technical tuesday: the price of a mug

about a month ago i had a conversation with one of my galleries about the price of my mugs. i’ve been selling them locally for $35 CDN pretty much regardless of size since the time put into each piece is roughly the same. i throw these cups on the wheel. handles are added. each has a unique one of a kind, not printed, but hand drawn illustration on it. they have numerous colors added and fired to cone 6 in electric.

for the holiday season this gallery is requesting 24 mugs. it’s alot for me. i can’t produce full time with all the other aspects of managing my career and of course raising my kids. i have 2 holiday sales coming up wherein i know mugs will be the best sellers, so it becomes difficult for me to justify shipping (and paying for that shipping) the work cross country only to receive %50 of the selling price.

if i was working full time these cups would take a proper weeks worth of hours. they are that labour intensive. so lets do the math shall we…. 24 mugs x $35 = 840. Divide that by %50 you’ve got $420. Shipping will cost me approx $60 for that (2 boxes properly packed so as to not lose any pieces). $420-$60 = $360. Packing materials = $12. Material expenses: clay – $25, glaze – $8, underglaze – $4, firings – $40 (approx on these material expenses, i haven’t weighed or calculated the extact glaze quantity, etc. but i base these on figures i established a few years back for a grant). Total material expenses: $77. Studio fees: well i use my basement and my garage so i won’t factor that in right now, but there are heating and electrical costs associated and i can only imaging if i was paying rent on a studio out of the home) so where are we at? $360 – $12 – $77 = $271. $271 divided by the 24 mugs = $11 a mug. or lets look at my time: one week of work, lets say 6 hours a day so 30 hours: $9/hour is what i’m paying myself.

oh and there is nothing left over for actual profit margin.
minimum wage in Saskatchewan where i live: $10.20.

how much did those two degrees cost me again?

I’m venting i know. but i was offended when the gallery staff was reluctant to let me raise my prices. 

how do i feel about $35? i feel a few things. i feel that the local community/audience has a limit of how much they’ll pay. i live in Saskatchewan. we are known for lower priced work. a local established potter during my undergrad years sold his mugs for less then $25 (at the time) and once told me i was disrespectful and presumptuous to ask for more then those that have been practicing for longer then i have been. i have since truly upped my middle finger to such talk.

there is a system that i understand i must work within. there are different levels of skill and techniques that are more labour intensive that can charge more. but i won’t pander to the idea that my years of experience can only charge certain prices. i like to think that i address the market demands and what they are willing to pay.

but then what happens when you sell at a %50 commission rate at galleries? and what happens when you sell outside of your local market, perhaps even internationally where price points differ?

so do i sell for $35 locally by myself, take a %50 cut with galleries (plus have to pay shipping costs), and then sometimes come in much lower then other artists in an exhibition in a different market – being the jerk that undercuts all their hard earned prices? in an more international market place how do we price our work to address all these scenarios? we aren’t selling and exhibiting locally anymore so how do we level the playing field or develop a system that works where in artists feel respected and well paid?

and if we are pushing our audiences to pay a proper price for our work, should our galleries not also be a part of that system of educating the audience to a fair and sustainable value for our work? i wonder how they answer the question of how can artists charge so much when mugs sell for $5 at walmart. cuz i personally am beyond tired of justifying that.

anyway, enough of a rant from me. the above image shows a lot of the answers I’ve received from artists. this of course doesn’t illustrate anything about scale, technique, market and the like, but it’s a interesting starting point for looking at the price of a mug.