Wednesday, February 27, 2008

More information about pricing

The pricing question keeps coming up on the PMC group in Yahoo! and I wanted to post an answer here that I gave based on one artist's concern about being newer at MC and so there for taking more time to create items then she thought she should. The concern is that in trying to make sure that you "pay yourself" the price for your jewelry does not some how turn into something so outrageous that you are no longer competitive.

Lynne Richardson wrote a great article called "Jewelry Pricing: The Time Factor." that Rene Klingenberg posted on her web site "Home Jewelry Success Tips". The issue of time for jewelry artists is difficult not just for newbies but for any level artist. Some times things don't go as planned or a design does not work the way you thought it would in your head. You have to find ways to factor out the learning curve or mistake correction issues - called Cost of Quality in the manufacturing world - and only account for your time that really goes into the piece (like you can't count the kiln time while your are throwing in a load of laundry during the firing LOL - okay so my studio is downstairs next to my laundry room).

As for being slower because you are newer at the task (like sanding) this is where charging a fair and reasonable price for your time fits in. Like in any business - if you are new - you should be paid a lower amount per hour then some one who has more experience or some one who is a master at it. One writer in the jewelry business talking about pricing suggested that if you are new to the field you might only charge $10/hr for your time while some one with more skill should charge $15/hr and a master might charge $20/hr. This makes some allowance for the slower pace you might have tackling a new technique.

So how much are you paying yourself?


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Pricing - or how much am "I" worth

So we have decided who our target market is and from that we have hopefully determined what things we create that will be appealing to that market. We even excitedly create some pieces that we "hope" will sell. Translated - I hope they like ME. Our work is part of our soul and our mind. Even when we create a chair, photo, painting or piece of music for possible sale, it is still a reflection of what we feel people will want to buy that we create. We take it personally because - face it - our creations are personal.

Now we face the difficult task of pricing our work. Especially if we are new to selling our work the task of coming up with a price for our efforts is terrifying. After all - aren't we just a "wannabe" artists? No one could possibly want our work, or if they do they don't want to pay a lot of money for it. So we make a HUGE mistake and try to guess at how much it should sell for based on mass produced overseas items that are similar to our work. Let me ask you -- how is something created by a machine or created by hand using a set formula and pattern by poorly paid overseas laborers any thing at all like what you have created? It's made from the same basic material and it serves a similar function but after that . . . ??? For artists the best (or should we say worst) example of this is on the Etsy site. I have seen artists who still think they are just "crafters" putting prices on their creations that can't even pay for the supplies that went into the piece let alone pay them for their time, their expenses and allow them to make a profit. Then for the artists who decide to use that site to offer their work but who correctly price their work, these artists end up losing out to the artists underpricing their work. One artist on the MC group I am in said she was leaving Etsy because her clients who knew and bought her work through other venues would go out to that site to look at her offerings and end up distracted by the lower priced items.

When we place a price on our creations to be sold we have to remember we are NOT placing a price on us but rather on a material piece that represents our creativity. So how do we accurately come up with a realistic and accurate price?

Over on the "Sites to check out" on this blog is a site called Home Jewelry Success Tips by Rena Klingenberg . Rena has found great articles from all over on running a jewelry business. She has a section on pricing jewelry, which contains various articles from different sources on pricing formulas as well as subjects like - if cutting prices help with sales, how to price haggle with customers, factoring in design and experimentation time and other great articles on the value and worth of your creations. Read them all. Then pick a pricing formula that works for you and you feel comfortable with. I picked one, did some calulations of some pieces I had and then went out on the web to other artists offering comperable work (who I knew understood the worth of their work) and found the formula I had picked out was right on target with their pricing (I was a little lower because as I am newer at this business I "pay" myself at a lower rate).

Okay - trying to get stuff together for my accountant so best stop avoiding it. I'd rather be creating but this is part of having a business too. Later . . .


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Some thoughts on being a working artist

I thought I would take a break from the business and marketing side and talk about being a working artist. How many of you are afraid to call yourself an "artist"? An artist is Van Gogh or Mozart or Yo Yo Ma - it's not me! I just _________ (fill in the blank with: play, dabble, craft, make messes, goof around) and I am just a __________ (crafter, student, homemaker, retiree, nobody). Did that hit you right in the gut - especially the "nobody"? Yet you are drawn to paint, write, draw, sing or in general create. It is part of your very soul and you feel empty not creating. But no one would ever want to pay money for what you create.

After I returned to creating from ten years of barely picking up a paint brush, charcol or pencil - I was happy again but called myself a crafter. Yet the things I was creating with rubber art stamps was not basic cards or gifts - the work had started to become something more. I was doing altered books and other forms of collage work, mixing colors and textures - creating images that said something from my heart and soul. But then I struggled to do work that fit what was the popular styles making it into the magazines because THOSE people who got published were artists! My work fell short because it was not my work, my heart, my soul . . . just a poor imitation of someone elses heart and soul message.

Then two ultimate smack downs . . . after sending on some cards to one of my favorite aunts who is an artist but who had never seen my collage work, she said to me "That's not really art you are doing now is it dear?" At the same time I had worked for a month to create a series of stamped items for a magazine entry that all told a story - some pieces individually were wonderful all alone but as a collective group it was something that I was very pleased with and yet not a single item I submitted was accepted let alone the whole work. I let my craft table grow cluttered and just did simple cards for friends' birthdays and for Christmas. I started playing with the beads I had bought to accent my art and taught myself basic beading - at least I could make a few crafty gifts for friends. I played with wire wrapping things. I helped make craft items for the church fair - after all I was just a crafter. It was when I decided to take a silversmithing class locally and then lucked into being able to take a PMC class with Cece Wire that I remembered I was an artist inside. Cece and Leslie (my silversmithing instructor) both made a point of reminding us were were NOT crafters - that they were teaching artists (or artisians).

Does my self-doubt and experiences remind to of things that happened in your life? Are you feeling - even now - like you are a bit of a fraud? Do you sell you items at craft fairs for prices that barely cover your supplies? Are you still calling yourself a crafter even though your work is all original designs and creations?

I want to recommend two books to you - not just to read but to MAKE a part of your life. The first is a long-time popular book The Artist Way by Julia Cameron. Written for writers, it works for any artist who needs to revive their creative spirit - regardless of if it has laid dormant for decades, or if you are just experiencing a creative block. You might wish to modify the morning pages into the morning paintings or the morning score or what have you but sometimes the writing for us non-writers helps break through our mental barrier.

The second book I just discovered through a recommendation from one of the members of the Metal Clay Gallery group on yahoo - Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland. Not a very long book, you will find yourself reading and rereading sections. This is written by two "working artists" - where I get the term from for the title of this blog post.

"This is a book about making art. Ordinary art. Ordinary art means something like: all art not made by Mozart. After all, art is rarely made by Mozart-like people; essentially-statistically speaking-there aren't any people like that. Geniuses get made once-a-century or so, yet good art gets made all the time, so to equate the making of art with the workings of genius removes this intimately human activity to a strangely unreachable and unknowable place. For all practical purposes making art can be examined in great detail without ever getting entangled in the very remote problems of genius."--from the Introduction

If you do nothing else for yourself this week - go out and get Art and Fear. If you have a child or grandchild studying art - go out and get them Art and Fear. If you have a freind who is an artist that does not seem to believe in themselves - go out and get Art and Fear!

We'll chat more about being a working artist in later blogs.

- Gale