artist or artiste? it’s all in the money…

Cash Tree by GM tree courtesy iStock

…or is it? Since attending The Art of Earning Live in February, I have been very aware that I need to change my prices (go higher) and attitude towards money – both in earning it and spending it. We have been taught in our culture that money is what we must strive for, and it is the root of all evil. Take the lyrics if this once popular song (Used in commercials still). Money, money, money, money…

Towards the end of the Art of Earning seminar Adam King said to me:

“You should not be selling anything for less than $1,000.”

I am unsure if he meant that literally, or as a metaphor for selling myself short, i.e. not valuing myself and my work. Either way I get it. If I am going to be a real artiste (*by my definition, a higher level artist) I need to act like one and price myself accordingly. I need to take myself and my work seriously! My highest priced item currently is $255, the lowest $25.

I talked with some friends about the idea of taking away all the tiny prints, 5×5 and 5×7 for instance, priced at $25 and only selling 8×10, or even 11×14 and above, at a higher price. Two of them vehemently disagreed. One said, What about the people that can’t afford more than $25, and what if they want to start small and see how it looks before buying big? Being one of those in the category of “can’t afford” currently, it is hard to say I am out pricing myself and some of my friends.

So, what if my “ideal customer” is not me and my friends?

Hmm I have to admit it makes me a tad uncomfortable, and so does the fact that, due to medical bills, and the awareness I may not live to a very old age, I need to earn more than ever before. My husband earns enough to keep us afloat when things are going well. Add the co-pays we are dealing with and we are more like knee-deep or more. I don’t need worry about money to take up my time when I am trying to heal. So, what is the solution?

It is time to take myself seriously, and hope my friends will too. I am an artiste!

(“Artiste,” as it turns out, is just French for artist, although it can indicate a musician more so than a painter. I however have always seen it used as if to indicate an artist of higher caliber.)

What does this mean?

  • I am going to be hiking my prices.
  • I will only be showing and selling my very best work.*
  • I will only be showing at venues that support the value of my work.**
  • I will stand behind the work, and why it is worth what I charge.

Does this make sense to you? Do you price art with respect for your self and work?

For me I think the key is in how I look at it. As I say in the title, it’s all about the money…or is it? Well it is not. It’s all about the value. I put my very best self into my work, and price it like a sale item at a garage sale. Well, not quite that bad, but you get it. If I feel the work is gallery or museum worthy I don’t want to price it as if I’m selling at Target.

If I don’t take myself seriously no one else will, right?

There is one other troubling aspect to this decision. What do I do with the work I am currently selling at too low a price? It seems wrong to sell it at a higher price when people have purchased it for perhaps far less (I have already raised my prices once or twice).

Would you be upset if you purchased something for $100 and found out it used to cost $25?

I am keeping this short and sweet as it is difficult to sit at the desk these days. (For any of you that have been following there is good news! My spinal fusion has been moved up to this coming Wednesday the 9th. I will likely be unable to post in two weeks as I am scheduled to, unless that new laptop falls from the sky, or they start growing on trees.) I look forward to returning pain free to continue this discussion.

Please let me know what you think here in the comments! I really need your opinion.

From the Heart,


* I do not have a lot of pieces in my shop, but I do have some mediocre pieces there while I keep hidden some of my best. Time to purge my portfolio.

** For instance, no craft fairs where there are crocheted toilet paper covers, OK?

12 thoughts on “artist or artiste? it’s all in the money…

  1. Gwyn,

    What a brave post! It is so hard to price our work accordingly, value ourselves enough and price ourselves and our friends out of our target market! I also think that once we take the steps to do that – and good on you for taking those steps – it is a constant battle to stop ourselves from apologizing for those high prices.
    It is certainly something I struggle with every day!

    I wish you all the best, with the prices and with your health!


  2. It is a constant struggle.

    I would never be upset that I paid $100 for a piece of art that used to cost $25. I would be thrilled that I was able to support an artist.

    If I was shopping for an electronic or gadget, etc., maybe I would be upset, but never with local, never with handmade and never with art.

    I doubt if the person who bought it for $100 would ever know it used to cost $25 anyway, honestly.

  3. Great post. I was just talking to my sister about this very subject. She is very guilty of undervaluing her art. A lot of artists are. I agree with Kim. I wouldn’t be upset if I bought a work of art for $100 and later found out that it was once $25. Maybe its because I come from a family of artists, but I love supporting local art and I love to see artists earning the money they deserve.

  4. Well done Gwyn. I commend you for being brave enough to put your prices up. I agree with the others and I wouldn’t be upset if I paid more for a piece of art that I later found out used to be sold for a cheaper price. It’s because the item is a piece of art and I think that my opinion would change if it was for another type of item.

