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pricing, veronica's way

updated mon 8 dec 97


Michael McDowell on sat 6 dec 97


I couldn't help noticing your post on Clayart where you gave a hypothetical
breakdown of what you estimate your costs to be in producing a =22simple
bowl=22. I'm hoping that you'll get response from others that breaks it down
for you better, 'cause I hate to go into it, its so depressing how little
we actually make per hour.

Just to hit the =22low spots=22:

It looks like you are only counting the time it takes you to throw =26 trim
the piece. You'd have to be much faster than I if that also includes the
time spent acquiring =26 preparing the clay, glazing, loading =26 unloading =
from the kiln, firing the kiln, grinding the bottom smooth, stacking it
away till it's time to sell it, pricing it, taking it to market, dealing
with customers, writing up the sales ticket, wraping it =26 sending it out
the door, =26 then taking the money to the bank. And that's just the time
that is directly allocable to the one piece. Where in your accounting is
allowance for time spent maintaining the studio, developing your glazes,
all the time =26 money spent going to workshops, buying =26 reading books,
participating in Clayart, doing your taxes etc.? These are all legitimate =
necessary parts of the whole process of producing that =22simple bowl=22 and
some portion of that time needs to be allocated to the bowl if you are to
make a true =22cost accounting=22. Really I'm not suggesting that you do =
Like I said, it's too depressing. You can get a general idea if you want to
by dealing with a larger aggregate of time =26 pots. Look at last year. Try
to estimate the total amount of time you spent over the year on clay
related activities, and your total clay related expenses. Don't forget to
include utilities, vehicle expense, and an estimate of rent for the space
you are occupying with your clay activities. Add in a little more to the
expenses for depreciation of your equipment, and add a little more time to
account for a return on your learning process from earlier years. Then
deduct the expenses from your total sales plus any increase in your
inventory of saleable pieces. Divide that remainder by the total hours and
you have a general idea of what you are charging for your time. If you are
at all like me, you won't want to finish even that calculation. It's
embarrasing, but it's the truth. I could never sell my work if I insisted
on getting paid at all reasonably for my time =26 expenses. I just try to
make sure I'm charging as much as I possibly can get away with, knowing
that I'm still virtually giving away my time.

I hope that made some sense. I really should be in bed, but I couldn't get
this off my mind. Maybe now I'll try again, I've got to get up tomorrow at
5 AM for an early tennis date.

Michael McDowell
Whatcom County, WA USA

Michael McDowell on sun 7 dec 97


We've discussed this a bit off the list, and I appreciate your viewpoint. I
really have no problem with you determining your prices by any method you
want. I know your household is not dependent on your income from pottery,
and you pursue it primarily for the non-financial rewards you get from
working in clay. Go ahead and use a ouija board to set your prices if you
want, I celebrate your freedom to do so.

It's only the appearance of systematically calculating your hourly earnings
that concerns me when these figures are published on the list. For those
who are in the position of considering =22quitting their day jobs=22 and
pursuing pottery as a full time occupation, this sort of accounting could
lead them to serious financial difficulty. A person considering quitting a
10 or 15 dollar an hour job with the expectation of replacing that income
with what they can earn doing clay work will most likely be rudely awakened
from that dream. The reality is that very few full time potters earn what
would be considered a =22living wage=22 by the rest of society. No doubt =
do, thanks to their superior talents, training or circumstances, but most
make up the difference by some combination of longer hours and frugal
living. It can be a very meaningful way of life, but rarely are the
financial rewards significant.

Michael McDowell
Whatcom County, WA USA