Steve Slatin on sat 4 sep 04
OK, folks, time for a reality check --
Clay mixers are big, heavy, industrial-type equipment.
We shouldn't expect them to be cheap.
It's true there's not much cost to the material
in a mixer. So what? How much does the clay in
a Lucy Rie bowl cost? How much do you think the
steel, aluminum, rubber and glass in a Porche
Our collective perceptions of fair pricing are
being destroyed by an international market in goods
and national markets in labor. As long as we make
money in developed-world amounts and can buy much
of what we need at 3rd world production prices,
we can fool ourselves about the value of our work,
but a clay mixer is a big, significant piece of
equipment. It ought to cost a bit.
I see mugs of no distinction at craft fairs selling
for $10. Do 50 undistinguished mugs equate
to a Soldner mixer? I don't believe they do.*
Of course, if you're a first rate machinist with a
well-equipped shop, you've got the ability to study
a Soldner (thus eliminating development costs) and
you probably can make a comparable item for a
relatively low cost in raw materials (already at
international prices since there's an international
market in metal sheet, etc.), gears, chains, general
hardware and and motor you can buy from off-shore
manufacturers, and so on.
But what of your time? An auto mechanic just a little
bit up from a grease monkey costs me (the final user)
more than $70 an hour (reflecting the cost of
maintaining a workplace and salary). How many hours
would it take to fabricate a Soldner-type mixer?
If I buy a Bringle teapot or a Phil P. tool, I
don't expect the price to equate to the input cost.
I expect to pay for the technical insight, the
knowledge, the design work, the quality of the
workmanship -- and (almost as an afterthought) the
cost of inputs.
A fair price reflects all of these things. Like I
said, it's different for a master machinist who isn't
charging himself for his time. But a machinist is
just one of the many things I am not.
-- Steve Slatin
* If you disagree with me, I'll be happy to send you
50 undistinguished mugs; you can send me a clay
** Wait, I'll make an even better offer! I'll send
you 70 undistinguished mugs and you can send me a
Steve Slatin -- Entry-level potter, journeyman loafer, master obfuscator
Sequim, Washington, USA
48.0937°N, 123.1465°W or thereabouts
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