TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

LowerTown Art & Music Festival: The Aynex Video

We had our festival this past weekend and it was captured by Aynex who has done most of the documenting of LowerTown's growth and talent. Now, I'm sure to be famous, too, as she caught me doing a henna!

Aynex is a graphic designer and quilter. You can find much more of her expressive self and her videos on "Que es lo que pasa aqui? ah!", her blog.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Value of Quilt Shows by Donna Hussain

Star Spangles by Donna Hussain
A quilt based on an Islamic design.

Many women remember snuggling in bed on cold winter nights under quilts made by their moms or grandmothers. They become quilters because they want to give similar gifts of love and comfort to their families and friends. While making their first quilt they learn basic sewing skills. Other quilters have a lifetime of experience at the sewing machine. In all likelihood they sew clothing, Halloween costumes, doll wardrobes, band uniforms, and prom dresses in addition to quilts. In quilt competitions this group of quilters has a decided advantage over sewing novices because judges grade both the construction skill of the quilt maker and her artistry. The winners of major quilt shows are talented artists who have mastered sewing techniques for quilt construction and choose fabric as their medium of expression.

Featured artist gets premium space at a quilt show.

These artists deserve the prizes. (The awards advertised for the Pacific International Quilt Festival in October, 2009 is $18,000 in cash and prizes.) At shows all quilters flock to the winning quilts to study their construction techniques, their use of color, and their embellishments, their thread play and quilting patterns, the design of their borders, they way they portray their theme in abstraction or minute detail, a view from afar or through magnification. There is much to learn by the study of displayed quilts. In the process we less talented quilters harvest ideas for future quilts of our own.

Quilts displayed at a show inspire
other quilters with color, technique and design.

To be juried into a major quilt show like the American Quilters Society spring show in Paducah, or the International Quilters Association’s fall show in Houston is an honor for the average quilter. We don’t expect to win, but are thrilled that other quilters will view, and hopefully admire, our work. Acceptance into the show is a way of validating the growth of our creativity and the improvement of our quilting skills.

Most quilt guilds sponsor an annual local show for the display of their members’ quilts. The show is usually the highlight of the guild’s calendar year and its major fundraiser. Space is rented to vendors to sell fabric, books, and quilt supplies. Sometimes judges are hired; sometimes not. Judges usually give two encouraging comments and two suggestions for improvement on the judging sheet for each quilt. The advice can be very helpful even though I tend to scoff upon receiving a comment like “Quilting corners need improvement” telling myself that there is nothing wrong with my corners. But you can be sure that I pay close attention thereafter to corners when sewing my quilts.

Quilt shows are a lot of work!
Here the quilt frames are being raised.

Other advantages of guild quilt shows include giving members a deadline to finish quilts in progress and a place to display their talent. The show certainly promotes quilting to the local community. A guild is usually energized by a show because it requires so much work, so much involvement of its members. New friendships are made and bonds between members are strengthened.

Guild members develop friendships while
they take a break in preparation for a quilt show.

I recommend that all quilters join a local quilt guild. Novice quilters are always welcome. They are usually surprised at the support they receive from more experienced members. The sew and show portion of monthly guild meetings helps beginners decide which style of quilting they favor and which color combinations they like. Most guilds offer inexpensive quilt classes that help beginners master quilting skills. In quilt shows most guilds include a category called “First Quilts” to encourage novice quilters to display their quilts.

Quilts hung in a show might be in many categories,
giving both the novice and the expert chances at recognition.

Although my quilts have been juried into a number of national quilt shows I have never won a large financial prize. My only claim to fame was becoming a finalist in the contest Reflections on Heritage sponsored by Quilters Newsletter Magazine in 2002. The quilts of the forty finalists traveled together as an exhibit to Quilt Expo VIII in Barcelona, Spain in April, 2002, then on to the Houston show in the fall on that year.

When I first read about the contest I speculated that my quilt, Star Spangles, which coincidentally had recently been completed, would be the only entry representing a Muslim heritage. Since I was sure the contest organizers wanted a balanced representation of cultures, I figured my quilt would be a shoo-in. Allowed seventy-five words in the application I wrote:

My husband was born in India and raised in the Islamic faith, while I come from an American Christian family. I try to represent our mixed family heritage in quilts for our home. The pattern for this quilt was taken from a tastir panel (a line pattern, a geometrical motif) that is typical of the beauty of Islamic ornamentation. But the creation of this quilt required the inspiration of my two Kansas grandmothers who passed on their love of quilting to me.

Husbands offer both labor and support,
"Your quilt is going to Barcelona?"

