Carnival Blog- November

The Blog Carnival….a group of jewelers get together via the web, once a month, to post on a topic that has to do with jewelry.  It's a fun way to hear different opinions from wonderful artists.  Hope you'll visit their sites and read their great blogs.  Please post a comment or two.  It's always great to know who is reading and your shared thoughts.


Time versus Money: Labor is always your number one cost!

This month's topic: How are the continued higher prices of precious materials affecting your work.  Do you explore different techniques or materials to offset costs?

I am such a number cruncher so this is a great topic!  I am both an artist and business person.  I would say that the majority of people have been deterred from PMC or AC due to the rising costs.  I find that a shame.  Indulge me…..

I'm all for one to diversify and try new materials to accompany my metal clay and or regular metal work.  I've always done mixed media as a way to have my voice.  I was also the first to present ceramic as an armature for metal clay to make the metal clay go farther through our line of Bisque Bead Blanks.  It was important for me to find a way to make custom metal beads with each of them costing $30-50 each with labor.  So I found that by using ceramic as the armature or core, I could make a custom bead for $3-10!  So we launched a line of 27 ceramic forms back in 2002, Tucson Gem Show, to help artists.  We found this opened up the opportunity for making custom beads to children, physically challenged adults, and those will little to no skills and tools!  How exciting, to not only help artists out financially but also to offer another therapy for others.  

Then I realized that if artists would improve the methods of how they work they can true up their number one cost, labor.  Yes, did you read that?  The number one cost is labor, not materials.  Unfortunately so many artists don't value their time.  Yes, its fun to sit and make art, but if we want to be valued like any other professional we can't sell our work for $2 an hour.  I think a good goal is $25 -60 per hour.  Are you making this and if not, let's figure out how you can!

Now how can we improve our work methods?  Education, practice, efficient process, better laid out studios, better tools, more efficient hours, etc.  I've seen artists buy a book, buy the tools recommended and spend hours upon hours making a less than stellar piece that later will cost them bunches in materials.  However, by taking a class, which cost $125 average, they will learn more in that one class than in 10 projects they made on their own.   You can make that back when you sell 5 pieces.  That seems like very little risk and an easy repayment plan.

If I can learn a new trick that can shave 15 minutes off a project, that's $10 I just made back, assuming I charge $40 an hour for my time.  If I'm working on a line of pieces where the design is similar and familiar and I'm not reinventing the wheel with experimentation, I can probably shave off 10 or so minutes per piece.  That's an extra $6.66 I made.

So when I look at the cost of metals and start to whine about the state they are in, it doesn't detract me much from using them.  I know that is NOT my largest cost!  How can I work smarter and still work in the materials of choice?

 At the $10 silver market the going rate for any person buying at "retail" on the internet was $1.22 a gram when purchasing a 28 gm PMC+ pack.  At the current market (which is really $18.40+ but the internet is holding at $17) this comes to $1.44 per gm with the same 28 pack.  That's .22 more per gm. Is that enough to whine about?  If your piece is 20gm (which is big), that's $4.40 more.   That's not enough to deter me to switch to working with a metal which will take me hours longer in labor.  It might inspire me to make the material go farther by mixing it with resin, enamel, or polymer, but not eliminate it altogether.

I find it interesting how so many artists are flocking to BronzClay and CopprClay based solely on price.  These metals have a higher learning curve, failure rate, expensive firing and increased process time.  When you account for all of that, you might have been better off paying $4.40 more (at "retail") to use a more precious metal where you can charge more and  make more.

Now don't get me wrong I love BC and CC.  I love it all.  It all has a place.  However, if you want to really look at your bottom line, stop focusing on material (the what) and focus on the how and why (technique, education, to lower your labor costs).  Now that's being a artist and a business person.  You can be both!

Check out these other carnies:

Lora Hart

Tamra Gentry

Angela Baduel-Crispin

Lorrene Davis

Elaine Luther

Marco Fleseri

New to the group:

Vickie Hallmark

Andes Cruz

4 Responses to Carnival Blog- November

  1. Yes, excellent points ! About labor but also about thinking that using a less precious metal clay will actually lower the final cost. It may actually only lower the perceived value of the object which took a long time to make, as much as I too love the new possibilities with these clays.

  2. Tonya, these are such great points! The cost of materials affects retail pricing most for those who don't charge enough for their labor (raising hand!). And, while we have no control over the cost of raw materials, we can choose to learn to work better and more efficiently. Great post!

  3. Great thoughts Tonya – I could't agree more! The photo at the top of the piece would make a great BC steampunk piece – have a go at it. BTW one artist had silver and bronze pieces in her display and sold 80% more of the bronze even though the pieces were priced the same. Pricing should reflect the labor, not the materials cost as you said. The labor, including design and artistic work, is the real value to the customer – consider the materials cost of great works of art, like the Mona Lisa, for example.

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