Monday, July 06, 2009

Advice Bits

I am a faithful reader of your blog and always look forward to hearing your latest adventure or endeavor.
I would appreciate some advice from you. I have a full time day job but want to transition to making my living selling my art quilts. What do you find is the best venue for selling your artwork?
Do you have to teach to sell art work or is it a way to diversify and supplement the income?
Do I have to have quilts on display at the major quilt show to be taken seriously? What are the top 3 or 4 bits of advice you would give? Thanks so much.

Dear Faithful Reader,

As you are aware, I am always happy to spew my opinions. So you want to sell your art quilts for a living? Here's some ideas that may work (in a perfect world).

1. Spread out all your available work and corral them into piles of like subjects or styles. Look at what is your best, or strongest original work. Eliminate dalliances in other directions as you want to focus your efforts and identify your strengths. Even if your best work is the smallest pile, examine it and write down ten things about it that are truly descriptive. Sometimes we don't recognize our own specialities. Check to see if those things are approaches/techniques you enjoy doing, because this is what you need to be making for a long while.

2. Make more work. The more work you make the better refined your ideas become, and the faster you are able to produce. Don't bother with difficult assembly techniques unless it truly shows in the finished product.

3. Take great photos or have great photos taken by a pro. Send or take these with actual quilts to galleries you know that sell fiber. hahahahaha. This is the catch. You may or may not know of any galleries that handle quilts or fiber art. Since I was recently approached by a gallery, I was disappointed to find that I was put on hold until December because she already had one quilter in her stable. ONE!
OK, that was not helpful.
Put those great photos in the hands of a professional website designer and have a great website designed for your work. I can't imagine how you can sell art quilts without one.

4. Yes it is important to have your work in competitions. It is a strengthening process to have it compete with others who have the same hopes of making a living with their work. And of course you must see it next to the others in your field. This is your education. It tells you to let go of some of your ideas and to put more effort into others that might improve your work. As far as being taken seriously, I am still waiting on that one.

5. Teaching may or may not be something you desire. I loved it but it is not for everyone. But I sold most of my art to my students. Let me rephrase that. I sold ALL of my art quilts to my students.

6. Send your work to magazines. Write articles or patterns or technique tutorials. The more that you share, the greater your audience. The greater your audience, the more your work will sell.

7. Try a vending at a quilt show. This is truly work, but the contacts one makes can spur quilt sales. Of course you have to have a product. Perhaps it is something you continually use, and can work for the company that produces it. Or something you make that is a draw to quilters. Or work in someone else's booth that will allow you to hang your work. Don't do outdoor venues where you are subject to the vagaries of weather and under-educated customers.

8. Approach interior designers with your work. Decide if you want to do commission work, in other words, the same quilt in different colors, or twice as large, etc. Be prepared to have them sell your work for twice what they paid you for it. ( I never did this. ick.)

9. Put your work in online venues like Artful Home or join SAQA which also has a selling site. And be careful not to underprice yourself, but do offer some affordable sized pieces too.

10. Find something in your work that shouts WOW! This can not be underestimated. When a person walks into a room to view a bunch of quilts, yours has to stand out from the crowd. When you look at other artist's work, determine its strong points to see how you might compete.

I hope these gave you some good ideas and encouragement.


  1. Even though I didn't ask the question, I so appreciate the answers. Thanks.

  2. Anonymous9:13 AM

    This is a really comprehensive list of good ideas!!! Thank you!

  3. Anonymous11:52 AM

    Don't bother with difficult assembly techniques?

    Wow. I'm just speechless.

  4. Melody,
    This list is great! Thanks so much for sharing so much of what you have learned.

  5. WOW! What great advice. I am just getting my own fulltime art-based business up and running and have considered some of these points but not all. I will be considering all your points. Keep on "spewing" your opinions!!!!

  6. Thanks Melody.. from all of us who have considered selling our work or have our family's tell us they will give it away, because it is spewing all over the house.. or haven't had the nerve to voice out load what many are thinking... especially in today's economy :-)

    Always appreciate your advice and comments.

  7. Melody--that is an awesome list. I was nodding and mouthing the words as I read it. What excellent advice!

    You publish the most interesting things. What a generous person you are. :-)

  8. Ellen White3:05 PM

    I agree with all your comments, but more more thing. Do what is fun for you. I was invited to join a group of ladies to share an outdoor booth at the Jacksonville Arts Market. They were all beaders, jewelers, glass fusers, etc. and I hesitated to put my quilts there because of just what you said, Melodie, the weather and also the idea of thousands of people touching (or trying to)my quilts freaked me out. Even with these reservations, I did join them because they are fun ladies and very talented. I like hanging around women who use tools. Anyway the buyer for our local art museum,The Cummer, saw my quilts and asked me to sell them in the store while the Gee Bend exhibit is here. Also another artist asked me on another occasion to exhibit in the Women's Center in Jacksonville. So get your stuff out there and "be in the right place at the right time."

  9. Melody, you are incredibly generous and upfront with your advice. Thanks for sharing.


So nice of you to drop by. I love your comments, and if you would really like a reply, please email me at fibermania at g mail dot com