The discussion on pricing continues. Tony added this post into the mix.
Most potters I know who are trying to sustain their life in
the clay world aren’t wondering that a mug can sell for $50 or even $100…or
even $1,000. They know that a shirt can
sell for $1 (Salvation Army), $25 (L.L.Bean) or $1,000 (Purchased from the
Elvis Presley estate auction) . And they
know that they’d treat each of those shirts with commensurate care.
So, they’re not wondering that a mug can sell for a lot of money. What they are wondering is more specific:
1. What makes a mug
2. And they are asking question #1 with a mind toward the
follow-up question: “Can I make a mug that sells for $50?”
3. After answering questions 1 & 2: If
I know what might make a mug sell for $50, and I do make that mug that sells
for $50, am I getting paid a reasonable sum – not for the value of that one mug
– that one piece -- but toward a goal of making a reasonable living from the
profits gained by selling a mug for $50.
4. In other words (question #3), “Can I sell MUGS (plural) for $50 and make a
living from those mugs? Can I sustain a
market for $50 mugs for a reasonably extended period of my clay career?
5. And will making $50 mugs advance my
career? Will I make only those mugs or
will I make other things?
6. And if I’m making
other things of which mugs will be but a part of my inventory…am or will I
be able to pay myself equally (or nearly enough so) for, say, my pitchers, or my
bowls, or my doo-dads, or my what’s-its?
Most potters will never be able to avail themselves of the
stratospheric “collectible” market.
Their phones aren’t jingling with calls from Charlie Cummings or Garth Clark
to put on a $50 mug exhibit. Most
potters aren’t going to be asked to present a workshop at NCECA or Wooster or
Ella Sharp or anywhere else for that matter.
fact, though there are any number of potters who aspire to that end
("...oh, please, please, please Charlie...won't you give me a call?!"), I
suspect there are just as many or more who aspire to the seclusion of
potteries and their kilns and their production, and who relish the
with the open market of pottery consumers – those who want to live and use the stuff.
And most potter’s experience in the world of potters-selling-to-other-potters
looks a bit more like potters-trading-with-other-potters. It’s a zero-sum game, not a business model.
I’m one of the lucky ones and I thank God daily for
that. I couldn’t appreciate the kindness
of my fellow potters more than I do when they honor me by buying my pots. They’ve pulled my butt out of the fire
several times with timely purchases, even.
But in my world of clay, as much as I love my fellow potters, I don’t
see them as a sustainable market for my work. In fact, I mostly see them as partners-in-life who I absolutely need to survive this perilous but utterly fulfilling life in clay.
No potter is an island entire of