Pricing my art pieces when working with polymer clay

This week’s blog is focusing primarily on how I price my polymer clay sculptures for sale. It isn’t an exact science and I’ve played around a lot with it. I have found that pricing my art fairly and within market value range is extraordinarily important.  

I really shot myself in the foot when I first started out. I waaaay over priced something to someone who very easily could have been a long-term client. Big mistake. My problem?? Was ignorance.

It was right around the time that lots of local people were seeing my work and I was tinkering with the idea of charging more than just the cost of materials. A lady saw my work and she wanted a logo made. {She owned a business of her own} She explained what she was looking for, we brainstormed and she seemed to love my ideas. She wanted to own the rights to the artwork and put it on all of her apparel. She asked me for a price, and I told her I would think about it and get back to her. Sounds pretty good so far doesn’t it?

On the drive home I spoke with my husband and told him of the opportunity. He being married to me thought as highly of my work as I did and saw first-hand how much effort went into them. He saw how many sketches I did before I ever put paint on the brush. He told me that I should look online and see what people charge for exclusive rights and logos. Still sounds pretty ok right?

This is where it goes wonky. I wish I could blame it on bad fish or temporary insanity, but nope. It was me being me. Darn it. I looked up logos and exclusivity.  What I found was an agency in New York who had created logos such as Nike and Abercrombie and Fitch. So those logos cost somewhere in the range of 4,000.00 to 10,000.00. I was blown away. I showed my husband and did a little dance around the living room. {Seriously… can I just blame the fish?} When I spoke to this lady again, I brought up what I had seen. Keep in mind I never looked past that one page. I never once checked out local artists, or even stopped to consider the fact that the lady I was speaking to was not any different than you or me. She was an everyday lady trying to be in business for herself, doing what she was good at. I sometimes wish future me could go back in time and slap past me.

{Deep breath…} I told her what I had found, and what ‘people were paying’. Not once did I actually give her a quote. But by bringing it up, the damage had been done, absolute and irrevocable damage. Fish anyone?

I have since tried desperately to regain them as a client even offering ‘freebees’ but to no avail. I had stepped outside of the trust circle. I had to accept what I had done and learn from it. It was a tough lesson and completely avoidable, had I done more research before biting off more than I could chew.

Ok. So, here is what I have so far, and so far it seems to be working for me. I am borrowing several bits and pieces that I have learned from others and adding a few changes that I have found that work very well for me. I want to share this with you in the hopes that you are able to figure out a pricing system that not only works for you, but also for your clients. They can be hard to come by. So we, as artists, want to take very VERY good care of them. We want to be able to explain why our art costs what it does. Just in case we are asked. At some point…they always ask. {insert wink}


EXPENSE    {we must count our expenses. This is okay. Don’t feel bad, because this is a business and people do understand and even expect it} 

Let’s say my monthly expenses are 1000.00, I divide that by 4{weeks}=250.00 I divide that number by/40{hours} giving me a base rate 6.25 per hour. {This number will vary depending on your expenses.} If your monthly expenses are higher and this is your primary source of income than you will have to adjust your expense rate. If you are just beginning to build your business and you have help or additional income to help you with your expenses then you can be a little more lenient. Your base cost should be this number and you should build the remainder of your piece’s cost from there

  • {rent, electricity, gas, etc, I add my etsy/paypal/advertising fees into this amount }


Materials {always pay attention to what you use and how much. This will give you a great idea of what it takes to produce your art, and in my case helps me to avoid wasting}             

  • {clay, glaze, metals if you’re making jewelry, paints, resin…etc, glass eyes I buy or resin eyes I make.

One standard sized sculpted figure typically takes me 1 1/3 block of Sculpey Premo clay. These are between 2.77-3.00 each {depending on where you are-I don’t account for sales or promotional costs because I can’t guarantee I will always be able to get them at that price} if I gloss the piece, I add .30, if I paint it or do detail work with the paint I add .30 {Remember this is just materials and not time.}

  • Sometimes I will add little ‘trinkets’ to my pieces, for example miniature items or charms. These are things that I will make in batches. For example, it’s Valentine’s Day, and I have made a bunch of chocolate covered strawberries to add to figures. I can make a batch of 25 strawberries from one block of clay. So I will divide 3.00/25= so each strawberry will cost me .12 to make. The chocolate costs me .04, the headpin for the strawberry charm costs me .03 and the lobster clasp for the charm costs me .11  do you guys see where I’m going with this?

Let’s review what we have so far…

Say that I make a standard sized figure {glossed and painted} with an accompanying charm

4.00 + .30 + .30 + .30 = 4.90 {just materials} add that to your ‘expense’ 4.90 + 6.25 = 11.15

Let’s say that minimum wage is 12.50 an hour. I want to pay myself at least 12.50 an hour for labor. Add this to the amount above:

11.15 +12.50=23.65 Multiply this amount x2 and that will give you the wholesale price of 47.30 this is the base amount I must charge to by the skin of my teeth justify all other expenditures.

