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pottery price and value (oops, longish)

updated sat 3 feb 01


Michael McDowell on fri 2 feb 01

This is such a touchy subject I've hesitated to comment on it here on Clayart,
even though I have very strong personal views on the subject. Now that the
subject has come up, I still will not attempt to tell others what they should
do to make my life work better. But I will share that my choice to restrict
the amount of pottery that I do, and keep the prices at the high end of what
the market will bear at present, has much to do with taking responsibility for
my own actions in this regard.

Like many of you on this list, or poking through the archives, I
"bootstrapped" myself in clay. I sold everything I made when I was still
learning my craft, in order to finance the purchase of equipment and supplies,
along with access to studio space in order to continue to grow in speed and
skill. In those days I worked easily an average of 12 hours a day, seven days
a week. I sold my pieces cheaply to keep them going out the door, and give me
the money necessary to make more. Having been through that myself, I feel no
guilt over it, nor can I assign any guilt to those who are following that
strategy today. It serves it's purpose.

But today I've got another approach. I don't continue to give my time away
working with clay, just so I can spend some more time working with clay. I've
found that I can do much better work now that I no longer treat speed and
skill as synonyms. I take the time to do the best work that I can when I work
with clay, and find other ways to earn the bulk of my income. When I take my
pots out to a direct selling situation like a craft fair or farmers' market, I
spend much of the time explaining to people that I am not trying to "rip them
off" when I ask more for my pieces that does my neighbor selling similar forms
for less. It is not easy on ones ego, to do what one is sure is superior work
and always have less money to show for it. It's what I've chosen to do, but I
have a hard time criticizing those who've found another way.

We are not going to achieve consensus on this issue. Every approach has it's
validity, and everyone's circumstances are different. But to a degree, we
choose or make our individual circumstances. We should do that with some
awareness of how it impacts the range of options available to ourselves and
others. Ultimately, choice and wealth are synonyms.

Michael McDowell
Whatcom County, WA USA