[Clayart] costs and business (digression)

Tom Sawyer tsawyer at cfl.rr.com
Thu Jul 27 15:11:22 EDT 2017

I'm so in love with pottery as an amateur that I keep almost everything I make. My home is full, my garage is packed and I'm filling up the kids homes as well. I haven't done a show in a few years now but what you say is true. I have been blessed with financial success so I don't ever have to sell anything and I work some every day in pottery. I have no idea what to charge and feel bad if my charges are under cutting full time artists. Loving life in semi-retirement and I am happy to say recovered almost completely from back surgery; now back to the studio.

Thomas Sawyer, M.D., J.D.

-----Original Message-----
From: Clayart [mailto:clayart-bounces at lists.clayartworld.com] On Behalf Of Snail Scott
Sent: Tuesday, July 25, 2017 4:39 PM
To: Clayart international pottery discussion forum <clayart at lists.clayartworld.com>
Subject: [Clayart] costs and business (digression)

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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