Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Price is Right

"Every time we're stuck in struggle I'm down for the count that day. Every time I dream of quick fix I'm assuaged."

There was yet another discussion about pricing this week on Facebook.

It's an issue that just won't go away.

It kicked off something like this.
It's really frustrating to me as an artist and as a professional to see others sell their well-made and high quality work for dirt cheap.

Lately I have seen other beadmakers and even jewelry artists sell their items for prices which are so low that I don't see how they aren't losing money. This hurts the whole market and devalues art and high quality craft. I could never price a set of, say, 5-7 beads that took me 4 hours to make for $20. I barely make enough on my art to give myself any kind of livable wage.

I do understand that there are those who are hobbyists that are just trying to make up costs and that don't do this for a living. But you need to realize that this is artwork. Give your art a chance!
It was carefully stated and prefaced by the writer stating that this was her opinion and that she just felt the need to put her feeling out to the universe.

At last count there were 174 comments.

The first comments were along these lines.
I feel exactly the same way. "I just want to make enough to buy more glass" drives me nuts because then people who are doing it for a living are made out to be money grubbing artists who are charging too much. Recently, when I posted about someone saying my beads were too expensive, someone said that these people "whore up the market".
Others chimed in.
I know it's a bonanza for the buyers, but it does make things tough for those of us that need to make a small wage from our work. I guess it's the same with all artisans - there will always been hobbyists who just want to recover a little of their material cost.
I agree wholeheartedly! I don't make my living selling lampwork, but I firmly believe that pricing my work too low devalues EVERY one else's work.
I was the first to dissent.
I think pricing is a personal decision. I don't feel that anyone has an obligation to price a certain way so that another artist can make a living. And on the flip side of the coin, I've seen simple beads bid up to such ridiculous prices that if I was the artist I'd be embarrassed to take the money. For the most part I think high quality art is not devalued when someone sells their meh beads for low prices. And I think most of our buyers are savvy enough to recognize true artistry.
13 people "liked" my comment.

The original poster responded.
I do agree that pricing is personal, which is why I would never approach someone directly about it. I do think it's an important discussion for artists to have though. I am confidant in my pricing most of the time because my beads do sell. But when I see beads that are clearly as decent as mine or better being sold for a quarter of the price it just frustrates me and makes me question my own pricing.
For the record, this artist makes exquisite beads, small, perfectly precise and detailed. I own several of her sets.

Another poster carried on the torch (so to speak).
This is the big issue. We are all a little bit "I am not worthy" when it comes to our own hand produced work and when we see someone selling lower, we do question and maybe start to pitch our prices a little lower. So what happens, ultimately the market starts to get depressed, not because of what buyers are prepared to pay, but because of a lack of self belief by the makers.
Well, based on what I see for sale, some so-called artists are right to question their worth.

Of course I had some more thoughts.
I've been selling my beads on Facebook since February. On one of my first sales, I was so happy, and then someone posted a comment like, you should have charged more. It hurt my feelings, and I thought about it a lot. I don't think my pricing hurts anyone else, no one is going to skip over [the original poster's] beads to buy mine for less.
Of course someone had to stick their fork in it.
Lowering the prices on good quality work means that sometimes [full time beadmakers] have to justify to those customers why ours are so much higher. And everyone who says that it's your right to price as you choose, I understand. I just don't want people devaluing THEMSELVES as much as others. It shouldn't hurt your feelings to have someone say that you could charge more, that should be a boost!
It felt more like a dig than a boost to me. I said this.
I still don't see why, if someone is happy with their prices, they need to raise them because another artist has to pay the rent. That just hurts the consumer. I doubt most hobbyists have the skills and vision to compete with a true artist who has worked her craft full time for years.
I want to mention that for the most part the discussion stayed respectful. There was disagreement but no flaming (so to speak).

