Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Price, Is the Price, Is the Price....

One of the surprising things that came out of the pricing survey I just went through was the perception by many that the price is dependent upon where you are selling the work. In particular, there was the idea that the price would be higher if you were selling it through a gallery than if you were selling it at a show.

"I am not sure where you are, but that will make a big difference in price. As will type of show. How you place the piece will also determine the price. If I appreciate a piece I would willingly pay $30-50 for it. At a craft type show $10-14 would probably be the limit. At an Art/"One of a kind Show" it could fetch more, depends on your following,..."

"In the right high end gallery in NYC, Beverly
HIlls, Santa Fe/Taos, or Miami, I think it would easily sell for $350,
maybe more. I'm being conservative. In a gallery in a smaller city it
might be priced at $250. In a very high end competitive juried arts and
crafts show with the artist selling it in their booth, I think it might
be priced at $150. At a regular local arts and crafts show maybe it
could fetch $75."

"to sell this piece directly to the public would be $180. If sold through a store, it could be priced at $300."

"I would expect something like this to sell in a nice
artsy shop or at a gallery type show for as much as $75-125. At a
craft mall or craft fair, I'd suspect somewhat less - perhaps $50 to

It seems as if there is a perception that the price for work at a show should be lower than the price through a gallery. What is missing in this analysis? The cost of doing a show. The cost for the space, and your time. The cost of the display equipment, the cost of a tent, or similar set-up. The prices suggested above for craft shows are essentially wholesale prices, and the prices for galleries or shops are the full retail price.

Are you making this mistake in your pricing? I often hear artists say they cannot sell their work wholesale, or by consignment. They could not make enough money. These are artists who are probably selling their work to the public at wholesale prices. They are not considering their cost of selling their work on their own. Galleries are not going to be interested in working with an artist who was going to undercut them on pricing. If they found out you were selling your work to them at the same price that you were selling it to the public at shows or on the can they possibly succeed in representing your work?

I can hear it already...."but I can't sell my work at that price!" Maybe you won't sell as many pieces, or sell it as fast...but you may end up making the same amount of money, or even more, by selling your work at the right price. If you are truly at the maximum price for your work, then it may be time to reevaluate your costs, your process, or your product.

My vessels are labor intensive. This drives the price up, and limits the market for them. But there is also a limit to how many I can actually make. If I was to price the pear from the survey at $75, I would probably be able to sell them faster. But could I make them fast enough? Would I be covering my costs....even just the overhead, and selling expenses, at that price? Probably not. While there is something to be said for cashflow....there is also something to be said for the bottom line.

Remember, the price is the price is the price. Sure, different stores will mark up work at different levels. But if you are selling work to the public at the same price that you would sell it to a gallery or need to reevaluate your pricing strategy. The only people who should be getting wholesale prices are those who are buying wholesale quantities....or maybe close friends! A good relationship with a gallery can help your business in countless ways. But it is not likely to ever get off the ground if you are undercutting them with your retail prices. And you are not doing yourself a favor either if you do not recognize what it costs you to sell your work directly to the public. End of lecture! :-)


Libby said...

I'd have to say that location definitely factored into my price suggestion. I went to the CraftBoston show the first year they held it and it was a very very high end show. I don't know if that has changed at all, but I don't think we could have found any single piece of any medium or any size for less than $400 and this was more than 5 years ago.

Btw, I am really enjoying your insights.

Karen said...

Hi Judy, Super job with the "Pricing your Work" posts! I thoroughly enjoyed reading them and learned a lot of new information from your clear and concise explanations.

Judy said...

Thanks for your comments, Libby and Karen. The process of writing about this has given me more clarity about pricing. And Libby, you are right, the show does have something to do with pricing...but that is as much an issue of the right show for your work.....a future post!

Molly said...


I had a feeling that was going to be the price range. I have seriously enjoyed reading these entries and watching my emotions during the process.

I have certianly learned some things about myself and the things I have been making (stuff that will sell for a particular price) and what I would LIKE to make (Stuff that my head screams NO FREEKIN' WAY!).

Thanks for the "Lecture" I know I am not the only one who needed it.

Judy said...

Hi Molly, thanks for the comments. If pricing was easy, I suppose I wouldn't have found anything to write about! I have struggled with this issue on and off. No sooner do you think you have it figured out and you suddenly see something you were missing. I hope it helps.