Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What am so I afraid of?

I will admit that I find it hard to price my work. I have a hard time not giving people a deal when they come by the studio to purchase my work from me (I'm a real softy on the home front...).  I'm not really great on the cold hard facts when it comes to crunching the numbers, doing the math, and actually figuring out how much it costs for me to run a business to actually make a profit. 
And then there was this conversation I had with my husband the other night.  We were talking about an artist friend of mine who quoted a potential client a really large sum of money for a custom order they were inquiring about.  I admitted that I didn't think I would be able to quote that high an amount on my work.  That I felt I would somehow be obliged to cut the person a 'deal' based on the volume of the work they would want.  Even if they didn't ask for one.
He asked why I thought asking someone to pay me what my work is valued at would be too much for me to ask.  Why I was afraid of making money or making a profit.  And I had to stop and think about whether I really and truly do value my work.  
It's a complicated issue for me.  It's not just about whether I value the work that I do, it's also whether I value ceramics, or art on the whole.  As 'luxury' items that I can't often afford, I find myself questioning the value of making more stuff in a world that already has enough stuff.  I see well-designed, manufactured objects out there in the world for cheap and my psyche questions why my work should be so much more costly to a consumer than that work? 
I can't help but come back to the reason why I do what I do at this point in the conversation that happens in my head: I love what I do and what I make. It's a craft and a skill that I've been honing for close to 17 years and it's something so part of who I am and what I dream about that I can't imagine my life without making.  And at the end of all that I realize it's not about the money for me.  If it were, I wouldn't still be doing it. And that's the catch, the hitch, the dilemma I have with my own argument.  If it ain't about the money, it's most likely not going to be profitable in a financial sense.  If I fall into the trap of measuring success financially, then given my mind-set I'm probably always going to be disappointed.


Jill Ward said...

Oh my. I do believe I had this same conversation with my husband the other night. Only I am barely started and deep in the hole on this venture, so far. I often wonder, "what's the point?"

After a good sob on the couch I decided that creating is the point. Loving what you do, your kids seeing that. There's truly nothing quite as fantastic as living a dream...even when it's hard.

Your work is beautiful.
Keep making please.

A while back, I was on a plane to NY as my husband gifted me a trip to see a certain Ms. Ayumi Horie. After returning from one of my most fabulous and intense weeks EVER, your pots cheerfully greeted me at the airport in Vancouver. Made me smile real big :)

peace out.

dahlhaus said...

Thanks Jill- It warms my heart to know that people like yourself see my work at the Airport and smile! said...

Hi Heather,
(just to preface- I'm a pal of Kelly's and have followed your blog since she started working for you, but look, first comment!)

I am of similar attitude when it comes to pricing- maybe even worse at undervaluing my work, as I'm still a student.
But in participating in student and ceramic-specific sales, I have learned that for the most part, people are happy to pay for quality handmade objects. There should an understanding of the craft involved.

So what are we to do when mass-produced Ikea-type vessels undermine the studio potter? I guess this contributes to the pricing debate. Do we undersell ourselves just to be in the running? Or do we stick to the tenet that this is our profession and we should earn a living just like any other professional?

I dunno. I guess in the end: If you can sustain your lifestyle with your current practice, and are happy as is, then carry on!


dahlhaus said...

Hi Emma,
Thanks for checking out my blog (& commenting too!)
I don't think it's just mass-produced ceramics that undermines the value of hand-made, frankly there's a lot of 'inexpensive' handmade ceramics out there too. I often walk through the Gallery of BC Ceramics and am completely baffled when someone charges $24 for a handmade mug when I know they are only getting $12. With some potters I know they are doing it as a side thing- as a hobby, but there are a lot of professional potters out there that undersell themselves as a means of being competitive and being in demand. Frankly it ends up de-valuing ceramics in general because consumer perception ends up keeping the price lower based on what they have come to know and expect.