Friday, 17 May 2013

If it don't make a dollar, it don't make sense.


"Is that your best price"?

I still get asked that.

Of course it is, I spend a lot of time and care making even the smallest pots, so there is plenty of time to reflect upon time and value. It is carefully considered and it is the best possible price I can imagine.

"And how do you justify that price"?

I used to answer that question as politely as I could under mostly trying circumstances, usually after standing in the rain all day. Something along the lines of ...

"It reflects the time each piece takes".

But when I sit down and think about all the processes involved in making a pot and all the years to get to this point, it becomes quite scary. Not only is there the time to shape and model the clay, the clay first has to be wedged and prepared before even a gesture is made to form it.
There is the scraping and finishing and the careful drying process. Making a large bottle can be spread over a time span of two days or more.
Don't forget bisque firing, and there's the small matter of the cost of electricity and finally glazing the pots of course. Oh, and there is the day or so to pack the wood kiln.
Collecting, cutting and stacking the wood keeps me fit, so I guess it doesn't count in the cost equation and we will throw in making the glaze, it's apprentices work, except I don't have one.
But firing the wood kiln can take 12 or 13 hours and is exhausting work, so I'll include that in the calculations.
Material costs are not huge, clay is not expensive compared to say wood and some of the other ingredients come free, like wood ash. It's there to be taken, it only needs washing, sieving and drying in the sun. I choose to keep other things simple and use low cost glaze materials. China clay and some feldspar or cornish stone just about covers it.

So whilst we are here discussing money, it can cost quite large sums to get a pitch at a craft or ceramics fair, diesel for my little van to get there with my precious cargo and unless I kip in the van, somewhere to stay the nights. We must not forget the mandatory public liability insurance, just in case a pot jumps up and bites someone. Selling through a gallery is much easier of course, except they take a large cut and I end up waiting for the money, sometimes that can take a long, long time.

If I ran this like a large multinational company, every last item would be costed and tendered, every process evaluated and streamlined, focus groups and market research would tell me what I should be making along with the margin that my little bottle should be making.

Potters are resourceful and most things we do ourselves, like designing and building the website. Taking photographs, advertising, building our displays and exhibitions, our accounts and administration.
Making a margin is not the primary consideration when I take a lump of clay from a bag of cold, wet, sticky earth. It's the idea already forming of what it could be. You tear off a chunk, add a piece on, blend it, beat it or even throw it at the floor. The shape comes from the hand and eye and like good blues, straight from the heart and if it doesn't work out ... squish it and try again.

So getting back to your question sir, that bottle you are holding sounds like a real bargain to me ... ...

But I'm not telling you it's only mud and water!