What is my artwork worth? A awkward discussion about artist wages.

What is my artwork worth?

Sometimes, in doing demonstrations to the public, I end up having some variation of this conversation;

“That ______ is so cute! Can you make me one?”

Which is very flattering! I really appreciate that people like my work, and want to have some of my work around them all the time. Unfortunately, too often this comes with no offer of remuneration. And when we [I] get down talking about exchanging money for goods or services received, a lot of that potential interest cools down really quickly. Not everyone, of course, but enough.


Why? Well, the obvious conclusion is that the prices I charge are too high. So, how much should I ask for my work?  I am going to start this awkward discussion with a basic minimum wage fact for Australians:

“The national minimum wage is currently $16.37 per hour or $622.20 per 38 hour week.”

This comes directly from the Australian Government’s Fair Work Ombudsman site on Australian Minimum Wage. As of the time of this writing, this number is a national standard for adults working in Australia outside of an industry with standard award rates. In 2004, RADF was paying $16.00 to trainee artists;

RADF pay rates

…but after having graduated with a Bachelor of Visual Arts, with a degree in secondary education and having qualifications which allow me to teach and assess at a tertiary level, while applying myself to exhibitions, workshops, residencies and other public events non-stop in the four years since…I don’t believe I can really qualify as a ‘trainee’, at this point in my artistic career.

But for the sake of round numbers and this awkward discussion, I am willing to insult myself. So I am a trainee. And I think that if you are commissioning me to create something, I would like to be paid $16.00 an hour for designing the piece and creating it. And perhaps, the fact I have studied for hours to have the skills and knowledge to create you that thing is worth something too. Which I have factored into my $16.00p/h fee. But what about the materials I use? Well, I supply them too, and I guess they are free or something.

How long do you think one of these took to make?

kelly-marie mcewan creative tanks 2013 amigurumi cake crochet sculpture

Each one was between three and seven hours. And how much would you pay for one? Is it more or less than between $48-$112? If you answered less, that’s OK. You’re not alone.

It’s a complicated issue, made more complex by strong artist feelings. There seems to be no simple answer for the handmade item, struggling to get by in a mass produced goods world.

My only suggestion for approaching artists about buying their works is: at the very least, offer to reimburse them for their time, materials and skill. They will notice.

About kellymarietheartist

I am an artist who, up until recently, was living and exhibiting within Toowoomba and the greater Granite Belt district. I have since packed up and left Australia, and am currently living and working in England. My work engages the craft involved in handmaking within a contemporary art context. I am drawn to the physicality of repetitive textile processes, and this is transcribed though the tactile quality of my forms. In particular, processes such as crochet, sewing and rug making serve as a proxy for growth within my personal environment. Many of my works imitate situations in nature, and they form organically as I create each individual piece, each addition both a continuation and re-enforcement of its predecessors. I enjoy using recycled materials for many of my works. Using crochet and other textile techniques to do this is an important part of my work as it celebrates a tradition of craft that has historically been relegated to 'women's work', with all the negative connotations that entails.
This entry was posted in Australia, Inspiration, Queensland, Research, Review, Textiles, Toowoomba and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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