View Full Version : How to Price My Work?

06-13-2005, 06:30 PM
Sorry if I'm asking another newbie question, but I'm wondering how most of you go about pricing your work. As you may know, I'm getting set up to produce bronzes from my digital originals, via rapid prototyping, and I'm currently researching the costs of doing this so I can then arrive at a price for my work.

It's my perception, from what I've seen, so far, that a good price range for pieces not more than 10" in any dimension, from a new sculptor is about $500 to $1,000. I'm trying to arrange for production costs that enable me to include at least a 50% markup and still remain within that range. Does this sound about right, or am I asking too much or too little?


06-13-2005, 09:11 PM
Gary - My marketing experience is quite limited, but I'd say your estimate of $500 to $1,000 fora work in that size range is reasonable, but you might find some resistance even there. It really depends on the area you reach. Your work is quite unique, in my experience, and I find it quite good, so both those factors work in your favor.

The most quoted rule of thumb says something like “triple your production cost”. One third for production, one third for the gallery or sales agent, and one third for you. As many galleries today expect about a 50% commission on the sales price, you might come up short that way, and you might multiply your production cost by 4.

For a first-timer, though, almost any sales are better than none, so you might also that into account. On the other side of this equation, once a sales range is established, it’s probably difficult to raise prices quickly. Your business approach seems quite good, but all these factors may enter.

iron ant
06-13-2005, 10:19 PM
Although this information might be dated,but Fay Gold,one of the Souths most exstablished art dealers told me in the early 90,s $800 for works that can be cast or knocked out quickly was a great selling starting point.I noticed when Tommie Rush,Glass artist Richard Jollys wifes work entered the gallery it was$800.She is in galleries all over the country now ,and I am sure you can not touch one for that.His heads started at $4000 then $8000,and now I think they are closer to $25,ooo.Right work,right place,right timming,a lot of hard work,and hey it could be you...............I like Fritchie,s mindset about markup too,and of course it really has a lot to do with the market and gallery you are in.

06-14-2005, 07:33 PM
I have pieces made from resin and bronze powder *bronze powder is expensive* which are about 2 ft x 2ft bas relief wall hangings they sell for 800 canadian and the gallery ta kes 40%. so when it comes down to profit I make probably $250. My question would be this after you have gained some public awareness of your work through a major bronze commision when do you start raising your prices?

06-14-2005, 10:35 PM
Thanks for the very good tips, guys! :D

Fritchie, I'm reluctant to ask three or four times production costs, especially for such small pieces. But then, we are talking about the small sculpture market, here. On that thought, what is the upward limit of what would be considered "small" sculpture, anyway? I'm guessing somewhere around 24" in any one dimension. The problem, as I see it, is balancing between what I need, the fact that I'm new, and the buyer's perception of value for the money. I don't want to make my work so small that collectors will think it's too small in relation to the price. But, on the other hand, the larger the work, the higher my production costs are and, thus, the higher the price to the collector. But, if a gallery typically marks up my price (mine being the "wholesale" price), it's easily going to rise, anyway. So, I'm trying to get an idea as to what the balance should be; where to draw the line in both size and production cost, so I can make something on the sale and not drive away buyers in a market that is small and difficult to sell to, in the first place. As an example, Mother & Child, which I've resized to only 8 3/4"x7"x6 1/2" would cost me $339 just for the wax pattern for the bronze casting. I don't know, yet, how much the finished casting would add to that; maybe another $200 or so? If that's correct, then I'm at $539 already, give or take a little. If I add a 300% or 400% markup, that jumps to $1,617 to $2,156. I think it would be very difficult to sell a piece that small at that price range. But then, I don't know, yet. By the way, I probably won't produce Mother & Child, afterall. Bathsheba Grossman told me it would probably be problematic, at best to build at any size, due to structural concerns.

