While most carvers carve as a hobby some would not mind selling some of their work. A common question we get from woodcarvers is “How much should I charge for my work?” This is a tough question to answer and honestly we don’t have a perfect answer that will work for every carver or project. We do, however, have a few tips that might be helpful in determining the price of your work.
Some people just don’t know…and that’s ok!
At a show we heard a couple people talking about some of the carvings he had made. One person said to the carver, “Wow! These are awesome. You could charge like $25 a piece for your carving.” (The carving was probably worth about $200) The carver kindly and humbly told the person thank you. If you have never carved you probably don’t know what goes into a carving; even a very simple carving. When people completely lowball an estimate on your carvings try not to be offended. Usually in their mind they are trying to compliment you. Take it as such. Honestly, they probably would not be a buying customer anyway.
Double your materials…at least!
One of most general guidelines we try to share when helping carvers price their project is to be sure to at least double the cost of your materials in the price. If you purchase a roughout for $30, buy $20 in additional tools for the project, spend money on paint and finish and want to sell it for $50 that doesn’t make sense. We hear of this quite often. It is completely ok to want to give your projects to someone. We call these gifts but not sales. When you are pricing your work charge at least twice the amount of your cost of materials. This should be a minimum.
How long did it take you to carve that?
We once heard a carver interact with a potential buyer for a beautifully carved caricature Santa Clause. The buyer asked the carver, “How long did it take you to carve that?” She replied, “25 years.” Now did it really take her 25 years to carve that Santa? No, but it did take her 25 years of practicing, collecting tools and supplies, taking classes, studying, and practicing in other mediums to get to the point where she could carve and paint that Santa in 8 hours. You can’t always determine the price by taking the number of hours it took you to make it and times that by your labor rate. Give yourself some credit for all the effort you have made in developing your carving skills.
Craft vs. Art
We know of a great carver that was carving very realistic western stagecoaches and saddles. His work was stunning! He came into Treeline and said that he was have a hard time selling his work. He asked us if we thought he should discount his prices to be able to sell off that carvings he had made. We suggested to him that instead of discounting the price to try doubling his price. This was not the answer he thought he would get, but he decided to try it. In his next show he changed his price from $500 to $1000 and guess what?? He sold everything he had! When he told us of his experience we suggested that he double the price again. The same thing happened; he sold everything he had. The last time he came in we learned that he is now getting between $4000 and $6000 for his projects that he could not sell for $500. Of course there may be other factors that contributed to this, but the main thing he learned is that people who collect crafts want a discount. People who collect art would usually prefer to spend more. Imagine having a $50 piece of art on the wall versus having a $5000 piece of art on the wall. In some cases the price determines the value. If you are carving crafts price it as a craft. If you are making works of art price it accordingly and be confident with your price.
Now this is not a comprehensive guide to pricing your work, but we do hope that gives you some tips when determining how much you are going to charge. Remember, it is ok to sell your work and to sell it for what it is really worth.