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I Forge Iron

Piece pricing?

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Today I got several people asking me if they could buy a piece of artwork I had done in steel, silver, clay and glass (tree with a silver bowl, roots wrapped around a glass ball and set in a clay block) I only have this icky picture from before I did the final oiling of the steel and general fixing up of the piece, but for something like this, how much should I charge? I'm going to do several more which are much cleaner (the picture is before polish and general cleanup, but I can do better in the details) so it's not one of a kind, probably one of 3 or 4.
Also...I looked in the mirror...and realized that my right arm (hammer-arm) is ridiculously much larger than my left arm...is this true for any other people?


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How long did it take you to make, how much did it cost you in fuel, materials, etc? What do you value your time at, no less than min. wage, I hope a lot more. Where I live $10 /hr is really good money, $15 is almost unheard of. I bill at $30 /hr and some smiths that I know think I'm giving my work away. Most of my work is local, and some people have to work for three or more hours to buy somthing from me that takes me an hour to make (I wonder how much thought they give to that when they buy things like the new PS3 and such?). I've seen the artist trap too, "this is my art, it's my baby, you must pay $300 for my welded rebar and wire sculpture, I put my heart and soul into this." That reminds me of a story...

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what is the story?
This first one took me about 6 hours of forging (when I was muddling through, unsure of the design it'll take maybe 4 at the absolute most now, especially with the better forge, so less heating time, about 10 minutes of glass work, and an hour of clay, and an hour of silver work. I can hardly be said to put my heart and soul into this, it was a semi-commission after all :-)

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what is the story?
This first one took me about 6 hours of forging (when I was muddling through, unsure of the design it'll take maybe 4 at the absolute most now, especially with the better forge, so less heating time, about 10 minutes of glass work, and an hour of clay, and an hour of silver work. I can hardly be said to put my heart and soul into this, it was a semi-commission after all :-)

That's a pretty nice piece as it sits. I hope you plan on sending finished pics.

While you shouldn't really charge for your learning curve it isn't too unreasonable if you're only going to make a few.

Except for the silver materials aren't a significant part of the art but you should charge anyway.

Then you have to decide what your shop rate is. You need to figure the mortgage or % thereof, utilities, taxes, insurance, etc. Whether you use it or not your shop is going to cost you money. Of course you can't charge it all to a project but prorating a day or two into this piece is reasonable.

I haven't decided what my shop rate will be yet but figure it'll be around $75/hr. I calculate it into everything from design to finishing.

It sounds like you have at least 10 hrs. into this piece so not counting the silver I'd ask around $200. That is only $20/hr and low balling quite a bit. You need to decide what to charge based on your marerials, overhead, experience and the market.

If it ain't forged
it ain't real.
Wrought iron is.
The FrostWorks

Meadow Lakes, AK.

ArtMetal Radio - Podcasting the Metal Arts
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Have you asked yourself what you would be willing to pay for that piece???

On the occasion I've sold something i try to balance that (I see all the flaws in my work) with a rough estimate of materials (usually 2X the easy figured materials such as steel and other physical parts) plus an hourly rate times what a reasonable compentant work would spend (takes out the learning curve). The hourly rate should not really be less than $12-15/hour. You think the next will take around 6 hours total if i read the post right so that is something between $70-90 in hourly rate A guess on materials of around $30 give a price of $100-120. Do you think it is worth that? Looking at it I might be willing to go a max of $150 so I don't think $120 is out of line.


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I've always had trouble with asking myself "how much would I pay for this?" I always answer myself, "Well, I wouldn't buy something like that, I'd make it!" which of course...I did...it's my own work. I don't think I will sell the original, because it's not as good as I could make it, and idiots have picked it up by the stem so many times that the clay is pulling apart into huge fissures, and the area below the glass is white, when it should be painted black. I am going to sell the better ones only, I don't want to misrepresent the quality of work I could do now.

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This is a pic of a candlestick that was very popular during the Hidden in the Hills Art Studio Tour (www.hiddeningthehills.org) I was just in (Cave Creek/Carefree Arizona). The surrounding area is high income so that does come into the pricing equation. If your are selling a candlestick you can only get so much money for it. If you are selling a piece of art that also happens to be a candlestick you can charge a lot more for it. It takes more effort on my part to talk to folks about my art and how I work but in the end I make more money. My business name is "Desert Rat Forge". That sets up certain images in folk's mind before they ever meet me. They expect a rustic craggy/wild person and thats what I deliver (and that's who I really am). That fact that I have two burros next to my shop helps a great deal.

When a clients friends asks them about something they bought from me they just don't get (it's a candlestick). They get a story about a guy in the desert with burros who plays with hot iron.

This process sets me up to do some nice commissions where price is secondary to the product I deliver. I do not price by the hour because I don't do production work. I don't bother to figure out materials cost. Painters don't - paint and canvas cost squat but they can get thousands for a painting that tickles someone's fancy.

OK - so how much did I get for these candlesticks - I mean art pieces -

$175 each...

and I sold 9 of them.

Do good work and be proud of it. Make a name for yourself and price accordingly.


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As a director/member of an artists collective, I live by forge and anvil as a metal artist. That means blacksmith, welder, sculptor...anything metal. While I do traditional work(hooks, hangers etc.) what sells the most is art posing as ordinary iron objects. Coat trees, tables, gates, fences, other furniture... as long as it is unique and comes from my heart or head or in collaboration with a client or other artist.

Since we can't compete with China for hooks in a Walmart culture, we can give our clients something that has a value far beyond what an uncaring, unfeeling utility item can give. Vision. Style. Feeling. Our clients may not be able or capable or willing to create the way that we can. So how do you put a price on that? Not just with an hourly rate, thats not the way that the blacksmith/artist should price things.

$30 dollars an hour is so low that you probably ARE giving away your work. I have an office manager/accountant that does cost analysis for me. She double as a glass artist but comes from corporate with a list of real costs that need to be figured in. With my Real costs in mind, I can figure the overhead and what I want as actual take home pay. I don't like to actually give my hourly base rate, most times I give a per job price. Below are a couple of pics of recent work to give you an idea.

Email me offlist if you want any advice on how to calculate ALL of the overhead. There were 20 some line items for a recent accounting/cost analysis of our pottery department, and it came as quite the surprise when some items thought to be profitable were found to be lack luster in terms of actual profit. Did you remember to figure in your property taxes, gasoline, car payment, insurance for building/business/auto, gravel for the road, cost of promotional material( business cards, flyers,) , that recent yard sale score of 4 new hammers and 2 great tongs, that great deal on a power hammer that cost $25 but took 6 months and $800 in other expenses to fix up, and on and on?

Its never just the cost of steel and coal.

Examples of a few pieces recently at Tamarack or another gallery near you-

Table/ iron tree branches with copper wrap, blue stone top-$900(I got the stone free)
Branch candelabra/ branches are textured to look like bark-$600
Fireplace screen(decorative only),-$500 something (I think)
Sun/ iron sun and base with stained glass and rondel inset- $400 or 500?
Cattails/ iron and copper-$1200 or $1400 I can't remember.

Pounding out the brain cells.






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