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What's the line between satisfactory for you, the maker, and decent for the buyer?

I  find it's always do difficult to price my own work. I mean, that selfish part inside of me wants to set the highest value possible, while the more modest (or maybe realistic) part insists that no one in their right mind would buy anything from me (who is pretty much a nobody in the art world) unless it was dirt cheap. Finding that happy medium between the two has caused me a lot of dissonance. The battle between the greedy and the modest is constantly changing, as one day I'm justifying a high price, while maybe an hour or so later, the value drops tenfold. I make coil baskets out of pine needles, and a moderately-sized piece could take ten hours or more to make, but once it's finished, I start to wonder whether it is  visually worth the compilation of materials, and minimum wage+(?) for time required to put it together?

With practice, and putting in the hours, I know I'll improve both the speed and quality of the things that I am making. But at the present, a relatively small pine needle coil basket (about the size of an apple or orange, for comparison) will take me roughly between seven and ten hours to complete. At the minimum wage in california ($8.00 per hour), the basket the size of an orange could run something between $49 to $72(or maybe more, if I calculated for complexity, design, broken sewing needles, that huge ugly man-callous building on the side of my forefinger, ect). There are some people out there who would be willing to pay that much (or more) for something like that, but I think there are so many more who either cannot afford that, or would not put the personal value of a basket that high. after all, it's just a little basket right? And they could just go to the dollar tree and buy a wicker basket that would hold all their fruit, produce, or become an adorable bed for their toy poodle for just over a dollar.

I'm not writing this because I am having trouble selling baskets (at the moment, I've sold all the ones I've made to sell), but rather because I'm struggling to find that division between selling myself too short, and thinking too highly of my work to justify higher prices.

So this is where I'm asking you: if you sell your own art, how do YOU place a value on it?
Do you base it on the materials? Or design? Intricacy?
Or the time it takes to turn your raw materials into something beautiful or useful, or that makes a statement?
Do you take in account the wealth of your area? Of yourself? Of the people who are considering your work?
Do you look at the demand and availability of your particular craft? Or even what sets yours apart from what other people are doing?

... So I guess it still boils down to: what is your hour worth?
  • Listening to: Crickets
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Starlit-Sorceress Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
I think I've commented on your baskets before...about how awesome they are and about how you should charge a lot for them....and now I found this journal on your homepage because you donated a prize to a contest I'm entering, and I thought of another comment. :)

I think what will help with your pricing the most is if you look up articles and blog posts about art and "perceived worth". For example, an original painting sold off a street corner would go for maybe $50, but the exact same painting showcased in a gallery by a snobby-looking artist would go for $5000 or more.

You don't have a gallery, and you probably don't want to become a snob, but there are other ways to present your work in the best possible way. In 2+ years, I went from branding myself as "I just started out making jewelry. Does somebody want to buy my work, maybe?" to branding myself as "Using wire and small objects, I give form to imagination and daydreams." (Just thought of that one yesterday! :D)

Find your message. Tell your story. I think those are the most important things you can do for the percieved worth of your work. (From the little I've seen of your work, I'm noticing a woodsy nature-dweller theme.)

Oh, one more thing! I just saw that someone commented that said you should haggle, and I've heard that's a really bad idea!

What can happen is that you tell the indecisive person, "You can have that for $10 less," and they still say no and walk away. And now all the other people in earshot are not only mentally deducting $10 from all of your prices, but they're planning on haggling you down for more because that other person didn't seem to want it at only $10 off. (And then if they ever buy from you again, they'll want those pieces discounted too, of course.)
Arboris-Silvestre Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You probably did! Your name looks very familiar! And oooh, which contest? :D
Thank you so much though! I'm always looking for new feedback -so many people are way more experienced than I am, and are willing to share!

That's a good idea! I ended up looking at the sorts of values cropping up on ebay, and discovered how depressingly low they were (and now I definitely am not planning on selling my stuff there). The different environments definitely bring different crowds with different prices (And I plan to test a few of those different waters, for sure).

