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Forum topic by MarkTheFiddler posted 10-01-2012 01:08 PM 2589 views 1 time favorited 40 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2068 posts in 3238 days

10-01-2012 01:08 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question carving shaping turning finishing scrollworking woodburning

Something has been bugging me lately. It’s about some of you artists and how you value your work. I know that much of your work is priceless and yet when you put a price tag on it, it gives a gross of $5 to $20 an hour before materials, traveling, maintenance on tools, workspace, utilities and the cost of getting new work.

I understand the artist chemistry a bit and the truth is we like to be appreciated for what we do (me with my fiddling.) We will work hard for someone to say – ‘That’s incredible!’. It is that type of thing that keeps us from making any cash. We will sell at a low price so we can get someone’s affirmation of our art. We also sell at a low price just so we can get work.

Do you know what kind of word of mouth gets out when you sell for a low price? ‘Joe/Sue does beautiful work at ridiculously low prices.’

What if you bit the bullet and tripled your most ambitious price? What if you looked at that special sculpture, furnishing, cutting board or other household item and said “I put myself into you and you are worth a fortune!”. What if you kept the beautiful things you make for your home and tried to sell them off, no matter how long it takes, for a good price that reflects the time it took you, the skills you put into it and your heart?

I don’t know really what would happen. It’s just my mind working. You all are outstanding and you are worth a fortune!

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

40 replies so far

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

26046 posts in 4155 days

#1 posted 10-01-2012 01:31 PM

Mark, It all depends on where you try to sell your work. If you go to an art and craft sale, there are lower expectations than if you go to a gallery. I know what you mean about the time and materials you put in it. Unless you sell at a gallery are real ART fair, you cannot get a great return. Craft shows typically sell items for $10-$30 all day. When you get up to $50 it will not sell unless you just find the perfect buyer who appreciates what you put into it.
Have you tried ETSY- an o-line hand made sales venue? there is a lot of competition out there but you might do better than a craft sale on that site….................Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12314 posts in 4478 days

#2 posted 10-01-2012 02:12 PM

Time was when artisans recieved a fair compensation for their work. However, that was back when they were the only game in town.
Today, competing with mass produced products made from inexpensive man made materials, the true woodworker is at a distinct disadvantage.
As Jim suggests, art (whatever your definition) finds a better reception in a venue where customers are seeking “art”, not bargains.
OTOH, I believe it was JC Penny who opined that “If you wish to live with the rich, sell to the masses.” The opposite is also true, as well.
We all know the big names in the woodworking field. Great woodworkers all, and many are great marketeers, too. But, I’d venture that a miniscule number of them make a decent living from their woodwork alone.
Yet, most of us know of guys and gals who work tirelessly producing oodles of items, all essentially the same, who at least pay the bills and buy a new tool now and then.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View grfrazee's profile


388 posts in 3189 days

#3 posted 10-01-2012 02:23 PM

I find that it depends where you sell, and location also partially determines your clientele.

Take a flea market for example. You (generally) don’t find many wealthy people at flea markets since normally what’s for sale is random stuff that could be considered “junk.” Don’t get me wrong, I love flea markets, but I’m not expecting to find anything that I might call “art.”

Art/craft fairs, to me at least, are a good balance of price and quality. I’m not at a point in my life where I can go to an art fair and pay for what I know is a good quality piece, but I can recognize that they are priced fairly (for the most part). I live around some fairly wealthy suburbs, and the people I see at the art fairs can afford the wares, and I think that most sellers go home happy. Also, like Jim says, if you have items in that butter zone of $10-$30, you probably won’t be able to keep them stocked (cutting boards come to mind).

Galleries, well, there’s your fabulously wealthy clientele. They’re not worried about price as long as the item fits their decor or taste. However, I feel like its such a small chance that I’d rather not bother. But that’s just me. I can’t say I’ve made anything anywhere near gallery-worthy, so I have no experience with the matter.

Also, I second selling on Etsy. I’ve sold a few things (mostly kitschy stuff like picture frames and decorative wine corks), so it’s along the same vein as an art fair to me.


View IndianJoe's profile


425 posts in 3299 days

#4 posted 10-01-2012 02:36 PM

You buy a piece of bass wood to make a duck at $10.00 and I do the same we carve the same ducks and have the same time in it ,you sell your for $ 250.00 I sell Mine at $ 150.00
I will back to but nine more pieces of bass wood and sell all ten.
I have friends that sell high and make 1/4 or lass then I do a year.
One more thing you have to look at is were you live at is the $ there or were you are doing the show sometimes you have to take a look at that to say what you can ask for that dock like Jim sad.
Back to the duck in one year you made $250 – $10.00 for the wood year end $240.00 I made $1500.00 – $100.00 For the wood year end $1400.00
Yes it’s nice to sell high and I’m not trying to cut you down or me just trying to tell you like it is.

I don’t sell ducks , it was the first thing that came to me

-- Nimkee** Joe

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12314 posts in 4478 days

#5 posted 10-01-2012 02:48 PM

Joe, you hit the nail on the head.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View shipwright's profile


8703 posts in 3848 days

#6 posted 10-01-2012 03:15 PM

Craft you can make to sell for profit.
Art, you’d better be doing for the challenge, personal achievement or just love because profit may be far far away.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View GrandpaLen's profile


1652 posts in 3322 days

#7 posted 10-01-2012 04:01 PM

Woodworking vs. Motive

Pure Hobbiest - invests for ‘self-gratification’ ...Costs are a non-consideration.

Production Hobbiest – Invests for ‘self-sustenance’ ...Costs are a consideration.

Frustrated Hobbiest – Invests for ‘monetary gain’ ...Costs are all-consuming.

hob·by [hóbbee] n
enjoyable activity: an activity engaged in for pleasure and relaxation during spare time

oc·cu·pa·tion [òkyə páysh’n] n
1. job: the job by which somebody earns a living
2. activity: an activity on which time is spent

Work Safely and have Fun. ( all Costs). – Grandpa Len

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12314 posts in 4478 days

#8 posted 10-01-2012 04:14 PM

Hey Paul,
Have you tried the Victoria scene, yet?

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View lumberjoe's profile


2902 posts in 3298 days

#9 posted 10-01-2012 04:25 PM

I don’t like to sell things. I have sold some turnings and cutting boards, but to be honest they were not representitive of my best work. As such they were more “mistakes” or “overstock”. I let them go really cheap because the alternative would have been the scrap bin or the back of the shop on the obscure shelf that never sees the light of day.

I have had friends ask to purchase things I have put a lot of time and effort into and I was really proud of. Those did not go cheap, some did not go at all. I generally ask somewhere in the range of “you would never pay that”. Suprisingly, a few of them did without blinking. I also don’t mind doing things for very little to no profit for someone I know will truly appreciate them. How many end tables does one need? I really enjoy making things like that, so when someone really wants one and pays for materials, it’s like a free trip to the amuement park for me.

GrandpaLen also hit the nail on the head to sum up my involvement it woodworking. I really enjoy what I do. I don’t want to be compensated for it other than others admiring and appreciating my work even half as much as I do.


View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 3906 days

#10 posted 10-01-2012 05:52 PM

Joe you wanna buy a duck? lol

Mark I’ve found that using an agent is best

Sure they take a hefty commission but Hell

they get the prices as well.

Paul (Shipwright) did a piece that to me was pure

Art. I would have priced it high due to the fine

craftsmanship. Whereas an agent would look at the

piece on all levels and also know the market.

In the time that I’ve been making items from wood

I’ve been called all sorts and even an “Artist”. As long

as it sells you can call me what you want. Main thing is

that I don’t get it into my head that I’m something I’m

not. Ego is an expensive monster to feed.


-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View Puzzleman's profile


417 posts in 3994 days

#11 posted 10-01-2012 07:33 PM

I agree with parts of what has been said. Customers are taught by the artists and vendors at the craft shows. They are taught what is the price for their work. They will then use that cost basis to value work of other artists / vendors. If you do a craft / art show where the prices and customer expectations are higher, you will get higher prices. In the art & craft shows that I do, my average ticket is $55 – 60. Too get the higher ticket, I educate the customer as to what is involved in making it and the types of wood.

