Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Thinking about selling my art

I am thinking about selling some of my art. I don't know how much I should charge. I have already discussed some of the problems here.

In case you already read that post and were wondering how the machine knit scarves came out, they don't look too bad but they still take seven hours to make. Somehow I got it into my head that they would take about three or four hours. But now that I know they take seven hours and I'd have to charge about eighty dollars per scarf, I don't think that I'm going to be selling many scarves. Eighty dollars is a lot better than three hundred thirty that I'd have to charge for the hand knit ones, but I still think that's a bit high.

So now I'm wondering about ceramics. Some of the problems are the same. How much to charge for my time, and I have to charge for the materials, and if I'm shipping the art somewhere I have to charge for the shipping and the packing materials, and should I charge for the extra time of going to the post office, etc....

Right now I am wondering if I should sell one of my class projects. I like most of my class projects and want to keep them. And if there are a couple that I don't like, well, no one else would want those either. But for the most part I do like them and it is not one of those situations where someone sells their class projects cheap just to get rid of them.

The class projects for last semester were a coil vase (made from terra cotta) that was burnished and saggered (fired in a popcorn tin to turn black), a box (pylon shape), a stained plate made on a hump mold (sea turtles design), a series of 4x5 tiles (sea turtle design) using plaster molds we had to make ourselves, a painted mosaic tile piece (a picture of Moody Gardens in Galveston), a hollow sculpture in the round (big sea shell design), and a relief sculpture in terra cotta (dragon head design). In addition to the required pieces I made another coil vase, three extra sea turtle tiles, two more plaster molds and two more 4x5 tiles (Stargate design and animal/Celtic knot design), and part of a plaster mold for another sculpture (sleestak head design).

So there were nine required pieces and one required plaster mold, but I ended up with six extra pieces and three extra plaster molds. As I have mentioned in a previous post, the school provided a lot of the materials, except we had to buy most of the clay. But that doesn't exactly make the provided materials free, since I paid almost two hundred dollars to take the class. We were required to buy about three bags of clay at about ten dollars each, and I bought two extra bags, and I spent eleven dollars on an extra bag of plaster, and about fifteen dollars on underglaze that wasn't required but I think made my mosaic tile look better, and then I spent ten or fifteen dollars on paint and such for the big sea shell. So the required amount of money is two hundred ten dollars divided by the required nine pieces equals an average of $23.34, and the actual amount I spent was two hundred fifty-five dollars divided by fifteen pieces equals an average of $17.00.

But probably neither of those figures is fair to charge for materials, since the only piece I am considering selling at this time is one of the 4x5 tiles. I think that I can get five or six tile molds from a bag of plaster, and maybe twenty tiles from a bag of clay, and maybe I could glaze twenty tiles from one jar of glaze if I made them all the same color. I'm not sure how much casting slip costs. But I think that making a plaster mold would cost two dollars worth of plaster, and that I could make twenty tiles from it using materials that would cost between twenty and forty dollars. So that would make it about two dollars of materials per tile, if I were going to make that many of the same tile. Which doesn't sound too bad. Except that if it's not a class project I have to pay someone to fire the tiles, and each tile has to be fired twice. I'm guessing that would be about five dollars each time, so I've now spent about twelve dollars per tile, and I haven't yet figured in my time.

There are all kinds of books to help you figure this stuff out, but they don't really help if you don't keep accurate records. To make a plaster mold for a tile, it takes about a hour to make the mold around the model tile. But I don't know how long I spent making the models. Actually making a tile after you have a mold only takes about an hour or so, not counting drying time and firing time and all of that. But it's not like you just stand there and wait for things to dry, so I shouldn't count any of that time. If I have to drive to Fort Worth to have things fired, I will have to count that time, but for class projects I didn't have to do that. I had to drive to class, but I had to do that anyway even if I didn't sell anything.

Right now I am thinking that I could charge about between twelve and fifteen dollars for small tiles that get made in class, but I probably won't sell any that don't get made in class, cause I'd have to charge at least double that.

I rarely sell anything I make. I sold two eggs at a store that took stuff like that on commission. One was sold around Christmas time. Someone who worked at the store broke another one, so the store had to buy that one, and the store decided that they didn't want to sell my eggs after that. I can't think of any other art work that I've sold, except for one scarf that a friend needed for his Hogwarts costume. I've made things for other people, but I gave those things to them as Christmas gifts.

About twenty years ago, someone saw me carrying around a large painting of the Horsehead Nebula. I wasn't planning to sell it, so I'd never really thought about how much it should cost. But the nice lady asked, and I told her this was a school project, but she could buy another one like it. Hopefully, the second time around it wouldn't take quite as long to make, but maybe it would, and with the canvas and paint and other supplies it would probably cost around five hundred dollars. The lady thanked me for talking to her, but she did not even leave her phone number, and I never saw her again.

For some reason people either don't expect artists to charge for their time, or they just don't realize how long it takes to make something. And if you're not an artist yourself, you have no idea how much supplies cost. So a lot of people think that they are going to get a painting for a lot less money than the artist would have to charge, and they are often surprised that the amount of money they had in mind wouldn't even cover the cost of the materials.

Last year I donated a scarf to a charity auction. The scarf was one of the handmade ones that took more than thirty hours. The winning bid for $43. That person is the same person who bought the other scarf for $80, and right now I think that is probably the only scarf that I'll sell, but I'll probably donate a few more to auctions and make a couple more for friends. There's another auction in two weeks, and I plan to donate one of the $80 scarves and see what happens.

Or, at least, I'll be donating that scarf if I finish the fringe on time. I just hate doing fringe.


Dame Honoria Glossop said...

I love making stuff, but would be hopeless at costing. Also by the time I worked out all the time I spent on it it wouldn't be economic!

Babybull40 said...

I use to make picture frames and give them out for gifts.. I need to do that again.. it wasn't really art.. more on the crafts side.. My brother Solipsist is an artist and is basically a starving artist.. Not starving for food.. more like starving for someone to buy his art.. I have one on my wall in the livingroom.. and he is an excellent artist...

evil-e said...

I have actually sold two painting in my lifetime.

I did one as an assignment for my painting class. I had taken it into work at the restaurant I was at to show to some people there. One of the customers sitting in a booth by himself asked how much I wanted for it. I took his name and number because I was worried I would lose the grade for the class. I ended up selling to a very rich old man for $1500.00 and I got an A upon showing the receipt to the professor.

The second was a commission job I did for a co-worker. I got $600.0 up front and $600.00 on finish. It was a 6 foot by 6 foot 3 panel monster.

laughingattheslut said...

I used to make stuff that was 3 and half by 4 and a half, because that was the biggest canvas I could easily get into the car.

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