But then we were back to the W word again.
It "whores up the market" when you price your work too low! If you always sell your work cheap, that's what people think of your work as, cheap.
I knew I should have thrown in the towel, but I kept trying.
Who is to sit in judgement of what is too low or too cheap? If people think someone's work is cheap, how does that devalue the whole market? I think it makes the true artists look better.
And then I added an afterthought.
And just because someone can melt some glass onto a mandrel, get it annealed and cleaned, that does not automatically make the bead a work of art, worthy of a high price.
The original poster addressed me.
Elizabeth, I am talking about those beads which are done really well *and* priced really low. If something is done really well and priced really low, I think people will start to expect that all the time, and I believe that devalues all beads which are done well. We can agree to disagree.
I'm not sure where she's shopping, but I haven't seen any really low prices on any really well done beads. I said this.
I don't think it's so much about agreeing to disagree as that I'm just not seeing what you are seeing. I'm not seeing really well done beads priced really low. In fact, I see badly done beads or generic beads priced too high - and I see people buying them. But if that's what you are seeing, I believe you. And I doubt those are hobbyists or people just trying to cover costs.
The original poster responded.
Elizabeth, I see that, too - but it doesn't bother me as much for some reason.
Of course not. Because it counters the argument about the devaluation of the market.

She continued.
Maybe you and I have different ideas about what a bead should be priced as. Why do you doubt there are people who are good at making beads, but price them just to cover costs because this is their hobby and not their career? It happens all the time.
Although I just don't see any bargain prices on masterful beads, I was ready to fly the white flag, after someone else took issue with the word "generic." By which I meant ordinary, simple, basic beads, with not evidence of true talent or artistry. Not that there isn't a market for spacers and simple beads, but they aren't worth top dollar.

I bowed out.
I hope no one takes anything I say personally. I don't even know which group I fall into, too high, too low, just right.
And that is the truth.

My guess is the original poster, and those who feel the way she feels, would say, too low.

But if that were really the case, wouldn't everything sell? I sell a respectable number of beads, but by no means all of the ones I list. Sometimes beads will sell on their second or third outing, sometimes I restring them in a different combination and they sell, some I'd be embarrassed to list again, after they were passed over more than once or twice.

Sometimes I get a BIN (Buy-it-Now) literally within seconds of listing a bead. But a similar bead may languish, maybe sell for the opening price, maybe not at all. So I wouldn't say an occasional BIN suggests my prices are too low. Perhaps in the specific case, they were just right.

Or am I rationalizing? I don't know. I stand by my original point. Pricing is an individual decision. I don't have the time to figure out my costs anyway, or to time each bead and apply some sort of dollar-a-minute method. I have sort of a formula I use, based roughly on no bead being worth less than $2 and working up from that.

I've experimented with pricing, including raising my price a little, after an item doesn't sell, to see if perceived value affects the consumers. Often I just go with my gut feeling, i.e., how pretty I think a bead is relative to my other beads that I have established prices for. I long ago abandoned the practice of starting an auction at a low price. Once burned, twice shy, so to speak.

Now if I could just make a bead with the artistry of this one, by Angelika Kaufman. I'm watching the bidding on that one and sitting on my hands. For now.

Or these butterfly wing sets by Kim Snider that I snagged this week, for a pretty penny.

Here's what I've got. All sold by the way. And I'm happy with the prices realized.

I don't want more money for my beads. I want to be a better bead maker.

Then I'll want more money for my beads.

In the meantime, it's all about the validation, baby.

"Every time you raise your voice
I see the greener grass
Every time you run for cover
I see this pasture
Every time we're in a funk
I picture a different choice
Every time we're in a rut
This distant grandeur

My tendency to want to do away feels natural and
My urgency to dream of softer places feels understandable

The only way out is through
The faster we're in the better
The only way out is through ultimately

Every time that I'm confused
I think there must be easier ways
Every time our horns are locked I'm towel throwing
Every time we're at a loss we've bolted from difficulty
Anytime we're in stalemate a final bowing

My tendency to want to hide away feels easier and
The immediacy is picturing another place comforting to go

We could just walk away and hide our heads in the sand
We could just call it quits only to start all over again
With somebody else

Every time we're stuck in struggle I'm down for the count that day
Every time I dream of quick fix I'm assuaged
Now I know it's hard when it's through
And I'm damned if I don't know quick fix way
But formerly mistreat me silence now outdated

My tendency to want to run feels unnatural now
The urgency to want to give to you what I want most feels good

The only way out is through
The faster we're in the better
The only way out is through ultimately."

(Alanis Morissette)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz