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Re: Galleries / Exhibitions / Pricing

Peter and all,

You have hit the hot button of the century with me...pricing is something I
am constantly struggling with, as many of my friends will tell you.  I am a
hobby capitalist....I love making books....you couldn't stop me if you
wanted to.  I enjoy selling my work from the point of view that I earn
enough money to keep myself in materials.  Truthfully I hate to part with
my books, but I have solved that by scanning each precious one and saving
them to disk so I will always "have" them.

Last year I got involved with a consignment situation in my local market
with my books.  It was wonderful, as it took me out of the ever depressing
show circuit in Central NY.  It is very hard to keep setting up your books
at shows next to the usual items you find at shows.  In my neck of the
woods, there are VERY few actual art shows, so for a long time I relied on
the "art and craft show" circuit as a means of bringing my books to market.

On the one hand the consignment situation worked well for me.  I found that
in a genuine retail atmosphere I was able to justify a higher price for my
work.  I was doing very well....maybe a little too well, as six months into
the contract, I found myself being asked by the store owners to wholesale
my work to them.  they could no longer justify selling the volume, and
taking only a small percentage.  Something, that to this day I will never
understand, but thats another story in itself.

Anyway, even though I was able to command a higher price, It still wasn't
high enough for me to wholesale my work to them.  That was the end of the
consignment, as they wanted wholesale now or nothing.  I chose nothing for
a few reasons.

First, the majority of the customers shopping in the store had become
accustomed to my pricing and are local people.  It is a small town, and
everyone knows that the work is on consignment, as the owners made it a
point to tell everyone that.  In order to do wholesale and be properly
compensated for my time and materials, the key stoned price would have been
much higher than what I am charging for my books on consignment.  I am sure
they would not advertise the fact that they were now purchasing my work
outright, and did not want my local customers to think I had all of a
sudden gotten greedy :)  In small town, that would have been suicide for

Second, after giving it a lot of thought I sat down and asked myself..can I
make 10 of the same books with the same materials and be happy
artistically...the answer was no.

So here I am doing the circuit again.

Why do I sell my books?  It's not about the money.  I don't want to get
rich doing this.  I just love the process of being able to take so many
things I love to do, and combine them in one tangible form.  It gives me
great pleasure to make them.  Selling them allows me to keep exploring
bookbinding.  To keep learning, to keep me fresh with materials.  I
honestly don't charge enough to compensate my time.  I try to figure my
materials and some extra and that keeps me happy...and busy...which is what
I want to be.  My work means nothing to me if people feel it is so
expensive that they can't afford to buy it or enjoy it or use it once it's
purchased.  I don't make museum pieces, I make books.  I face the simple
fact that I am not famous, or world renowned in my chosen form of endeavor.
And I am happy with that.

But I do admit that the consignment situation got me to rethinking my work
a bit.  It made me think long and hard about the whys and the hows.  The
only conclusion I could reach is that for now, its working for me the way
it is.  If I get soooo busy that I can't keep up with orders, well, I guess
I will have to sit down and think about it again.  But in central NY...I
doubt it.  the only firm conclusion I have reached is that for me, pricing
is very personally motivated thing.

I think there are many artists like myself out there.  We don't charge
enough for what we do.  my goodness, if I sat down and figured my time into
every piece I make, I probably wouldn't sell enough to keep me in
paper...and as far as the store owners who told me that I had to sit down
and decide if I wanted to be an artist or a business person, because I
couldn't be both....I say to heck with them.  I can be both, if I work with
some humility, and know my place in the scheme of things.  I don't want to
send my work to NYC or California...I don't want to be world famous...at
least not right now....I'm perfectly happy being famous in Sharon Springs,
NY....thats more than some people get in a lifetime, and I am not about to
turn my back on it for the lure of more.

I did just send my very first piece out to Lila Fords' exhibit in Kingston
Mass., I didn't do it for the glory.  I did it to see if I am good enough.
I was surprised by the entry fee....but did not think it was unreasonable.
heck I pay more than that to set up for a one day show!  And Lila has given
me the opportunity to explore a part of making books that I hadn't yet
explored...to make a book for no ones pleasure but my own.  From beginning
to end.  If it is juried and accepted, it will be wonderful.  It is not,
that will be wonderful as well, because at least I had the courage to
try...and then have the courage to try to get better.

If anyone has gotten this far, I apologize for the length of this message.

With much respect,
Melissa Hatalsky
Sweet Impressions
Paper and Book Arts Studio
Sharon Springs, NY

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