Oct 29, 2013

we are $ew worth it

Sam Hunter is trying to start a movement. (Kinda like Tom's, but think hands, not feet).

Sam wants to educate the world about the value of handmade goods - a movement she's calling "We are $ew worth it!" The whole goal is to share what goes into making a handmade good (via time and materials) and by doing so, hopefully improve the value of that good.

I get asked all the time if I ever sell my work. The answer is yes, maybe. I've put some of my quilts on Etsy, but none have sold and I don't have any expectations that they will ever sell. And that's okay, actually. You never asked me to make it - and therefore you owe me nothing. You are not responsible for my art.

Selling art has never been easy. So many great artists throughout time suffered dearly during their lifetimes, never making a cent, and that dynamic is not going to change anytime soon. But we can always try.

When it comes to quilts as art, (whether they hang on the wall or sit the bed), people think, oh I can make that, or I can get something like it at one of the big box stores for a fraction of the price. Yes, you can. People do it everyday. Go for it.

But a few of us bring decades of expertise and talent, and spend hours and hours on our quilts, and we'd like to pursue selling quilts as art. So, how do we put a value on a piece of art? What's it worth?

Sam's movement offers a solution.

I recently heard Sam speak at the Bad Ass Quilters Society event. She shared her formula for pricing the quilts we make by hand in our homes (it can be applied to others arts as well).  It is a basic time and materials formula with special consideration for quilts, fabric and the years of experience each sewer brings to a project. Sam's post last year went viral... not a surprise.

I'll recap, but you can read Sam's original post here.


1. First: cost of materials... and people, this means ALL the materials, please! For example, a typical 48 x 60 inch quilt has ~$72.00 worth of fabric (and that is fairly conservative). If you use a lot of specialty fabrics, and layer on applique, which most art quilters do, then you will invest considerably more in fabrics. The thread I use averages between $9.00-$15.00 a spool, and I use lots of thread in each quilt. Yes, I can buy it cheaper, but I want the best quality material for the job, because I care about the end product.  Then you have needles (several for each project), batting, embellishment, adhesives, stabilizers, embroidery floss, etc. A sewing machine to make the thing... and you do NOT want to know how much my sewing machine cost! But hey, without it I would not be able to produce the art quilts that I am making. Then there are a myriad of other tools, which are completely not optional to make the thing. You can go on and on...  Add up those bits.

2. Other half is time. I see art quilts selling at prices that I know means those artists are working for about .25 cents an hour. This is not an exaggeration!  Sam's formula is a good one - check it out. She is striving for us to get to $20 / hour. Emphasis on the striving.... Yippee.

Again, all of this is not your problem and I am not laying blame at all. There is no need for blame - it is what it is.

$ew Worth It! is not about getting more money, because in reality that is not going to happen.

Rather, it is a movement to disclose what goes into a handmade good. We put it out there, and then you can decide the value.

Years ago, when we were on a vacation... we walked by a group of artists painting outside and selling their work to tourists.  I wanted to purchase this lovely little water color. While I was looking, a lady came up and asked the artist if he would take $5 for the painting. The asking price was $12. He said yes and put the money in his pocket. No smile. No thrill there. Just a sale.  Seriously, $5 for an original painting? I choose the one I wanted and handed him $15. I smiled and started to walk away. He stopped me and said thank you in a way that I know he meant it and that was good enough for me. That $15 dollar painting is one of my favorites - and the reason has nothing to do with price. If I can spend $15 on a hamburger and drink, I can certainly invest the same on an original work of art that will make me happy for years to come.

What's it worth? To me, it's worth plenty.

Thanks for reading. Go to Sam's blog. Share this with others if you are so inclined.

We are "$ew Worth It!"

Oct 24, 2013

Calder inspired wall hanging

There's this list of great works of art from famous artists that keeps rattling around in my head... certain paintings, tapestries, tiles, mosaics, whatever... things I've seen in person that have just stuck with me over the years.

The list clogs my brain with ideas... and one day... I will reinterpret the list into art quilts.

Today, I can check one of those images off my list!

I've just finished an Alexander Calder inspired art quilt and I'm so happy with the way it turned out.

