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Your chance to tell me where to go!

“How can I help you?” Millions of people are letting Alexa, Siri and others help them with trivia, homework, how-to instructions and more. What I can’t ask the computer is how I can help you. Dyeing fabric is something I love more than chocolate, but running this business can be a challenge.  One fabric has been sitting around for close to 10 years – I think I’ll call it the ‘life lesson’ fabric. That’s more polite than ‘that @^%# ugly thing.’ So rather than take advice from a machine, I need to ask you a couple of quick questions. And I promise not to try to sell you that @^%# ugly thing, or anything else! 😊

If you have a moment to help me out, click below. It should take only about two minutes of your time.

By the way, I used the word “craft” in the questions because “craft/art/hobby/business” got awkward. And here’s a bit of that ‘life lesson’ thing!

Discharged green and yellow muslin
Discharged green and yellow muslin
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Life After the Latest Quilt Show

It’s Monday afternoon after the West Virginia Quilt Festival and we’ve been home about a day. Laundry is done, suitcases unpacked. Still have to move the booth stuff in, once the road-weariness has had a chance to abate. (And if my language is a little stuffy or odd, that’s a side effect of fatigue.)
Recently, I’ve been getting emails from Alyson Stanfield of In her video series, 6 Tips for Improving Your Art Business, she speaks about creating ‘ecstatic encounters’ between people and your art. I’ve seen two such encounters at shows this year – customers who were visibly moved by a piece of my fabric. That’s really gratifying and awe-inspiring. And it’s the kind of feedback that makes me keep going back to shows.
That said, all the ego-enhancing experiences I’ve had at shows over the years don’t impact the bottom line. But, lest you think I’m planning on throwing in the towel (which is often how I feel when I get home), I’m considering how to get more buck for my bang. Another vendor who was at the show selling hand-dyed fabrics also sold commercial fabric, which accounted for 85% of her sales. And she did four times what I did in sales. What do you think: would adding select bolts of commercial fabric dilute my brand? Or enhance it?

Finally, I was thrilled to see the Dare to Dance Art Quilt Challenge hanging at the show. Here’s a picture of me with the book and some of the quilts, including mine, of course!

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The Brass Ring & Economics of Quilt Show Vending

Some of you may have seen this already: I have entered DippyDyes into Intuit’s ‘Small Business Growing Strong’ contest. They will grant $5000 each to a total of 15 small businesses to help them grow. You can see my wish and vote here, and please vote as often as you can. Why should you? Not because I’m any more deserving than all the other entrants. Dyeing is my passion and I want to share it with as many people as possible. I’d also like to be able to do this as a living. That means more on-line sales, plain and simple, plus more teaching gigs, and to get those means more exposure. What better place than Houston to find it?
Right now, getting to Houston and back, paying for the booth/s, having reliable transportation, etc, will cost over $3000 before I make a single sale. For an idea of how that compares, I did a summary of the three shows I vended at this spring. After subtracting booth fees, hotels and mileage, my gross profit was about $2800. Subtract the estimated cost of good sold, and the net profit comes to about $640. Remind me why I’m doing this again?? Well, I know why, but it’s certainly not logical with such low profits. Committing to going to Houston on my own looks even less logical – it’s great advertising, but not a real profit-making venue. So, I can try for the brass ring (now I AM dating myself), or never go to vend at Houston, or build up to it as a “few years down the road” goal. Can’t hurt to try! Thanks for your support.

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How do you work? Do you spend time planning and thinking about your art, or do you just dive in? Do you make samples or studies for larger pieces, or plot it out ahead?
Since I have two months before the next quilt is due, I’d like to invest some time in the process. By nature I’m not introspective, don’t journal, don’t read for inspiration; this post is as introspective as I’m ever likely to get. My work is created for me to enjoy the process and for the finished piece to make me, and hopefully others, happy. There’s no meaning or message to be found. I’ve decided that I’m not going to worry if that makes me shallow – some of us are owls, and others are goldfinches. (That link is a great image of a goldfinch that’s copyrighted. You should go take a look.)
OK, I’ve run out of introspection for now – maybe this has helped me focus on the next quilt.

