Monday, July 25, 2011
For the past ten years I've been making pots. I've been selling them at a price with which I feel comfortable. I've reasoned that I can pay myself a certain rate per hour and factor the cost of my work by that rate- and it covers my expenses. I've prided myself on making useful and above all, affordable work. A lovely but expensive mug won't get used, I thought. I want my work to be used and enjoyed every day. So, as the costs of materials and utilities went up (oh, you should see my electric bill when I'm firing a lot), my prices stayed relatively even. Over the years my coffee mugs have gone from $15-18, but nothing drastic. I also know that as a, um, impoverished sort of person, money is tight, and that's almost universal right now. $30 cup, or $30 for lunches for my family for a week. I know the answer to that question.
This year, my wholesale orders have jumped. You probably know how that goes, right? I get $9 for that $18 mug? Um, not so appealing. So the mugs that my wholesale clients sell are higher priced, and if I sell those same mugs, I match their price so as not to undercut them. I've tried to keep my prices at a level that I'd pay, but I've been uneasy about it. I have a beautiful cup that I bought for well over $50. A guest in my home asked about it when we were having tea and wanted to use it. She asked me (because she was a very good, close friend, and we've dispensed with those barriers) about its price and promptly put it back on the shelf. I understand that reaction, and it isn't one I'd like to see with my work. There's a flip side to that- under-pricing work makes it disposable. I get that, too.
BUT. I'm experiencing a shift. This work, like the cup above, is still pretty affordable. But it is significantly more expensive than one of my botanical cups. So I've put off listing the bowls and platters and pitchers, items that are regularly more expensive anyway, because I've been worried about (speaking collectively here) your reaction. Not that it isn't good enough to fetch the price that I ask, and not that I don't deserve to be compensated for my work, but I've just been nervous. This week I'm going to start listing them. They do me absolutely no good sitting in my dining room, staring at me. Actually, less good, because they're likely to get broken where they are now. So these pieces will be special*. They'll cost more. But they take more time, more skill, more firings. I think they're worth more. I feel mostly good about this decision.
Several of these cups are already up on Etsy. The one pictured above is going to its new home tomorrow. The mugs that I used for my invitation will go up in another few weeks- they need another glazing and firing. I won't be around here much over the next two weeks. We're wrapping up summer, working hard, and sneaking in a beach trip before school begins. I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer, too.
*They're also special because I'm setting aside a bit of each sale to finance my own urban bee hive next year. And they're the pieces I'm making for my first invitational show this fall. And they're special because I love them in a way that I don't love my other work. Maybe because Melissa means "honey bee", maybe because I'm drawing them. I'm not sure.