The husband and I photographed it today in front of the Calder sculpture near the entrance to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. Calder's sculpture is called 'The Crab' and its a Houston icon for sure... and to me, the spindly, sprawling red legs of his sculpture fit so well with the swirls in this wall hanging.

(that's me crouching down behind the quilt)

I find Calder's art so inspiring. The bright colors and simple imagery are both instantly recognizable and memorable. There's just something happy about them all. Calder made a whole series of textiles in the 1960-70's... and as I shared in my last post, quilt historian Barbara Brackman posted information about his textiles on her blog a year ago. Barbara blogs regularly about quilts and the history of textiles... pretty interesting stuff.

When I step back and look at this, I can truly appreciate all the talent that Calder brought to this design. A great artist can take what seems so simple, some might say ordinary, and make it extraordinary--- and they do this with the perfect mix of balance, color, motion and emotion!

Years ago, I watched an accomplished artist paint a floral still life in water color, and after about 30 minutes she had an amazing work of art. When I told her I couldn't believe she could do that in just 30 minutes, she said: "yes, 30 years and 30 minutes."  Well said, for sure, and those words have stuck with me for years.

I don't know how long it took Calder to make his great textiles, but nonetheless... it's fun to take really good design like this - especially one that has stood the test of time - and bring it to life in my own way.

The background is black Kona cotton, and the designs swirls are appliqued on with fabrics from my collection.  I was so thrilled to find Aurifil thread to machine quilt this that matched the fabrics exactly!  That way I can see the intricate quilting stitches, but they blend in perfectly! I used Aurifil black (lots of it!), plus 4644, 2260, 2132 and 2311. 

I intend to put this wall hanging on my Etsy site as well... even though it will be hard to part with.

But I gotta make room for the next one... both in my house and in my head. 

One checked off the list. Lots more to add. The possibilities are endless  ...   I'm thinking of doing a Matisse next!

I live for comments! Please take a moment to fill in the box and comment. Thanks.

I am linking up with the blogger's quilt festival by Amy's Creative Side. Check out all the many blogs from her site.  Look for my entry in the Quilt Photography and Wall Hanging categories!


I am also linking up to Nina Marie's art quilt link up. So many cool art quilts there.

Oct 19, 2013

next... tribute to Alexander Calder

Yesterday, I had one of those abandon ship moments.

The painted bird art quilt (see previous post) I spent so much time on was starting to look like a high school art project, so I had to abandon it. Actually, I've seen some pretty cool art from high schoolers these days... so mine might be looking more like a kiddie camp project.

Time to put it away and move on.

This one has been on my top 10 list for quite a while --- I'm paying tribute to Alexander Calder!

The small picture on the right is a computer print out of a picture of a Calder textile, and on the left is my finished quilt top. I plan to start quilting this today and am excited about the possibilities.

A year ago, quilt historian Barbara Brackman wrote a blog post about Calder's textile works (most were made towards the end of his life - 1960-1970's). If you want to learn more, here's a link. Barbara's blog has really interesting information on the history of textiles.

I'm also linking up to creative art quilt community at Nina Marie's blog.

Oct 17, 2013

1906 "Country Diary" inspires a modern art quilt

I've been experimenting with painting on fabric using Inktense pencils. I love the watercolor look... and I love that these pencils are so easy to use. No mess, no clean up.  This little piece is really just an experiment and as usual I did not have a plan when I started. I've learned so much I can't wait to actually plan out the next one.

This is very much still a work in progress --- I have only quilted half of it (as you can see on the right).

It's hard to see in these photos... but the black swirl is piping I made and attached. Finally made use of that 4D zipper foot on my Bernina to make the piping! Pretty easy to do actually...

The string is ordinary twine. And on the upper left are two pieces of antique lace.

I've also used two layers of batting to get extra depth. One is traditional Warm & Natural and then I put another layer of wool batting on top of that. The plan from here is to finish quilting, add more fibers to continue adding depth, and frame it out with more piping as the binding.

I'll share one more thing about the inspiration for this bird. 

I drew him myself... (and drawing is definitely not my forte)... by studying him in the book: "Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady" written in 1906! My quilt buddy Amy G. introduced me to this wonderful book and I just had to get one of my own. It's filled with beautiful detailed drawings and tidbits of this woman's musings on nature. I can picture her walking around the English countryside more than 100 years ago and sitting down to capture all that she saw.  

