Friday, June 26, 2009

What do I want to make an hour?

This entry is prompted by a question from my last blog. Wow, it has taken me some time to figure out how to say it, so I thought I would just post some of my thoughts. I know that whatever I say, some folks will think it too much and some will think it too little.
To begin to be compensated for the experience, sweat, and physicality of being a potter, I would like to be making $20 an hour. It's not chicken feed and it's not caviar fare.

Now, I know these things:

  1. Health insurance could eat up to 1/3 of that salary. I now have it through my husband's group plan. We have experienced enough illness and medical expenses from his kidney transplant that I can not imagine being without health insurance. I really do not consider it a luxury and it frightens the daylights out of me that so many artists go without it.
  2. Any money I make, I have to allow that I will be paying 16% approx. as a self-employed person for social security. So that comes off the top and reduces that $20 down to $16.80 or so.
  3. I will not be working at artist wages 40 hours a week. Much of my time is spent answering the phone, typing invoices, mixing glazes, recycling clay, changing the light bulbs and air conditioner filters, cleaning the toilets, etc. How to balance this is a mystery to me.
  4. I have a personal goal to get to $50,000 a year in sales in the near future. I am not there yet by a long shot and I would not be able to afford to pay myself that $20 an hour weekly wage because the expenses/costs of doing business are more than $8400 a year. Just my power, water and phone bill run $325 a month, not including any property/car insurance, rent, business licenses, internet web hosting, email programs, postage, clay and glaze materials, gas, boxes, bubble wrap, etc.......
  5. I do understand all the arguments that we are not making "needed" things. Yet we are surrounded by "unneeded" things that people choose to spend their discretionary monies on. To name a few: cigarettes, body art, paintings, music, television, movies. I happen to think that my pottery is just as important as the local tatoo artist's work. I have no idea what a good tatoo art makes. I do know my son has dropped some money on body art and it's not cheap. I'm not sure I even know how to spell it right!
  6. Part of what I want is to create a decent living wage as an example to up and coming artists that they can choose to work at something they love and get paid for. I really hate being embarrassed when someone asks me if "They can make a good living at pottery?" I feel like I am not doing it now. So one of the steps for me is to identify my true costs and look at this profession like a business, then set goals of income and wages, work towards those and then up the ante to higher stakes.

That's all I can handle on the subject for now. You can comment back with any ideas you have on how insane or sane some of this is.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The bottom line in pricing work

I got contacted about quoting for making a large quantity of a piece that I sell wholesale. The sheer numbers really sent me into a small tizzy and I have been trying to figure out why. I think it has to do with a few things, but mostly the Bottom Line. This is such a hard thing to confront for most artists, including me. I mean, how much does it really cost to make something, how long does it take and are you actually paying yourself for making it?
So, to answer all those questions, I decided
  • to time myself in making 5 pieces in order to figure how long it will take and what an hourly wage would be for that
  • weigh how much clay each piece took
  • project clay costs including driving to get it
  • estimate about a 20 percent failure rate (I think it is less than this, so I may end up with pieces I can use in my inventory for future sales)
  • weigh a fired, finished piece
  • figure how many pieces per bisque and glaze firing
  • figure how much packing material I would need for the order
  • refigure the cost of firing my kilns
  • estimate the cost of glazes and mixing them
  • allow costs for help in packing/shipping
  • estimate the raw cost of shipping, not including materials and time

Now I at least have the info I need to put together a proposal that is informed and would assure me that I wasn't about to work my rear off only to recoup my costs.

The other issue, of course, is how to accept that your proposal may not work for the other party. It is Business, after all. So I realized I had to suck up my personal feelings and just put the figures on the table. If they agree, then we will both have gained. If they pass on it because it doesn't work for them, that says nothing about the quality and value of my work.

Even though it did send my stomach into a spin trying to figure all this, it reaffirmed that the prices I have placed on those pieces are grounded in some sort of reality, not just a figure picked from the sky. That gives me a lot more confidence when putting that sticker on a piece.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Documenting Communion and Baptistry Sets

These are the images of the Communion and Baptistry Set that I finished in May.
It always perplexes me how long it takes me to get things finished. I mean the documentation, not the work. Work seems to go fast. It's the billing, photography, moving photos off the camera, saving, changing to a small size for the blog, marking the cd so I can find them later........and then there's the whole problem of creating computer files and not having to scroll through endless photos or documents to find the ones you want. This is the area I need organizational help with. What do you do?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Whitney Smith, Interesting view on being a potter

I have been following this blog for a while and really enjoy Whitney Smith's take on being a potter and life in the fast lane. I intend to add it to my list on the side bar when I get a chance to modify my blog template.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Twits, Faces, Blogs, Farms

Seems like I am always running behind on the list of to-dos. My weekend list was very long, including personal, business, Jim's business, friend stuff and no entries on the blog for a while. I have been contemplating Twitter, but just don't seem to see how I would have time to add this to my communication outflow. I hardly check the Facebook account and don't feel like I am really managing it. Even with my website and blog, I haven't added an email sign-up, which I have been meaning to do for a long time. Ron beat me to it. He also got out promo packets (also on my list for a long time).
On the ceramic front, I did get new art out to Grovewood Gallery in Asheville and Island Artworks in Ocracoke and have more to send to a botanical garden in Virginia.
I've been working on small sauce bowls for a wedding order and got 33 thrown yesterday. Today will be trimming them and seeing how a kiln load of refires fared. I so hate doing refires..... Just had some pinholing and haven't figured if I need to extend my soak (that's holding the kiln at the top temperature in order to give the liquified glazes time to stop gassing and boiling and smooth out). It's already at an hour and 15 minutes. Sometimes refiring to a lower temperature with patches of new glaze on the pinholes solves the problem and sometimes it makes it worse. Old acne breakout memories!
On the friend front I cooked this morning. I have a friend going through radiation and she is at the point where she is very tired. So, I just doubled up on quiches and a casserole. Tomorrow I'll make my favorite soup--yes I do know it's 500 degrees outside but I like soup all year round.
Hope your list is shorter than mine and you get yours finished with time to spare today!

Oh.....the farm thing is my sister tells me she is tending a farm on Facebook. Maybe I'll sneak a peak tonight and see how she is doing with the taters and 'maters (potatoes and tomatoes).

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Quite a while

Yes, it has been a while since the last entry. Lots of pots being made and fired. Lots of Tides of Man pendants being made in preparation for the band's tour. They leave next week and have their first show in Cleveland, Ohio on June 18. Then to Pittsburg on the 19th and New Jersey on the can catch the rest of the tour dates on their website at the link above. They will be criss-crossing the country for about 6 weeks. I do not envy the driving, loading, unloading, setting up and breaking down. Sounds like the life of a potter, eh? Anyway, the guys are very excited about breaking into the music industry and we're hoping all goes very well on this first tour.