How to price your handmade textile artwork

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Today I was asked how do I price my artwork. After a few exchanges, I was encouraged to write up a blog post about it. So, here is my two cents. I don’t think it’s original.

So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Put a price tag on your artwork already!

  1. What are comparable items selling for?
  2. What’s your market audience willing to spend?
  3. How much time did it take you to make the thing?
  4. How much did the materials to make it cost?
  5. Don’t forget to factor in time you spent designing the thing (if it’s original, which it most likely is, if you are reading this).
  6. And don’t forget that you have overhead costs (commissions, listing fees, rent/mortgage, food, travel, classes, etc).
  7. Don’t underestimate the amount of skill you have, especially if you have been doing the thing (whatever it is — writing, baking, embroidery, sewing, quilting, etc) for years
  8. Feel free to pay yourself minimum wage. (Personally, I don’t keep track of how much time I spend on a piece because my time is so broken up and it would drive me crazy to keep track of it.)
  9. The gap between what you want to make and what people want to actually pay for to own can be huge.
  10. Charging less for your work than what it’s worth doesn’t benefit you or other craftspeople. It actually harms them, even if you don’t *need* the money.
  11. It is AOK to make things as gifts for people. You do not have to try to sell every piece you make.
  12. I suck at marketing. I got no tips for you there, but if your work is not selling well, it may not be the quality of your work or the price you are putting on it.

Here are some blog posts that might be of interest (and which are much better written than mine).

Sewmamasew writes about placing a value on our quilts.

Mooreapproved writes about the real cost of quilts.

Hunterdesign studio has at least two great posts about pricing work. First is here.

 

I’m now going to end with a couple random quotes:    “Fungal mats are awesome.” and “It never hurts to have fresh hair.”

PS: check the comments for helpful links to further reading!

Decay, Disintegration, Distortion

Charity Janisse recently posted a picture of rusted metal on Twitter, which got me thinking about decay. I realized that I tend to focus on themes of vitality in my work and working on the flip side could be interesting.

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Flame taken by Charity Janisse and posted in this online article.

 

Then Lorie McCown came and gave a talk about her work to my quilt guild. She uses a lot of textiles in her work with frayed edges. Boy did she get me thinking about disintegration (as well as making your mark). You can find some great detail shots of her work on her Instagram account here.

And I’ve been talking to people who do computerized generative art. I think it was Anders Hoff who got me thinking about distortion when he posted these.

 

So, when I found myself with a week with one kid who was going to be gone from 9-4:30 every day, I jumped on the chance to work on a series of 5 panels which I dubbed “Obsessive Stitching 1-5”.  My initial idea was to work with all over patterns, as I had done in the Trajectory: Escape Velocity initial and final panels, but after two days of that, I got bored.

Here is day 1 and day 2.

 

I had hoped that the above finished panel would be more buckled (as it was promising to do below and like the panel from day 1), but it smoothed itself out in one dimension, while warping the shape!

Day 3. Here’s what happens when I do the same thing over and over. I have to change it up. This one needs more quilting, but I wasn’t able to finish it in one day.

 

Day 4 I decided to go back to the all over pattern and not worry about distorting the fabric. I was focused more on accentuating the pattern that the dye had created and adding texture. I used two metallic threads (black and red) in one needle (one eye, not two). Here is the result. It’s very subtle. I am quite pleased with how this turned out and think I might add some beads before I call it completely done.

By Day 5, I was exhausted, had run out of food, and had other things to attend to, so I only had a couple hours in the studio. I decided if I worked small(er), I might be able to get something substantial done. Initially I was going to make coccolithophores in space, but that seemed too daunting by Friday afternoon, so I switched to jellies instead. This picture is a bit of a cheat because I only made three jellies the first day. Also, the tweet is misleading. There are 12 jellies on that panel.

All in all, I have to say it was an interesting week. I rarely get concentrated time like that to work, and certainly never 5 days in a row. Working only with hand dyed panels felt very different to me. It is certainly a way to more easily incorporate organic patterns into my work. I also don’t usually focus on the stitching. That has typically been a way to just hold the thing together and add color. Using stitching as way to get to texture was very satisfying, especially as I think of my work more and more as 3d.

I look forward to playing more with stitching and themes of decay, disintegration, and distortion.

 

Women artists who inspire me

For International Women’s Day, I like to talk about some women who inspire me. I am sorry I do not have pictures for this entry. Please click on the links and see what joys await you!

Jen Athanas is someone I’ve known for almost 20 years. She helped me when I started sewing clothes. Any time I had a question, she’s always been available. Her support has been invaluable, so you can see why she’s important in my life, but she also works incredibly hard, has very high standards (something she helped instill in me), and is tenacious.

