This is a question with a lot of facets, and I’m assuming you’re referencing our minimum quote for a completely original commission, because we have critters in our line-up that cost less than a trip to the movies.
I’ll start with the big one; because we are professional artists. Being good at a craft takes training and time, and you pay for both. My favorite illustration quote, and I apologize for having forgotten the source goes something like this;
"Q: If it only takes you 15 minutes to draw that, why do I have to pay you so much?
A: Because you’re paying for the years of practice it took me to be able to draw it in 15 minutes.” While we’re not talking about illustrations OR 15 minutes here, the meat of the statement is still applicable.
Bones and I have been sculpting since we could be trusted not to put the play-doh in our mouths. We have some expensive educations between us, and have logged many hours of studio time under other professional sculptors. I’m sure you’re going ‘ho hum, I don’t need this backstory!’ but this is all experience that informs the final product. We like to think we’re pretty good at what we do, and we have a lot of wonderful clients who agree.
An off-shoot here is also design. We’re pretty meticulous about our designs, both from an aesthetic point of view, and a structural one. We don’t do ‘good enough’, and while design and engineering are two of the most fun parts, they’re skills that also take time.
Time, which is another factor. This should be a no-brainer, but lots of people forget that answering emails, anon tumblr asks, comments, updating websites, photographing and posting things four thousand places all fall under the umbrella of working hours. Commissions involve a lot of back and forth particularly, between ourselves and the client, and between ourselves. Its not just the actual hands-on workshop hours we’re talking about.
We are careful about the sorts of materials we buy as well; cutting corners leads to crappy creatures that look horrible. Buying expensive supplies in large quantities costs more than buying cheap craft-grade supplies from the local art store.
The boring stuff is that we have bills to pay. We also need to buy doughnuts and cat food and occasionally new shoes or glasses (Bones I am looking at you here). We have vet bills, and insurance, gas and sometimes I splash out on a new pair of socks. What we do needs to be worthwhile monetarily for two reasons; one, we need to live and two, we’re bringing down the market if it isn’t.
Under valuing your work is a huge disservice to the art community. It tells people that “Hey, artists don’t need to earn a living wage! They can live off sunshine and pot noodle!”. It tells people that what you’ve created isn’t worth all the time, energy, and expertise you’ve invested. Your work’s price tag also carries an assumption of value. This is why in studies, people drinking wine they’ve been told is expensive are not only more satisfied, they rate it higher in terms of flavour. If your pricing is on par with Walmart, people assume that its Walmart quality, which is not the message any artist wants to send.
I’ve already gone on longer than I intended, but that’s a brief overview of the factors I can think of off the top of my head. I’m sure if I had another cup of coffee in my I could go on, but I’ve got painting t’do.
~W (who kinda likes pot noodle anyway)
A good post.
I’ve had rude cheapskates come to me and fling around assumptions that I’m somehow overcharging and making tons of profit by nickle and diming people- not so.
People just look at the lump sum of money the artist buys and assumes all of that’s lining the artist’s pocket. But don’t forget, professionals are declaring this on their income taxes, a significant chunk of the money can be eliminated right away due to taxes, Paypal fees, Etsy fees, etc. If you accept credit cards in your shop you can be triple dipped with high fees.
Then of course all the materials you guys mentioned plus some ones customers wouldn’t normally think of- things like sewing machine maintenance, new scissors, thread, sculpting tools, glues, etc. And if you’re asked to do something you’ve never done before, there’s the preliminary work and prototyping that comes with that. Even if the work may not be part of the final product, it is still part of the process of that commission and the working hours should definitely be considered when figuring out pricing.
If you want a stable, lucrative job, crafting probably isn’t the best field… we do this because we love it! We crafters are accept slightly lower wages to create cool stuff for a living, so when people ask me to drop my prices even lower, it hurts a whole lot. You’re telling me I don’t even deserve this low-budget lifestyle I already live. u_u
Thank you Worms and Bones for the extremely well worded answer! This applies to my field as well. Also thank you DenaliLobita for your last comment there. That is why price complaints tend to really get to me. The complainers are essentially saying that we don’t deserve the pay we get for our hard earned skills and our time. And truthfully, that’s a very cruel thing to say to someone. Overall, crafters and artists tend to not exactly be rolling in dough, due to the intermittent and unexpected pay we get for what we do (as a freelancer especially). So even if we get that one AWESOME high paying gig, it has to last us till the next job, which may be months for some.
Please consider all the factors listed here before you complain about the price of art. We work very hard to create things we know people will love.
i am actually currently writing a blog post on this subject, but this is SO well written that i had to reblog. it echos a lot of my thoughts and covers things a lot of people don’t like to talk about. thank you, all three of you, for this.
Dogpiling on to this.
When i sell a piece it’s not all profit. I have paypal fees, monthly store fees, materials bought ( the amount of $ i spend on silicone for molds would blow y’alls hair back ) , tax i have to pay on my income…at the end of all that i get to pay myself an hourly wage. But oops i forgot that some of those hours were spent on research or educating myself on/investing in new techniques. So how much actual time was put into that piece? It’s hard to even tell at that point.
Also if i sell a piece at a gallery show not only do they take 40% i also don’t see that actual payment for about 2-3 months ( show runs for a month and then i get paid a month or so after that) A lot of my work is made sort of “planting seeds” for future payments- gallery shows, shirt/barrette/etc designs sold through online retailers and such things where i don’t see income from for quite awhile.
Right now im working almost triple time, making work for a convention, making work for a gallery show thats right after said convention and making work to sell through my shop so i can generate immediate income. But i also spent most of my day yesterday wrapping, packing and printing labels for artwork sold last week instead of working on prep. Which means i spend my weekend catching up ( and uh, being on tumblr oops)
When i get someone telling me my work is expensive, it’s a hard thing to read knowing that i work myself silly to earn my living and make my work the best that i can. I hope it’s just from genuine ignorance but the “too expensive” thing is also used to deliberately hurt an artist by making them feel devalued or “too big for their britches. It’s hard to tell which side of the fence a “expensive” comment is coming from so if an artist reacts with anger…well, that’s why.
It’s hard knowing the person on the other end is probably young and still has things like weekends to themselves, time to lavish on video games ( something im all bitter about because boy do i miss games) and a secure roof over their head thanks to a parent. They have never dealt with the hundred little hurts and stresses that come with this business so it’s even more frustrating.
And if you think im just all about money, well you are half right ( but kind of a butthole for saying that). I’m not a hobby artist, this is my sole means of earning a living so i can be a functioning 36 year old adult. That does not diminish my skill or passion for what i do, it just lights more of a fire under my ass to be the best i can and be fierce about it. Because this is it.
You might say “well, wahhh go do something else for your living then” To which first I’d tell you to fuck right off but id also let you know that i have worked many many jobs from cocktail waitress to designing phone interfaces for a Big Company. What did i do when i came home from those jobs? I made art. This is what i want to do, this is what i worked so hard to get to do as a full time gig for the last 10….12? years. So yes, im going to pay myself a fair(ish) and professional wage. When someone pays what i ask without fussing at me, it is a great joy and a huge compliment. It says to me “your work is worth it” and that makes me want to work even harder.
TLDR: The fastest way to insult an artist is to tell them they are expensive. Think first.