k. sam miller on fri 21 jun 02
Lois & Tony seem to be on opposite sides of this debate. I don't know
where I stand, yet; but let me relate my experience over the last couple of
years as an amateur ceramic sculptor.
I have always base-priced my work according to how many hours I spent
making it (I don't know how relevant this is to functional potters). I pay
myself $25/hr, then if there is something really special about a particular
sculpture, I may build on that base price.
I have participated in a couple of local craft shows with a functional
potter friend who started his clay adventure about the same time I did. He
always prices his stuff to move because he doesn't want it hanging around
(both of us have day jobs that give us the luxury of this type of decision).
I, on the other hand, have always stubbornly persisted in keeping my prices
higher. In two years (3-4 shows) I have sold one piece. My friend has
unloaded lots of mugs/bowls/etc. at his lower prices. Obviously I'm not
making money at this endeavor, but I feel like I'm being true to work &
respecting it for what it's worth. I'm not willing to slash my prices to
sell more because I feel that I would be dishonoring myself & the work.
I don't mean this to be inflammatory or to suggest that people who sell
their work for reduced prices don't respect themselves. I just say that
this works for ME.
I am not mad at my friend (again, maybe special circumstances - his cheap
mugs are probably not directly influencing the perceived value of my
abstract sculpture). My take on it is that if things around me are selling
for bargain basement prices, then I'm probably showing my high priced stuff
to the WRONG AUDIENCE at the WRONG VENUE.
Again, I know that my circumstances do allow me much more freedom to ponder
these issues without dire economic implications to my quality of life, so
take my comments within that context. I am also a collector (I've got one
of Tony F's beautiful shino chawans) who is not afraid to pay what
something is worth. However, I must admit that my independent/stubborn
streak flares when someone tells me that I HAVE to charge xyz for MY work
-- who are they to dictate my price structure, yadayadayada.
Ultimately, I tend to side with the idea that well crafted ceramics work is
worth more than the Pottery Barn/ __-mart cheapo stuff. I also believe
that there is some subtle psychology going on when a consumer sees
something that's cheap - they start to view it as a commodity and perhaps
desire it less.
(desperately needing to vacuum all the Molly hair from the carpet or start
a pillow stuffing venture...)
Tony Ferguson on fri 21 jun 02
I am sorry that the phrase "subsidized" angers you but you are
subsidized--supported, whatever you want to call it. In other words, you
can afford to sell your work less expensively, drop your prices because the
market sets them for you as you say and not worry about the direct
connection of the income derived to cover your bills--meanwhile those of us
who are not supported who are trying to make an honest living (and maybe
honest is the key world and ETHICS of how our choices affect each other and
our livelihoods should also be discussed here) and people who undersell
affect us because the generally undeducated public is thinking WHAT A DEAL
or MAN THIS POTTER IS SELLING THEIR STUFF SO CHEAP THEY MUST NOT NEED THE
MONEY or MUST BE A STARVING ARTIST THEY NEED THE MONEY SO BAD I'LL HELP 'EM
OUT. If I could get into the mind of the general public I would be rich.
Most people are generally cheap. We will pay the least amount for something
if we can (speaking mainly as a Midwesterner here)--this is thanks to Kmart
and Walmart and all the other marts. This kind of thinking should not be
applied to artist's work ESPECIALLY by other artists because it is handmade
usually made with love and there is not a multi-national conglomerate behind
the artist paying kids in sweat shops beans to make the work.
We are all connected through the craft and art of clay and don't think for
one minute that how we set our prices doesn't affect other artists because
it does. Why do you think manufactures have a suggestive retail price.
Ponder this for awhile--it is because they have figured out that they all
need a certain amount to STAY in BUSINESS, make an honest living. And for
many of them not so honest.