The self-brand seems pretty neat as well -it definitely brings a different viewpoint to your work (I ended up wandering through your gallery to see what you've been doing, and how you were presenting things :)). I'll have to give that a try too!

I've tried the haggling a bit, with mixed results. Either I'm not really that good at haggling, or the people weren't all that interested... But the whole expectations thing is something that I haven't really thought that much about -it makes a lot of sense though, since I'd probably come back to a place with the same price expectations too...

I took a look at your gallery and main page, and I really like your advertising approach. All the materials and approximate prices are all there, and pretty clearly explained. I might have to make a slightly modified version for my basket commissions... :D

Thanks again for sharing some of your experience! You've given me a lot of good stuff to think about! :hug:
Starlit-Sorceress Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
It was an autumn one (I forget which group.) where you offered a pair of earrings for first place and a drawing for second.

Look up Luann Udell's blog for your artist statement. If you read everything she's written about it, and if you read *her* artist statement, you'll have a better picture in your head about what to write for yours even if you have absolutely no idea what words to use.

I'm really looking forward to hearing your artistic statement/story/message when you finish it. Mine is something along the lines of high fantasy, magic, and imagination, but I really identify with your...nature style too. There's another quality that I can't quite place. Traditional historical craftsmanship? Mystical naturey spiritual? Quiet relaxing contemplative?
Arboris-Silvestre Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Ah, all right! :D I ended up getting suckered into do a whole bunch of prizes for a whole bunch of different groups, haha -I've got no complaints though. Making prizes is a whole lot of fun.

And wow, she's got a lot of great information! and beautiful work. Thanks! I like her writing voice too

I'll definitely have to ponder stuff for the artist statement though. Write a couple rough drafts and stuff. Is it all right if I bounce a few ideas off you when I come up with something? :)
Starlit-Sorceress Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
Sure! It might actually help me come up with mine too.
Arboris-Silvestre Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
So I've been mulling some stuff over for a while, and I think I've got something in the direction of an an artist's statement "Turning natural materials and time into pieces that reflect the humbly regal shapes, schemes, and forms of the organic world that inspires them."
It needs a little more work, but I think I'm off to a start at least? :shrug:

I want to jam it with so much more stuff, but it l also don't want it to be cluttered, and unreadable, haha.:slow: What do you think?
Starlit-Sorceress Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
Uh-oh, that sounds a lot like something I would write, and I'm a merciless self-editor! :D

One of the best things AND the worst things about my writing is that it's prosaic...which is great in some situations, but not when I want to sound conversational.

I like the feel of it. I definitely think it's a great start.

From reading Luann Udell's articles, my favorite kind of artist statement is longer, more conversational, and uses "I" a lot.

And..."organic"...I still haven't decided how I feel about the word. I've wanted to use it for my jewelry for the longest time because I know it means spontaneously/random/nature-esque, but I also know that the first thing people think of when they hear that word is produce from hippie grocery stores.
Arboris-Silvestre Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Haha, oh no! :D

And thanks! You sort of confirmed my suspicions on what sounds a little off!

I wanted to make it a little bit formal, But I think I still need a little figuring before it really fits...
I was really drawn to the short and expressive statements that headed each of her pages, or sections... Maybe I'll mix the two, and play with that?

Yeah, I fought with "organic" for a couple of lines of text... Looked funny without it, but looked sort of funny with it, haha. Too much listening to my friend complaining about O-chem, I guess ;). I must find more nature-words without the association with granola and soy, haha
DonSimpson Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2012
Things I consider when pricing my work:

The quality of the finished work - appearance, craftsmanship, materials.
How much I think I can get for it.
How much other people are asking for similar work.
Time it took to make, including "head time" in designing.
Cost of maintenance (food, rent, etc.) for that time.
Cost of materials, including tool wear and upkeep.
How much pleasure or pain I got from making it.
How hard I think it would be to do another like it.
How I feel about the buyer.
Arboris-Silvestre Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you so much!
All those factors are super relevant!
I like the bit about how reproducible the item is too...

