Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Big Ones Sell the Little Ones

64. The Big Ones Sell the Little Ones

One winter I happened to go to the annual Christmas sale held at the studio of Professor Bunny McBride. Among other things, I spotted several very large platters, each priced at four or five hundred dollars. I asked, innocently enough, “Do you sell many of those?”
He admitted that he did not but asserted that their presence increased the sales of smaller items. He explained. Customers can’t help but notice and admire the big platters. Many of them fantasize a bit about displaying something like that on the wall of a kitchen or dining room. They are drawn to its complex beauty and getting closer and closer eventually read the price tag. “Oh.” It’s not that the price is too high. No, the price seems right. It’s just that the price is too high for them. So they look around and buy something smaller, cheaper, that reminds them of the big wonderful platter. And who knows, perhaps in the months and years to come, when they look at the smaller piece they bought they may just be seeing the larger piece they admired so much.
Over the years, in my own studio, I’ve discovered an additional benefit to the big pieces which hardly ever sell. Large pieces, when well done, can serve as a proof of your mastery. Big pots are just impressive. If most of the pots in your sales inventory are fairly small, say coffee mugs, pitchers, and kitchen bowls, it may be increasingly difficult to feel impressed by your own work or to impress your potential customers. You may begin to feel like just an average sort of potter who only makes “safe”, unchallenging pots. Even if you never have the kiln space or customer base to make your living selling really large pots, it’s psychologically good for you to know that you have the skills to make them when you choose to.
For your own self-esteem, as well as the esteem of the general public, display a few large (high priced) and terrific pots among your regular inventory. Show off a bit. Notice those among your fellow artists who have already learned this truth. Give the public (and yourself) extra reasons to find something ‘awesome’ in your work. And who knows, someday one of your small pot owners may return to you with the money for a big piece you never really expected to sell when you made it. It can’t happen until you make the pot and offer it for sale. Good luck.

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