Please… price properly, people

Pricing handmade work properly is always a concern for makers who book onto the jewellery business workshop I teach in Sussex a couple of times a year.  Generally, makers are nervous about charging properly for their work, but it breaks my heart to see talented makers charging prices that risk them never making a profit, or ending up disillusioned and burned out.

Costings are often a thorny issue:  inexperienced jewellers often cost a piece per component – fine if you buy a pack of 20 clasps and sell 20 necklaces made with the clasps, but if you end up only selling 1 necklace, the component cost for the clasp isn’t  1/20th of the packet price – it’s the full price.  Yes, you have 19 unused clasps in stock for future use, but the cost of these has to be set against any profit for the necklace you did sell.

Sterling silver, fabricated, £49.95 per pair

Sterling silver, fabricated, £49.95 per pair

New makers often baulk at the need to fix a trade price (the price they can make and wholesale to galleries or shops at, and still make a profit) and a retail price (usually around double the trade price, to allow a profit margin for stockists).  The truth is that too many makers unwisely sell their work direct to the public at trade prices – until they wise up and realise that they’re never going to be able to work with galleries and retailers successfully like this.

If you sell your work direct to the public (from your website or a selling forum like Etsy) and via a stockist (and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t), it’s really not done to undercut your stockist by selling cheaper than they can.  Level pricing across your various selling venues is the way to go – after all, why should a gallery promote you as a maker if the thanks they get is you undercutting them and nicking the sales?  And they won’t take kindly to hearing from customers that your work is available more cheaply via your own website.

The standard 100% mark-up on top of trade prices that many galleries charge might seem extortionate to the uninitiated, but galleries and shops generally have very high retail rents, business rates, heating, lighting, insurance, phone and broadband fees, staff costs, card payment machine and website costs – these add up to hundreds of pounds every week, whether customers are buying, or not.  My partner runs Cuckoo Cuckoo, a beautiful contemporary crafts gallery on the South East coast, and believe me, we consider he’s doing well if he can cover the rent and other outgoings – and that’s before paying himself anything.  In quiet months, his own salary can’t always be paid – not an unusual story – the well-established Weekend Gallery round the corner couldn’t get through these tough times, and very sadly has recently closed.  Running a gallery is definitely a labour of love.

It does make me go “Grrrr”” when makers undervalue their work, and don’t price it properly, claiming they don’t need to make any money as it’s “just a hobby”.  Spare a thought for the makers who do need to earn a crust from their making – by pricing at or less than the true cost of the piece, you’re skewing the market’s expectation of price, and scuppering professional makers’ chances of getting a fair price for their work.

Plus, time and time I get told my my jewellery students that, although it was a confidence boost to sell at all initially (even to friends and friends’ friends at cheap prices), it established a precedent so their contacts then baulk at paying a fair price for the same work, further down the line.

For obvious reasons, makers rarely talk about costs.  But I think the public needs to know the actual cost of that lovingly- and locally-made unique handmade treasure they’re admiring in a gallery window.  Take the Solo Bird stud earrings in the pic, for example – at £49.95 per pair, they’re not exactly cheap.  Remember, though, when sold via a gallery, I get half this sum (eventually – often after many months – but that’s another story).  My cut is £24.97 of the retail price.  I have to buy the precious metal for the earrings for this (around £12).  From the £12.97 left from the retail price, I have to pay for Special Delivery shipping to the gallery (or petrol to deliver the work, if I’m near enough), pay for the presentation card and packaging, plus pay my studio overheads, including rent and electricity, website costs, phone, and so on. Bear in mind that I haven’t allowed anything for the not inconsiderable time taken to actually make and polish each pair yet, and you see why I have been known to get a bit narky about the need for proper pricing in crafts.

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Sometimes the most creative thing to do is to stop

Perching Bird with Stand Brooch (sterling silver, steel, plexiglass, found plastic, 2013)

Perching Bird with Stand Brooch (sterling silver, steel, plexiglass, found plastic, 2013)

The best laid plans of designers and makers often go awry.  Buoyed up by a really excellent week (a fab new stockist in Brighton, and news that I’ve been selected as a new maker by exclusive online boutique Seek & Adore), I’d planned a full day’s making in the studio.

Maybe due to the adrenaline of the week’s excitements dissipating, or perhaps due to my 21-year-old ginger cat giving me a whiskery awakening at 4am, I came over all exhausted by noon, and have retired to bed.

Typical lazy creative, I hear you thinking. Not so:  this craftsperson juggles three part-time roles around the limitations of some pretty hefty health issues. So, for me, historically someone who drives myself to a really quite dumb degree, the creative thing to do was recognise the knackeredness, and take it easy for once.

After all, as godmother of British ballet Ninette de Valois said: “somebody must always be doing something new, or life would get very dull”.  My new thing is to take time to recharge, rather than always running on empty.

And to appease my inner Protestant work ethic (damn that work ethic), heres’s a picture of my new Perching Bird Brooch with Stand design, completed last week.