Price and Handmade

28 March 2007

Judy over at Artrepreneur visited this blog and has a different opinion about prices, as do many others.

Is it possible to sell a hand crafted item (for under $25 she means), that reflects the makers “head, hands and heart”? Yes, I believe it is.
One thing I have learned in the last few years, is that it is much easier to make something expensive. Something that has lots of labor and love in it. If I could do nothing but that, it would be utopia. But the last I checked, utopia still doesn’t exist. So, the creative challenge is to make something that is relatively inexpensive, but is still something that is unique and wonderful.

And a commenter Molly adds:

I totally agree that you can put your head, hands and heart into a creation and sell it for less than $25.
I also think that occassionally we create something that hits us (the artist) so personally and profoundly that no price tag would ever do. Of course, that amount of *head, heart and hands* is a certian rare jewel that most of us would be very blessed to find.

Prices are a very emotional issue. One is reluctant to sell an item for more than one would want to pay for it. Artists and makers usually live modestly so can’t imagine spending that kind of money. But that is not the issue, the issue is how much money do you have to make for such an item to be able to have a self-sustaining business? This is a business question, requiring a understanding of overhead, selling costs and development costs. Not an easy question.
It is hard to imagine all the selling costs before one is fully engaged in the process: photoshoot, printing postcard and mailing them, jury and booth fees, booth, transportation, hotel, food on the road, merchant credit card fees…..
That is why Wendy Rosen has a book (see chapter 5)and her Institute, ABI, has workshops on the subject.
Most things that we can make will not make a successful business, one has to sort thru many items to find one that is unique and special and has value for the customer at a price that still allows me to make a reasonable living.

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3 Responses to “Price and Handmade”

  1. Judy Says:

    Hi Karren,
    I have been undergoing some serious reflection about pricing and people’s perceptions about price. You are right that artists do often get caught up in the issue of how much would they pay. But, what the market will bear has relevance. I have attended ABI and I own Wendy’s book, and have an MBA on top of that. But, knowing your costs is only one side of pricing. Add to that the variety of ways to calculate your price offered up by “experts” and it is no wonder we are all confused and perplexed by this issue. And, there is a need to assess the market’s appreciation and valuation of the work as well. If it was easy, there would not be so much angst out there.
    Your experience in this area is valuable. But each artist does have to find their way in the end, don’t they?

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  2. Karren Says:

    I was talking to Michael Jones of Shirley/Jones Gallery here in Yellow Springs about prices and craft shows in general. I said that some people expected to buy hand-knit socks for $25, and he said surely you can, __________ would sell them to you. _________ lives in town, does a little of everything, lives hand to mouth and has an inheritance. So I added –and make a living, and he said “ahhhhh…”

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  3. glennis Says:

    It is what separates the “men from the boys” as they say- do you make a living from your work or not? That’s not to diminish the work itself, it’s just that we don’t all have the convenience of other income sources to supplement what we do. (nor do we want to) If you work full time at your art/craft and you are self supporting, there really is no choice. You charge enough and sell enough to make it work or you get a “real” job.
    Personally, I haven’t had a “real” job in over 30 years (and I have been self supporting). If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. You also make lifestyle choices in order to accommodate being a full time artist/maker-like you said- a modest lifestyle. Thanks for the thoughts on this topic…..

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