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.