Pricing textile art
One of the main conundrums that arises from the familiar ‘Craft Vs Art’ debate is how to price textile art. Even within established groups of well-respected practitioners pricing varies wildly.
How can you possibly be objective about your own work? And how on earth do you assess its ‘value’? It must be tempting to base your price-point on intangibles like how much angst you went through in the creative process or how much of a personal connection you feel to a particular piece. But these can never provide true justification for plucking a figure out of the air!
For an artist just starting out it’s important to realise that to begin with the monetary ‘value’ of your art isn’t a direct reflection of your worth or talent as a practitioner; nothing is worth anything until it sells!
In this article, we’ll explore 3 methods for pricing textile art. The first is based on costs, the second on market, and the third on perceived value; my aim is that you’ll be able to identify the one that best suits your current position and put it into practice.
When you’re first starting out as a textile artist, your work will have no perceived value at all; you don’t yet have any credentials and potential buyers don’t know you or your art. Therefore the easiest way to come up with pricing for your work is to calculate your costs as accurately as possible and add a mark-up to ensure some profit. It’s tricky, but ideally the creative process of starting a new piece will be balanced with a business-like approach to recording the facts and figures.
Materials and supplies
First of all what is your expenditure related to materials? How much do your supplies cost? Ideally record everything you buy, as you buy it – from dyes and thread through to replacement parts for your sewing machine.
What are you worth?
Then there is the cost of your time. Only you can make a decision what that is worth, but I’d recommend setting an hourly rate and keeping good records of how much time you spend on a particular piece of work. When you first start out, be realistic. Textile art is time consuming and a high hourly rate may mean your final piece is too expensive for people to consider buying.
You may also want to include a reasonable percentage of your day-to-day expenses, such as studio rent, electricity and heating charges, marketing efforts and admin costs.
Making a profit
Once you have arrived at a figure for your costs, you need to ensure you will make at least some profit, even when starting out. Perhaps to begin with you’ll be happy to recoup the cost of your time and materials, but as you sell more, try and add a profit-margin outside of those considerations.
Once you are a little more established, you can begin to consider pricing your work based more on what is going on in your particular market or its perceived value.
Knowing your market inside out
To begin with you’ll need a good idea of where your work fits (is it high-end craft or fine art for example?) and what the current trends are in this sector. Here are a few ways to evaluate this:
What are comparable artists charging?
Consider your position in the art world in comparison to other artists working in textiles or mixed-media. Research artists who:
- Work in a similar medium to you
- Produce work of a comparable style
- Have a similar range of experience and accomplishments
- Have a comparable reputation and profile
- Have exhibited in similar venues
- Are aiming at a comparable customer base
Once you have assessed where you fit into the picture, try and be competitive; yes it sounds corporate but you are in competition with other artists and one way to make your work more attractive is its price. Please don’t ignore what makes you unique in other ways though; that will create a far more compelling reason for people to buy your art than a few pounds saving!
What are buyers willing to pay?
When researching art in a similar bracket to yours make sure you’re also looking at which pieces the comparable artists are actually selling. They may produce work ranging from £100-£10,000, but only actually sell pieces priced between £100 and £1,000. It might be clever to pitch the majority of your work in this ballpark.
Where are your buyers?
The price you set for your work will vary depending on whether you are selling locally, nationally or internationally. Also consider the arenas in which your art sells; if your main platform is Etsy, don’t waste time analysing art being sold in high-end galleries.
What do people looking for a piece of textile art place ‘value’ on? Identifying to what degree you and your work fulfills their requirements will give you a good guide for pricing. It’s tricky to evaluate your own perceived ‘value’ as an artist, but try and be as objective as possible when answering the following questions:
- How unique or different is your work within the niche of textile art?
- What benefits or features does a person receive by purchasing your art?
- How extensive and impressive is your resume?
- Is your sales history solid?
Once you have a few sales under your belt, you can start to reassess your work’s ‘value’ by asking past buyers what appealed to them and why they purchased a particular piece. Knowing what your customers place the most worth on will help you market and sell your work.
Remember that ‘value’ is extremely subjective; some people will buy your art and feel they are getting a bargain whilst others couldn’t possibly conceive of spending anything like the amount you’re asking – and that’s more likely to do with their own financial situation than how much value they place on what you’ve created.
More tips for pricing textile art
- Don’t focus solely on the world of textiles when researching how to price your work. Think about other niches you can fit into. TextileArtist.org interviewee Dave Lieske stitches portraits that appeal to fans of Hip Hop; it would be neglectful for him to ignore this market.
- When you start to experience a consistent degree of success and have a proven track record of sales for at least a year, you might want to consider raising your prices. If you sell at least half of what you make, try an increase by 10% each year. But don’t raise prices based on whimsy – justify the increase based on facts.
- Be consistent with your pricing. Don’t price one piece at £800 and another of comparable size and structure at £2500 just because you prefer it.
- If you’re selling on the internet, consider including postage and packaging in the base price; ‘free’ shipping can be very appealing to potential buyers.
- Price your textile art based on what complete strangers will pay for it, not what Great Aunt Maude gave you for one of your early pieces.
- When exhibiting in a group-show, try and submit work that falls in a similar price range to that of the other artists. An item that is disproportionately expensive will induce ‘sticker shock’ and most likely not result in a sale.
- Displaying prices in your online gallery can be an indicator of trustworthiness. Being cryptic by not divulging how much a piece costs can seem like you’re playing a game and that you’ll charge differently depending on how much you currently need the cash! It can also discourage people from getting in touch for fear of embarrassment that they won’t be able to follow through with the sale due to the piece being over their budget.
- Remember that market conditions change; you’d be well advised to adapt to the ups and downs that will occur.
- Have something for everyone. You may have avid fans who simply can’t afford to buy your most expensive work. If you create smaller pieces to satisfy the demand, these people will stick with you and become your loyal advocates (and if and when they have the money, invest in a larger, more expensive piece of work).
- A great way to reward and encourage loyalty is to offer discounts to repeat buyers, but be sure not to devalue your work by offering constant promotions.
Putting these tips for pricing textile art into action will place you in a stronger position for justifying the value of your work and hopefully result in more sales. And remember sales create sales. Good luck!
How do you come up with a price for your work? Share your tips in the comments section below.