Friday, March 7, 2008

What makes your pot financially valuable?

Why can one potter/artist only sell for $42 or for $75 or $90 or maybe even $300 while another potter/artist is precious and can sell for $2000 or more? Is one potter really that much better than another? What makes one person famous and the other a "village" potter?

While here in Hawaii I think about this and have discussed it with one of the starts at $2000 with a serious peace of work. He recently started selling some less expensive pieces as well but the truth is he has the ability to sell for $2000-$8000 dollars.
I am not sure what the absolute answer is but I too am anxious to learn more.
Reasons some potters including myself sell for less are as follows.

I say it is about lifestyle and think money is not always the point. This may be some sort of ridiculous leftover thought from the 60's. I was taught in school not to think about making money with pottery. That was beneath us. We were above that and barely taught to survive as an artist with the exception of a formal class on making commissions which included very little info on the finances of such an idea.
One student paid his way during grad school selling pots at significant festivals including $1.00 owls to any kid at the show. Sometimes that paid his booth fee if it was a bad show. That idea was frowned on, the whole festival idea. Later he and his wife, both potters during that time, left the field for real cash. He became a high school principal and she went into real estate. The will be retiring soon at some great beach location in the south east. I won't.
There was a basic leftover stay humble philosophy partly coming down through Warren Mackenzie and others that we don't really need money. He started early, made great pots, had a supportive and loving wife, built his terrific reputation and made cash through college teaching which seems to be what most master's degree students aim for. Basically, he did not need to make money from clay.
I asked him how much he would sell his teapot he was working on and he himmed and hawed and finally said he would have to ask at least $35 and thought that was a lot in 2004 ! Give me a break, that is what we sold them for in the late 70's.
Who is your audience and how educated are they and what are they willing to pay? I live in Tulsa and have to admit when I first opened my shop, people generally did not understand the pots were not made in slip molds. I knew it would take a while. And, in order to tempt people and keep it rolling I under priced so people would buy it. My customers have been loyal and around my age. Basically people who like handmade things and don't have a lot of extra money. Now with the economy even tighter and my customers beginning to "cut back" because of full houses and lack of cash, it is more difficult. Materials go up, delivery goes up, rent goes up and most people don't have a lot of extra money. Some do have it and every now and then someone shows great appreciation by buying a lot of stuff or some real expensive piece, for me $90-$300.
I will share two disturbing examples that happened recently. I went to a local significant art show and noticed a gorgeous clay lamp for around $50, a real deal. And next to the potter on one side was a glass blower with a tiny little glass pot for $600 and on the other side was a not very original impressionist painter for $1200. What is wrong with this picture? Is clay really just dirt or a stepchild of the art world?
Place and culture may also play a role. A young slightly experienced potter, Native American came into the shop, hounded me for a lot of technical info, bought clay, and left telling me how he mails off one pot a month to a well known gallery in New York City and they have a show of 12 of his pots at $2000 each and they sell. I was so upset that I went out to my showroom and raised all my pots to a more reasonable amount and said "So there." Later after noticing the shocked look on my regular customer's faces I went out and lowered the prices again.
One time I was doing a cold and snowy art show on the top of a mountain in Virginia and was trying to sell handmade one-of-a-kind tiles for $5 a piece. I sold none. So I raised the price to $10 and they started selling. Sometimes people don't believe the work is any good unless it costs more.
I got into an argument with Sally Cox in high school about the fact that her father was a MD and she thought she and her family were more important that others around them. I told her I thought the janitor was just as important as her father because if he was not there her Dad might have to clean his own office and take out his own trash. She was furious and I felt great.
So, what about those revered potters? Is it true for them in there own way? Is everyone really equal?
I saw a potter with his little display of mugs and bowls in the Farmers Market in Hilo Hawaii and we all know this happens everywhere. The light was dark. They were on common tables with table clothes. The pots were crafted well enough but maybe not the best. He was kind of playing the village potter. There is another potter here in galleries with a really fancy anangoma kiln and years of incredible experiences and the finest fuel burns in his kiln. I drink out of his cups and they are very individualized including very little glaze, only where the kiln lets it happen and they are rough on my lips. Is one potter's work really worth a lot more than the others?
I will write more about this tomorrow and correct the typos. And, I will discuss more about why and how some people get famous and gain more respect that others. Good blogs are shorter than this, right?

1 comment:

  1. No, good blogs are not shorter, Short blogs are shorter. But the length does not denote quality.

    So, does the potter who sells for higher amounts just grin and say, "hmm? I don't know why?"

    Is the secret in valuing yourself as opposed to valuing the creation? Is it being patient enough to wait for the person who is willing to pay more for the pot? Is it in the luck of the draw as to who will gain notoriety? Is it, heaven forbid, brand identity of not just the work or the gallery, but of the artist?

    Is it the earned reputation of buyers understanding this artist sells for this amount? Are you producing work to be collected and displayed or work to be used?

    Hey! Maybe I should get my own blog, oh yeah!