Pottery Pricing Game, Part 2

Scholarship pots…  a phrase I learned a long time ago from potter, Mark Shapiro.  It’s something we all do maybe without realizing it.  Our mugs are in the $30 price range ( if they are simple with not much ornamentation.)  Yet a bowl which is much quicker to make is sold for a higher price… perceived value.  The mug is on scholarship.  The bowl is making up for the loss we take on the mug.  Why do we sell the mug for less money than we need to make?  Because people are not willing to spend what it is worth.  Maybe because it is something that is used everyday, it is pushed around, put in a microwave, in a dishwasher, and I really don’t think people want to risk breaking an expensive piece of pottery for something that is used in such a casual way.   So we continue to under price our mugs, because we love to make them, they challenge us,  they are fun to do, and it brings people into our world of pottery.  For some of us it is our best seller, and gallery owners know it too… just look at the popularity of “Cup Shows”!

Well during our pottery pricing game some of us brought mugs.  Two members who do a lot of decoration on their mugs priced them at $50 and $60.  Many of us of course wrote on the paper $30-$45.  Then they explained the work that went into it.  One potter said she wanted no less than $40 from a cup show she was in.  So the gallery owner priced them at $80, she sold all of them… huh, whatdaya know! Maybe our cups could sell for more to the right audience.  Like I said in my last post… it was a real eye opener.

One potter learned that scale was what was affecting her low ball pricing that we all gave her.  It was a beautiful, shino glazed oval serving bowl.  She wanted $160 for it.  Not one of us said over $90.  Ouch!  The conclusion we came to was that it was too small for that price.  A little larger, would not take that much more effort, and would garner a higher price.

One of the other insights for me was age.  A couple of the potters in the group are no longer full-time potters, but are part of the fabric of our original membership, and they still love to come to our meetings. (A requirement to be in the guild is that you are a full-time professional potter.) One of the older members does a couple of shows on the Cape in the summer.  She brought a little beauty of a creamer, decorated, and faceted.  She only charges $25 for it. Our pricing was $38-60 for it.  She said she sells a lot of them, but I think realized, she can jump up that price to $35 at least, and still sell as many.  I really think that some of the older potters, part timers, are keeping their pricing at the 1980 prices, sadly.

One of the other things that became clear at pricing game was self-worth, or a thinking that people can’t afford a certain price because you yourself could not afford that price. (On that note, not all people have potter’s salaries)  I think we all have to be comfortable with the price we sell our pots for, but at the same time be aware that we are not undercutting other potters who are doing similar functional work. 

Oh so much to think about!  

Here some of the members holding their pots at our meeting.  We total 44 members, usually 15 – 20 make it to meetings. We had a special guest, Matt Sovjani from Japan at our meeting. Matt (in the grey upfront right) is staying here in the valley with family until things ease up in Japan.

Pottery Pricing Game, Part 1

It seems that there is one common thread among all potters… how to price our work.  This is something that always comes up in conversations with my potter friends.  I have been thinking about a way to address it at one of our Asparagus Valley Potters Guild meetings.

Last night the Guild meeting was at my home/studio.  Earlier in the week I sent out an email to all the potters asking them to bring one pot for a group photo shoot, and to talk about pricing of that piece.  When Tiffany Hilton came to the meeting she had a great idea to add.  She said how about we play a little pottery pricing game, we cut up tiny pieces of paper and anonymously price each other’s pots.  Great idea!   We all put our pots on my glazing table, and each of us scribbled our prices out, and put it inside each pot.  We then lined up each little tag from low to high in front of each piece.  Taking our turn, we read aloud the price range, and what we actually have it priced at.  WOW, what an eye opener for many of us.  For the most part the average prices were in-line for what we would price it at, but some were way too low.  It was a lesson on perception.  How does one perceive the amount of work that goes into a piece, (even other potters didn’t realize the amount of work that went into some of the potters pieces).  What type of audience is buying this piece.  Is the potter a full-time potter, and how does that affect their pricing.  Does that potter value their work?  OMG… it opened up a whole can of worms!  A couple of potters said they were going home to take some uppers, because we didn’t guess nearly high enough prices.  One potter didn’t think her work was worthy of the higher price we all gave it.  Most of us realized we could maybe ask for a little more on the piece.

One member, a ceramic/mixed media sculptor, had a totally different perception on pricing than the potters.  This was a great eye opener for me.  Her work was a large (2 ft. high) figurative piece.  The prices ranged from $90 – $1600.  She was saddened by the low ball $90 price, (no one fessed up to that price).  I personally priced it at $450, the average was around $600.  Her actual price was $1400.  When she talked about the amount of work that went into it, I was enlightened, and embarrassed at what I estimated.  When she priced our pots, every one of them was over-priced!  It’s all about perception… she had no idea what we put into each piece, and we had no idea what she put into her piece!

Look for part 2 in a few days!