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The Problem with Pricing Handmade Jewelry

So, yesterday was a holiday and I was procrastinating. Instead of being at the workbench making art, I was sitting at my desk checking my Facebook news feed and my Etsy shop stats. (Don't laugh, I know you were doing the same.)

One of my upcoming projects is to dive head first into making metal quilts (more about that on another day), so I was curious about what I'm paying per square inch for copper sheets. One thing led to another, and I wrote out a cost analysis for making a pair of my most popular earrings.

Here's the breakdown on materials and labor for making one pair of earrings:

Earwires: 2 x .60 = $1.20
34 gauge copper disks: 2 x .13 = .26
Jump rings: 2 x .05 = .10
Patina (best guess): .50

I encountered several problems when calculating this:

  • The patina takes several hours between each coat to react with the metal, therefore a pair of earrings, no matter the size, will take at least two days for the patination process.
  • How do I charge for the intangibles? Like these: bookkeeping, purchasing, advertising (local and social media), writing captivating and detailed descriptions of my jewelry, blogposts, photography
  • And the physical premises: house, utilities, workbench, tool chest, Dremel, etc.
  • Wear and tear on the car going to buy supplies like a torch and a thingie for punching holes in sheet metal
  • Blah, blah, blah
And then, the item most likely to be overlooked: THE ART DEGREE. Where you learn color theory, texture, contrast, composition, art history, studio management and how to articulate the artist's life. How do you put a price on a four-year art degree from an elite private university? A degree you got way back in the 1970's, which costs four times as much now.

What's the dollar value of working as an inhouse graphic designer in a retail store's advertising department (Neiman Marcus) and several nonprofits in a large metropolitan area?

This dilemma reminds me of the jewelry artist who was asked, "How long did it take you to make that bracelet?"

He replied, "Thirty-seven years and 45 minutes."

If someone asked me, "What did it cost you to make those earrings?"

I might reply, "$55,374."

NOTE: You probably noticed I don't have a nice and tidy, finished cost analysis that would please an accountant. Such is the life of an artist who sells her work.


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