I was trying to get an idea about pricing by looking at online galleries, but couldn't find much that was close to mine in style and size range. I did find some excellent pieces by Richard Erdman, who's style is fairly close to mine. His are a little bit larger than the maximum I can get produced with a wax printer (there is a 10" build envelope), and the lowest price I saw on any of his pieces was $4,500 for a 10"x15"x5" bronze titled "Situ." Of course, he's a pro with an international reputation and it shows in his other pieces, which range from $9,000 to $48,000. At that price, we're talking about his "Continuum," which is a 63"x44"x46" bronze.

Maybe I'm making too much of a big thing out of the size of a piece, anyway. It's not the size, but the forms and whether they move the viewer or not that will result in a sale, given the buyer has the money and, if he does, he'll probably have no qualms about it. As a photography instructor of mine, in college, once said, there are two ways to price your work: you can charge a small price and sell a lot, or you can charge a high price and sell only a few. Either way, it all works out about the same and if anyone balks at the price and thinks he can do better elsewhere, he's welcome to try. Maybe I'll take your advice, Fritchie and, if someone does buy, then that's where I start from.


06-15-2005, 10:05 PM
Gary - I was giving you the official story with that 3 to 4x production price estimate. As you say, the real issues are how to get enough sales to build a reputation, and then how and when to raise your prices so you begin to feel rewarded financially for all your effort. In every business, beginners start small.

The truth is, I’ve never charged even three times my production cost. I think you are on the right track, but I’d say, survey the market as best you can, and then (as they say with swimming) just jump in with a best guess.

On another point, I like your estimate of about 2 feet max dimension for “small” to “moderate” sized work, in a cast medium. That seems to fit how New Orleans galleries introduce beginners. I’d take a stab that a target retail price for one of your works in that size range might be about $3000 to $4000, depending on the local market. If you and/or the gallery think that is steep, work down a bit.

And, I’m quite interested in your statement that seems to say you can get a “wax print” directly from your computer files. Is this the case? That would be a great advance for this technology and might really help open the market.

06-18-2005, 08:42 AM
For my first show, I priced my sculptures at what I thought they were worth... and quickly adjusted the numbers (downwards) after I got my first "Well you certainly think a lot of yourself"-look.

I, too, looked at some online galleries to find work which is similar, and tried to price along those lines. It's difficult though, because they may be catering to a market which is different from yours. I actually use the "triple your production costs"-rule as a guideline by tripling the cost of the materials by three for a ballpark number, then adjusting the number to get a number which reflects what someone might pay for it.

You also have to consider whether to price for what you think it's worth or what you think someone else thinks its worth. Personally, I price closer to what I think a buyer might pay (which is normally less than what I think it's actually worth) because I want to sell the work. I'm sure there are artists who would never do that because it could be seen as devaluing their art, but that's a personal decision.

06-18-2005, 11:12 AM
Thanks, Fritchie. I think you're probably right about that $3,000 to $4,000 range for first timers' small sculpture. Pieces under 24", and especially under 12" would probably fall into the range of about $500 to $1,500, then, I would imagine. If so, I'm in the right range with my pricing, so far.

I like Julianna's technique of pricing to what she thinks the buyer will pay. I, too, have used this approach in arriving at my pricing, so far. I marked up my production costs by four and found that was too high, so I went down to three times production cost and I hit a figure that was still a little higher than I thought anyone would actually pay. I finally wound up with a markup of 220% that produces a reasonable $975 price for a piece that costs me $443 to make, and I'm including shipping in that.

Fritchie, yes, "wax printing" is the process of producing a wax investment casting pattern (it's really a wax-like composite material that burns out just like wax, but is stronger) using a rapid prototyping printer that builds up the piece one thin layer at a time. For more technical info, see American Precision Prototyping (www.approto.com), or, for info on direct metal printing (which skips the pattern making step and goes, as the name implies, directly to producing the piece in metal), see Prometal, which is the company used by Bathsheba Grossman (www.prometal.com).