Athanas set out to get a degree in textiles at Rochester Institute of Technology. They axed her program before she finished, so she left. In the meantime, she moved to the Washington DC metro area and determined to finish her bachelors. She went to Marymount University and got a degree in fashion design. For her senior project, she used upcycled fabrics, something she continues to do today. She has been making beautiful bags for over 10 years and is just branching out into non-functional art.

Athanas does not just sit in her studio and create, she also a vital part of the art scene. She was juried into the Torpedo Factory last year and is now on the board. She teaches classes in the area and also volunteers at Scrap DC. She reminds me that all work and no play makes a dull gal. She finds time for yoga and other social activities too! Visit her at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria VA or check her out online at her website jenafusion.com

In my last entry, I mentioned friends I’ve made on Twitter. Immy Smith is one of them. She is an artist who has left the lab. Her work is stunning and thought provoking. I love seeing her trials and works in progress. Smith seeks out collaborations with labs and other artists. Her work aims to communicate science. I think she does this brilliantly, both as a fine artist and a cartoonist! Check her out on Twitter (drimmysmith or cartoon_neuron) or find her website and browse immysmith.com

I met Megan McGlynn at SfN14 and was privileged to have a booth next to hers. We shared inspirational images with each other all week. McGlynn went to art school and studied neuroscience at U Penn concurrently with getting an art degree at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She’s interested in architecture and often couches neuroscience in this perspective. She works with ink and paper as well as sculptural elements. I cannot tell you how awesome it was to sit next to a booth with a 4 foot pyramidal neuron that everyone who walked by was drawn to. She also teaches sometimes. I wish I could take a class with her! If you are in the Philadelphia area, see if you can find her work. It’s worth seeing. You can read more about her on meganmcglynn.com.

Last, but not least, I met Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle last summer. They sing together and create amazing, intense crankie shows. Their beautiful harmonies complement the art that scrolls past, no matter if they are hand sewn, lino cut, or even shadow puppets. Their material ranges from somber to hilarious. They also have a radio show, somewhat in the style of Prairie Home Companion, that they organize on a monthly basis. They perform, they teach, they invite people to collaborate. They live their passion and inspire. Check them out at annaandelizabeth.com.

Best of all, even if you can’t see these amazing women in person, you can purchase some of their work.

The Riches of Twitter

Twitter has brought me unimagined riches: new friends (got to meet quite a few at SfN14 last year); little gifts in the mail (lapsang souchang infused goat cajeta, alpaca fibers for felting); great #sciart in my life new mushroom coasters laser engraved by Julie Himes and a felted hat adorned by a jellyfish to warm my noggin); and opportunities to have conversations about science, art, and everything in between.

When the #sciart tweet storm was announced, I felt a bit shy about participating. On Sunday, I tentatively tweeted my first few tweets for the #sciart tweet storm organized by the Symbiartic blog team: Kalliopi Monoyios (@eyeforscience), Katie McKissick (@beatricebiology) and Glendon Mellow (@FlyingTrilobite). I had no idea what riches it would bring.

On Monday morning, I saw a tweet by Stewart Barker of a fungal invasion. It was so beautiful. And my kids had a snow day. I thought, ah ha, I’m going to see if I can capture this in felt.

My attempt did not fully resemble Barker’s infestation, but I was pleased with it. When I reported back, he told me that he had seen other fungal infestations resembling my felt, which really made my day.

Monday night, I got talking with someone about starting a new hashtag idea. That work is still in process, but I’m hoping we can roll it out next week. I love collaborating!

Yesterday morning, I wrote up the previous blog post in an attempt to get my three images done for the day. Five minutes after I posted, Chris Woolston from Nature Magazine called and wanted to know if he could use an image of one of my quilts for an online article about the #sciart tweet storm. I was really confused and didn’t think he could possibly mean one of the one’s I’d just posted, but yes, that was what he was talking about. Talk about serendipity!  (Find the article here, with lovely sciart from three other artists as well!)

I love the #sciart community because of the investigative spirit and willingness to collaborate. I’m invigorated by it. If there is a question to be pursued, that is exciting to me. Ultimately, I think #sciart is about communication. I appreciate being part of the conversation and I can’t wait to see what else comes out of the #sciart hurricane! I hope it takes a long time to die down.

Neuron collection: 3 new neuron quilts

Last fall I made a little purple neuron which caught the eye of Jennifer Wells (aka Jenthulu) on Twitter. After SfN14, she asked me if I would make her a new one as well as another one like Dancing, but in different colors.

Even though the request had been for a purple neuron, I got distracted and made a grey neuron highlighted with green flashes. For me, it is reminiscent of the micrographs with GFP (green flourescent protein).  Then I went and made the purple one, using different fabrics on the back as I had done before. I wanted it to feel fresh and as I said on Twitter last week, I’m not interested in reproducibility of results. I am constantly tweaking.