Just because someone sells a lot of work at a low price is not a sign that
they are successful--so they sold a lot of pots. SO what. How's your back
lately? Can they pay their bills and get out of debt? Success is measured
in many ways and I would say if you can take care of your family and pay
your bills, stay in good health, then you are successful BUT not at that
cost of someone else's family and their means of carrying out business. To
imply there is not a connection is arrogant and inconsiderate. Why do you
think pottery, metal, fishing guilds, etc, etc, in the olden days were
started--to protect the members in many ways and so they could all get fair
prices. All I am simply suggesting is for us to consider this idea of
setting a base price for certain like items when we price our work. If you
want to charge more, then charge more BUT the public will then be making
more aesthetic choices to purchasing our works then gett'in a deal. They
can go to walmart to get a deal.
So for all of you subsidizers out there--we all need each other whether or
not you want to believe it, whether your making $5000 sculpture or $25
bowls--but consider the potter/artist next to you. I don't care if you or
anyone else is subsidized. It doesn't matter. It doesn't mean your skill
is any lesser or greater--you're work will represent you. What it does mean
is you need to consider others besides yourself out of respect for others in
similiar boats and respect for the craft and art of clay.
BTW, art fairs are fun and that's why I do them and I hope to do more. They
are not fun when people undersell crap next to you and the buyer thinks they
are getting a deal.
Why do glass folks not tolerate this and the clay folks do? Are we all too
Minnesota nice? Well, its hurting us.
Tony Ferguson, Duluth, Minnesota
Stoneware, Porcelain, Raku
315 N. Lake Ave
Duluth, MN 55806
----- Original Message -----
From: "Lois Ruben Aronow"
Sent: Friday, June 21, 2002 2:31 PM
Subject: Re: Underselling other artists because you can--was payment for
> This is a very provocative topic for me for several reasons. I did my
> I did my first crafts show this past weekend. It was a big one - the
> Lincoln Center Crafts Show - here in NYC. 6 or 7 booths down from me
> was this lovely japanese man who was selling his beautiful pots for
> very very little. I mean like $12 for a shino plate. $10 tea bowls.
> $8 little cups. You get the picture. He and his wife told me it was
> his first show and they didn't know how to price. Well, I did hear
> people in my booth comparing prices, even though the work was vastly
> different. And it was MY first show too! Bottom line was that he
> really raked it in on quantity. Did better than any other potter
> there, and better than most potters I know in recent years who have
> done the show. I did poorly on the first day. Lowered my prices the
> second and did much better.
> My studio mate and I have been having the pricing debate for a while,
> as she thinks I underprice my work. My personal feeling is that I
> compete with K-Mart and Pottery Barn as well as other potters. I
> have also gone around to many of the design stores in NY who carry
> pottery (yes, handmade) to see what they charge. I try and set my
> prices at what I think people will pay. IMHO, The market sets the
> price; I just go along with it. A look around this particular crafts
> show tells me my prices are right in the middle. Not high, not low.
> I'm keeping them where *I* feel comfortable. I'd rather sell 5 vases
> at $65 that 2 at $80. Maybe I'll raise them at some point, but right
> now this works for me.
> But here's what angers me - I am one of those "subsidized" potters. I
> REALLY resent that phrase. I am not "subsidized". I am starting a
> new business, like any other. Yes, I am fortunate we can live on my
> husbands income alone. This means he is a supportive spouse, not a
> "subsidiser". My being a potter allows me to pick my son up at
> school, be around for the kids, be around for my husband (who commutes
> 3 1/2 hours a day) and generally run the house. All this while trying
> to makes pots and be profitable at it. I find it hard to believe that
> anyone who goes through all the work of selling their wares
> (especially the work of doing it at a crafts fair) does it for the fun
> of it, which is basically what's being implied. I'm not setting my
> prices higher to help other potters, as I have been told I should do.
> I just want to sell pots, and lots of 'em.
> Does one potter really owe the others a living? Everyone's work is
> different, some requiring more work than others. Everyone's lifestyle
> is different. Everyone's economic situation is different. I love
> making pots almost as much as I love my children, and I can't imagine
> doing anything else. I also think my chances of getting rich doing it
> (or even "comfortable") are about as good as if I played the lottery.
> Which reminds me, the mega-millions is up to $50M this week.
> Lois Ruben Aronow
> Fine Craft Porcelain
> http://www.loisaronow.com - Newly updated!
