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Thread: Those of you who sell bowls

  1. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    East Tennessee
    Posts
    832
    I am picky about what craft fairs I sell at. When I first started we went to 4-5 a year. It didn't take long to weed out the good ones from the not so good. The "not so good" weren't craft fairs at all. Most of the vendors were re-selling items made overseas, jewelry, clothing etc. The people attending these weren't looking for handmade craft items.
    The wife and I only attend three a year now, two are at the same venue, one in the Spring and one in the Fall. Most of the Vendors are truly craftsmen and women and the people attending them are for the most part looking for "handmade" and are willing to pay for them. The other one is a juried show at an Arts studio. What we sell and the prices we charge are different from one to the other. We show our best pieces, Urns, hollow forms, vases, bowls with a lot of figure etc at the juried show. At the two others we sell [what I consider] pieces that are nice but not the "artsy" type that the clientele at the Arts center will purchase.
    Still, in our area we are hard pressed to sell a 10-12" bowl for $50.00. 8-10" bowls go for $20-$45. And they won't sell at all unless they are well done and are either Walnut, Flame Box Elder, or have some nice figure to them. We don't waste our time with Poplar, pine, or any of the other species that don't show well.
    We don't go to make a ton of money nor is it a way to make a living, it's just a way for us to sell some of our surplus items and make enough money for tools, and recoup some of the money we spend on materials etc. Luckily we live on a farm so wood is abundant and I have never purchased the first piece of "turning" wood. In fact most of the wood I turn has fallen naturally or is diseased and needs to be cut down. We let our customers know that and they seem to appreciate the fact that "no tree was harmed" lol.

  2. I think the bowls you were looking at were made on a bowl coring machine rather than a lathe. Seen the machine and process, it's fascinating. It only makes one shape but it's a fairly nice one, also they all warp because it would take a foot and a lathe to re-turn them.

  3. #18
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Location
    beavercreek oh
    Posts
    74
    Look at Etsy, it'll give you some idea of what's out there and what they're asking. Just search "handmade wooden bowl" on their site.

  4. #19
    I have to agree with John Keeton's reply location is the big factor on what you can sell your stuff for. I live in the Midwest and am luck o get $30 to $40 for a nice 10" walnut bowl at a local gallery but while on vacation. I try and stop in places to see what they have the places that have a lot of tourism charge a lot more for the same thing.

  5. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    Northern Illinois
    Posts
    276
    Don't know in detail what everyone else said, but . . . It always sounds like a great idea to sell your work and, of course, it provides great satisfaction when you do. From past experience with selling hand made products and with my wife's polymer clay jewelry, how much you sell and for what price seems to be, to a large degree, random. It depends on what type of venue you sell in, what area of the country you're in, what people want right then, and other very changeable and unpredictable factors.

    For the most part, unless you're in the business of making one of a kind, custom products (whether bowls or something else), people generally aren't willing to pay a lot of money regardless of of how much they rave about the product.

    Recently my wife and I teamed up with wood bowls and clay highlighting of the bowls, thinking it was a bit unique. I would be the first to admit I'm a novice bowl turner, but my bowls are smooth and finished well (because I'm a perfectionist whether I get to the end by turning techniques or am required to sand till it looks good). People allegedly love the bowls but we've sold most of the to our friends (and I've given some away to good friends). They all love them, but selling them to the public is another matter.

    Hey, if you want to create wood art, whether bowls or something else, and try to sell it, go for it. It's a humbling experience. I prefer make and give it to friends and family. They appreciate the work more and it definitely is much less of an effort. Plus, in the end, I get more satisfaction out of making bowls and furniture for my family and friends than selling it.

    Oh, and price . . . We've tried to sell small bowls with the clay highlights for anywhere from $30 - $100 (higher prices for unique woods) and haven't had great success in the midwest. As for selling them in store, retailers generally get 40% - 50% which means either you net less or raise your prices.
    Last edited by Randy Heinemann; 04-16-2018 at 12:22 PM. Reason: Adding content.

  6. #21
    Everyone should keep in mind there are literally thousands of folks just in this country turning hemispherical bowls and that doesn’t count the off shore products coming in. When Glenn Lucas talks about his contracts with Williams Sonoma and others, he is dealing with thousands of bowls annually. If you want to compete in that arena you are going to have to price competitively and aggressively. I sell my work, and have sold a few standard bowls. In the right circumstances they sell for $150 - 200 in a gallery, but that is a rare thing. If one wants to sell turnings, it either needs to be production work or find a niche for more artsy work. If artsy is the choice, the quality (form, finish and aesthetics) need to be at high standards and even then, sales are spotty and I wouldn’t want to have to eat out of the proceeds. Finding a venue to sell art is challenging and uniqueness is required.

    Left click my name for homepage link.