I love taking these old drawings and attempting to make them modern. Thanks Amy G!

If you're interested... there are still copies of this book floating around and can be found online through the used bookstores that sell through Amazon. Be sure to get the hard back... the paperback is too small to appreciate the details.

I'm linking up with Nina Marie's community of art quilters!

Creations by Nina-Marie


Oct 12, 2013

pursuing perfection in art... or not

Twenty years ago, I was conducting an interview with a well-known painter. I loved his work, as did many other people, and when I complimented him on the beauty and seeming perfection of his paintings, he told me that art was a process, not a product.

At the time, I found this very strange. So strange in fact, that these words have been stuck in my head ever since and clearly, I've had a lot time to try to reconcile these two halves.

The question I keep coming back to is this: the process is critical, no doubt, but isn't the product equally critical? Without the product, does the process matter?

It's only now, as I pursue my own ventures in art making, that these words begin to make sense.  What I love most about my quilts is making them. In fact, the most exciting time for a quilter is the beginning of a project. We love to think of all the possibilities, all the techniques to pursue our vision, all the fabric choices, the thread choices...

Then, we stand like proud parents over our product. And when people say nice things about it, the first thing we do is point out its flaws. We show the viewer where we screwed up this part and why that part didn't turn out like it was supposed to. We're painfully aware of every weakness in the product. And as these words flow out of my mouth, I keep reminding myself, art is the process, it is NOT the pursuit of a perfect product. And I vow that next time... I'll just say thank you.

Why are we so hell bent to point out why a product is not perfect? I think it's because we view the product as a validation of the process... if we spent this many hours on it, it ought to be perfect, right?  This idea of valuing the process over the product is a tough one.

I recently came across a quote written in Victorian England, around 1851, by John Ruskin. Ruskin was a visionary art critic and a relentless supporter of art and artists, and wrote extensively about architecture and the preservation of important buildings. His ideas are still relevant in art history and architecture today.

"Accept this then for a universal law, that neither architecture nor any other noble work of man can be good unless it is imperfect..." He goes on to explain that the first fall of the arts in Europe (following the Renaissance) was the relentless pursuit of perfection.

While this may sound kind of high brow and old school... what this says to me is that perfection is not possible, and not even admirable, in art. And pursuing it can kill both the process and the product!

So, instead of dwelling on the mistakes, I will dwell on the joy of making it. I will take time to smell the roses along the way...

And I vow... next time... I will let the product speak for itself. Just say 'thank you.'

Oct 6, 2013

inspiration from nature... and an art quilt waiting to happen

It's true, there is inspiration everywhere... especially in nature. What inspires me most about this photo is that this place sits within a few miles of downtown Houston. A protected oasis in the middle of a densely urban area.  And one that is completely hidden from the busy commuters zooming past on the nearby freeways.

To me, this picture is worthy of a Noriko Endo art quilt technique - a naturescape. And now that I have captured the right image, it's going to happen... one day!

If you've never seen Noriko's amazing art, Google her (Noriko Endo art quilts). You'll be amazed.

The weather is changing here in Texas and we have our first day with a cool breeze. So it's a great time to be outside - but today is Sunday, so you gotta go out early in the morning so you can be back in time for football. What's better than a Sunday full of football and the perfect opportunity to sit with the boys and a hoop, needle and thread and spend the afternoon hand quilting? I have a two-year work in progress that I am committed to finishing. We'll see.

Here's another potential art quilt. I can see this image transformed with thread painting and a line of applique sunflowers across the top of the field.  So beautiful.

And this photo below makes me laugh, so I just had to share it.

This could be my mantra: I stop for quilts!

I took this photo a few days ago when my quilt buddy Amy G. and I went to the annual antique festival in Round Top, Texas. It was amazing as always, especially for me since I now have the time to shop, walk, think, (eat and drink!) without the stress of a big corporate job.  We spent hours and found some amazing antique spools, bobbins, lace and vintage linens. I came home with a wonderful vintage linen from Germany from the 1850's. I can't want to put them all together into an interesting work of art.

