Blog discussion about the value of a quilt has ranged from the economic – how to price a quilt for sale, to the emotional – what the gift of a quilt means to its maker and recipient.
The general consensus seems to be that often quilters don’t recoup their costs if they sell their quilts. However, many get enough satisfaction from making quilts for gifts they believe costs are beside the point. For more on this see the Catbird Quilt Studio’s series of posts and an earlier post of mine.
The Mooreapproved blog weighed in on this discussion with a lengthy post on the real cost of quilts. You may have seen this as I gather it was all over Facebook. I found it a helpful summary of several perspectives on valuing quilts based on interviews with quilters.
Given all of the above commentaries, why am I beating this exhausted horse? There are two reasons.
I made and donated two quilts offered at the recent National Quilt Museum online quilt auction. While my quilts made money for the museum, the online bids barely covered my costs, though I don’t know if bids increased at the live auction.
This cartoon I found on Pinterest, pinned by Sew’n Wild Oaks, illustrates how different the quilter’s perspective is from the rest of the world’s.
The second impetus for this post is the Mutton Hill Quilt Show coming up in October in Akron, Ohio. The organizers, friends of mine, will be soliciting donations for a quilt auction. I’ve been thinking which quilts to donate. I have some small pieces suitable for a silent auction, but even winning bids of $50 each won’t reflect the true costs of my original designs.
The show organizers also hope to get larger quilts donated for raffles. I have at least one larger original design quilt that I may offer. It’s won blue ribbons at local shows and has beautiful quilting (not done by me.) However, will it appeal enough to potential raffle ticket buyers to raise lots of money for the quilt show’s nonprofit sponsor? I’ll have to think about that, and solicit outside opinion. I have enough invested in this quilt to want it to bring a respectable amount of money. And let’s not talk about my fear of the quilting equivalent of throwing a party no one shows up for.
That brings me to pricing in the world of art quilts, where I aspire to hang out. I think how art quilt prices are set is different than for functional quilts because a work of art is different from a craft. This post on pricing works of art offers sensible advice that I think applies to fiber art. I don’t discount the role aesthetics play in the appeal and pricing of bed quilts, though I think it’s often a different aesthetic. And sometimes functional quilts transcend their function and are art. Conversely, sometimes quilts labeled as art may not be art.
I don’t mean to write a tutorial on pricing art quilts, but I do want to point out that quilters of any type are often their own worst enemies when it comes to valuing their work. Some commenters on the Mooreapproved post said they wouldn’t feel right charging for time spent sewing on binding when they were taking care of their children at the same time. Sadly, many quilters would probably agree. Oh, what about business people who bill for time they spend eating lunch, plus bill for the cost of the lunch?
By undervaluing a quilt’s worth we do ourselves and our fellow quilters a disservice. We drag down the market for quilts and we shortchange the work and thought that go into a gift quilt.
What’s the solution? Wiser heads than mine haven’t yet reached one. Possibly education, of ourselves and the potential audience for our quilts. Why? Because our quilts are worth it and deserve recognition of their value.