Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gnomes in the neighbour's yard

 I imagine these little guys looking up at my elderly neighbour on the balcony, cheering her on!  She fell a few weeks ago and mildly chipped a hip bone- thank goodness it was a soft grassy landing. 

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 Thank you for the feedback on my previous post on Craft Fairs!  Maybe it's just me, but I wonder whether there's been a bit of over-saturation in the 'craft show' department.  From my perspective, craft show organizers jumped on the band-wagon and just let nearly everything and anything into their shows over the past few years, not really doing the kind of curating that perhaps really needed to be done to make sure that everything in the show represented the best of. 
Perhaps too, the larger craft shows that have existed for a few decades have started to feel like a mall for those of us who are used to going to more intimate, smaller shows.  This was one of the reasons I had decided not to participate in the One of a Kind Show at Christmas- I just felt as though it was over-whelming people- this massive trade show style building with no natural light and no character.  It hardly seems in line with the slow craft movement.

It's also interesting to hear a little feedback on pricing.   There are a lot of great articles for craft/art people on how to price one's work.  Personally, I have always felt that the assumed value of ceramics was low compared to other art mediums.  Factor in the time spent to learn the craft of ceramics (years in school + workshops + community center courses + years of professional practice- for me this adds up to 18 years), include the time it takes me to turn around a full kiln-load of new work (2 weeks to make the wet work, 1 week to dry out and bisque, 1 week to glaze/glaze fire), plus add the cost of supplies, the cost of renting a studio, the cost of hiring occasional help to up-date the website/photograph the work/be a summer studio intern/make my production molds, plus the cost of the kilns, the cost of doing shows/travel to do shows, plus the biggest cost of all: wholesale, where the shop takes 50% of the retail price and now my $40 mug is actually only a $20 mug that I have to pay all those things with.  Not to mention bank/internet fees, business licenses and shipping/packaging costs, which always seem to ring in a little more then what I charge.  Did I mention that I like to pay myself sometimes?  Interestingly enough, I very rarely have extra stock- especially mugs in the studio- they sell out faster then I can make them.

3 comments:

giboulee said...

I totally agree that pottery is underpriced (and backbreaking AND poisonous) but I'm comparing to the prices I see on ceramic fairs in France, and to the feeling of chipping a cup =(
And here the fairs I have seen so far are organized by ceramic artists themselves, or it is a pick of "the best": a couple of potters, a woodworker, a milliner...

Jesse Lu Bain said...

I don't know the cost of renting a studio or buying materials in France...

But let's break this down simple... A mug, let's say to make just this one mug, all the little tasks (not including hours of firing) add up to 2 hours work- throwing/casting the mug, trimming it, adding a handle, waiting for it to dry, designing the pattern, decorating the mug with said pattern, finished the glaze dip/clean-up, waiting for glaze to dry, loading it into the kiln, photographing it, listing it on Etsy or BigCartel with a fair description...

That 2 hours breaks down to $20 dollars an hour (not counting rent/materials/utility bills) for a very specialized set of skills and talents. (Extrapolate that to a less than $40k a year salary, about that of public school teacher in many areas in the U.S.) I do not think $20 an hour is "a bit expensive." I think it actually is a bit fair, if not slightly inexpensive.

We have a very skewed perception of value these days. You have to stop and think about it as detailed above sometimes.

dahlhaus said...

Thank you both for your comments!
I think mugs are one of the hardest things to price from a consumer's perspective. For sure purchasing any ceramics runs the risk of getting chipped or broken- but it doesn't really mean it should be priced cheaper.
When someone is making work as a full-time artist they have to appreciate the amount of time, energy and money goes into creating their work. Frankly it's only fair to ourselves as potters to charge prices that are more in line with the true cost of making that item, or it's not really worth all our time and effort to continually make something that is losing money and then value.
Obviously everyone has their own reasons for pricing their work the way they do- everyone has a different audience, different costs, more/less efficient ways to make their work, and has more/less of a client base willing to pay what they charge. For many ceramic artists out there with more professional years in their back pocket and a Master's degree, they would say my $40 is way to cheap and undervalues their work. It's really tough to make a call on whether or not you feel someone's work is worth the price they are charging.