Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tiny turtle dilemma – the problems involved when producing miniature bronze turtle sculptures

There’s a great Seinfeld 2 part story called ‘the bottle deposit’ where Kramer and Newman are racking their brains to figure something out: Newman wants to take empty beer bottles to Michigan and deposit them for the extra five cents you get in that state.

Kramer tells him it’s impossible.
If they drive them there, the gas, toll booth and truck rental prices will kill them.
Newman’s determined to crunch the numbers every possible way to make it add up.

I have a similar dilemma with my tiny turtles.
Plenty of people have told me it’s not worth the hassle making tiny pieces. The work involved means you have to charge a lot, or you just don’t make any money on them.
Things with my tiny turtles seemed to be going well. But my supplier got fed up fiddling with them since his casting results were inconsistent. Sometimes they’d come out just fine, so he could give them to me after minimal metal finishing. If that happened every time things would still be great.

But the metal finishing is where he loses money since he gave me a per piece fixed price based on the assumption of consistently good casting results. But sometimes there’d be problems that would need extra time to fix (time is money), or he’d just ditch the problem ones and cast more. Again, wasted time and effort on his part. His prices were great for me, which is what I based my retail price on. But he’s had enough of making them.

So now I’m getting them made somewhere else, but it’s costing me more. They’re casting great, but the sprues the foundry puts on the bottom are bigger than my previous supplier’s, and they obliterate more of the under surface, including my initials.
So they need more work done after casting (after cutting off the bigger sprue, the bottom of the turtle needs to be metal worked, essentially re-sculpting that portion where the sprue was attached on each one), and that extra time adds to the bill.
I don’t want to raise the price on them, they’re 2 of my most affordable pieces.
I like that just about anyone who wants one can get one.

Here’s my options. Do I :-

Stop making them, it’s just too much trouble.
Drop the quality (just flatten off the bottom rather than have metal workers re-sculpt it) so I can still make a bit of money on them (they’d look fine except from underneath)?
Maintain the original quality but raise the price so I can still make a bit of money on them?
Maintain quality but keep the original price so I make next to nothing but you can still have one to enjoy at the same price as before, while I continue to explore other options?

I have decided to go with the last option:
Keep the same price, while trying to figure out a way to make it work.
At least for now.

Like Newman I’m hoping to find a successful ‘other option’ before too long and prove the nay sayers wrong!

They are available from me directly, from my Etsy store, and from some of the galleries I show in.


Deborah Paris said...

I definitely think keeping the quality is essential but I think you should raise the price, even just a bit, to make them financially feasible for you. Don't underprice your work- its worth every penny and more!

Steve sculpts critters said...

Thanks Deborah!
I'm going to stick with the same price until I can find out for sure what I can do. Hopefully there's a way to do it without having to raise it, but if not, oh well, I guess I'll have to!