The Elephant that Sat on my Canvas

Thinking about the difficulty of pricing handmade art and craft:

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Elephants. They are so lovely and smart. But they do like to sit down sometimes.  It’s alot of weight to haul around. 

photo by Leon Buter

I’ve been thinking about something that makes us ALL uncomfortable; something that is so verbotin in the art world that you don’t even hear it discussed much among artists themselves.  It’s huge, it’s weird, it makes you queasy, and can often lead to tears and reprisals.  It’s almost always the elephant in the room when a gallery representative meets with an artist. I am talking about money and art. 

For some reason, maybe because folks think that owning a gallery makes someone a kind of prophet about pricing, I get to have this queasy sensation almost on the daily.  It’s one of the reasons I always say, ‘Here’s our policy for pricing; please think it through and work it out and see if your work can sell for that price and you will still be happy with results if it sells.”  Or will you miss that piece and consider it the one that got away, or worse, that the gallery owner talked you into selling it.  Oh no! 

Let me put this observation out for your consideration:

The reason it hurts to discuss pricing of art is because we are being asked to put a value on something beyond value; a creation that you brought into the world – essentially, your offspring.  It seems course and cruel to do such a thing to something so lovely.  (and yet, there might be a number of other lovelies growing in your closets or garage that your sig. other is asking you to thin!)

Also:  To put a value on something we create seems like a judgement of our very selves.  It hits onto so many ego points.  Think about our sense of smell.  Scientists say it was most likely one of our most reptilian senses – something that we developed early on as a species and which is still so directly linked to our brains that we collect clues via our nose that tell us things before our brain is even fully aware or has time to respond.  It is kind of like that with the relationship of art/ego/pricing.  We get a kneejerk reaction, or a gut punch if you will, when someone criticizes our work.  And to have someone think it should sell for less than we think is an extension of that criticism.  So, it’s really a sticky subject. 

Maybe just by understanding our own motivations for making art will help us come to terms with the reality of pricing, should it become something you want to do.  Not all art is made to sell – it’s for the maker to enjoy, share, and even offer a window to their souls that might be a delicate offering only to the special ones in their lives.  I really do get that.  But when you start to want to sell things, please realize it might take some time to journey into your own ego needs and find out where art resides in your needs spectrum.  Maybe you need money more than a full closet of art – that will inform your pricing.  Or maybe you just want to show the world what you are capable of doing, and have a way to put it out to the masses and don’t care if it sells.  That’s okay too.  It’s really all okay – but it also doesn’t hurt to do a little soul searching.  Thanks for reading.  Now, go back to creating!  : )