    Pricing is a constant issue for me as an artist myself and seeing the real value in my work has thankfully been getting better as time goes on.

    Hopefully after reading your post, other artists will be inspired to seriously consider the price and value of their own work.

  5. I am with you on the raising of prices. I recently raised my prices drastically, and now I feel weird giving customers prices. I feel like I should confess that the prices used to be much lower, as if I am trying to steal from them. But the simple fact is that I was not making any money at the old prices. I think the clincher for me was looking at a high end show I wanted to do and realizing that I couldn’t make enough inventory in the next 6 months to make it worth it, even if I don’t sell a thing between now and then! But with the price raise suddenly it is totally doable.

  6. Get over the anxiety about “Would you be upset if you purchased something for $100 and found out it used to cost $25?” Gasoline used to be 25 cents a gallon. Where I live it’s now over $3.88. I’ve bought signed prints for $250 and resold them for over $800. I go to a flea market and buy an item that costs me $2 on someone’s junk pile. I take it home, clean it up, and sell it at a craft fair for $25. It’s the nature of commerce.

    I’m a writer. Sometimes an e-book goes up on Amazon for 99 cents. A few weeks later we run a promo and give the book away for free for 3-5 days. Then we reprice it back to the 99 cents. A year later it might be selling for $2.49. If someone wants it they will buy it. If not, then someone else will come along who buys it.

    Believe in yourself, believe in the value of your work and price it accordingly–not for the hours you put into it, but for the value of it.

    Good luck with your spinal surgery.

    Keep producing!

  7. I’m in total agreement with Laura. The price of your work is the price of your work, today. Don’t worry about the reason the price rises, or worry about how much it used to be. I know a lot of artists and few have not had the price of their work rise over time.

    I understand the dilemma of pricing your work beyond the means of some of your friends. But it doesn’t mean those particular friends who value your work can never again purchase. Offer them time payments that serve both of you. Or *small* discounts to those who are collectors, owning more than three works. This dispensation, if done with discretion, will honor both of you.

    No frets. You’re worth it.

  8. Thanks for all the response and support! I look forward to getting back here and putting some new prices and plans into action! You people are awesome! I’d write individual responses, but… I am not quite up to it.

    Thanks again.

  9. WOW! Thank you for sitting & writing this brilliant advice/insight. As I sit here pricing & doing inventory for an up-coming up-market market (lol) I am now not so nervous about my prices! And I’m going to stop thinking, “What do I think I could afford to pay for this item?” !!!! When I price things:)

    You just changed my value towards my business! Will be thinking & praying for your spinal fusion op!! All the best on a speedy recovery:) xo

  10. Good post Gwyn. A lot of makers hear you! It is so easy to undervalue what you do.

    “It seems wrong to sell it at a higher price when people have purchased it for perhaps far less”

    My suggestion is to package several of the smaller items together, and sell them as a unit. This way you aren’t alienating those people who purchased them at $25 each. However, now they are part of a package, rather than available individually.

    Also, when putting prices up, you want to do so slowly, bit by bit.

    The difficulty is with putting your prices up is that you have already created a ‘price anchor’ for your work. This is what people will remember. It is always best to start too high with pricing, and bring it down or package other pieces in, rather than having to work it back up.

    Good Luck!

  11. Thank you for this post. It and the responses are most helpful to me right now. I am in the process of re-building my art business. I chose to market my gift line to help bring cash flow while developing my gallery line.

    What I learned in the process is that I am not making much money. I have not raised my prices in nine years. Costs of supplies have gone up and I am using a higher grade of leather. My retailers are marking the prices up to what they are worth and they are reaping the rewards of the extra profit.

    The transition in consciousness is taking place inside me and showing up in the quality of my work. I just have to figure out how to move through the transition gracefully.

    You are in my prayers. I appreciate your honesty in sharing this information.

  12. Great post – I think if work is increased across the board then it is fine – I would only be upset if I paid $100 for something then saw it elsewhere at a lower price. People purchase because they want something – if they see the value they will buy, regardless of the price. It may take a little time to make as many sales – but you have to make far less sales to make the same amount of money; so seems a wise move. When I want to increase prices I make a new range – that may not take much longer to produce than my core range (sold at an accessible but price which still gives me good profit) but I give it a higher ‘value’ by putting the price up. It always surprises me the people who buy the more expensive pieces – it is often the people who look like they have less disposable income. Often the people who are clearly dripping with money are the ones who buy the cheapest range. Curious…

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