The Challenges of Hand-Carving a Large Bowl

The challenge of pricing

Hand carving large mahogany bowls is time-consuming and challenges the notion of putting a price to your time. Sometimes people under-estimate the time it takes to complete an item and sometime people have an idea of the most they will pay for an item. There is sometimes a conflict between commercial mass production and hand-made. When they have doubts about the price, the question you usually get is: how long does it take to finish this?

I have made the decision long time ago that if I cannot get the calculated price, I will not make it. The price must be based on cost of raw materials, wear and tear on tools, time it took to carve at a reasonable hourly rate, overhead cost, and whether the item can be marketed wholesale. Sometimes the question of urgent need comes into play. Do I need money for food or a bill urgently? Which means making the price attractive enough for a quick sale. This is a challenge for lots of artists/craftsmen.

Retail and Wholesale

The plain truth is that sometimes an item cannot be sold wholesale.

Tools are very important. There are tools that can make your job easier and faster. Usually those tools are also more dangerous, i.e.: the angle grinder, the chain saw, the die grinder, and other electric tools. Some of which I have redesigned their uses to meet my needs.

One bright spot is the creation of a piece that has artistic value, that is, when you can make up for your losses on mass-produced pieces. But the same artistic piece might take a year or more to find a buyer. To charge less than $325.00 for this bowl is cheating yourself. The most challenging decision for an artist/craftsman is a wholesale price to encourage sales. Most galleries will require a minimum of 50% markup and sometimes 100%.

In conclusion, the artist must be a businessman or be a starving artist most of your life.

There is some joy and compensation in having your work as your passion, a roof over your head, a decent standard of living, and if you are lucky, you might be able to retire on your personally built retirement plan, or just pray that you are blessed with good health in order to continue working as an artist until your time is up.


An artist should make preparations from early in his career for retirement. The best and most affordable insurance policy by a long-standing company, I was unfortunate to pay insurance premiums for 25 years before the scoundrel CEO lost his reinvestment in offshore real estate and was allowed to withdraw monies from the bank that the appropriate governments should have stopped.

One can only hope and pray that their safety net plans do not fall apart. A bank can also declare bankruptcy. What do you think is a reasonable price for this hand carved bowl? 15″ x 9″ x 5″ deep

What is the maximum you will pay for the bowl?

May God Bless us artist/craftsmen and our patrons.

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20 comments on “The Challenges of Hand-Carving a Large Bowl

Wow! This article has taught me a lesson not to be too greedy in making sales decision. Over calculation of profit without considering the present needs is really a challenge for a lot of artists. I love the conclusion part that talked about making decision to be a business man or to be a starving craftsman. To succeed in life is a matter of choice. Thanks for the insight.

Thanks for your comments. I am luck to survive this long-50years, but it is not without its challenges and mistakes.Above all, work with passion. Best wishes.

Being an art enthusiast and an ardent lover of the brain behind such beautiful crafts. I find it very inhumanlike to negotiate prices of works of art. I always believe there is more to the work than just the product. The conception of idea, the source for material, the carving process, the stress and the rigours associated with the work doesn’t make me negotiate. I basically always have more than enough with me whenever I want to make art or crafts products purchases so that I wouldn’t need to bargain the price

You will be amazed how many people try to bargain; I once had an arrogant  customer took up a carving and put down what he felt like and started to walk out the door; I told him if he walked out the door with it I will cal the police, as the taxi driver was known to me. He came back and paid the correct price, while the taxi driver apologised. Some people lack a conscience. Best wishes.

That’s very important to calculate the cost before you do a project. Your time is valuable and the time you put into hand carving a bowl should be reflected in the price. Just to give you an idea when you buy a piece of gym equipment the metal itself might not be that expensive but you are paying for the time that went into it from the welder and other people doing metal working which is a lot per hour. I am sure it is the same for hand carving a bowl.

I would pay a lot for a high-quality hand carved item. I will probably just pay what the artist was asking because I would trust them to be honest about the value. Thanks for this great article and I will keep your page for a future reference!

Thanks for the advice about retirement funds that is good advice to.

There can be a difference whether you are carving for a living or just carving as a hobby and has other means of generating revenue.You can then offer a high price and wait for a buyer , even it it takes years. Self employed persons has no retirement income, but should try to create a plan. very important. Thanks for visiting.