If you read Quiltmania (the international quilt magazine published by a French company) --- and if you don't you should pick up a copy --- you'll see a feature in the recent issue on the guy who actually started the antique festival in Round Top many years ago. He is now a well-known dealer for antique quilts and has a business in Tyler, Texas.

So, there you have it. From a magazine from France, writing about a guy in Texas that started a festival in Round Top, to quilts... the amazing connections in life... six degrees of separation.

Remember, my friends, always stop for quilts!

Oct 1, 2013

whole cloth 'echino' - the odyssey ends here

I've written several posts over the past month or so about my whole cloth odyssey. Well, I finished it and I'm thrilled with the result! 

Even though I've been quilting for 16 years, this little piece has turned out to be one of my favorites.

Here's the story of why I called this an odyssey and why it is a favorite.  

Last year at the Houston International Quilt Festival, I bought this cool piece of echino fabric... wasn't sure what I would do with it at the time, but the colors and the simple imagery really appealed to me.  

I took it off the shelf many times with the idea of cutting it up to use parts of it in other designs, but I couldn't do it. That old saying --- the whole is stronger than the parts --- in this case it rang true!

So, I decided to turn it into a whole cloth quilt... and the "plan" for how to do that, well I made it up as I went along. 

Hey, if everything was all planned out nicely in advance, I'd be an engineer instead of a quilter. And I am definitely NOT an engineer.

Anyway, back to the point. 

I put tons of effort into the thread work and I added some really cool elements - but the reason I like this so much is because even though there is a ton of stitching, I stayed true to the original design and color palette... a lesson in restrained embellishment, so to speak.

Here's a run down of the cool stuff - a mash-up of thread work.   
1. hand embroidery
2. thread painting on the machine 
3. trapunto 
4. ribbon border
5. machine quilted original designs
6. 'serged' binding

By focusing on the middle section of this fabric, I ended up with with a long, narrow piece... so the finished look resembled the size of an old tapestry. That's why the ribbon border seemed to fit to me. 

I added four matching purple tabs across the top to hang it from a rod, much the way old tapestries are hung.  

This ribbon is from Amy Butler and I think the design and colors are just stunning! Adding this much ribbon was a first for me and I think it really helped frame this piece and was something new, instead of the same ol' fabric border.

To bind the quilt, I used my Bernina overlock 'fake serger' thingy foot (Foot 2A for those who know what I'm talking about). I've done this a couple times on my modern quilts and I love the look. 

Basically, you cover the edges with a solid thread, about 1/4 inch deep (much the way a real serger would work). This eliminates the need for binding and I think it is a very cool edge... to me, up against this ribbon, the serged edge looks cleaner, almost has that infinity look.

These flowers were hand embroidered using the cast-on stitch. For more info, go to Mary Corbert's website - needle 'n thread. She has tons of very good, free video tutorials and some e-books available. 

I covered the vines with the Romanian chain stitch (hand embroidery). This stitch is a bit thicker than the plain chain stitch and really added texture to the whole cloth.  Lessons for this stitch can also be found on Mary Corbert's site. 

The birds were done using a version of trapunto. Here's the technique I used. Place batting and stabilizer underneath the image, then put those layers in an embroidery hoop. Very carefully free-motion stitch all the way around the outside lines of the image. You can also stitch a few inside lines too, just don't do too many or you will loose the raised effect. Turn it over and then cut away the excess batting and stabilizer (very carefully and as close as possible to the stitched line!) When quilting, stitch close to that original line and then that image is raised up - very cool!

Here's a close up of the thread painting. This is done on the quilt top. Again, use a hoop and a good stabilizer and with the free motion tool, fill in the areas you want to cover with thread. Once you get the hang of it... this fun technique feels like a painter filling in parts of a canvas with paint... really lives up to its name! 

I free-motion quilted the purple section with original designs.

My odyssey has taught me one thing... next time I see an amazing print like this, I'll think more about the strength of the whole over the parts. A whole new way to see prints. 

If I can point you to any resources, or answer questions, leave me a comment or send me an email.

teresa at third floor quilts dot com

I'm also linking up with the Wednesday WIP on Freshly Pieced. So you'll see me there. 

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced