Thursday, May 20, 2010

Expensive pots in the gallery ...




Sooner or later, I had to price the pots that are upstairs in the new gallery. So I did that this afternoon. Can I actually get $50 for a teabowl? Or $100 for a medium-size pitcher? I have no idea.
I think any of you who do this for a living have been through this business of pricing work. What is a mug worth? $10? $20? $40? Or a cereal bowl? Or a dinner plate? Or the very best anything that you have ever made?
That's the problem I'm dealing with right now. The point of renovating the space over the studio was to have a gallery that will display the very best pots that are coming off my wheel and out of my kiln. I can remember a time not too long ago ... well, maybe 15 years ago ... when I thought long and hard about charging $10 for a mug. And was amazed when someone paid that for it. Today, I put $50 price tags on maybe 20 of what I think are very good teabowls. And everything else took prices that reflect that kind of value - $250 for a wood-fired pitcher, $100 for a vase glazed with Shino pours, $75 for a particularly good slab plate.
I can remember asking a student of mine 12 or 13 years ago to pick up a Phil Rogers teabowl for me when she was in London. She did, a lovely one. Also, shockingly, a $75 one. And now, at the Pucker Gallery in Boston, Phil and Randy Johnston and other such potters are getting $300 for teabowls. So I'm not there yet. Still ... $50 sounds like a lot of money.
But I've felt for a while that the kind of work I was making resulted a few times in each firing in some particularly good pots. The shapes worked just right with the Shinos, better than most of the pots. And shouldn't the best work be priced higher than the normal good work? That's the thought.
But I produce a lot of pots and my shed gallery is a bit of a jumble of clay, even when it's "organized." And the best stuff gets lost among the good stuff. Hence the new space, the good light, the relative isolation of these pots from their sibling pots. At this point, I don't even know who will get up to the new gallery. Access is via our dining room or through the studio. If I'm not on the property, no one gets to the upstair room. Which is fine.
But if I'm here, to whom do I offer a look at the upstairs pots? I don't get that many people dropping by to see pots, even in the summer. We're on an out-of-the-way road outside of town, populated by motorcycle riders and golfers heading to the local course. Some people find us via the website or the blog or the Cape Cod Potters brochure, but not that many. And there are times when I can just tell that my pots are not going to be what they're looking for. So ... do I offer a look upstairs to everyone? Do I wait for a clue from the pot gods that these particular visitors might want to see better work?
I know why we changed that room upstairs and I love seeing the way the pots stand in the light of the room. I don't think it was the wrong thing to do. I just wonder how it's all going to work out.

21 comments:

Tracey Broome said...

Offer them food and wine and they will come! I certainly don't think that $50 is too much to ask for your tea bowls. We use ours every single day and they would have been worth $50 to us. Your space looks just beautiful! Hope I can get there to visit it one day.

FetishGhost said...

Beautiful, beautiful work.

Hannah said...

Pricing - I HATE IT!

Hollis Engley said...

Thanks, Trace. And that food and wine thing is something I've thought about. Come on up and visit. And thanks, Zyg. I just looked at your Etsy page. Great stuff. love the skulls and bones.

Hollis Engley said...

I'm with you, Hannah.

doug Fitch said...

It looks amazing Hollis

mudheartpottery said...

Hollis,
this is great work and we all hate pricing but your work deserves these figures. I live in a really remote mining community of 3,000 and I have the same dilemma and I absolutely love shino but it doesn't get the response it deserves. I am sure you will get the visitors knocking at your door.

Hollis Engley said...

Thanks, Doug. Love that portrait on your post today. And thanks for the vote of confidence, Lyn. We'll find out, won't we?

Linda Starr said...

Your gallery space is wonderful and if I was in the neighborhood I would love to visit since I get a great feeling from the space. working in clay has made me realize when seeing the "fruits" of the labor it's truly something to appreciate especially in the presence of the maker. Your new gallery space makes me feel that way from the photos and I am sure would be so much more rich in person.

togeii said...

Your gallery space looks great. I often think about pricing too. I think if someone likes a piece they will usually buy it right away with little thought about price unless the price is way too cheap or way too expensive.
Dave

Nu Kua said...

Your gallery looks beautiful! So do your pots, they are gorgeous!
My thought on pricing.... :-)
Put prices on your pots that are comfortable to you and that reflect the time, effort and love the maker has put in.
I am convinced that the right people at the right time will show up to buy your beautiful work when you are comfortable with the prices yourself.

grtz,
Monique

Mr. Young's Art said...

I would save up my pennies for any of those items in the studio, and someday I will choose one. They are well worth whatever price you put on them - they are great work.

ang said...

man there's some gorgeous pieces, ahhh price it and they will come...ha.. hope you gets lots of joy from that space hollis..

Hollis Engley said...

Thanks, everyone. I'll let you know how things go over the season. But I appreciate the words and the support. Another lovely day here on Cape Cod. Time to shovel out the studio and get back to making pots.

Hollis Engley said...

And Dave, that new kiln looks like an enormous project. Good luck with it.

ladyofclay said...

Hi Hollis,
These pots have that intrinsic essence of what hand made pottery should be. I think the reasoning process that you have gone through with the gallery you have created is well thought out and sound.
I do agree with all the comments so far ( oh, man, PRIcING ones own work ! )
I would like to add that, since you have pointed out that there isn't a lot of traffic at your end of the road, perhaps your gallery will be a stepping stone in order for you to "see" them and choose or be chosen which to send on to a more public/higher traffic venue. I do think that, through your special filtering system, these pots will now been seen by the right people, in the right setting.

cindy shake said...

Cape Cod is on my "must travel to" list. I subscribe to the P-Town Banner and enjoy reading about the goings on somewhere complete opposite of my 'hood!

You've transformed your upstairs space -it's beautiful! I'm with Tracey -an open Studio/Gallery shin-dig with food, beverages and music. Get the word out and don't compromise they will come -hopefully with VISA in hand! Your work is exceptional.

Hollis Engley said...

Thanks, Cindy. Maybe I can get someone to bring oysters. And come on down. One of our local potters here, Ann Newbury, does part of her year in Eagle River. So we can find someone for you who speaks Alaskan.

togeii said...

Hello Hollis,
The new kiln is ready to be fired. I am gathering work I have fired once and making new work. I hope to fire it just before August.
Dave

Hollis Engley said...

Good luck with it, Dave. Make sure you post photos.

Ron Mello Studio Pottery etc said...

The new space looks wonderful Hollis.. I agree about the agony of pricing.. These days I sell more small bowls and brushes than anything. I do enjoy making bowls.. I can't seem to settle on a specific form. Hope to get to Falmouth this summer. Do you have particular hours at the showroom?