Mosaic Art Untitled Valri Castleman

How To Price Mosaic Art

Pricing art is difficult because it is subjective, and pricing mosaic artwork is even more problematic due to the extra labor required to make it, but there is a structured way to determine a hard number, even if the buyer is a friend or relative.

Recently artist Valri Castleman emailed my a photo of her untitled mosaic shown above and asked for my advice on how to price it for a family member. Normally I am not drawn to mosaics made from triangular pieces, but I like Valri’s mosaic and think it is worth sharing for several reason. For starters, there is some sophisticated “figure-ground-reversal” going on that reminds me of Picasso and the Cubists. There is also some interesting use of grout lines to outline figures. Lastly, the mosaic is a good case study for how to price your art for sale to a friend.

I have pictures of some of Valri’s other work throughout this article. Notice how each piece is an experiment in some new direction instead of a simple variation of what she has already figured out. Even in the two variations on reptiles and scales, there is something new attempted in each. That speaks to me.

Objective Factors

The first place to start in pricing anything (art or otherwise) is to determine your costs, specifically labor and materials.

Even if you decide to give the piece away for a song, it’s good to know what the art cost before you make that decision.


Valri’s mosaic is 29 inches x 33 inches, which is 957 square inches or 6.6 square feet.

For stained glass, glue, and grout, I estimate $25/sq ft, which gives $166 in mosaic materials, plus a backer and mounting system, and so $200 in materials total.


Valri didn’t track the hours she worked on this project, which happens often even for professional artists because it’s all about losing yourself not punching a clock, but we can set a low estimate for what it took to make this mosaic, say 30 hours. At $15 per hour, which is probably much lower than what either Valri or her buyer consider a decent pay rate for skilled labor, we have $450 as a low estimate of labor cost.

So, if Valri charges $650 for this mosaic, she is barely covering time and materials.


A price of $650 doesn’t take into account the fact that the mosaic is original artwork or what experience and practice Valri needed to conceive of the design and execute it. If the buyer is a member of the general public (meaning not a friend or relative), a good rule of thumb is to double the cost of labor and materials to account for the expertise required to make the art. Of course, the expertise factor can be higher if you are working as an artist and having regular shows in galleries, but now we are getting into subjective factors.

Raccoons Mosaic Art By Valri Castleman
Raccoons Mosaic Art By Valri Castleman
Octopus Mosaic Box by Valri Castleman
Octopus Mosaic Box by Valri Castleman

Subjective Factors

If your buyer is a friend or relative, these factors tend to decrease the asking price instead of increasing it.

Avoid Sticker Shock

A good way to prevent “sticker shock” is to educate your buyer about the time required to make a mosaic. Show them how you cut the glass. Show them your work table or studio. They will likely be as interested in the process as much as the finished product, and it will help them appreciate what it took in terms of time and materials to create the mosaic.

The Buyer’s Background

Is your relative worldly and educated? Do they collect art? What is their general income level? Do they own a home renovation company, or do they work as an hourly carpenter’s assistant for that company?

If your friend or relative is like most ordinary people in middle America, chances are they have very little experience with buying original art and think only in terms of prices for mass-produced goods. There may be a ceiling on what you can ask this particular person for the art without seeming unrealistic or seeming like you are taking advantage of your relationship with them.

Just because a relative has asked to buy a piece of your artwork doesn’t mean that you have to sell them anything. Rather than charge a price that doesn’t cover the cost of producing the mosaic, or get into an awkward situation, you might decide to simply make a gift of it.

All that being said, if your relative is educated and well-traveled and all that, you have a solid basis for charging them full price, especially if you make art for a living or aspire to do so.

If you are uncertain whether your friend or relative has an appreciation of what art costs, then make sure you show them your work space and what was required to create the art.

Serpent Mosaic Art by Valri Castleman
Serpent Mosaic Art by Valri Castleman.
Blue-tailed Skink Mosaic Art by Valri Castleman
Blue-tailed Skink Mosaic Art by Valri Castleman

Your Relationship With The Buyer

Is your buyer the grandmother who raised you after your mother passed away, or is this a second cousin or a friend who is more of an acquaintance? If the situation is more of a gift than a sale, then make it a gift. That being said, if a friend or relative is trying to make you a gift of money, then let it happen.

Your Professional Aspirations

If you are wanting to make art professionally, then you need to get into the practice of charging what it is worth and not undercutting the galleries that sell your work.






9 responses to “How To Price Mosaic Art”

  1. Valri Castleman Avatar
    Valri Castleman

    Thank you so much for featuring some of my work in this article, Joe.
    I’m honored that you thought my mosaics worth sharing!

  2. Merry Dragovich Avatar

    Thank you for a very interesting article. I have been making mosaics for the past three years and have just started to market them. I entered a gallery show recently and struggled with pricing. I considered counting the number of tiles used, (approx.) so the buyer would have a better idea of just how complex the work is. I have a facebook page to show the process of creating each piece. I appreciate the information you provided, and loved Valri ‘s work.
    Merry Dragovich

  3. Terry McDonald Avatar

    In my graphic design business I often donated my services to non-profit organizations, and also developed artwork for friends & family. How to deal with pricing in such situations is always a conundrum. What worked best for me was to act as a business-owner first. Generate an invoice as if charging a regular paying client with the project description, breaking down labor and materials. Then I would add ‘creative’ charge, a percentage of the labor and materials. This is most difficult, and intuitive on my part. I would make sure I could explain to my client why this charge is 50% or 200% based on how much innovation and originality was involved in the project. Also, with a client I would have a contract where this information was already outlined and explained.

    But it was important for the pro bono or friends & family discount recipient to know the true price/value of the product. I would then discount the project as I chose…usually all materials still charged as a reimbursement (unless it was a 100% donation), then next the labor and creative charges discounted by a chosen percentage that would bring me to the final price I wanted to charge (eve if that price is $0.00. This way it’s still a business transaction, and the recipient will appreciate the gift.

    Even now that I’m mostly retired and I’m not as concerned with profits, I will be generating more of my own creative output and will still treat it all as a business, even if I give away my pieces, or discount them with regularity. So nice to not HAVE to keep track on a time sheet…always made me feel like a lawyer!

    I hope this is an idea that may help others…

    1. Joe Moorman Avatar
      Joe Moorman

      Very good points Terry! I think the idea of an invoice with a discount is an excellent way to show the gift aspect of the transaction.

    2. Fay Nelson Avatar

      Truly a timely share!

      Many thanks


  4. Nkonge Moses Ezra Avatar
    Nkonge Moses Ezra

    Thanks alot…. I normally tell my fellow artists that it’s different to price mosaic art. And I just end up tell them I just feel proud with my stained glass mosaics.even if they don’t buy. Because I also enjoy it as part of my treasure. But now. You have given me a way forward how to value it. Thanks alot

  5. Mrs Susanne Schilling Avatar
    Mrs Susanne Schilling

    Good day I have a mosaic that I’ve just finished and a client is wanting to buy my piece. I read your very interesting article and was wondering if you could guide me on a price please. I don’t see a place where to post a photo, let me know and I’ll send you a few photos.

    1. Joe Moorman Avatar
      Joe Moorman

      Please email me photos:
      inspire [at]

  6. paul valentine Avatar

    I inherited a piece of Art from my grandmothers estate. I’ve been trying to find out the value of this piece. I’m going to either sale it or have it insured, but don’t know the value. I was told it once had a news paper article on the back of this piece but no longer exist. Could you possible help me with this, it’s a very niece piece with mother mary and Jesus. My email is Thank you . Please let me know how i could send you a picture.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.