Something for nothing

I’ve written in the past about money and for many of us it still remains the embarrassing end of the business of being an artist. It’s taken me ages to get to the point where I can dislocate myself enough from my prints to be able to stick calmly to my guns in the face of wheedling, questioning and sometimes outright rudeness.

I’m not sure when it happened, but look on the TV and there seems to be a multiplicity of programmes where jolly antique experts, with or without dazed members of the public in tow, scour the countryside for artifacts and antiques to resell. The conversation, once a ‘piece’ (and they always are ‘pieces’) is found runs along the line of

‘Oooh this is lovely.’ Coos the expert ‘It says £350 on the label, what’s the death?’

Man in shop frowns ‘I couldn’t take less than £325’

Expert recoils in horror and then says flirtatiously ‘How about £200?’. Man in shop caves in immediately and agrees.

Now that’s all well and good for TV cameras and antique fairs, but I’m seeing this crop up more frequently than before between art buyers and artists, especially at fairs and open studios. There does seem to be a certain proportion of the art buying public who see art as negotiable and artists as having one price for the tag and another for the sale. I simply don’t work that way and I don’t think many other artists do either. Yet we are perceived as fair game and it is often the people who can most afford to pay who are the keenest to secure a bargain. At best this shows a lack of understanding of how narrow most of our profit margins are and at worst it can become straightforward bullying.

My stance on this is fairly simple and, while I may have to fight a pink face and wobbly voice, I do always stick to my guns. I set fair prices and I charge the same for work wherever it is bought. The upshot of this fairness is that I would rather lose the sale than be pushed into charging less than ticket price. It helps enormously to think about the kind and supportive people who collect my prints: they buy regularly and never, ever ask for or expect a discount.

There are a couple of exceptions. I will negotiate a discount if a client is buying a significant quantity of work at one time and I may have a deal on sets of prints where they cost less than the individual price. Very occasionally it is quite clear that the decision to buy my print means a serious dent in day to day finances for the buyer and here I reserve the right to knock a bit off the bill in homage to their pursuit of art over gas bills.

So while this craze for ‘Hunt Antiques Bargain Super-Expert’ continues to suggest that anything on a stall should cost at least sixty percent less than the label, I will continue to state that my prints are a fair price for a fair day’s work. Perhaps I can find a pokerwork sign to that effect – at a knocked down price of course…

Author: Laura

Laura Boswell is a printmaker working exclusively with linocut and traditional Japanese woodblock printing. She has a degree in Art History/Visual Art from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and has been elected to the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers.

7 thoughts on “Something for nothing”

  1. Totally agree with your comments Laura.In the face of this pathetic trait to knock prices down and offer e.g. Make me an offer with Artfinder.I have put my prices up by a fair wack,and they are worth it.Keep firm and carry on! x

  2. Quite right. It is much easier to say no if you have a clear policy and stick to it. It also make things easier if your art fair stand is being manned by friends and family, when this first happened to me while helping Laura I was unsure of the policy and dithered. Now it’s easy, I just say no.

  3. I absolutely agree. Furthermore, I think it belittles the client to ask since the point of owning things that enrich your life is that they are often better for the sacrifice you need to make to have them. It is not a simple commodity and to suggest to an artist (or gallery) that you like something enough to want to own it, but not enough to own it for the price that is being asked really misses the point of buying art at all – that not to buy the thing you have fallen in love with will leave you poorer!

  4. Totally agree with you – I’m a buyer not a seller – drives me mad at the cheek, and yes the richer the cheekier in my observation – stick to your guns – feeling slightly outraged is a good approach to dealing with it.

  5. The only occasion when I would give a reduction if someone was buying 2 and then only £10 or so off. However I have been caught out with that and they decided they only wanted one after all but still wanted money off.
    Stick to your guns.

  6. I agree totally and also do give discounts for multiple purchases and occasionally”hardship”. But what if a gallery asks you when a customer badgers them? I have taken a hard line in the past but with Galleries I trust a bit of me feels that having asked them to sell it I should let go unless the discount is totally unreasonable.
    Usually we’re talking 10%. I suppose you could say the gallery could still do it and take the whole hit, but not sure if that happens in the real world. …

  7. I had a nasty time in the spring doing paris fashion week. business not that great. all my knitwear is individually made, not by me, but every hour costs me, the people who do it ought to be, and indeed from next season will be, paid twice what they were being paid, and this darned shop in Milan wants a discount. of course i agreed immediately !! pathetic! hopeless saleswoman. I then went back on it when I got their order and it wasn’t that big, but still. not ever going to do that again.
    but I also make pots, and find the galleries are for ever giving clients 10% off …

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