06-21-2005, 05:44 AM
Thanks for the information, Gary. I was tied up a couple of days and haven’t been on, but I recognized shortly after asking about wax and metal printing that I had missed a different post of yours on the subject.

On the “Triple production costs” formula, we sculptors need to recognize that about 90% of art consists of painting (or today, something equally low in production cost, such as assemblage), and that the initial costs for these people can be up to ten times less, proportionally, than for sculptors.

We sculptors are in our own small art corner, but it’s the BEST, IMHO.

06-21-2005, 05:57 AM
Very true. It is a painter's world, afterall. Good thing I can paint, too. ;)

Seriously, though, many artists do have their foot in each camp at the same time and some even stress their painting over their sculpture. For me, I'm not really marketing my painting right now, but it's something I'm considering doing. The sculptor who is also a painter, or vice-versa, has it all over those who specialize in one or the other medium. I guess it's just the public's perception of one being the "complete artist."


06-21-2005, 08:01 AM
By the way, on a related topic, is it usually the case that a sculptor starts out doing smaller pieces and gradually (as those pieces start selling) moves up in scale and, thus, price? Seems like a logical progression to me, as most beginning sculptors can't afford the additional cost of materials for larger pieces, especially if they have to be cast in some metal for the final form. A direct metal sculptor or someone working with clay probably doesn't encounter this to the same extent, though.


06-21-2005, 11:15 PM
"For my first show, I priced my sculptures at what I thought they were worth... and quickly adjusted the numbers (downwards) after I got my first "Well you certainly think a lot of yourself"-look."

I would expect that the majority of the looks would be like this for someone starting out! It seems like such a fine line between being humble but not 'selling' yourself short.

As Fritchie mentioned, any sale is a good sale for someone starting out,
but negotiating the boundaries seems like the tricky part.

06-23-2005, 01:58 AM
Tricky subject. Somehow money is one subject that even husbands and wives, parents and children, artists and the public have a hard time articulating. In my experience there are no hard and fast rules about pricing art work. Despite the personal value a given piece may have to you, it is in the end, a commodity that is bought, sold, traded, exhaulted and/or devalued. Many an artist has come out of the starting gate with grand ambitions and equally ambitious price lists. Afterall there are many artists selling out with prices at least double. Then there are the Picasso's and the DeKoonings selling for millions and your work is at least half as good if not better (half a million?). The ugly truth about being a selling artist is that it usually takes time (lots of it), experience (pay attention) and business savvy (usually little of it available). On top of that, in any one transaction the artist tends to make the least amount of profit. There is the gallery commission (half), taxes (half of that), materials and overhead (half of that half), lunch ($3.99 at McDonalds). The rest can be reinvested in future projects or the villa in France.

I think the artist is best served in considering their career as a whole instead of trying to win the lottery with one show or one piece. With hard work and a little luck your work and name can earn staying power in the public arena and steadily build value for both. When I get beginners approaching me to tell them how to be a rich and famous artist, often they are the same people you see in a fancy restaurant thinking, "Hey, I love fine dining. I'll open a retaurant and makes loads of money doing something I love." Of course these folks never really consider the amount of work it takes to be successful in such a venture.

Of course the simple answer is to start out with complete financial independence. To paraphrase the old saying, The best way to make a small fortune in art is to start with a large one. Bottom line.....do what you need that will get you through the day and leaves you enough to reinvest in the future. Things of value in that quest: money, experience, knowledge, contacts, reputation.

---I blab therefore I AM.

06-25-2005, 03:42 PM
Very well said, EJB.

From my experience, it seems that many persons are perfectly happy with the starving-artist sterotype and assume that artists are happier to produce work that's "true" (or that art is a permanent hobby) than make a living off the art.

08-21-2005, 08:26 AM

"Things of value in that quest: money, experience, knowledge, contacts, reputation."

I would like to add self satisfaction to this list - the satisfaction of having your items displayed at various locations and the adulation and praise people shower.

