that such a windfall was not going to last forever, many of us created a living circumstance that at least in larger part reflected that income level. When that windfall fell, we were left with overhead that the new reality couldn't maintain


And if you're catching from this post:   This is meant to be encouraging to fellow artists to not lose sight of that goal -- to live within the means that the most normal market circumstances will afford you -- whether by being a second income or by living more simply. 

 I could go on, but I think I'm done for now.


  1. I notice folks really ponder purchases more than they used to do. With the economy the way it still is and seems will continue and with prices going up and up for necessities, many folks are having to learn to live more simply or go without, even going without some items which might be considered necessities.

  2. Hey John, With the new season coming up I've been worrying about this lately. I'm up to my ears in pots right now but after 30 years of public service, I really don't have to sell to eat. Half of me says look around and see what other folks are charging. The other half says go with "clear the shelves" pricing and move some stock.A third half of me knows how it pisses me off to be next to some hack who is selling bad blue mugs like hotcakes for $10 each to people who can't tell the difference I also worry ( there's a theme here) about internal pricing consistency within my line.How big a bump can I add for a handle, a lid or a spout? What about pots that come in different sizes? etc

  3. I'm sitting in a mountain of pots agonizing over pricing as I should be packing for show, a big show out east with large overhead. Yup, I have a couple $1200 pots with loads of weaving but you bet I have 50 mugs priced at $28. I live in a depressed area where I'd be lucky to get $28 for a mug so I must leave this part of world to make enough to pay bills. At this stage of the game I'm really looking at other options....... Especially after working a show and watching my friend sell tiny teapots for over $400 like they were hot cakes and everybody needed one. He also set up the morning of the show where as I needed to come in the day before to set up. Can I tell myself one more time to work smarter, not harder? I know I'm slowly aging out off the road! At 60 I'm not sure I want to be dragging a trailer around Boston rush hour traffic, I work alone. Amazed I have been wait listed for most shows in my backyard so back on the road this year..... Well my break is over, back to work :) thanks for posting your thoughts!

  4. John, You and I have talked about this in person and I and Mark have to sell what we make to live. We never went into this as a hobby it was a life decision and one we don't take lightly. It is just now showing on us that maybe the other road could have brought more money but maybe not as interesting a life.
    Now about pricing in a place where the prices run as low as 10.00 for a mug and as high as 65.00 for a mug we try very hard to keep our prices where we think they should be in.
    It is a tricky business and lately I try hard to pay little attention to what others are doing and concentrate on what I can do in a day.
    Best of luck to you, times are not what they once were for many of us.

  5. These are SUCH good comments. I want to address them, and will when I get a stretch of time to do so. Thanks for the thoughtful responses!