Monday, September 30, 2013

How Do You Price Your Work?

The Card Players - Paul Cezanne

This painting holds the current record price for most expensive painting ever auctioned at $250 million dollars.  Wouldn't Paul be surprised!

Learning how to price your artwork can be a tricky thing.  When I first began to sell work years ago I'm not sure how I established my pricing but it seemed to work.

Fast forward to the time I began to work with constructed textiles and I no longer felt as confident or comfortable with what to charge.  While I think these considerations can apply to work done in any medium for me I'm going to talk specifically about what I know in relation to textiles.

When I was pricing mixed media sculpture the primary value of the work in my opinion was based on concept,  esthetic value and potential for growth in the art field.  The materials I used weren't expensive, some of the work was labor intense but not extraordinarily laborious but it had been well received by jurors being included in shows, sales and awards.  I did have gallery representation at that time and I felt their guidance as to pricing was well informed.

When I began working with fabric I also began to show in different venues and realized there was a different set of standards or at least the criteria for quality work was viewed a little differently.  The work was labour intensive from creating the materials I use to all the hand finishing that is often required.  As previously, I began pricing my work based on the dollar amount I felt I would be happy with should I sell the work.  Later, I decided to have my work evaluated by a professional appraiser and as it turned out her appraisal was only about $100 different from price I had set for the piece.

After several years of pulling prices out of thin air I decided to use a per inch system of pricing.  I measure the work and multiply the width x height to get the square inches and multiply this times a dollar figure.  Let's say you use $1.00 per inch and your work is 40" x 45" or 1800 square inches.  This would put the price at $1,800.  The $1.00 per inch is most likely the base price for most people and you can fill that blank in any way that you like.

There are components that I consider which raise the price such as lots of handwork or especially pricey materials.  I also raise the dollar figure if the piece I'm pricing has been shown in one or more national shows or has won an award.  I think building visibility and credibility in the art community should be a factor in your pricing.

Some people use this same system but work in terms of square feet while others still evaluate each work on it's own merit and price according to their knowledge of their own work and it's value.

I love to work on a large scale as do many artists who work with fiber.  This fact impacts sales both in regards to the size of work most people can display in their homes and the resulting costs.  The good news is that unless you are selling through a gallery or representative, you can adjust your prices as you see fit.

Carol Taylor did a wonderful presentation several years ago on the topic of pricing at a Studio Art Quilt Association Conference.  In her presentation she used information gathered from a wide array of artists with many different ideas and experiences relating to pricing.  Thank you Carol for all of your insights into this very personal topic.

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  1. Is this a "base price", that is do you figure out your price and then add the gallery commission (if a gallery is involved)?


    1. I think that would depend on you and the agreement you have with a gallery. You have to be consistent and not sell your work lower than it would be sold at your gallery. With that in mind, you have to establish a dollar amount per square inch that takes that into consideration. If you do not deal with a gallery then it would be an issue. Thanks for that great question.

  2. Very timely post, Terry. I'm entering 2 pieces into an exhibit and always go back & forth on the pricing my pieces. $1 per inch is a great guide. Thanks for sharing this information.

    1. Great! Glad this helps. Being consistent and comfortable with your pricing is important.