How excited I was to receive official news that I was selected as a finalist. I told my husband that I wanted to travel to Barcelona to stand behind my quilt to hear the comments of viewers. “What?” he said. “Why would you want to do that? You don’t even speak Spanish.”

California quilter, Donna Hussain, has exhibited in major quilt shows around the country, authored books, and is a regular contributor to Fiber Focus. Click on her name to see all of her past articles.

The photo shows Donna with her husband, Pascha.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pricing Your Product: Are You Charging Enough?

Olive Cloche by Delightworthyn, $120

Those of us who sell online often have problems figuring out how much to charge for the things we make. If we look around at what others are charging, we might find a huge disparity in price for similar items. There are several factors that come into play in deciding price point:

  • Motivation. Is this just a hobby? Do you sit in front of the TV at night and knit like a maniac, decompressing from the day's acivities? Do you end up with too many scarves, mittens, hats and sweaters? Too many to give away at Christmas? Why not sell them and at least pay for the yarn? Or, is this a business? You are your own cottage industry and you want to make a living by working at home, keeping your own hours, owner of your time and your life.
  • Cost of Supplies. Fabric, for example, can come cheaply by repurposing, thrift stores or sales. Or, you might pay $10 a yard for designer fabric. Silk and other specialty fabrics can cost $60 a yard or more. If you are producing an item as a business, you include the cost in your price point so that you can buy more supplies.
  • Time. How long does it take you to make something? Has some arthiritis slowed you down? Are you learning as you go? Or, are you whipping out several pieces a day? Can you keep up with having new and fresh inventory in stock?
  • Uniqueness of Product. You love beads and are stringing them into nice necklaces. Have you taken a look lately at what the competition is for jewelry? Yes, these necklaces may be nice, but how many millions of other people are doing the same thing, buying from similar suppliers, and making your window of opportunity more competitive?
  • Branding. You've been around for awhile now. You've worked hard for many years and finally people are buying from you because they want a piece of YOU. Your name has worth and adds value because there is market demand for the reputation you have created.

Felted Wool Hat with Roll Brim by Wool Mountain Studio, $30

I was recently accepted as a seller in 1,000 Markets, a new online juried marketplace for artists and crafters who sell quality products. I make hats and am a part of "just hats", a group of fellow vendors on 1,000 Markets who also make hats. The photos in this post are hats made by the members of this group. I thought it would help illustrate the discussion of price by showing different price points, materials and styles chosen by our members. All of these hats are available for sale at the writing of this post. You can visit the listing by clicking on the link in the photo description.

Mixed Rasta Tam by Truly Unique by Elise, $35

So, we all sell hats and we may have different reasons for why we price as we do. Some people try to figure out an hourly wage for themselves. I try to estimate time and hope to make around $15 an hour plus supplies. Can you knit or crochet a hat in under two hours? If so, maybe you can keep your prices at around $30 or $40 a hat. But, some people may not need the money and if they are just selling for fun, as a hobby, they might make something similar to your hat and charge only $15, creating a problem in the market, unintentionally, for those who really depend on their sales to pay their bills.

Painting with Yarn Hat by Wool Mountain Studio, $37

The sari hat below is one of my hats. This one was part of a production run where I made 10 similar hats in about three or four days. The materials were all free except for thread and the vintage sari borders. You can save time by sewing in a production mode where you do all the cutting at once, make stacks of the pieces and sew them in order, work on the finishing steps at the end. Almost everything I make, sells. Eventually. I made this hat two years ago. So, this is another thing to consider: Stock.

Vintage Sari Border Hat by Rayela Art, $40

If you are selling the things you make as a business, you have to have enough stock in hand to give customers choices in what they may want to purchase. Hats also have seasonal looks. A faux-fur hat probably will not sell in the summer to an American audience. Well, someone taking a trip to the North Pole might want it, but a business savvy entrepreneur will want to market their wares to the largest available public within their niche.

Purple Beauty Casual Hat by Marge Rohrer, $75

Figuring Price Out by the Hour

So, we've determined that $15 an hour might be an OK wage for making cool hats. How many hats do you have to make a living? Figure out what income you need to make in a month. Budget it all out. Include your living expenses, food, gas, car repairs, health insurance payments, rent, mortgage, etc. How about your business expenses? Marketing, fees, shipping supplies, and so on. Let's say you do that and figure that you need about $3,000 a month to pay for everything and have a little left over for fun stuff. $3K a month is the goal that I have set for myself, but I have cheap rent, so this might be really low for someone living in a more expensive area. I also don't have kids to support. I need to double my sales to reach my goal, but it is achievable. Remember, this is the worst economy since the Great Depression, so we all have to hang in there and hope that things will get better in time.

