ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Monday, May 9, 2011

A New Day and Feedback Welcome

It is a new day! I’ve decided to put my HST woes in perspective. Not a single customer complained about having to pay HST on the hand-dyed fabrics they purchased this past weekend at the Ottawa Valley Quilt Guild Festival of Quilts. The show was well-attended and a resounding success for me and many other vendors, and I sold at least 60% of my stock. My store is very picked over, but I’m lying low today as I’ve caught a virus and have lost my voice completely. I need to rest it so I’m ready for three days of teaching starting at the end of the week. I also had a chance to informally interview potential bookkeepers at the show, and am happy to say that I will be hiring a bookkeeper this year. I do everything in my business (except for some of the ironing), but I am going to give over the one job that will suck the joy out for me. I have no formal training in bookkeeping or accounting, although I carried out such tasks in day jobs I’ve held, and was even allowed to manage budgets in some jobs (pretty scary I think!!)

I just returned from the UPS store where I shipped my quilts to the National Juried show and Invitational show at the upcoming Canadian Quilters Association’s Quilts Ontario conference. The young man that works at the UPS store, and frequently handles my packages, is always working to get me the best deal, and I was really touched today by his concern that I would have to pay $93 (two boxes, one for the National Juried Show, the other for the Invitational show) to ship my work. He was stunned that this cost comes out of my pocket. I, on the other hand, know that this is what it costs and don’t resent it one bit. It is money well spent. I believe that getting your work out there leads to teaching bookings. Well that and “word of mouth“ recommendations. On the other hand, my UPS friend reminds me a bit of me, and how apologetic I sometimes feel when I ask for teaching and lecture fees, when I price my quilts and hand-dyes, etc. In my creativity coaching training lesson this past week, we talked about cultivating certain qualities in our clients, the kind of qualities that contribute to a successful career in the arts. Qualities mentioned were: assertiveness, single-mindedness, passion, curiosity, desire, enterprise, effort, and self-promotion. I think I have all of these qualities, but fall down in the assertiveness department. I may be assertive about some things, but I do have a very hard time stating my prices without apology. I am working on this!

This brings me to something I would like to start a discussion about. I love to discuss things and hear other viewpoints. A boss of mine once described me as one of those annoying people who can see all sides of a situation. Here is the situation. Twice I have been contacted by the same person who wants to purchase a pattern to make my “Kissing Joy” quilt (photo below).
I do offer the pattern for one of the poppies (the lower poppy) for sale when students take my “In Full Bloom” class. I haven’t even developed the second (upper) poppy into a sellable pattern that others would be able to read. Putting patterns in a sellable form so others can understand them is painful for me. I work from patterns that would be considered “fly by the seat of your pants” to other people. I am not particularly interested in selling patterns in any substantial way. My philosophy when teaching is to try to encourage students to find their own voice and creativity. When I teach this class in the one-day format, I always include information about how I create my design and how students can make their own pattern to produce their own original work, even though they begin by working from my pattern. It is my philosophy as a teacher to share everything I know. I know many won’t go beyond working with my pattern, and I know often this is simply because they don’t realize the largeness of their own talents. They doubt they can, but I don’t doubt they can. I know they can.

I typically only sell my floral patterns in conjunction with instruction. The writer has assured me she can make the quilt without instruction, in-person or written, since she is an advanced quilter. Here is my dilemma. I try to show my work in art shows as well as quilt shows because I believe that original art quilts are art just as work in other media is considered art. Although sale of quilts constitutes only about 10% of my income, showing my work in galleries and museums establishes their value as art and I can charge art prices for them. I am not willing to sell my work at craft prices. I’ve spent far too much time on them and the time to create them is precious to me. I would rather keep them than sell at low prices. So, my concern is that if numerous copies of the full “Kissing Joy” start appearing across Canada it will devalue the original ”Kissing Joy” should a collector want to purchase it. Wouldn’t a collector be upset to find that it isn’t a one of a kind anymore?? Just because I teach a class called "In Full Bloom", am I obligated to sell any of my floral designs? What do you think? Is this a place I need to practice my assertiveness?

By the way, here is a quilt a student made from one of the 4 patterns offered in my "In Full Bloom" class. Jennifer brought it to the show on the weekend for me to see. She did a great job with her values, and she has inspired me to make something pink.


  1. I'm with you, Elaine. If the writer is 'advanced' enough, she can take the class and then figure out the second poppy on her own. I contend that one is never too old to learn; furthermore, one never knows it all. If she is too far away to take an in-person class, though...then you have to think about alternatives. And maybe she has to think of alternatives, too. Maybe she needs to be encouraged to believe in her own creativity.

    Just a few thoughts -- and a hug!


  2. I don't believe you should develop a pattern just for the use of one person who feels she is "advanced" enough to use it without directions. She should take your class and use the pattern you have, and use that as a starting point to develop her own design. Or maybe you could get involved with on-line classes for those of us from far away who would love to take a workshop with you!

  3. I agree with Margaret and Laura - this isn't the type of work that is easily put into a pattern. A book? Yes. A pattern? No way.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the class today, Elaine. Will send pics when my poppin' poppy is all done. :)

  4. Thanks Barb. Glad you enjoyed the class, and as usual I enjoyed the fun you brought to the day. I am glad you confirmed my thoughts about the pattern. It isn't as simple as just buying the pattern because it isn't a typical pattern. Incidentally, I had a request today from someone for the Liberated Radial Piecing pattern!!! As you know, there is no pattern! It is all cut freehand without ruler or measurements. Maybe I need to write a book ... when will I find time for that? I don't think it is time yet though.


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