Where I have a problem is where someone comes in that doesn’t not even start to value their time. I have been to shows where there are people selling the products to just recover their costs. As I stated before, they will teach the customer where the price point is. This is what happens at many of the lower level of shows.

I have some friends that tell me how busy they are and how they just can’t keep up. When I suggest raising their prices, so they make more per item, they protest saying that won’t be able to sell anything if the prices go higher. They have bought into the Walmart mentality of only selling cheap. I prefer to sell less items but make more per item and my sales have actually increased. So I am making more money while doing less work.

-- Jim Beachler, Chief Puzzler,

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30609 posts in 3388 days

#12 posted 10-01-2012 08:21 PM

In actuality, everyone here is correct. We all would like to make as much money as possible. For me however, I know I live in South Dakota. We have about the lowest per capita income in the nation. I simply can’t get as much money as I could in a larger metropolitan area. I try to pick as good of venues as possible. But I am simply limited geographically. As I hopefully grow, I hope to go to some larger shows. But along with that goes higher expenses & stiffer competition. I am finding however, the better my skill gets, the more I am able to charge for products. Not a lot more, but growing.

I do believe it’s my goal to have everyone that comes to my booth leave money when they go. Have a variety of things to sell. Limited products equals limited sales to me.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Charlie's profile


1101 posts in 3336 days

#13 posted 10-01-2012 08:39 PM

When I was younger I sold paintings and sculptures of all different kinds. Many paintings went in the $700 to $800 range. A few in the thousands. Best sculpture sale was $6000.

Then I stopped. I found other things to do. For every piece I’ve sold I’ve probably given away 10 to people who simply admired them.

Now I’m 60 and after I get this damned kitchen done I hope to be painting and sculpting again. :) Not for the money. Although I expect that money will come from it. I don’t NEED it therefore I’ll get some heheheh…. (no, not wealthy…. and not braggin’ by any stretch…. just don’t need more than I have at the moment)

View JarodMorris's profile


167 posts in 3425 days

#14 posted 10-01-2012 08:44 PM


I like your hypothetical of ducks. You said that you have friends that sell a quarter of the work that you do and you make more (and I realize that you said you don’t actually make ducks). That’s a bottom dollar comparison. Can you compare hourly wage to hourly wage though? In your scenario with the ducks, if someone sells one for $250 and you sell one for $150 and assuming it takes you both the same amount of time (as you said), then if the guy selling for $250 is one of your friends meaning that for every 40 you sell, your friend is selling 10. Lets also say, for easy math, that it takes each of you 2 hours to make the duck. You have 80 hours in it, and your friend has 20 hours in it. His gross sales are $2,500 while your gross sales are $6,000. His hourly wage is $125 per hour while yours is $75 per hour. Lets say you worked 2 full weeks to put in your 80 hours, and he spread his out over that same 2-week period, then you’re making $75 per hour for a solid 80 hours in that 2 weeks. He’s realizing $31.25 per hour over that same 2 week period because he’s essentially trading that 80 hours for $2,500, but it only requires 20 hours of work to generate that $2,500. He then has 60 hours to do with whatever else he wants to do. That could be produce more ducks or spend it with his family if the $2500 every 2 weeks is enough for him to pay his bills and operate his business.

One is not necessarily better than the other. It’s a personal decision for each to make. I own my own non-woodworking business and I have gladly traded money for time with my family. I pay the bills and have a comfortable life. On mornings like today, I cook pancakes for the kids, clean the kitchen for the wife and make it in to the office by the crack of 10:30. It’s not better, it’s not worse. It’s just different. There are people in my line of work that I’ve met who told me they’d gladly take half their salary if they could work 75% of the hours. Concept applies in any line of work, woodworking too.


-- Dad: Someone was supposed to pick up his toys! Son: My name isn't "Someone".

