Quilts seem to be a hard sell right now. For one thing few people outside the quilt world see quilts as art. Consider this quotation from the local newspaper’s article about one of the shows:
“Elizabeth Barton weaves quilts that, if viewed without texture, are just as abstract as paintings, never mind their usefulness..there is no reason ever to snuggle under one of her art quilts. Tack it to the wall for sure!”
Spuggies 18” x 18” (i.e. sparrows!)
The fiber art collector is a rare bird: Those who do buy seemed to fall into two categories: people who sew themselves, and folk art collectors. I sold one little piece precisely because the buyers identified it as being very like the work of a well known folk art painter and sculptor.
Quiltmakers themselves are very appreciative of the work and time and planning that goes into making a quilt, but alas they are not usually the richest of folk! Plus, they often feel that they could make a piece like it themselves, if they only got round to it! (ah yes!!). Also I’ve discovered that quiltmakers rarely go to art shows. Despite postcards, newspaper articles etc I think only one or two quiltmakers of the hundreds in the local area came to either of the shows though if you take the quilts to them – for example at a workshop – they are very interested.
The other big problem with quilts is that it’s very hard to make something under $100 – fabric is expensive – whether you dye it or buy it. Good thread is also very pricey and cheap thread is not worth working with, unless you’re a masochist! Even the simplest piece can take at least 20 hours which means that even if you pay yourself just $5 an hour, you’re easily over $100. I do love those folk who say “ah yes, but you enjoyed making it!” – as if somehow you should subtract your enjoyment from the price!!
It’s also difficult to give wall quilt as a gift, whereas a small painting that is fresh and lively will, the buyer feels, be appreciated by anyone. Sadly, they are not so sure about the lasting value, or the acceptance of, a fiber piece.
Institutions, on the other hand, love fiber art. I think mainly because they can get a much bigger fiber piece for their money than they can a painting! Plus, in many ways, quilts are easier to handle and to hang than paintings and you’re not worried that a falling quilt could rending someone unconscious!! Alas, with the recession, many institutions have given up buying art of any kind.
Now, however, with holiday sales out of the way, there’s a whole New Year to look forward to. I’m planning a series based on a very specific group of painters, so I’m in research mode right now which I love! Oh dear, perhaps I should be adding up how much I’m enjoying this ready to deduct it from the price of my future work!
If you have been, thanks for reading! And I’d love to hear about your experiences with art shows/sales……sorry about the slight hassle of copying a few blurry letters when you comment – it prevents a deluge, unbelievable deluge!, of spam.
Thank you! Elizabeth