  7. #22
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    El Dorado Hills, CA
    Posts
    1,285
    Quote Originally Posted by John Keeton View Post
    Alex, my point in referring you to prior threads is that the answers are always the same - price depends on size, quality, and other aesthetic factors, but by far the biggest factors are location, location, location! If your are fortunate to be in a good market area, with tourist traffic and can produce a product consistent with what folks are looking for then you can demand top prices. The circumstances where you live will never be the same as those of other posters, so the answers, while well intentioned, are not very helpful. Do some local research to determine your market dynamics and decide if they will work for you.
    There is a small tourist area nearby that sells handmade wood items for what seems like a crazy price relative to the quality. Of course, I may be a bit biased because I can see the defects. Maybe most of his customers like them.

    Then you have to realize that the woodworker only gets half of the marked price. They need to produce items quickly if they are going to make any money, so they are forced to cut a few corners.
    Steve

  8. #23
    Selling "plain" wooden bowls is tough business. A common estimate is $4-$7 per inch of diameter for plain, utilitarian bowls with no inlays, designs, or artsy accents. Do something different, though, and you can charge a lot more. Turquoise inlays, segmented rings, etc (if done well), or showcasing voids in the wood all increase the value at least 2x.

    chuck berry wasn't the greatest guitarist of all time but he had the duck walk.... Pete Townshend had the windmill.... if you want to sell for better prices, use showmanship.

    i sell at 3-4 art shows per year and by commission work. I can pay for my hobby and put a little bit in my pocket. I don't know if there is anyone in the USA paying their rent by only turning bowls. The famous, full time turners have tools they sell with their name on them, go on the road doing demos, and offer turning clinics/classes. Some have books, dvds, and you tube channels. That sounds like a whole lot of work to me!

    I've given away a lot more bowls than I've sold and I get just as much enjoyment out of that. As soon as this hobby turns into a job, I quit.

  9. #24
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Cambridge Vermont
    Posts
    157
    I appreciate all the input. It sounds like what I was thinking for a price for a plane bowl is about what most here feel it can fetch. I'm hoping to just give away bowls for years and not bother with trying to find a new way to get them out of the house. My neighbor who's a master woodworker says sometimes you just have to accept that they have no real value and you can't keep them all so there's always the woodstove. He's not a turner but the concept is the same.

    Last fall he made about 20 chairs out of left over wood from other projects. They were all wood and had no backs. He just wanted to figure out how much of a curve seamed right for the seat as well as which way would work the best. The 4 best chairs ended up in his house while he burnt the rest. I'm not there, I'm too much of a pack rat. I'm hoping that in a few years I don't have hundreds of bowls stuffed in every spare corner of my shop.

  10. #25
    For good sales, it seems like the times people spend the most money are when they are on vacation and/or at Christmas time... So, galleries in vacation areas will do better than down town ones. You never know, sales is a whole different set of skills.

    Of the 'professional' turners I know, those who make a living at it do it from product sales, signature tool sales, demonstrations, work shops, and 'accessories'. None do it from turning sales alone. I always considered myself to be 'semi pro' which meant that I supported my habit and could pay some bills. Much more than that and I would have had to worked too hard.

    I don't do production turning any more, but will focus more on workshops and demonstrations. "If you are having half as much fun as I am, then I am having twice as much fun as you are." The late great Rockin Rome Hammel..... I have as much fun teaching and mentoring as I do turning. Now, to turn about 150 drawer pulls for the new house and shop...

    robo hippy

  11. #26
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Sunrise Beach, MO
    Posts
    1,144
    If One needs or wishes to make a living Turning Wood, you must have Galleries willing to give you space and a Broker who appreciates your work and has a good reputation in those Galleries. I was blessed when I started as I was on the board of the first Gallery I had a showcase in. I had a Gallery opening which was by invitation, and I was there to answer questions and to sell as well. After the one evening opening to my Gallery, which was attended by approx 250 people, I was on display for a month. I had 40 to 50 Turnings on Display. My opening night I sold 9 turnings including HF's, Bowls, and Vases for $1400. During the month I sold another 7 turnings for $1600. I was also fortunate that my Daughter was an Artist in Albuquerque and was able to get me into 5-6 Galleries in a high traffic city which is the Meca of Art in the Southwest. She became my broker and as I am retired and only turn as she needs items to sell. I believe you must sell in Galleries and not swap meets or Flea market or Fair, as you will never get what your product is worth because everyone attending those venues is looking for a bargain and not a piece of Art. My.02 worth.....
    Regards, Ken

    Become a Contributor at SMC and keep this great source of Knowledge and help from becoming only a memory.

  12. #27
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Cambridge Vermont
    Posts
    157
    Someday I would love it if my skills improve to the point where I could put my work in a gallery. My intent is to improve to the point of making bowls with inlays and hollow vessels. I think most (if not all) here don't have a "that's good enough attitude", neither do I. I doubt I'll ever want to make a living at turning or teaching, I'm doing this as a fun hobby but I always push myself to improve. Right now all I do with wood from my land is burn it for heat. I'm looking forward to being able to do something more as plenty of it is too nice to just get burnt. I suspect that I can give away most of the stuff I make (I can always bring it to the plant I work at) and just having people say thanks and admire it is all the payment I need thanks to working a full time job. That being said I'm not opposed to making a display stand and selling bowls at a gift shop or two. When I retire and have more time to turn it would be nice to have an outlet for the stuff I make.

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