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$5 mugs

updated sun 23 jun 02


David Hendley on sat 22 jun 02

I guess I'm just quite the capitalist because I can't get too worked
up over this issue of some potters selling their work for 'too little'.
Pricing issues work themselves out over time.
We are running a marathon, not a sprint. People who severly underprice
their work will either go broke or get tired of working so hard for little
reward. They will either quit or raise their prices. This includes people
who are 'subsidized', meaning, the way you are using it, that they have
another source of income.

Frankly, all the $5 mugs I have seen for sale at art fairs are priced about
right. They are poorly designed, poorly made practice pots made by
Nothing wrong with that; we were all there at one time. But, they are
not my competition and they have no effect on my work or my prices.
There are customers who want to buy cheap stuff but an equal
number who want to pay what it takes to get quality work. There's
room for all, and hopefully, room for all to grow.

In the 80's there used to be a woman who made nice crystalline vases
and sold them very cheap. Every year she would come to a 4 day long
art fair and sell out the first day. I never understood that, but we all
got used to it. The other potters just visited for the first few hours of
the show, while the crystalline lady was taking money as fast as she
could, then it was over, and it was like she was never there. Funny.

David Hendley
Maydelle, Texas

Dave Murphy on sat 22 jun 02

I agree with DH about the price of pottery. I have found myself selling
very well at a show when beside me are $5 mugs. After all, they are their
pots, they can sell them for whatever they want, just like me.

Barbara Murphy
Waterloo County Pottery
Waterloo Ontario

June Perry on sat 22 jun 02

I have to agree with David Hendley on this. Most people I've seen selling
pots under market value aren't selling work that represents the highest level
of craftsmanship and some buyers don't always know the difference, which is a
good thing for the fledgling artist. It gives them sales and encouragement
and helps them cover the bare essentials while they hone their skills.
The more sophisticated buyers recognize and are willing to pay for a higher
level of craftsmanship and design.
That doesn't negate the fact that there are some decent potters who
periodically come along and under sell the market, probably out of
insecurity, or sheer financial desperation any given time period, but as
David said, they usually either get tired of working for peanuts, or wind up
in financial ruin. People who live that close to the bone usually have no
resources to weather even a low level financial crisis.
We had a guy when I lived in the Santa Barbara area who made nice functional
work and sold these huge bowls for $20 in the late 80's. He was young -- a
big, strong bear of a guy, with no family to support, lived in a mobile home
and generally seemed to have a low cost lifestyle. This guy sold a lot of
pots every weekend. I don't know where he made his pots; but his pricing
didn't give him any financial cushion if he had a major equipment failure, or
a health problem.
In many subsequent visits over the years, he was no where to be seen. He was
probably one of those people David mentioned, who finally got tired of
working so hard for peanuts and just gave up making pots for a living.
Having been a gallery owner as well as someone who sold pots as a part time
potter, what I observed was that when someone liked a pot it didn't matter
for instance, that the mug was 20-30% more than others in the gallery.
If your pots are good and people are buying them, it doesn't hurt to raise
your prices to a level that not only covers your costs, but allows for your
future survival as a potter as well as your ability to live a life a step
above mere survival. It's nice to be able to go out to dinner once in a while
or open a nice bottle of wine --- right Tony?
Artist/craftspeople, must also use good business sense. A potter who has
priced too low, and is living hand to mouth, may find themselves having to
beg or borrow if they have a sudden illness, accident, fire and any number of
life's challenges.
Good financial planning allows for not only covering current expenses, but
saving for eventual equipment repair and replacement, the purchase of new
equipment and tools, as well as having a cushion for a myriad of unforeseen
income depleting occurrences.