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The benchmark for art prices should be set at a point that enables artists to earn a living from their labours. It may help to calculate the time you spend making a work (at a reasonable rate per hour), the cost of materials (including framing, clay, fabric, paints, glazes etc.) and a proportion of your overheads (rent, insurance, heating, lighting, personal promotional costs etc.). This will help you appreciate how much it actually costs you to create each piece and sets the lowest threshold below which you should not be selling your work. You then need to consider what price the market is likely to bear - by looking at prices charged for similar work by other artists and craftspeople.

Gallery prices

Artists and visitors alike often think that work on sale at an open studio should be cheaper than the same work would be in a professional gallery because galleries take a percentage, often 50%. However the gallery percentage is to pay for the overheads involved in displaying the work: rent, rates, salaries, heating, lighting, advertising costs, wine and food for the opening etc. At an open studio you are bearing those costs yourself. You may not be paying any salaries but you are putting in your own valuable time, not to mention asking friends and family to do the same.

Bear in mind too that it is unwise to undercut local galleries as this could make them unwilling to display your work. Within the constraints of considerations of location (prices that look commonplace in London might outrage citizens of smaller places), it is more satisfactory to arrive at a price that you think your work is worth and always to display it at the same price. Look on the extra that you receive when you sell from your studio as your 'gallery' costs.

This is not to say that you shouldn't be prepared to negotiate on price! One of the advantages of selling your own work is that you have direct contact with the customer and can discuss price with them.

Starting from scratch

If you are pricing a body of work from scratch it can help to pick your favourite piece and set a price that you would rather have than the work. Then take the piece you like least and do the same. This will give you your top and bottom prices and provide a reference for the rest of the work.

Of course it's not as simple as that and there are a few conventions about pricing artwork that you should take into account. Except in the case of miniatures, size matters you should charge more for larger pieces than for smaller ones. Oil paintings command higher prices than watercolours. You can charge a great deal more for one-off pots than you can for pieces you churn out by the dozen, regardless of how handcrafted they are.

Once you start to sell work you cant reduce your prices. Buyers expect art, like diamonds, houses and shares to go up in value.

In many ways, it is better not to sell a piece of work if there is a danger that you will let it go too cheaply - because this only devalues your work and the work of all artists. You can discourage purchase of pieces you want to keep by pricing very high (but be prepared for someone still wanting to buy!). Alternatively, put NFS or a red dot on your reserved pieces.


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