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Grey neuron quilt about 6X9 inches with metallic green flashes

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Purple neuron, dancing on a black background

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“Electricity” A green and pink neuron interact on a field of blue. Size is approximately 20in wide by 18in tall.

Then I set to work on the pair of interacting neurons. I wanted to try something different, so I used foil for the flashing synapses instead of angelina and where the connection was farthest, I added beads in the hopes of conveying the idea of little bits of information crossing (this is more along the lines of artificial intelligence, really, but I’m a fan of scifi too).

Initially I wasn’t sure how the different colors would play out.  I thought the red-pink background I’d made before with black neurons would be the only way to showcase them properly, but with a little time, I was able to figure out another solution. It was good to stretch outside my preconceived notions!

The Skeleton and The Skin: Annet Couwenberg

The Skeleton and The Skin

Annet Couwenberg is a fiber artist whose art work is based on the concept of clothing as a metaphor for examining the precarious balance between the body/skeleton and the outer membrane/skin.

Dr. Lynne Parenti studies the comparative anatomy and distribution of tropical freshwater and coastal marine fishes mainly from Southeast Asia.

Annet and Lynne worked together during the summer of 2014 for a unique Fellowship experience studying the Division of Fishes’ collections through the lenses of both art and science.

Annet Couwenberg's Puff #2, made of laser cut buckram and wood

Annet Couwenberg’s Puff #2, made of laser cut buckram and wood

Last week I got an email with this description from my fiber arts guild email list. Gosh, it was right up my alley. I had to go. So, I traipsed into DC, ice and puddles notwithstanding, and listened to what they had to say.

Couwenberg has no formal science education (beyond your usual secondary ed, I assume). She’s got two degrees in fiber and a background in fashion design, but has long been interested in the relationship between the skeleton and the skin. We saw corset inspired art, for instance. But listening to her talk about her fellowship at the Smithsonian was great.

She really dove into the rich source material on so many levels. Not only was she inspired by how the fish looked, but she was looking at histograms (slides of tissue) and manipulating those and then creating art based on those.

Couwenberg works with a variety of materials. I was particularly taken with her laser cut pieces. Some pieces are lacey, others are stacked (layers and layers (HEY NEURO PEEPS, think about this for those stacked images you guys get — juicy stuff, am I right?)).

Origami is a rich source of inspiration for her too. She had all this folded buckram which was pretty neat (laser cut dots to help with the folds!). And yet, she holds she’s not a sculptor but a fiber artist.

I was struck by a couple thing she talked about. At least twice she talked about how it’s about the process for her. This is how she learns. Finally, someone else like me! I asked her if she could have learned science in this way, might she have been a scientist? She agreed it might have happened.

Someone asked if the technology allowed her to do things she wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. Her answer was interesting to me because she talked about how it didn’t make things easier, but I also have to wonder, if like me, she’s drawn to trying new techniques to help create her art, seeing the possibilities in them.

Dr Lynn Parenti was her science partner and this woman studies fish. I asked at one point if the difference between a scientist and an artist was that the scientist takes things apart while the artist makes things. I think fundamentally, at least in the sciart community, a lot of us are asking the same questions, but approaching from a different viewpoint. The goal is still to learn and communicate and educate.

It seems what Parenti got out of the partnership was the idea to take slides of a coelacanth brain and 3D image it!! How cool is that?

Finally, someone else asked Couwenberg if she thought about working with exoskeletons and exploring that relationship. The answer? She was just starting to do that!

Very exciting work. I’m so glad I went. So, what do you think? Would love to chat about it.

Dolphins and shells: teasers from a work in progress

Now that January has come and gone, I am hoping that the schedule will more amenable to some quality studio time again. On that note, I am posting a couple teaser pictures, which I posted earlier today, from a WIP.

This little quilt is about 12X 17 inches and is part of a group challenge. The pathway (mine is seaweed) connects all seven little quilts. It starts in the forest and ends at the beach. We were tasked with using two techniques we’ve explored in our group since we started. I have used paint and foil (so far), but have also incorporated some techniques I learned or taught myself since last year as well.  The curved piecing is courtesy of Karen Eckmeier, and the little tulle tube that encloses the sea shells is similar to something I did on the Blood Brain Barrier quilt I made last year.

Dolphins leaping in the waves. Stitched down with metallic thread and embellished with foil.

Real sea shells on fake (fabric) seaweed. Contained by tulle and then sewed down with a free motion quilting meander to make individual pockets for each shell.

When mine is done, and everyone else’s too, I will do a blog post that shows all seven together.