Thursday, September 20, 2007

Lost in America

Coffee in the Austin skyline mug, "Cloudy This Morning" on iTunes. It's not random--I love the song and am feeling reflective (thoughts, not light). Yesterday was going really, really well--I was on top of my schedule and everything was getting done in turn--and then it all went to hell in a handbasket about 4:30 and I neither got the scheduled orders shipped nor got the scheduled fuse load in for the day. *sigh* I'm over my little melt down now and need to pick up all the pieces today.

Today's topic is representation for an artist--having an artist rep. One of the orders I (now) ship today is going to a gallery in the midwest whose owner is also going to rep me through her area. Her cut is 15% of everything she takes orders on. 15% off of wholesale seems at first blush to be pretty steep. But I figured my cost of doing wholesale shows last night at 20%-30% of the take--and that's for the really successful ones. Makes 15% look not so bad.

However both returns call my pricing structure into question. I believe I am charging what the market will bear, but I know I didn't figure marketing costs to be so high when I did the math on what to charge for my work. Makes me think (for the 3010th time) that we might be better off financially if I didn't work (or if I did something else). My sales increase substantially every year, but there is such a *huge* disparity between gross and net.

I start thinking maybe I should do more retail shows--there's a clear profit margin there. With retail, you take your expenses (booth fee, travel, meals, etc.--typically not wages) and your sales and if sales are more than double the expenses, it was a profitable show. Double because you sell at retail which is twice wholesale, and making more than wholesale shows you were better off doing the retail show than just selling the work to a gallery for wholesale.

Of course shows--especially retail outdoor shows--are exhausting. Set-up and breakdown are brutal and I am just getting too old for them. Right now carrying shipments up the stairs from the studio so UPS can pick them up is killing me--that and things like moving the 500 lbs of frit I moved the other day. And I'm not keen on giving up my weekends with my family so I can do more shows. It would be different if Dave got into the gypsy traveling show life (I snort coffee just thinking about him in a Winnebago. Can you say Lost in America?). Jessie would love it and she's getting to the age where she could actually help a bit (yep, child labor, my very own sweatshop), but I think I just need to walk away from the idea. Walk away slowly and no one has to get hurt.

But, seriously, I think the answer really needs to be to make the wholesale side of the business profitable enough. If marketing costs are so high, prices are going to have to rise too. And if I can't sell the work for enough to make it profitable, maybe it's time to change careers again and become a landscape designer or a writer (fiction this time).

1 comment:

Bill Paley said...

But, then, you'd be unsatisfied because you'd lose the artisitic venue of expression. Bad idea.

But I'm intrigued with the thought of David in a Winnebago...