Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Putting a Price on Art

"Wallflowers: #3"  
(available for sale on my web site)

At the Upstate Artists Guild show during April's First Friday celebration, a gentleman asked how long it took for me to "go from inspiration to expiration."  I told him that it was necessary to pass through perspiration along the way, and I pointed to "Wallflowers: #3" (pictured above), a 12" by 15" piece that had taken 29 hours to complete.  My larger pieces, measuring from 50" square to 60" square, have taken between 300 and 370 hours to create.  I've begun timing myself as I work on my quilts so I can develop a realistic formula for pricing them.  It does seem that many viewers tend to place a value on an artist's work commensurate with the amount of time it took to create it, rather than the quality of the work itself.

So, I pose this question to you, my readers: If you are selling your fiber art, how do you price your pieces?  Is the price based on a formula that includes the hours spent, or the size of the finished work, or both?  Please share your thoughts!

I thank you all for reading and commenting on my blog -- you send me little bits of inspiration to recharge my battery, and I am grateful.


connie said...

I have yet to sell anything, I seem to just give it as gifts but I am hoping to work in that direction at some point. I do think that keeping track of your time to decide what to charge makes sense. However sometimes I do not think there is anyway you get what you or your creative process is worth. I really enjoy your work. Thanks for sharing.

Terri Stegmiller said...

Very good question! I'll be curious to see what comments you receive on this subject as I struggle with it myself. I find it such a pain to keep track of my time especially when working on some things in small spurts of time. And I know if I tried to keep track, I'd forget sometimes and then just say "the heck with it". Poor attitude, I know.

Marilyn Rock said...

Diane; this has always been a tough one for me.....pricing. However, there are so many variables. My experience has been that people just don't seem to ask or care how long it has taken me to complete a piece. They go by if they like a piece or not. The question I get are more on technique or inspiration for a piece. But; my medium is all over the place :) Being said - I currently am trying to price, my work, with the times now. The economy is tight but my pieces that are framed are priced different than the ones that are not. My larger pieces are slightly different depending on how much "stuff" I've added on the canvas :) I'm not sure I'm helping you but wanted to share my thoughts. I LOVE this piece, here, and I can only imagine the time it takes with fabric; it's a fantastic medium that I am in awe of. You have to follow your heart. xxoo

Anonymous said...

The term "starving artist" didn't come from nowhere. I think pricing a piece is the hardest part of all. There must be value placed both on your art and your time. Many people undervalue their time; but some pieces take so long that, unless you are a highly sought after artist, you just aren't going to get the hourly pay you deserve. But you can try.

I used to sell my photography at art shows where artists sold for decent fees; later I made shirts that I sold at craft shows, where many nice items were low in price. Some craft vendors said "Oh, you can't charge for your time." I answer, "Why not? Why are you in business?" Some were traveling retirees getting a little extra spending money on weekends, other were trying to recoup enough to keep on with their hobby, and some were looking for some quick tax-free cash.

Selling our fiber art is in a different category. We should not undervalue it, because if we do, others will, too. But how high to go??? In my group we tend to use the size as the way to estimate price, but then add or subtract from that number depending on the amount of time, effort, and skill involved. If you have a small piece that took a huge amount of time, it should definitely be priced higher than a large piece that went together easily and quickly.

Tracey said...

Oh if only we knew the answer to this old chestnut.

I have no experience of selling a piece of textile art but I have sold commission quilts in the past. I used the traditional accountants method for working out the cost based on materials, labour , depreciation plus profit etc.. to work out the cost BUT cost and price have little to do with each other and 'market value' is another ballgame altogether! The market perception of a quilt on the bed or back of the sofa is different to that of one hanging on the wall. The perceived value of textile art (quilts on walls if we want to be blunt) is already higher because 'art' is an enabler of visual and emotional reactions . I think if we are being serious about pricing correctly, fiber artists must begin by using the base accountancy method to make sure they cover all production costs, consumables and expenses as well as paying themselves a decent salary. Then add a additional amount to cover the artistic value of the piece- which is the difficult bit but could be based on current market conditions as well as sales of traditional art gallery pieces - ie paint and other traditional artists media. But mostly I would think 'branding' has alot to do with this perceived artistic value. People like Andy Warhol and Damien Hurst were/are amazing at self-promotion and creating a brand that people want to buy into to. The 'artistic value' I speak of is the amount the market is prepared to pay for your 'brand'.

Today I was gobsmacked to find that my sewing repair man charges £48 (sterling) an hour to repair my machine and it took him 3 hours to do it. I have been asking a mere £12/hour (the same as my gardener) recently for longarm quilting work. I have now re-evaluated my worth ... I am as skilled as the sewing repair man - and I can do things that many people cant. Dianne your work is wonderful, makes people happy and is a catylst for visual and emotional responses. You are an artist and you really shouldn't have to struggle to make what your art -- particularly when it brings so much pleasure to others.

Wow .... I'm off my soapbox now! LOL

Diane J. Evans said...

WOW!! Thank you to all who have left a comment so far -- what great insight into this "chestnut," as you have so aptly named it. I do wonder if we'll ever receive the compensation that our work really deserves. You have all given me a pile of good ideas to incorporate into my pricing.

Thanks again for reading my blog -- I am grateful!



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