Happy New Year! It’s time to look back on the year and also time to look ahead. Here are a few of my thoughts:
“Dawn” – 71″ x 34″ Third Place Quilt Fest of New Jersey X 2014
“Dawn” – 71” x 34” Third Place, 1st Time Entry in a Paducah Show, AQS Paducah, 2014.
Award for Resolved Design at the Pennsylvania Guild Fine Craft Fair in Wilmington, DE.
Taking a class with Esterita Austin on using sheers for surface design in art quilting
Taking a class with Rosalie Dace on using the expressive shapes, lines and colors of Kandinsky as inspiration.
Being overbooked in too many shows – not enough time to create
Signing up for some shows which turned out to be very low in sales
Finding myself making items which I know will sell but the making bores me to tears
It was an intense year! Some great highs and some disappointing lows. I did 14 shows. Crazy, I know.
I just simply felt I had to try a variety of shows to figure out my market. I spoke with other artists and paid attention to their reports, I subscribed to the East Coast portion of Art Fair Sourcebook and did a lot of research.
What I learned:
Different regions of the state and the country have different buying patterns. Philadelphia has always been my best market. People here understand fiber art and they aren’t afraid to put abstract fiber art on their walls. My work is most appreciated and purchased by those who live in urban and surrounding areas. New Jersey and New York, especially those areas near New York City are also good.
Many of the shows I did this year were heavily weighted with jewelry and wearables. Women wear their wealth. They can make choices concerning what they wear but choosing art for their homes can be more complicated. They must consult their decorator or their spouse or partner.
The idea of putting fiber on the wall is a new concept to many people. We experimented with using textile hangers to hang my pieces and noticed that sales noticeably improved when we offered to include them in the sale. Thank you, Ten Thousand Villages! I purchase these nifty little bamboo textile hangers every time they go on sale.
I got quite a few suggestions from customers, lately, to consider framing some of my pieces. As much as I’m resistant to the idea of framing fiber art I think it may help to convince some people that my work is art and it is worth purchasing. I have heard this suggestion enough times, now, that I think I need to at least frame a few works. Perhaps, staple the work to stretcher bars and put it in a float frame without glass. It’s worth a try.
Conversations about my work have also been intriguing. Some of my pieces are landscape art and some are abstract. I have them priced according to the labor involved in the techniques used and also according to size. This often brings up questions about the wide price range and the reasons behind it. If you see it as art for the wall and compare it to mixed media work or paintings you’ll notice a parallel correspondence in price range. If you look at the work as quilts and associate that with bed quilts you’ll roll your eyes at my prices.
Sometimes there is no logical rhyme or reason to why a show goes well or doesn’t go well. I’ve had days where I’ve sold absolutely zero. I had a day this Fall that was already going very well when a woman walked in and said, “I love it, I’ll take it!” and purchased a $2,195.00 art quilt without blinking an eye. That price range usually involves at least a little deliberation. Not for her!
I’ve learned to brave the crazy weather and to be prepared for anything in outdoor shows. I’ve had a virtual river flowing through the back of my tent in a heavy rain shower and I’ve had to set up my tent in rain. I’ve learned how to survive wind, opportunistic thieves, mud, dogs, and people walking through with drinks, funnel cake, and French fries.
I’ve learned how to engage with people and how to tell my story. I love interacting with the public and hearing their reactions to my work. It informs me and often helps inspire me. I love seeing the work of other artists and makers. I am often in awe of their ideas, patience, precision and fearlessness.
Through it all, I have the wonderful support and help of my dear Rod. He grew up going to market with his Dad so he’s familiar with “load in” and “load out”. We’re quite a team. He helps me tweak my display, brings me lunch, coffee and tea, and watches my booth when I need breaks. He shoots the breeze with other artists and we enjoy exploring new towns, places to eat and beautiful scenery. He always encourages me when I’m feeling down. “One thing about quilts: they never spoil and they will keep.” (Unlike the meat he sold with his father) We also have a running text conversation during shows which is fun. One time he sat in a little coffee shop across the street from my booth and texted, “Bam!” each time a customer walked out with a purchase. It’s all an adventure we can share together and I’m so grateful for his support.
Now I’m looking forward to four months of welcome creative time. This is the time of year I usually make my big competition quilts. You know, they say, “Time flies when you’re having fun,” and it’s true. When I’m in my studio creating the days go so fast. Time doesn’t exist and I’m just in the moment. I love it.
Balance – I want more balance of time in 2015. I will not do as many shows and I will try to choose wisely. I like the balance of time I have now between teaching piano (my first career) and making and selling my art. Four evenings a week teaching with Wednesday being the longest is perfect.
Teaching and Lecturing – I gave my first quilt guild lectures in 2014 and I would like to do more. It was fun and I enjoyed meeting other quilters. I will be teaching my first couching class (a technique of stitching yarn or cording down on the quilt surface) at the Birds of a Feather Longarm Event in Virginia Beach in February.
I want to spend some time developing more lesson plans for art quilting classes.
Working in a Series – I want to create a body of work that is more cohesive and recognizable. I am easily distractible and keep wanting to try out new ideas. It’s all so intriguing! It’s also a juggling act to create things which I enjoy and to create things others will appreciate. We all need to create those bread and butter items which sell easily at a lower price point. The challenge is to create something to fit the bill but to find that which does not bore one to tears.
Spending more time marketing online – I do have an Etsy shop but I have had very little time to put into it. I know there are better marketing tools and I have resources to explore so I want to do that.
In summary, I’m grateful that I have the flexibility to straddle two careers mid-life (I’m really beyond mid-life but who cares?). I feel so grateful that I love teaching music, I love making textile art and I get to do both. I love that I get to explore beauty in my surroundings and in the work of those I admire and in what I create. I’m grateful that people appreciate what I do and are willing to support it. I’m grateful for my family and their support and encouragement. I look forward to seeing many of you through this coming year and wish for you a year of beauty.