[Clayart] costs and business (digression)

Snail Scott claywork at flying-snail.com
Tue Jul 25 16:39:09 EDT 2017

Some people do their craft for personal satisfaction and pleasure, and that is 
also an honorable and worthwhile endeavor, and they need to find the balance 
of cost to payback (if any) on very different terms. If they choose to work a 
remunerative day job, and then plow those funds into making ceramics 
(instead of traveling, buying a car, or whatever), that is up them. It the 
birthright of all human beings to make art, and to do so on their own terms.

Few other professions so closely overlap a leisure activity. (Pro athletes and 
prostitutes come to mind, but not many others.) ;)   Few people do plumbing 
or accounting purely for recreational purposes. Many amateur artists are 
highly skilled and may have spent many years at their craft in between their 
paid work, and conversely, a declaration of professional status is no guarantor 
of excellence. A certain  amount of friction is inevitable, as some practitioners 
rely solely on their art  for financial support and must recoup their spending 
and earn a living wage, while others are able to shift some costs to an art 
center or school, and others simply have no expectation or desire to make a 
profit. Nonetheless, we have much in common.

Professionals must acknowledge that effort, time, and money spent do not 
make an object worth more to a buyer. If the selling price won’t cover 
production costs, then something needs to change: time, overhead, prices…
whatever. Amateurs are in an enviable position in many respects, free from 
at least some of the hard choices of professionals. A suitable courtesy, in my 
mind, is to charge a fair market rate for all work.  Transferring some cost 
of production onto an outside paycheck, subsidized studio, or other means 
of support is fine, but allowing it to affect public selling prices is unfair to the 
many professionals who require an honest market rate for their work. Humble 
modesty (“Oh, I’m just an amateur) and generosity (”I want everyone to be 
able to buy it”) seem virtuous, but have their own costs to others. 

Charge what your work is worth. If you still can’t break even that way, then 
reconsider your practices. If your work is worth more than you need to charge, 
then buy gifts or a vacation or donate to charity, but charge what your work is 
worth, regardless of your source of income.


(So, what is your work worth? Well, that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms, to 
be opened on another day. It’ll keep.)


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