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Tim and Midori on sat 22 jun 02
> Why do glass folks not tolerate this and the clay folks do? Are we all
> Minnesota nice? Well, its hurting us.
What do the glass folks do?
Timothy Sullivan on sat 22 jun 02
In my experience, there is always a bell curve of buyers for any product at
any price point. I was at Nordstroms the other day, and they were selling
men's T-shirts for $49 each. Pretty nice shirts, but not something that I
would buy for that kind of money. I'll stick to the $5 ones at Ross. But
lots of people that could buy the Ross shirts are out buying at Nordstroms.
For functionally equivalent products a wide range of pricing exists in the
marketplace. Look at the whole designer clothing phenomenon and what "Tommy"
on a piece of cloth can do for pricing. The pricing difference is not simply
a reflection of manufacturing cost, but of product positioning and marketing.
My point is that when we make a piece and put our name on it, we are each
trying to establish a brand. We can choose to make it a designer brand or a
value brand. K-Mart or Nordstroms. We can sell at a flea market or at
Lincoln Center. The reason that people will pay more for something that is
functionally equivalent is that they perceive greater value in the higher
priced item. I believe that we are in the brand and value business not the
Price fixing simply doesn't work. If your work cannot be differentiated from
your competitions then you had better let them set your prices. If we want
to be able to charge more for our work, then we should be able to give our
customers a reason to pay a higher price. The answer is not to ask the other
guy to raise his prices so that we can make a living.
Just my two cents worth.
Lois Ruben Aronow on sat 22 jun 02
> people who undersell affect us because the generally undeducated public=
is thinking WHAT A DEAL
>or MAN THIS POTTER IS SELLING THEIR STUFF SO CHEAP THEY MUST NOT NEED =
>MONEY or MUST BE A STARVING ARTIST THEY NEED THE MONEY SO BAD I'LL HELP =
>OUT. If I could get into the mind of the general public I would be =
Well, we all could be rich. But the public is not "educated". Fact.
Is it my job to educate them, one by one? No. Most people want
something that will look nice with potatoes in it. Or match the sofa.
"I need a bowl to throw my keys in.". God, I heard that one 6 times
this weekend. No one bought anything because they "felt sorry" for
me, or for any other potter. This is NY. No one gives a shit about
the size of my mortgage or how many kids I have or the fact that my
porcelain costs twice as much as stoneware or that my ConEd is raising
my electric bill again.
> In other words, you can afford to sell your work less expensively, drop=
your prices because the
>market sets them for you as you say and not worry about the direct
>connection of the income derived to cover your bills--meanwhile those of=
>who are not supported who are trying to make an honest living (and maybe
>honest is the key world and ETHICS of how our choices affect each other =
>our livelihoods should also be discussed here)
So you think I am being dishonest an unethical? So be it. Personally
speaking, my prices are not dirt cheap. I see handmade wares in
chi-chi design stores (and we have a lot of them here) who's prices
are a lot less than mine. If people can buy something hand made - in
a store - for less money, how am I to convince them to spend more
money on mine?The bricks and mortar add an air of legitimacy. So like
it or not, the market DOES affect pricing. =20
The sad fact is that if for some reason I had to support me and my
kids alone, I either wouldn't be a potter (I would go back to my
previous career in television) or I wouldn't live in NYC. But that is
MY problem and not the concern of anyone but myself. No one else is
responsible for supporting my lifestyle choices. =20
>Most people are generally cheap.=20
At least we can agree on this. The truth is, I make more money
selling my work from my stoop. And when I do this, I don't have to
pay a booth fee, promoter's percentage or truck rental. My credit
card fees are lower because the card can be swiped in, as I have a
phone line at home. I have regular local customers and a following.
No competition from other potters who's prices may be lower. Because
I have immediately eliminated $700 in expenses (yes, that much) I can
afford to charge less for my pots. Instead of $75 for a medium sized
bowl, I can charge $50. And sell more of them. How is this being
dishonest? How is that being unethical? If anything, I am honest to
a fault. I keep all sales receipts. Have a license to sell, and
collect (and pay) sales tax. I file my taxes quarterly and on time.