View MarkTheFiddler's profile


2068 posts in 3238 days

#15 posted 10-01-2012 10:00 PM


Thank you so much for the responses. I’ve read your responses and now I am about to contend with some people who’s skills, talents and creativness are things I dearly respect. On top of that, I’ve gotten to know some of you a little and I hold you in very high regard.

You may of course dismiss my comments as Utopian but I’m going to try and keep from backpedaling.

Let’s talk perfection for a second. You see your flaws quite clearly. They stand out like beacons that you lay eyes upon every single time you pass by. You may believe that your flaws have substantial impact on the value of your work. Impact – yes. Substantial degradation in value – not hardly.

All of you know you will never achieve perfection yet I believe it’s in each of your natures to attempt to improve upon your work every time. I think I’m preaching to the choir on this so here goes my metaphor. When I am performing on stage and I make a mistake, I don’t offer a discount. I know I am going to make mistakes. I also know that most people are not going to hear my mistakes – EVEN other musicians. If I act nervous or conscientious, the audience looks for the flaws.

I don’t ask people what’s it worth to them when I play on stage, I tell them what it’s worth and they can take it or ‘leave it’ but it’s a mistake to treat my skills as a commodity. The facts are that most people leave it because it’s out of their budget. They want inexpensive but nobody wants cheap. Heck – you guys are a prime example – look at your tools. You want the best. When you can find it in your budget, you buy the best you can. When you buy the best – you may feel the sting of the price you paid but you also come away with pride of ownership. This new item “The Forrester saw blade”, is something you treasure.

The makers of Forrester blades do not take it personally when you don’t buy their product because of price. It’s not for you or your budget. They are still in business. You are are still buying their blades.

Why are your creations any different?

Now I’m going to get down to the root of a particular matter. You professionals have to eat. When the rent is due, you have to pay it. When the economy is in a downturn, you do what you can to survive. I get it. Trust me that I get it. I know the pain and the nightmares. I “owned” an upholstery shop for years. It feels like an inescapable trap. You prostitute yourselves with ungratifying work. You can’t risk your livlihood by suddenly changing gears and attempting to cater to those with deep pockets. All I can say is, create another brand for yourself. Create the brand that can say “No” if your price is not met. You may get more business by representing both facets. Keep on keeping on with your living but it’s something to think about.

I have got to tell you that I get it. I understand the nature of this beast from your perspective. I also understand it from the perspective of one who occasionally shells out the big bucks for works of art JUST LIKE YOU make. I also understand it from the perspective of one who makes a really good chunk of change for a living and so I see a different price tag to my time than I used to.

I also have a completely different perspective on what ego might be and my own view on at least why I would ever say, “I will never sell”. In my past, I said I don’t need the ego trip associated with being declared an artist when my personal truth was sour grapes. It was ALL about protecting my ego. Rejection of my art was something my EGO couldn’t take. I will “never sell” my wares was again because a rejection would damage my ego.

The weirdest thing of all is to consider that your own humility gives you the freedom to be rejected and not worry about because it does not dent your ego. It does not dent the outward picture or reputation you try to exude because you don’t ever try to make people believe that you are anything. You let them form their own opinions and if they think you are the lowest of the low – you don’t invest in trying to make them think better of you. You just continually invest in making yourself better without any regard to their opinion. Eventually you will sparkle like a gem, not for what you want people to believe about you, but for who you are.

Asking a fair price – Yes – 5000 per duck ;) may cause others who are not confident enough in their art to say your prices are presumptuous. Tell them to try selling at the higher price and that they are worth it. If you can’t help them to see the light – remember it’s about them and not you. It does not mean you should discount yourself or your prices.

Utopian? Yeah sort of. Philosophical drivel? Yeah sort of. Yet my view of things does not end there. I have some extreme rants and raves about the decline of artisans in todays culture. I’ll tell right now that I agree with you all on a great many things but my heart aches for a bit of global enlightenment.

I see that I have really gotten into typing this and some of the perspectives in this thread now differ. I’ll just say – this is my 2 cents worth. Thanks for reading my mind dump. I hope your mind wasn’t damaged in the process.

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

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