Pricing art and handmade products

I think it’s important to note that you as a consumer can spend whatever you choose to on an item, meaning, you spend what makes sense to you for items you purchase. If you need a watch, you can spend $200 for the Timex or $10,000 for the Rolex. Both items tell time, but you place value on the item based on your individual needs/wants/perceptions.

I’d like to do a really basic breakdown of some costs to help illustrate why buying small, artisan or handmade may cost you more than what you think it should for a similar mass-produced item. Also, I think glass artists have been underpricing themselves on smaller ‘functional’ works for far too long.

Let’s take the heart pipe/paperweight I released on Instagram. I set a price of $50 CAD for it, which compared to other similar pipes/paperweights may seem high.

Let’s try the most basic pricing calculation out there (materials + time = cost of goods x 2 = wholesale x 2 = retail). Full disclosure, I don’t use this formula. It’s far too simplistic and isn’t accurate in how I see the value of my work, but let’s try it out in this case just to illustrate my point. There are hundreds of ways out there to calculate pricing and profit, I actually use a glass weight-based formula that averages out all my costs and helps me decide the viability of an item.

Powdered Glass Hearts


Materials ($10-ish per heart)

  • 2.5 oz powdered glass (frit)
  • Pipe filter

A 8.5 oz jar of glass frit averages for $12.95 USD (number pulled from Dephi glass). I live in Canada, so that’s $16.62 CAD + 0.83 GST + $2 shipping (average if I do a large order) = $19.45 Let’s round the bottle up to $20 because we didn’t even think about border costs… I use half a bottle per heart so that’s $10 in glass (my cost). So right now, if I multiply that by 4 I’m already at $40 for a retail cost and we haven’t even considered my time or overhead as part of this equation…

But wait, I know some of you are thinking that I’ve already got $30 in profit based on the above right? Wrong. Let’s reverse engineer this equation.

Let’s say I wholesale this heart to a store for $40. They take half the price right off the top meaning I get $20 in the transaction. Remove my glass price of $10 and I’m left with $10 as my profit. Not bad for one item IF that included my time and overhead, which it doesn’t.

Time (1h 20 min per heart)

  • Creating the recycled frit – 3h every few months. I scrape, and triple sift the dried waste from my wet saw and bottle it for future use. (Let’s say 5 min per heart…)
  • Molding process – 60 min to fill and freeze molds (6 at a time, so 10 min per heart)
  • Drive to and from my studio 30 min (6 hearts at a time so 5 min a heart allocated for a trip to the Stude)
  • Coldworking – 30 min per heart (wet grind any rough edges, clean-up on the holes with my drill press)
  • Marketing – 30 min per heart (photo the item for social/website, list on the web, social media video posts, answering DMs/emails)

I’m being very conservative with my estimates above, but let’s say 1 h 20 min at minimum wage in Alberta ($15/hour) = $19.50 per heart.

Okay let’s try the cost calculation game again now we know how much time it takes to make a heart.

$10 (materials) + $19.50 (time) = $29.50 (cost)

$29.50 x 2 = $59 (wholesale price)

$59 x 2 = $118 (retail price)

See why this equation doesn’t work so well? According to this I should be selling those little hearts for over $100 each?! and we still haven’t talked about my overhead costs below - the tools and space I need to create the work…

Overhead ($????? per heart)

  • 2 months of R&D to create my own molding process (adaptation of the freeze n fuse process)
  • Studio rent/electricity
  • Website fees, payment processing fees
  • Shipping materials, marketing/packaging bits
  • Tools: Kiln, drill press, flat lap grinder
  • Molding process: modified silicone mold, straw, rubber tubing, spoon, water, plastic cup
  • Firing process: kiln shelf paper or kiln shelf wash

So what the heck an I trying to get at here? 

My price $50/heart may seem high right off the bat, but when you see the breakdown, it's really quite reasonable for the time/materials I put into it, but  pricy compared to other mass produced items that do the same thing.

This is why I like the education aspect of my work (or any art). I need a lot of tools and I spend a lot of time (and money) to create the work I do. I’m not a factory, I’m an artist and you are buying a piece of my heart, not just a thing. You are supporting a dream when you buy a handmade item, and yes it costs more than the drop-ship item manufactured in mass overseas. you choose to buy the piece if you believe in the art.

Thank you for supporting small wherever you can. And before you berate a small business owner for an expensive price tag, please take a moment to think about that person on the other side of the work.



February 02, 2021 — Michelle Atkinson