Theoretically for retail price it is the wholesale x2 so 47.30 x 2= 94.60

Ooooh… but here is where it gets a little sticky, because the more time it takes you to create a piece the greater its value, right? Not necessarily. I have not yet been able to charge what I am calculating retail to cost to be. I auctioned a piece off, and got close. In the meantime, wholesale lets me stay in business. Replenish what I have used and hopefully put money back into my business.

When I am trying to figure out what to charge, ultimately I have to take into account….’factors’ {seriously, that should be a four-letter word.} “What is a factor?” These are those annoying little things that effect what we can charge vs. what we want to charge.

Some examples of factors would be: Competition {take a look around you… see what some artists are getting for their work. I’m not referring to Picasso or Dhali… but you and me. The little guy with the great big dreams {encouraging look of…encouragement} Find work that is similar to yours. If you are using an internet based storefront, browse around and check out the other stores.

Don’t look skin deep. Really get in there and see if they are making sales. There may be one person charging 150.00 or higher for one piece but if they are only selling 1-2 pieces a month. This is not the way to go, for me at least. On the other end of the scale, there may be an artist selling pieces for 10.50 and has 100 sales in a year. Still not going to cut it, I mean great for them =) but I personally want this to be a monetarily successful business, so I want to find out what people are willing to pay for what I have on a consistent basis.

I’ve looked all over at everyone I can find… I’ve checked out as many online stores/sales that I can seek out who carry anything even similar to what I have. I write to the artists. It is probably one of the most educational and simple things I can do. Most of them are extremely helpful. Only twice have I run into artists who are so fiercely protective of their methods they’d sooner plaster their eyes closed than to give me information. But no worries, life goes on. I fell in love with the majority of the artistic community and I want to pay it forward.

Back to competition. I’m not going lie… there are a couple of people out there who can’t have their stuff up for 5 minutes before someone snatches it.. I’ve seen customers have bidding wars over their art... I’m talking 3-400.00 for one piece! This is my goal…seriously.

I know it sounds terrible but on more than one occasion I have just been beside myself wondering ‘why aren’t these same people wanting my stuff and paying that price? My art is just as nice as theirs.’ The answer is semi-simple. These people have worked their tushies off and in the process gained a fan-base {nothing but respect for these amazing artists} we’ll get into that later… back to factors.

Buyer’s Remorse… that’s an icky one. The more money a person pays for something, the higher their expectations, as they should be.  If they buy something from me and this ‘something’ shows up at their door in anything less than perfect condition, then the buyer will lose faith in me and I will have lost that customer for life. You don’t want this to happen. Word of mouth can go a long way, especially in the art world.

No worries!! Your talent and beautiful artwork captured their attention. So much so, they gave you money for it and that is a wonderful thing! Now it is time to capture their hearts. Because this is an area that we can really shine!  There are so many little touches you can give your packages for very little expense, and this can mean the difference between one time buyer and repeat customer!! There are lots of factors that can apply. It is up to you to figure out which ones will impact you/your business the most. In the long run, it will be the little things that keep people coming back. Be sure that you don't skimp on the little things. Take the time to talk to people who have questions. You never know who you are talking with or what connections they have. If you make a great impression, chances are they will get your name out there. That is exactly what you want. 

When I package my pieces, I use gift boxes. I get them in bulk either from the dollar store, or great shipping stuff in bulk by-the-way. I decorate my gift boxes, something simple like glitter-tape that color coordinates with my business cards, a ribbon or seasonal fun from the dollar store… I love the dollar store… I add fun tissue paper and a personal hand-written note, and ‘TA-DA!’ It feels like a real treat when they are opening their packages. What a nice surprise for them! I like opening gifts..Don’t you?

I don’t add the cost of the shipping materials to the purchase price of the piece itself. I add it into the shipping cost. I add the box < 1.00 depending on where I get it, .05 for the tissue paper {if I get a box of 20 from the dollar store} .05 for the ribbon or glitter tape. It is inexpensive for me. It is a little extra effort on my part, but this is what I want to do. I am sending a small part of my soul that I created and I want the new owner to treasure it as much as I do.

I hope this is helpful to those of you who are struggling with the idea of pricing your art for sale. For me, this venture has been a most humbling journey. I hope that in some way you will have benefited from my mistakes, and found this material useful. Your feedback is always welcome.

Remember, you are a beautiful and creative soul, truly a gift among people. Here’s hoping you all have a wonderful week full of fresh ideas and inspiration.

As always, until next time,

XO ~Alicia, LDA


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  • Alicia - well written... you have beautiful energy!  Thank you for sharing.

  • You sound like a charming person and a good salesperson.
  • Wow great info! I too am a figurative sculpture artist. Paperclay ,polymer clay, fabric, mohair,needle felted wool and Paverpol fabric hardener.(which I am a certified instructor) thanx for the equations for pricing.
  • Thank you very much for saying so! I am so happy that you find it helpful =) 

  • Alicia, Thank you for this amusing and extremely helpful and well thought out blog post.  Thanks, especially for 'doing the math'!  This should be useful to all of us...good job!

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