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Feedback from one reader

The author of this ran out of characters in the comment option, so she has given me permission to post her words here. All I can say is ‘wow.’
Lisa- I applaud your choice to put voice to your considerations. Before I chime in, can you bear with my story? It will illustrate WHY I am going to give you the opinion that I do….I was, until Sept of 2006 a police officer, mother of 8 and 9 year old boys, and a quilter – oh yeah, wife too. :0)
Thanks to a 19 year old I tried to arrest for his 4th (? can’t remember) OWI, we ended up on the ground, and I ended up with 5 back surgeries: spinal fusions and now, a morphine pump. In one year, I went from being 145 lbs at 5’9”, running 5 mi a day, weight lifting etc, to a complete, bedridden invalid, unable to quilt for over a year, or care for myself. That was Dec 2006. Now, with a morphine (internal) pump, I can quilt for 60 to 90 min at a time, if I am lucky.
A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to buy $750.00 worth of dye/supplies for $145.00. My DH was upset, as we are middle class and I cannot work, no $ coming in etc. I thought dyeing would force me through the pain and give me a reason to get out of bed in the morning (which it does). I also hoped, in time, it would make me stronger (which, apparently, it will not). I also wanted to learn to dye so that I could make the colors for my art quilts, now that I cannot afford to buy the fabric.
My DH applied immense pressure for me to make money through dyeing. In the beginning, I was dyeing for the masses. I was physically straining myself because of his desire that I make more money, since I can never work again. I felt guilty, so I was doing as he wished, and eventually, in more pain and hating it. Because I can only be “active” (including standing) at total of 3 hours a day, I had to make a choice: dye for myself, for the love of playing with color, discharging, shibori, etc . . . or dye items to sell at shows. I had people to sell it for me, but my time would mostly be making for others.
I chose to dye for me. The odd thing is, I will make 20 yards, really enjoy the process, and it must show in my work. I go to the 2 quilt guilds I belong to, hold up a piece at show and tell, and people ask to buy it out of my hands. True, dyeing and selling this way will never make me enough money to get to Carol’s class – and I have accepted that. I only HOPE she writes a book someday.
Our circumstances seem similar to me in that, if you do dyeing for profit, the schedule and activities of it will take you away from the creative process and maybe your family. For me, dyeing for profit was wearing me out so much that I could not physically dye for me OR quilt. I had some money coming in (a very small amount of cash compared to being a cop), but I was creatively dead, unmotivated, uninspired and uninterested in my art quilting.
My house is 1100 square feet, my kids, now teenagers, have a lot of second-hand things, but they know the value of a dollar. We drive older cars that we own, we have no credit cards, no big family trips on a plane, but even though I spend every day in pain (I am laying down to write this right now), I LOVE to plan my next project and dye the fabric for it. I even felt “unchained” enough that I am starting a local dyeing group here in Sept. Not everyone can make this choice: art full time. I happened to be living frugally, so when forced into the choice by the limits of my injury, I was able to convince DH that the bit of extra money wasn’t worth it, for me to starve creatively.
Not sure if this helps you, but I think “making art” is most successful – if not the most enjoyed – when done for oneself, not “arranged” to fit a financial plan or roadmap. If you feel free to create, you may make better art, which in turn, may have its own better financial reward, later. I still get requests for my fabric, I just couldn’t imagine missing the weekends with my boys, while vending at a show. The oldest is nearly 16. If h*ll freezes over someday and I can do it, great. But until then, DH and I are happy to live with much less, with my quilting and dyeing making up the difference. How could I spend $40 on eating out…all I could think about is “You know how much dye/silk/fabric I could buy with that?” :0)