This is definitely helpful! :hug:
DonSimpson Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2012
Random-Star Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
There're a lot of methods (mine includes looking up popular prices and making a sort of 'average'). But in the end, it's a business. Keep your prices competitive, but don't sell yourself too short. And also keep in mind that something handmade is going to have more value of something equivalent in materials, but mass-produced.
Arboris-Silvestre Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
That's a good idea as well! I'm going to have to do a lot more research now, haha :) I'm glad my little baskets have gotten such a positive reception!
Random-Star Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
They are very nice baskets, and also what lead me here in the first place. :P
PirateLotus-Stock Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2012
Haha, I just commented on the pricing of a basket in your gallery, then I come to your main page and see this XD I'm glad you're actively asking, because I always feel weird about giving advice when it's not asked for >.>

Like I said on the basket, $10/hr is pretty normal, I think. Give yourself min. wage at the VERY least! You're working to create something beautiful, and people will realize that. There will always be people that say "Oh, I wish I had the money!" but they will say that at any price and that shouldn't make you bring your prices down one cent. Then add in the cost of materials. If you used 24" of that 20yd spool of sinew that cost $7, get out the calculator and figure out the price of it ($7/720"=$.01/in, so 24" would be $.24) then add the beads, feathers, whatever else you used, and don't leave anything out! You can round to the nearest dollar or half dollar if you think a price of $82.34 is sort of silly. You can also charge for the time it took to collect the pine needles, shop for the beads, and things like that. There is also room for an artist fee...that would be a charge for how creative you think the work is, and how much planning and thought, etc. you put into it. I never put those in because I never know what to charge...but then again I don't have anything really unique that I sell, anyway!

So the basic formula is Labor + Cost of Materials (and then don't forget to list shipping on the side!).

Tips on how to keep track of things: Make a spreadsheet of how much you paid for materials if you aren't going to use them all up on one project. I also like to figure up the price per unit for quick reference. It keeps you from having to save receipts and re-figuring out prices per inch, bead, ounce, etc.
Time yourself, and if you don't plan on doing it all in one sitting, make another spreadsheet (or notepad doc or whatever) and just quickly type in your times and then add them together when you're done. I like to just type in my starting time and then when I stop, type in the ending time, then figure out how many minutes/hours I seems easier to do that than to try to remember I started at 9:06 or whatever.

Wow that was a long comment, hopefully it was helpful XD
Arboris-Silvestre Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Oh wow! I'm always looking to do things a little better, and pricing has definitely been a bit of a sticky spot... So thank you very much! I love reading feedback from people; they have really great ideas the majority of the time!

You don't think something like $60 would be too much for the little one on the right? [link] It took over six hours, but I think at the very least $20 might even be pushing it a tad, as it's kind of small D: Or for the dreamcatcher one, It could very well go for $100+... But I doubt It'd realistically go for that where I live... It's not exactly in the high rent district... What do you think about $40 +S&H? I mean, they're not really big -more like the size of a medium grapefruit, at best... And I don't really know anyone who'd buy something like that for over $80... I dunno, I don't like charging people more than I'd pay for the item... But then again, I'm on a college budget too, haha, so that might have something to do with that

The spreadsheet logs are definitely a good idea though. I've definitely gotta keep better track of things...
Thank you so much for the advice! I've been getting pretty consistent ideas from several people -including you, so I'm pretty sure they've must have something right! I'll have to see how they go over at the art walk this week! :D
PirateLotus-Stock Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2012
Since you're first starting out, keeping your prices a bit lower for now is probably ok. Once you get some sales and get people online to look at your stuff (free business cards from vistaprint and an etsy shop are great!) you can put your prices up to near what they should be. You can also barter with people if you're comfortable with that. Even just setting the price at $30 and then when someone goes "Oh, I really love this, but I just don't have $30 to spend" you can say "Well, I'm just starting out selling these and I'd really love for it to have a nice new home, how's $20 sound?" That way, if someone is willing to pay $30, they will, but you can still lower the price if they're really debating it.

