Sunday, March 28, 2021

Tricky Questions...

First, a bit of back story: for those with whom I've not shared this, in 2020 I was named the Featured Artist for the local Art Show and Sale -- the first textile artist so named in its over twenty-year history. COVID = show post-poned to 2021, along with my appearance as Featured Artist.

My creative mojo went into hybernation for several months and when it woke up, it took me in a very new direction, involving a lot of piecing and working with scraps in a very improvisational way -- a far cry from the landscapes for which I'm known in that marketplace -- and I've made several new pieces that I want to exhibit at this year's show.

This year's show. It's due to open in two months (May 28 and 29) -- God willing and the provincial government permits it, given the state of our COVID case numbers, even with the ongoing vaccination roll-out. I continue to live in hope!

The result? I've been having an argument with my Voices. You know -- the ones someone once referred to as "The Committee". 🙁 So I went looking for some thoughts from people who may have had the same argument.

Coping with Chaos
(c) 2020
Two arguments, really.

The first is: to face or not to face? I usually face my work, but this
Chaos Series, composed of crumbs and strings and has multiple seams -- plus I've chosen to quilt the pieces with straight lines in "invisible"
thread and have finished the edges with a regular zig-zag stitch.

Two of the pieces are mounted on stretched canvas and framed (I shared these some time back); three more are "soft" pieces with sleeves and dowels -- and one isn't even sandwiched and quilted ("Frayed", meant to be seen from both sides). I think the rougher edges add to each piece but worry that not finishing them with more than zig-zag stitching might be seen as...I don't know...Lazy? Tacky? Unprofessional? Sigh.

The second question is: how to price? I usually work pretty small,
and have -- to date -- calculated my prices using a "square inch" method common among my Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) colleagues. In recent years I've managed to gradually increase my prices, as my work
and my skills have strengthened. Two pieces entered into shows, which I had formally appraised, have affirmed this is a good price point.

But these pieces -- especially the soft ones -- are larger than most I've made before, and with their improvisational style, quite different. They all range between 675 and 840 square inches.
Some of you have heard me call my locale "Bed Quilt Central" -- referring to the fact that as recently as my last show (2019), I've had soft pieces referred to as "blankets" or "cushion covers". I'm wondering how to price this new series, given that to the ininformed eye, they might look like stiff, flat crib quilts -- whether in the end I face them or not.

The Voices insisted that I *face* the soft pieces, and told me that there's NO WAY anyone would pay THAT price for any of them.

I went looking for thoughts and advice and blessedly, I found some!

First, from the SAQA Members Only group on Facebook. SAQA has been a boon to my work for over a decade, and its members didn't let me down now. They listened, they didn't judge -- most of them have had similar experiences -- and they offered food for thought.

On the subject of facings, their advice can be summed up thus: "Whenever possible, use a facing (or a binding)". These finishes give a more polished look to a piece, especially when it's hanging free and not mounted on a canvas. Other finishes include trimming with cord or satin stitch or even paint -- none of which I'm particularly good at! I felt that a binding however narrow, would put too formal a 'frame' around these pieces, so...facing it would be!

As for the subject of pricing, I received a great deal of encouragement to stick to my usual format ($ per square inch). One colleague suggested that even in doing so, I might consider using this year's show as simply an opportunity to exhibit my new work, and not worry about selling any of it. Another asked whether or not selling the work was a main focus -- which is a different way of expressing the same thought. (Truth be told, I sell my work because I live in a small house, and it piles up! 😆) And there was the reminder that I needed to remember my market place, which was what was giving me pause in the first place.

Enter the ArtistsInCanada Art group on Facebook, to which I also belong. Most of the artists are painters, but there are practitioners in other genres too, including textiles. Yesterday, a painter who'd been out of circulation for twenty years was returning to painting and opining, "...times have changed!", asked "How do other artists price their work?"

What ensued was an interesting and most helpful discussion -- from artists who exhibit to sell, sell what they exhibit, work on commissions, make installations...all over Canada. Aside from the Canadian setting (which, it must be noted, is different from that of the UK, Europe, Asia, Oceania, and the U.S.), much of what they said has been discussed at length among my international SAQA colleagues as well.

  • There was mention of the quality of the work: "not all 8" x 10" paintings are created equal".
  • There was one who did a spreadsheet for materials per square inch plus time spent.
  • It was pointed out "Consumers aren't interested in what we have to say" -- rather, they're interested in what the work says to them; and..."not all art is saleable";
  • There was some philosophizing about the nature of art versus art as a commodity;
  • There was the reminder that as an artist improves in skill and develops a following, a reputation, she or he can sell work at higher prices because the work will be viewed as worth more;
  • There was the admonition to "Never reduce your prices" -- which I read as "never under-value your work" -- and the story many of us have heard about reputable artists in a rough patch, selling less work, deciding to raise prices -- and, lo and behold! -- sold more work than she had for years!
  • And many of them reported pricing per square inch or square centimetre -- but admitted that doing so requires "scaling" to suit not only the marketplace but also the size of the work. Therein lay my dilemma!

Enter group founder Paul Constable with a link to a blog article he'd written about pricing work. (Paul is a landscape painter from Saskatoon, SK.) In it, he compares pricing per square inch -- length times width -- to pricing per linear inch -- length plus width. Two sides only, not the full perimeter of a piece.

I decided to try the linear inch method on for size (pun intended! 😉) -- and I feel more comfortable with it for my larger work. In a market where something pieced and quilted will still be seen by many as an item for a bed and not a wall, the linear method produces a price that I can live with -- because for me, it doesn't under-value my work. The process of not "scaling" a price per square inch -- reducing it, say, from $1.00 to $0.75 or less -- was challenging my "Voices". The linear inch method for my larger pieces keeps the price per inch consistent -- while apparently more palatable not only to me but, perhaps, to a potential customer.

The next challenge? Finding out whether or not a "blanket" for the wall has the power to speak to the viewer. Hmmmm...

Rhythm In Blues (c) 2021
34" W x 24" L
Assorted cotton and synthetic fabrics,
machine pieced and quilted.  Faced.
Hanging sleeve/dowel.

Rhythm In Blues - quilting detail

Order Out of Chaos* (c) 2020
21.5" W x 31" L
Assorted cotton fabrics,
machine pieced and quilted.  Faced.
Hanging sleeve/dowel.
*aka "Chaos Can Be Colourful"

Order Out of Chaos - quilting detail

And on that note...I'll bid you "adieu" for now. I have yet one more piece to quilt (and face!) and a great number of hanging sleeves to attach!

For those missing the knitting etc., there'll be a later post about that because there are some finishes to show. However, for now I'll leave you with this link to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday -- wherein she's posted a reminder that's timely, and as often is the case, is somewhat related to my "tricky questions". Have a great rest of the weekend everyone!

1 comment:

Bethany G said...

You have had some wonderful replies to your post on the SAQA links and I love the strong, consistent advice - take on the current 'next steps' adventure in your own way. Make the artwork, and tell the story that you want to take to the viewer. It happens, and it may never be the 'path' you seek as an artist, but every step along the way is feeding your soul.

Sometimes I make artwork that just isn't "me" and I respond to a prompt or a "push" for a gallery show that just does not feel right. Only you can decide and I personally love that you are stepping into the "Improv" world and using your beautiful stash and these uncertain days to delight and create in a less structured way.

Don't change your passion... the landscapes and the realism are who I recognize as my friend and mentor, Marg. So enjoy this ride and the beautiful results that are shared across the many miles as you relate the story... but do what you love!