Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Pricing Pottery - What price a good pot?

It's the end of another Year at Barrington Pottery
and I'm sat at the kitchen table as I do every year 
looking back over the last years figures.
Number of pots produced, pots sold, which is
 pretty much the same figure, average selling price,
that sort of thing.
If you just look at the bottom line figures 2013
 was a good year for us with sales up 9% 
on last Year.
But our average selling price is far to low.
I know being a potter is supposed to be a way of life
and not about the money, and I still think that the pots
are the main thing of course they are.
That's why I made some harsh decisions this year about
having people making pots for me, I tried it
but I just could not cope with the fact the pots didn't look
like I had made them, they weren't up to the standard
I have set myself over the past 5 Years, and I'm not having it
I'm not prepared to sell sub standard pots under my name.
Finding the balance between Potter & Business man is very difficult
I'd liken it to that of a tightrope walker, with pots on one end
of the pole and money on the other end.
I speak to my friends that have their own businesses
and they say that I should be chuffed to bits about being 9% up
and in many ways I am.
But at the end of the year we have no spare money to invest in the business
and this a concern.
I've been reading my copy of 
Pioneer Pottery by Michael Cardew
a potters bible if ever there was one.
In this he talks about the
  Just Price
"The doctrine of the just price says that a thing's price should represent the just
reward for faithful and diligent work, sufficient to maintain the maker and his family
 in what is described as "frugal comfort".
The alternative Natural price on the other hand is determined by the market and is ethically impartial: it's prices governed by the mechanism of supply and demand. these can be
disastrously lower or absurdly higher than the Just Price.
A potters output is limited in quantity and there comes a point where if he tried to force himself to increase his output the quality would suffer. It is true that good pots are made quickly.
and it should be the potters aim to make pots that are quick and not dead."

 I read on and it say's
An artist has to find and create his own public. If he follows his own
convictions his public will sooner or later come to him, and he can work for them
while at the same time satisfying himself, making pots in the way they should
 be made, to meet a practical need in an original way. 
 I feel I am doing this
 ( making what I want to make in the way I want to make it)
and I'm going to stick to this as this aspect of my life
allows me to sleep well at night.
it's the finances that keep me awake!
We have big challenges ahead  in 2014 and no doubt
 some prices will have to change, if only to cover the rent increase
the raw material increases and the electricity.
So to do this I'm going to be making some one-off pots
that are sitting inside my head and need to jump out
onto the potters wheel to make room for more,
2014 will see some bigger pots
but made the way I want to make them.
what started out as a difficult blog to write
has ended up with me being all excited about the next Year
and the pots ahead.
Thank you to everyone for supporting us this far on our journey.
Best wishes to you all 2014.


Dennis Allen said...

It is always a struggle and I don't know the U.K. market but it has often struck me that those small baking dishes of yours ( I forget exactly what you call them ) are too cheap and you make so many that it must affect the bottom line.In the end, I feel that "just price" is a nice concept to use when you decide what to make but "natural price" is all you can get in the marketplace. Hopefully the two numbers will move closer together.

Dan Finnegan said...

Great post, Paul. Best wishes to you and Marion for the new year!

Hamish Jackson said...

Happy New Year! I feel for you Paul, pricing is impossible I think because what a pot is worth will vary from person to person. But yes, I would say you could easily boost your prices and certainly for for one offs. We can't all be as frugal as Cardew, washing in rivers and all that!

Stephen said...

It sounds as though you are nearing the 'peak' of your potteries potential.

You can certainly find the optimum pricing with a little work and if you have decided that you do not want to pursue additional production with added staff then once you are working as many hours as you are willing and have optimized your production techniques to your personal limits, then what you have is going to be what you have.

There are some realities to these decisions that I didn't detect in your blog post however.

The most notable being that your pottery can never really become an independent business with this approach. If you get sick, hurt or even pass away, the pottery likely will be closed. If you remain healthy and productive as you age then it will likely just wind down as you do over the years. Since the business will not have any real value beyond equipment to another owner you have nothing to sell down the road should you ever need or want to.

I personally would recommend your consider your artistic and profession journey to be independent of the pottery itself if you in fact want to build a business that can be independent of any individual and have real and growing value to you and your family that transcends your ability to pot. This alternative approach means building a pottery that can provide a rewarding place for many potters to work and create and the pottery can produce a collective body of work that boast of your vision and those that work along side you.

Dixie Nichols said...

This is how I see pricing. If you are not an artist then the way to go is to develop some commercial pieces, hone down the cost of those, which means letting go of the vigor of the piece and having it reproduced somewhere where labour is a lot cheaper than the uk.

If your are an artist then cut the quantity, up the quality, follow your inner eye and as Cardew says "An artist has to find and create his own public. If he follows his own convictions his public will sooner or later come to him, and he can work for them while at the same time satisfying himself, making pots in the way they should be made"

So I think you are dead right, head down, loose the employees, and make the very best individual pieces you can and price them high Nobody needs to buy art, there is no moral problem. Your sales will be far fewer but each sale will bring significant income. And as your reputation increases your prices will balloon.

There will be people who don't buy because they can't afford to. There will be people who don't buy because they don't like the work enough and there will be people who believe in you and aspire to owning one of your pieces and will buy one whenever they can. You will know who they are after their first purchase and you will make a habit of tempting them with your new lovelies That most certainly is an excellent business.

I don't agree with Stephen at all you can pot into great old age and if you are good its your not yet sold pieces which will bump up your pension, the second you stop making they become even more desirable.

The key is prove to yourself that you are an artist

I've Finally reached the Dark side of the moon!

I'm back on the Blog again and Why? Because The Chinese have landed on the dark side of the moon? No, because I have time, time ...