The thing about art is...people are expecting handmade stuff to cost more than mass-produced plastic crap. So at least you have that expectation on your side. It's hard to sell art because it's a market for people's excess money. People don't NEED it, but (once they have their basic needs covered and have some excess money) they buy it because it's a nice extra thing to have and look at and it improves their surroundings and status.

It's really great that you're going to the art walk! At the very least, people will be exposed to your stuff and be thinking about it later (going, "Man I wish I had bought that awesome basket...If I see one next time, I'm going to get it!"). And if you have business cards of some kind, even handwritten pieces of paper with your deviantArt gallery web address, that will help people remember you.

Also, I think having a series of things is really helpful. It's probably obvious that I think there's a lot of psychology involved in selling art XD Here's another example: Stuff in series sell well because people don't think, "Should I get one?," they think, "Which one should I get?" People will pick out their favorite of a series, or stand there long enough debating which one is their favorite, and then they've already decided that they're getting one whether they consciously decided that or not.

So I'd say take all your baskets and things and price them slightly above how much you think they'll sell for. And don't be too low, people are surprising with their money! And there's always the option of telling them, "You know, I could part with that one for $5 less."
Arboris-Silvestre Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I think bartering is a decent strategy. And a lot of people do seem more receptive if you're willing to work with them. I've gotten some success having a range of stuff with a range of prices too, but I'm still pretty new to everything, so every little bit helps :)

The people who've seen em have been decently receptive so far, and I actually printed up a few cards a couple of weeks ago, n they've been a lifesaver so far! I no longer have to scribble my email down on scrap paper, and worry about people not being able to interpret my handwriting, haha.

Again, thank you so much for all the feedback! It seems like you've gone through a lot of this before (and by the looks of your gallery, I'm sure you've had a fair amount of success too! ;)) and I'm really glad you decided to say something rather than just passing by unnoticed!
PirateLotus-Stock Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2012
Oh good, printed cards always look professional and organized :) And they're easy to just lay on the table or whatever so people walking by can pick them up if they're shy about talking to you ^.^

Oh, my pleasure! I hope my little tips help, haha ^.^ I've had some experience selling things, and I've had a LOT of experience with other people selling things XD Good luck at the art walk!! :heart:
Arboris-Silvestre Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Indeed. They're definitely a big help!

That's good though! It's great to be able to open a dialogue with someone who's at least done what you're trying to do a few times.There are so many friendly people on this site that are willing to help :love:

And thanks! It went well! Didn't sell any baskets, but I made profit, so it was definitely a good day :D
PirateLotus-Stock Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2012
Yeah, dA has a great community when you dig down past the trolls and 12-year-olds XD

That's great that you made a profit! And now people have seen your baskets, definitely the first step :D
Desperatoe Featured By Owner May 14, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
If you want to be really accurate with pricing, you could probably make some equation like...raw materials + labor rate (hours) desired profit percentage = net profit...and then just plug in the numbers.

I mostly do natural photography, so labor rate isn't much of an issue for me because I just upload, play with colors and print. Say if I sold a 5x7 print at $3, it cost 50 to print, so I'd be making 6x's what the picture is worth; where if I sold a 8x10 for $10 at $1.23 per print, I'd be making 8.13x's what the picture was initially worth, in which case the morality variable would come into play and I'd have to lower my asking price because I still want to be fair to the potential buyer.
Arboris-Silvestre Featured By Owner May 14, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Yeah, it's finding what's fair to the buyer that's the really tough part... Each one's only got like $2 worth or so of string -if that, and the rest is raided from pine trees...

I'll bring em to the next art walk n see what you think.. I'll let people pick em up and see what they think. Maybe?.
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May 13, 2012


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