I got a question today about selling polymer clay art dolls. They asked: “Can you really make a living off selling these?”
Long story short, it pays my bills. However, there is A LOT of work involved in turning selling polymer clay dolls from a hobby into a business, and even I have a long way to go.
When making artist doll sculptures, there’s a lot of things that need your attention:
* Forming the idea for an artwork
* Creating an artwork
* Marketing the artwork and
* Selling the artwork.
All of these take a lot of time and what you need to realize is artists who aren’t very well known will not get high prices. It’s as simple as that. When you FIRST start out, your prices will be based on these things:
1. The current economy. How much people are willing to spend at that given time
2. How popular and sort after the theme of your artwork is
3. How well you executed the idea regarding anatomy and attention to detail.
4. How many collectors or fans you can market your work to.
You won’t start getting high prices until:
a). Your name is known for creating creative and well executed sculptures and
b). You start getting a collector base.
The fact is, if you’re not well known, even if your work is very good, you probably won’t be getting very high prices. So you need to decide from now if you’re willing to work your behind off for probably not a whole lot of money until you get your name out there.
Following are some sales figures I have gathered from researching eBay sales over the past few months. These figures are for people selling polymer clay dolls.
This information is gathered from dolls THAT SOLD. These are the prices they sold for and what kind of doll it was.
$10-$40- Doll sculptures that are simple, small or are made by artists who are not well known or first starting out. The sculpture may also have anatomy faults, flaws in the sculpting or paint work or may be in a less popular theme, (Currently fairies and mermaids or Goth are the preferred themes).
If the quality of your dolls has placed you into this price bracket, it's recommended that you keep practicing before selling your work. Otherwise you're likely to devalue your art.
$40-$100- Doll sculptures that are small, and/or may still have problems in anatomy but are still pleasing to the eye. Usually these are sculptures in a popular theme.
$100-$250- These doll sculptures are usually very well executed, details are good but the artist may still be new or unknown. These sculptures may also be small sculptures or an unpopular themed sculpture from well known artists.
$250-$400- These sculptures are very unique, well done, created by new artists. Well known artists may drop into this price bracket in a bad economy period.
$400-$1500- This is where well know artists tend to sit- if you’re well known, your sculptures are of a great standard and you have a good collector base you're pretty much guaranteed to fall in this price bracket. Achieving all of these prerequisites is not an easy task however.
$1500-$3000- Well known artists will sometimes achieve this price bracket if they have created something truly unique with a very compelling concept, if they have managed to sell in a good economy or if collectors were fighting over it.
$3000+ Doll sculptures that sell above $3000 are rare, and are normally ball-jointed dolls or porcelain. Polymer clay sculptures rarely get more than this even in a good time of year. To achieve more than $3000, you need to be an exceptionally well known artist and have a bidding war amongst collectors in your favour.
Read MORE about selling on ebay with the article:
In a previous article, I made a note about people who are creating copies- selling polymer clay doll sculptures from push molds- and calling them one of a kind (OOAK). This can damage the market!
Obviously because the sculpture they make the mold from is a good sculpture, usually the sculpture they make will look almost as good.
However, because they can make them quickly, these people don’t mind putting a lower price on it. So people who are shopping can take a look at the sculptures on eBay and think:
“Why would I pay $400 for a sculpture of a man when there’s a sculpture of a man for $150?”.
What they don’t know is the cheaper one was made from a push mold. That is how it can damage the market. Anything similar to the mold piece that is selling for a higher price usually won’t get bought.
Having said that, you can still make money from making sculptures.
With artist crooks out there, you need to now, more than ever, be unique.
An interesting concept, a new technique with something you’ve done or even flawless execution will help set you apart from everyone else in the market.
There is a saying “There is nothing new in art that hasn’t been created before in the past”. This is true to some extent.
Every artist has to learn how to create art off someone, and inspirations from their idols may rub off onto their work. I am not talking about these slight similarities as they are bound to happen.
What you shouldn’t be doing is saying “wow, that sculpture sold for $1500, people must like the concept! I’m going to make one too”. Sometimes if you are getting very good at sculpting, you may actually pull off a similar sculpture that too earns a reasonable price. HOWEVER, you will get flamed for it!
Intentionally copying someone else’s idea gets around the artist industry very quickly, and often the original artist is informed.
This is something you do not need when trying to make a business selling polymer clay dolls as this will surely hurt the sales mark.
There is a well known artist who used to be praised by everyone they met, and even people they hadn’t, but of recent years their reputation of poor business practices has hurt their bottom line quite dramatically. If they had just kept pushing themselves to improve with every piece and kept making unique concepts, their sculptures would no doubt be selling in the thousands.
From what I can see, they are lucky to achieve $500 per sculpture, which is terribly low for the amount of collectors they should have accrued.
How do you avoid being labeled as a copycat artist?
So can you really make a living selling polymer clay art dolls?
The answer to the question is yes, selling polymer clay dolls can be a business. You may never earn an hourly rate comparable to a top executive, but it can earn you good money. However, it takes time building your customer base, and you need to become good at what you do.
On top of that you need to spend just as much time marketing your work as you do making the product, which most creative people dread. This is why the term “starving artist” has become well known.
Most artists have the potential to make a lot of money, but lack the drive or focus to put their business hats on and market their work.
Selling Polymer Clay OOAK Art Dolls can be a challenge, but if you truly love being crafty, this is definitely a craft that can add dollars to your purse.
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