Excellent article about the challenges of cand carving a large bowl. I really enjoyed and learned a few things from this article. I have learned about an artist who have done amazing creation.I have learned about an artist who creat by his passion with full of joy and compensation.After all of this when the artist ask the price for his creation he doesn’t get satisfied return.Now if the artist through the challenge to us(reader) for the price for his creation how we can take the challenge?This creation has no price to compare, this is so valuable that only the artist can decide how much he is going to take willingly for his creation.Because the creation comes up with full of emotion, passion and hard work . Thanks for this great article.

The real challenge is when things are lean, you have to eat, pay bills and raw materials. Today I am happy, a group of new law graduates just visited and was so appreciated of the work that I volunteered a discount. Thanks for the visit

It’s interesting to have a passion and still make a living out of it but the most difficult thing about this most is whether people are really willing to pay for the service you are offering to them at the right price. 

To those who understand what most people go through to come out with high-quality handcraft pay for the right price but unfortunately, others do the otherwise. 

I really wish everybody understand what hand carving is all about and appreciate the hard work. I will share this content on my social media for people to understand what hand carving workers are going through.

Thank you for the offer to share, They are those who do and there are some just want cheap prices without regard or respect for ones skill or time. Thanks for your understanding.

In the late 70s to 80s, I witnessed woodcarvers used hand tools form artistically wood into the design according to the orders of people from the urban communities. I don’t know if they exported it or just for local production. But I think they were underpriced. Although woodcarvers were feeling they were suppliers of such handicraft they worked according to what they’re told to do so.

I’ve never seen among my neighbors who thought of doing a carving for the future and they lost the opportunity of exploiting the available raw materials. This time you are prohibited to cut a tree unless you are permitted by the DENR and the barangay.

I can see woodcraft is best for the idea you brought in here which is something for retirement. Unless you are connected to a company that requires mass production of a certain design you can assure yourself of an immediate sale. However, if you thought of design on your own which nobody ordered you have to wait for an indefinite time to be sold.

This is an investment that needs a lot of time because it does not cater to the daily needs and consumption of people, it is something that needs your option to acquire or not. Thanks for this reflection in life. It displays the fact on how we give importance to small things that cost great value behind what the eyes can see.

My compromise for a commission is this as an example- A young couple wanted a hand-carved ring box for their wedding; I agreed to design one and if they liked it they can purchase it or I will just display it among the other stock for sale. I make it to my liking and  the choice to buy is yours. Freedom is the rule to maintain the passion. 

Thanks for visiting.

I am a musician and I understand the constant battle in my head as to pricing. You would like to choose a higher price because you understand  value, the sentiment, and the desire to share your expression as soon as possible. There are so many things to consider including retirement benefits, present costs and you don’t want a fine piece to stay in your shop because it is priced too high. An artist could survive on that good feeling of having expressed his passion and someone wanting to buy it. But I always remind my fellow artists that compliments and applause have no value to the cashier at the grocery shop. Thanks for another interesting article.

You are so right, overhead and living expenses don’t change, and there is no fixed salary at the end of the month. Artist appreciation and patronage is vital. Thank you for your contribution. Best Wishes.

The wooden bowls are beautiful, what craftmanship!  I believe I would pay a maximum of $500 for a designer wooden bowl.  I bought a custom made glass top coffee table with an oak tree base that was hand carved, trimmed and stained for three times that price, and it was stunning, but practical.  Despite life’s curve balls, I’m glad you get to work on something you are passionate about, that makes all the difference.  To your success, artist and businessman!

Thank you, you price is reasonable, I am in the process of looking for a young entrepreneur to take over the brick and mortar business so I can devote all my time to creating,I am currently dividing my time between the gallery and the studio; which means working long hours, 10 to 12 hrs a day. Wish me luck. Best wishes.

Hand carving, in my opinion, is a profession mastered only a few. I am sure many try and many fail. Therefore, If you feel your products are masterpieces then price them accordingly. If you are up and coming or less experienced then price them accordingly. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the price is the producer. I would pay $30.00 for the bowl

Thank you $30.00 just to admire without touching. LOL

I am not sure if I would pay $300+ over for a bowl, but if it comes from an artistic hand and carefully handcrafted with care using rare resources, I am more than happy to pay for it. As someone who frequently buys things online, I can tell there’s a limit to wholesale quality. After a while, things become boring and less unique. If I truly want to decorate my home with something special, I will invest in hand-crafted items because they have precious value. 

A hand carved one of a kind bowl is well worth 300+, but you must have an appreciation to afford it. tis is not mass production and will keep its value, plus a very special wood. Thanks Cathy for your comments.

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