I had several ideas about what to write for this final installment of lessons we learned selling art. The one that scared me the most was to bare it all and explain our pricing.
I was (am) afraid people will argue with me, call us greedy or unreasonable. Once you put out a number someone will object to it.
But then I realized taking this risk will not only help other artists, it will educate the general public.
SO here goes. This is such an important topic I’m dividing it in two parts.
Part one: The Dirty Secret of Pricing Art.
To lay the groundwork I need to explain the psychology we’ve learned about being an artist and a consumer. One truth is most evident:
Most consumers have NO idea how things are made, let alone how much time and skill go into making them.
That’s it, the whole secret. Really. As a result consumers are horrible and judging the true value of an object.
And artists are afraid of making their pricing transparent because if they do, they may turn off consumers.
Artists are supposed to be above money, do this for the love of it.
Ok, but we still gotta eat. We aren’t running a charity.
We occasionally have people comment on our (supposedly) high prices at shows. My usual response is “yes, it has a lot of technology” or “compared to what?”
I could get annoyed by this, and sometimes I do. In reality I don’t know their budget or income. I would never want to sell to someone who can’t afford it.
I’ve learned to view price questions is as an opportunity for education. These same people are often fascinated to learn how something is made.
Education is a huge part of our mission at Lumen. Besides making elegantly geeky jewelry so our consumers can shine.
As an engineer and artist I have a unique viewpoint into how things are made. I can inspect most objects and immediately know the materials and techniques that constructed them.
This knowledge comes in part from a common game our engineer family plays. It starts with the question “how did they make that?”
No joke, this is how engineers play. Yes we are odd.
At shows I see many artists under-pricing their art. It makes my heart ache. They are practically giving it away for less than minimum wage. That hurts their standard of living and the sustainability of their passion.
Under-pricing also hurts other artists. Why? It gives consumers an unrealistic benchmark for handmade art.
If they see similar items sold for wildly different prices, it gives the impression that the higher priced artists are being unreasonable or greedy.
In reality it’s the lower priced artists that are unreasonable. They are giving it away for less than 3rd world labor prices.
If we price something like Walmart or Target, we are screwed. These stores are full of mass produced items utilizing low priced labor from 3rd world countries with a vastly lower standard of living.
We first world artists cannot compete without being homeless or living in our parents basement. That will get you lots of dates. (sarcasm)
And frankly, our items are of much higher quality than Target. They should cost more.
Even most high end jewelry stores are full of mass-produced machine made merchandise. Their markup on many items is probably 10x or more. Yup.
But don’t get hot under the collar just yet about a 10x markup.
In part 2 I will talk about wholesale versus retail pricing and how it ensures everyone involved in the merchandise food chain covers their costs.
I’ll also give a detailed price breakdown of the our blue square necklace, both the blinky LED and bare circuit board versions. This is our most popular seller and the basis for our entire price structure.