08-21-2005, 01:02 PM
I think the artist is best served in considering their career as a whole instead of trying to win the lottery with one show or one piece. With hard work and a little luck your work and name can earn staying power in the public arena and steadily build value for both. When I get beginners approaching me to tell them how to be a rich and famous artist...

How anyone here ever got the impression that I had ever said anything about "getting rich and famous" is beyond me. The thread I started here was asking the simple question, "how do I price my work?" Not only that, I stated the price range as $500 to $1,000, the range that my research had indicated is probably the range I could expect my small sculptures to sell for. I said or asked absolutely nothing more than this, yet several of you have inferred or implied something very different.

Note, also, that, at the time I started this thread, I was planning on selling small sculptures produced via rapid prototyping from my digital models. That is no longer my plan at all, due to the economics of rapid prototyping, which makes such a plan infeasible. I have opted, instead, to go back to creating sculpture by hand in tangible media, which should be more readily salable, of course, but that is not my sole reason for making sculpture, as some of you have implied elsewhere on these forums. I have been creating art largely for myself and without any remuneration at all for over twenty years, as I also said before in another thread here.


08-22-2005, 10:26 AM
I just sold a piece for $500. that cost $150 to make, however I made it 10 years ago and have been dragging it around ever since. Thats not exactly velocity of money! I used to price stone at amultiple of what it cost plus tools and consummables. I was not trying to make a living and probably got others POd at me for selling so low.
I am trying to make aliving now and have gone to cheaper media: epoxy,wood and foam. Its still very expensive because 1 they don't always work (ie. the piece is simply aesthetically poor) 2 Material failure (toss it). I still try to do it this way: material + working time @ $25. per hour and stick to the price regardless of who wants it. Ie. material $200. plus time 40hours @ 25 = $1,200. If they don't sell for that I will go and do something else to make a living.

08-22-2005, 12:35 PM
Sounds reasonable enough, Blue. I've been thinking about using 4 x the materials and costs, myself. But, if it costs me $150, that's only going to be $600, which probably isn't a bad price for a new sculptor. If I added in $25/hr for labor and it took me, say, 40 hours, that's $1,600, which is still in the ballpark, according to most sources I've read. I think I'd probably tend to work a little faster than that, though, so it possibly would come out to less.


08-22-2005, 02:54 PM
Gary, how about work smaller for more!!!!

08-22-2005, 03:47 PM
Well, it would be nice if I could, I guess. Then my larger pieces would sell for even more. Realistically, though, I think the best course of action is to price my work comparably with the market for other new sculptors working in non-objective styles. If I could just find some good representative examples, I'd know what figure(s) that is. Most of the priced sculpture I've seen online has been the work of established artists.


08-23-2005, 12:00 AM
I'm reminded of what a photography instructor once told me: you can price your work low and sell a lot of it, or you can price it high and sell just a few. Most people will balk at the price, but, if you wait long enough, there is always someone who will buy it.

These guys have obviously been around a while. I wonder what level they started at?


08-23-2005, 08:55 AM
No, not at all, Randall. It's all relative to one's income, of course. Besides, I've read, somewhere, that the hottest market for sculpture is now in the $500 to $5000 range. According to an article from 2001, that's the range that new buyers are in. It makes sense, too, when you contrast it with painting. Due to the cost of making sculpture, you're not going to find much of it for under $500, while paintings under $500 are much more common. So, for sculpture, I think $500 is pretty much the rock bottom figure. Looking around, I haven't seen much offered below that figure. Conversely, $5,000 seems to be a good upward limit for the beginner. Also, you can't hang a $300 painting in your garden and any sculpture you could buy for under $500 will generally be so small your garden would engulf it, so it has to have some size in order to be an appropriate focal point for an outdoor space.

As for buying a sculpture to put in one's garden, spending $10,000 for that might seem extravagant to you and I, but to the person who has $10,000 to spend on improving their garden, it may seem like the perfect addition. Let's face it, it isn't poor college students who are buying sculpture, it's people with relatively high incomes.