This question has come to the forefront as our cloth doll club (the Cloth-a-Dollics) is planning to have a show and sale of our art dolls in a local gallery, the Coast Collective, in Victoria, BC. Since I am the show coordinator, I have been asked to present a session on pricing art dolls at the next club meeting in mid-July.
After doing a bit of research I have come up with some thoughts and guidelines. I have based my guidelines on four sources: Mimi Winer (cloth doll artist), Amanda Day (polymer clay doll artist), Kerry Howard-Schmidt (felt doll artist), and my own experiences.
First and foremost: pricing art dolls is not an easy task! However, if we choose to sell our dolls it is critical to our success to take time, thought and energy into pricing effectively. The time it has taken to create the art doll is only a minor consideration in setting the price! Unless you are a renowned doll artist whose work is sought after, then do not expect to be paid for your time, especially when you have yet to have a following.
OK, then how should I price my art dolls?
Well, for myself, I love making dolls and I am happy to sell them at a fair price, not so high that no one in the area can afford to buy them and not so low that I might as well give them away. If I really love a piece (usually, the one I just finished), then I will set a slightly higher price and realize that if it does not sell, I will be happy to keep it in my collection for a while.
There is no set formula but I have discovered that there are some useful guidelines that I hope will help in this tricky "pricing" business.
Questions to consider before setting "the price":
Where are you selling?
Some venues command higher prices. Selling your work in a gallery will generally allow higher prices than selling in a small, local craft fair. Customers that visit galleries and high-end craft fairs will expect to pay more for art pieces than customers coming to small local craft fairs.
Are you the only doll artist selling in the venue?
If you are, then there is less instant competition for your art doll. If you are selling in a venue with other doll artists, then you must be more aware of pricing your dolls fairly while respecting the work of your peers.
How unique is your creation?
Generally, the more unique, the better the chance that a piece will command a slightly higher price. Ask yourself whether your doll is a "one of a kind"; or a unique doll made from a compilation of doll parts and not available as a pattern; or a special doll made in a live workshop with the designing doll artist; or it is from a pattern that is easily accessible to everyone?
Finally, and most importantly have you been critical and honest regarding the quality of your own work. Have you asked myself:
Am I completely happy with my doll?
Is my piece an excellent example of my work or just OK?
Is my doll well put together with colours that are pleasing to the eye?
Do I believe that the theme of my doll is one that is popular in the market?
How would I rate the quality of my doll against a similar doll made by one of my peers in my area?
Would I jump at the chance to buy this doll if I saw it at this show?
Mimi Winer's Suggestion for a Pricing Formula
Once you have taken all of the above into account then Mimi Winer does present a possible pricing formula: set the price at 3 times the cost of the materials used plus whatever you want to get for your time, or 5 times the cost of the materials used without accounting for your time.
How I set the price of my art dolls for a gallery or a craft fair:
Thanks to the various shows and advice that I have been given, I find that this technique works for me:
- I line up my dolls from what I expect will be the "lowest priced" one to what I expect will be my "highest price" doll
- I then fit the remaining dolls in the line up. I stand back and look at them critically and at this point, possibly rearrange the line up
- Now with all the above information in my mind, I set a price for my "lowest priced" doll and set a price for my "highest priced" doll.
- I actually physically write the price on a stick-it note and place it in front of the doll
- I can now continue down the line from the lowest priced to the highest priced doll placing stick-it notes, with a possible price in front of the dolls (use a pencil as there are bound to be changes)
- At this point, I stand back once again and I may even take a coffee break and come back in an hour or two before making my final pricing decisions
Final thoughts on pricing art dolls:
Ultimately, you can set whatever price you like, after all your doll is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it. But do not be disappointed if your doll does not sell and be respectful of your peers by not setting the price too low!
In some shows, I have easily sold dolls that were not my favourite (although well made). I have also been surprised that some of my favourite dolls did not sell as easily as I expected.
Nonetheless, since I love the entire process of creating my art dolls, I am happy to try to sell them. I am thrilled to think that my dolls may land in someone's home and are being enjoyed by someone else. I am also delighted to see people's reactions to my work.
I know that no matter how well priced my dolls may be, I may not always sell them easily depending on many factors including timing and the economy. Also, like all art, doll appreciation is subjective.
If you love your art doll and if you have taken the time to price it according to the venue, uniqueness, and quality of the piece, then that is the best you can hope for and the rest is in the hands of your potential customers!