July 22, 2010

You're Asking HOW Much?!?

As I was perusing Facebook yesterday, I came across a post from Craft: magazine.  It featured a "Brisket Flip Flop" - a soft sculpture made by Robert Tabor of SoleSensations.  On Robert's Etsy site, he is charging $295 for his piece (oddly, on his own Website, he's charging $500.  So if you'd like to buy it, make sure you buy it from the Etsy page!)

In the comment section of the Craft page, I was quite shocked to see so many comments about how much he was charging.  Here's an example:
"When you call something a sculpture you can charge $295. I bet we can knock it off for less than $10."  Or another:
"TWO HUNDRED AND NINTY FIVE DOLLARS?!?!  Interesting but um, no." 
To which I replied:
"Yes, but remember - how long did it take them to do? You have to factor in labor for one's work, just like anything else. And they are making a living from their work, just like a plumber, a carpenter, an electrician, or anyone else providing a good or service." 
A comment after my retort:
"I agree but $295 is a just a tad bit RIDICULOUS."


I will be the first to admit - before I began making things for sale, I would go to galleries and balk at prices too.  I will also be the first to say that I'm not at the place yet where I understand pricing.  That being said, I don't think that $295 for an original, clever sculpture is out of the question.  Let's break down the cost:

Labor:  Mr. Tabor is a veteran in the art world.  Not only does he do sculpture, but he's done graphics and window displays for clients such as Nabisco, Macy's, and Mattel.  He's been around for more than 20 years and has made a name for himself.  So he's going to charge more than minimum wage for his labor.  If this piece took him 5 hours to do, at $40/hour, that's $200 right there.
Materials:  Let's look at the layers in this particular piece.  You've got the foam top, fabric, ribbons, trims and rhinestones (which I don't see, but I guess they're in there somewhere).  Let's put the material cost at $75.
So we're up to $275 already.  For an established artist, I think it's criminal that's he's netting a mere 20 bucks for this piece!!
Oh, if only more people would look at our work this way!  Now, let's see how I price my work:

Labor:  Since I'm just starting out, I certainly can't, in good conscience, charge $40/hour.  I figured a good place to start would be what I was making at my old job, which was a little under $12/hour.
Materials:  For my pendants, as an example, my expenses are roughly $4.
Because my pendants are one-of-a-kind, fully designed by yours truly, they usually take more than an hour to do.  So I'm at about $17 already.  Unless I'm running a sale, I charge $20 per pendant, plus shipping.  So when you factor in the labor, I'm making about $3 on every pendant.

It is frustrating when people balk at your prices.  And even before I started making items myself, I would overhear the rudest comments from people at art fairs and shows about the pricing structure.  People - you're not in Wal-Mart!  If you have a problem with cost, wait until you're out of earshot of the artist before you start ranting about the "ridiculous" price.  These items are handmade, and if you're at Art Fair on the Square in Madison, for example, that artist had to go through a very rigorous judging before they were even able to set up their booth!  A good rule to follow is this:  if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all.

I know this:  before I even consider doing an art fair, I not only have to hone my skills more, but I have to develop a thicker skin.  I've seen plenty of art that I didn't like, but when an artist puts his or her work out there, they are subjecting themselves to a type of vulnerablity that most people don't experience in their daily lives.

Of course, Regretsy items are the exception to this rule.   :D

P.S.  I have to give MAJOR props to all of my customers - I appreciate your business so very much!  I hope this blog post didn't come off as bitter - that wasn't my intention - I just wanted to show how some artists price their work.  I also do what I do out of the sheer love of it, not to get rich.  If I happen to make a little money off my pieces, even better!  :D


  1. thanks for this post! I admit, I saw that item, too, and had the very same thoughts, but I had no idea that he was that established of an artist, and didn't think thru the materials/labor cost. My first thought was "flip flop sandwich-- what the heck?!!??" so *I* wouldn't pay that much for it, but that doesn't mean it isn't *worth* that much, or even more. Pricing is something I grapple with, and always will... I think our society's made-in-China, Walmart, Target Dollar Spot, etc. mentality definitely hurts those of us who make handcrafted items.

  2. Thanks for weighing in, Jennifer! I always love your comments - so insightful! :D

    I HATE pricing my work. On the one hand, I don't want to go too low - I take pride in my work and I don't want people to think it's not worth the time and effort that went into it. That being said, I also don't ever want to come off as an artist whose ego and prices are overinflated. I think that's even worse than pricing too low! I mean, just who do I think I am? :D

    I guess when I get a solo show at the MOMA I can start pricing whatever the heck I want for my pieces! :D