I report all sales, Including cash. People feel good because they
feel like maybe they are getting a bargain. When I sell from my
studio, people can visit a working studio and may learn a little bit
about the craft. I feel good because I have made twice as much money,
sold more ware, contributed to the family expenses, and ultimately,
make more pots and grow as an artist. =20
>We are all connected through the craft and art of clay and don't think =
>one minute that how we set our prices doesn't affect other artists =
>it does. =20
I only believe this to a point. Most people don't know the different
between the clays, the methods, or the artistic style and don't care.
They don't care that a potter in Minnesota charges less than a potter
in LA, or that one guy sells his pots by the side of the road in New
Mexico. They care about their own here and now and their own personal
use of the pot. =20
>Just because someone sells a lot of work at a low price is not a sign =
>they are successful--so they sold a lot of pots. SO what. How's your =
>lately? Can they pay their bills and get out of debt? =20
Actually, this other guy sold 5 times what I, and my potter friend
sold. He paid his rent for 6 months, while we covered expenses and
made lunch money. That's so what. We had a long discussion (he's a
nice man, who lives in my neighborhood, who has a wife and a 4 year
old daughter) and he's trying to prove to his wife that he can support
them with his clay. I may not like his pricing, but I am fully
supportive of him and what he's trying to do. I'm sure his back hurts
just as much as mine does. (Maybe mine hurts more - I have a 30 lb one
year old). =20
>BTW, art fairs are fun and that's why I do them and I hope to do more. =
>are not fun when people undersell crap next to you and the buyer thinks =
>are getting a deal.
The glass artist next to me told me a joke. A craftsperson wins the
lottery. Big money. And his friend asks him what he's going to do
with all the cash. Retire? Fly fish? Read? The craftperson says
"Hell no - I'm going to do crafts fairs until the money runs out!".
We have no control over what the person next to us is doing. We only
have control over ourselves. Time spent being bitter about what
others are doing (especially others halfway across the country) is
time wasted. It's far better to find the right market for one's work,
do what makes you happy, and continue to grow. The rest will follow.
Lois Ruben Aronow
=46ine Craft Porcelain
http://www.loisaronow.com - Newly updated!
Lois Ruben Aronow on sat 22 jun 02
On Sat, 22 Jun 2002 10:54:34 -0700, you wrote:
>You have taken what I have said far too personally, and maybe I took =
>you said far too personally too. The bit about "honesty" and "ethics" =
>less directed at you and more put out there as something that should be =
>of this discussion. =20
Perhaps, and you seemed to have completely forgotten the part in my
email where I said *I* was not the one underselling at this fair, it
was the guy 6 booths down from me. I charge what is average in my
area, according to stores and other potters. =20
>But when I do art fairs and I see a subsidized potter underselling with =
>big smile on his or her face driving a brand new SUV next to a potter =
>working her ass off (and this underselling does affect the buying =
>pschology and MIS-EDUCATES them about what kinds of prices we need for =
>work to survive) driving a beater van to make a living, irks me.
Talking about taking things personally, get over yourself about who
has what. Just because someone has a brand new SUV (mine is 10 yrs
old, btw, and has 100,000 miles on it...) doesn't mean they put in any
less time, has any less love of clay, has an easier time, or is less
passionate about the craft than anyone else. And don't assume it's a
woman. The person who was underselling at my particular fair was a
> I just remembered that underselling in art school was called =
No, working in a field you love - for me it is clay - is not
prostituting one's self. Working in television (or whatever your
chosen field is) and dealing with imbeciles day in and day out because
you're raking it in is prostituting yourself. These days, the
immature, childish people I deal with on a daily basis are actual
children. The clay is my sanctuary. It is lovely.
And enough about the glass people. People will pay more for it
because it is a decorative item, and therefore a luxury item. Once
you apply a function to it, the market perceives it's monetary value
to be less. It costs more to make. Many people have taken a pottery
class and perceive it as something they themselves can do, whereas
there is still far more mystery with glass. And the glass people I
met have not complained or thrown out anyone. =20
Lois Ruben Aronow
=46ine Craft Porcelain
http://www.loisaronow.com - Newly updated!