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prices, prices, prices

updated thu 30 mar 00


Ray Aldridge on wed 22 mar 00

I hope that my last response to Kevin has cleared up the confusion for
anyone who might still think that I was criticising Warren MacKenzie for
anything except his prices. He's a great potter, and by all accounts, a
great human being. Even the potters who have to compete with him in his
local market love him, which is saying a lot.

That said, let me restate my main point one last time: Warren MacKenzie's
prices work for him, but unless you have other sources of income, they
won't work for you. In the first place, he's a potter of enormous skills.
As Paul Lewing pointed out, he is prodigiously productive-- far more so
than most of us, no matter how dedicated we might be. In the second place,
when it gets to the end of the year and he does his books and discovers
that he only cleared $15,000-- he doesn't have to live like a person who
only makes 15,000 a year.

Many people wrote to me offlist and commended me for trying to make these
points, but these folks all said that they were too smart to get involved
in the exchange of flak that would surely result. I wasn't that smart, but
I'm sure I will eventually get used to my new role as ClayArt AntiChrist.
But anyway, among these emails were numerous comments indicating that the
writers deeply resented other potters whose prices were unrealistically
low, and this is a point I'd like to address.

The most common scenario was the resentment generated among fulltime
potters for part-time potters who made and sold mugs at shows for well
under $10. The writers seemed to feel that these potters were taking bread
from the mouths of the fulltime potters' children.

But I don't really think so, for a couple reasons. For one thing, if
you're a fulltime potter, then all things being equal, you're probably much
more skilled than most part-timers. (Of course there are some extremely
talented part-timers, but these folks tend to charge higher prices.) So
even if your mugs are priced at twice the lowball price of the part-timer
in the next booth, they will be twice as good, and many folks (the ones who
buy the most pottery) will be able to see that difference. But of course,
we're all familiar with the customer who won't know the difference, and who
is buying primarily on price. What about her?

As Elizabeth mentioned, sometimes it might be worth making cheap mugs as a
loss leader, to get a customer to make that first pottery purchase. But
here's an even better idea. Let someone else make that mug, and take the
loss on it. Then next year, when that customer comes around, she will have
had the experience of owning a handmade mug for a year, and she will be
better educated and more willing to see the merits of your work. In fact,
several folks have made the point that MacKenzie serves to educate the
people in his area in the virtues of handmade pottery, because they will
buy his inexpensive work more readily than work priced more conventionally.

So don't resent potters who are able to charge low prices for their wares.
Be grateful they exist, because they're laying the groundwork for people to
appreciate your own more expensive work.

And besides that, they buy a lot of pottery with the money they earn. If
you resent them, they'll sense it, and go buy it from someone like me, who
is glad to see them.


Aldridge Porcelain and Stoneware

Bobbi Bassett on wed 29 mar 00

Hi Fellow Clayarters,

I think all of you who have tried to make the point that there are all kinds
of mugs...... all quality of mugs..... are right on. I have read the comments
remembering the mugs I made when I first started in this business (in the
dark ages). My $5 mugs sold fast and why not when I was underselling every
other potter at the show. I was too much of a novice to realize it, but
another potter caringly clued me in.

Since then I have sold mugs in all price ranges...... Now my regular
functional mugs run from $16-20........ quote mugs $25-27 and mugs in my
signature work, sculpted grape vines and leaves $45-49. Each mug at each
price range has a customer. No two customers tastes or pocketbooks are alike.
And, no one questions the prices. My customers seem to feel they get what
they pay for.... and come back for more.

Just my two cents worth.
Bobbi in PA where it's trying hard to rain again.