Gale's Force by Delightworthyn, $80

If 3K is the goal, how many $30 hats do you have to sell in a month? Well, that would be about 100 hats, or 3 hats a day. This means you also have to make at least 21 hats a week to keep your stock up. And, if you want to give your customers a selection, you need to have that surplus stock, so maybe you should think about making 30 hats a week. Can you do that? Is this a realistic production goal for you?

Prairie Point Crown by Rayela Art, $90

Figuring Price Out by Monthly Goals

Perhaps a better way to look at it is to think about that goal of 3K and work backwards. If you need to make $100 a day, what can you do to increase the value of your product? How can you tweak it so that it is coveted and can be sold for more. If you price your hats at around $50, you would only need to sell two a day. Or, if you are in the $100 range, you would only need to sell 1 a day.

The Carbuncle Hat by Rayela Art, $90

I could make the 21 hats a week if I set my mind to it. I worked this out a couple of years ago for myself and looked at what kind of production I would need to commit to if I wanted my primary income to come from the things I made. My problem is that I get bored with production. I can make a run of ten similar things, but then I want to do something else. There are so many ideas in my head that I don't have time to explore. So, in my business, I have chosen to focus on building the stock for my imported textiles and supplies and have that be my main source of income. My goal is to reach the point where I am replenishing rather than building stock, which will hopefully leave me time to have fun with my sewing. I will still want to sell it, but if I am not under production pressure, I can keep my work fresh for both myself and the customer.

Pillbox Hat by Banner Mountain Textiles, $125

But, for those who are living solely off the the things they make, my suggestion, especially if new to the business, is to have several price points. If you can stomach being in production mode, have a large inventory of products under $50. These are easier to sell, especially to impulse buyers. Then, start building a collection of more interesting work. Explore how you can make a name for yourself, find a niche that feels comfortable for you. Perhaps those hats that are priced over $100 will take longer to sell, but when they do, they will make up for the days with no sales. In the end, you need to find the right balance of products that can bring in the $100 a day that you need to meet your monthly goal.

Fey Series "Sand" by DreamWoven $168

Eggs in a Basket

You know the saying, "Don't keep all of your eggs in one basket." If you trip, fall, the basket crashes and you end up with broken eggs. I sell on Etsy, eBay and 1,000 Markets. I have a booth at Just English's Antiques in downtown Paducah. I also have some things on consignment at HeART of Healing Gallery. I've tried many different online venues over the years and if I had more product, I would be in more places. But, each location also involves a time commitment and record keeping.

Lillith Cloche by Tissage, $170

Figure out how much you can handle and try to find at least three different venues for your places. Markets cycle and when things are slow in one place, they might be better in another. You will also find that different venues support higher or lower price points. 1,000 Markets is still a new venue, but I have a feeling that it will be serious competition for Etsy down the road. Part of the reason is that they jury their stores and keep a high level of quality and originality in their mix. They are positioning themselves to interest people who are mature and have disposable incomes. Etsy has many wonderful qualities, but they have really targetted their audience to the younger indie crowd, creative people who are living on the edge and may not be able to spend as much. I believe that the $30 hats will end up on Etsy and the $100 ones will go over to 1,000 Markets. And, that is fine. If you can sell in both places and can make that $100 a day in combined sales, your goal has been reached!

Hidden Costs

That $15 an hour you are charging to make a product is also covering all the time it takes to photograph the finished product, list it, ship it, and keep track of records. Each venue you sell in most likely has a community that wants some of your time. Then you blog, twitter, network on facebook and so on. These are your hidden costs for marketing those hats you are making. Is $15 an hour really covering your materials, ideas, marketing and running the business? Think about it....

Amelia by DreamWoven, $325

The Final Price

The reality for most of us is that we cannot reach those financial goals we set for ourselves. Most of us need to take on part-time jobs in the "real" world to subsidize our dreams of becoming self-employed. The lucky ones have spouses or other income that support their work so that they are not sales driven. But, whatever the scenario, take a look at what you are making and give yourself an evaluation. Are you charging enough for what you make? Those who underprice their products do a disservice to the rest of us in the art business community. Yes, we all want to sell, but not charging a fair price makes it harder for any of us to succeed. Why? Because those who underprice create the same market for cheap products, side-by-side with sweatshop factories and subsidized imports from China. How we each price our products makes a statement on who we are collectively, as a people. By respecting our own work and the materials that went into them, we extend that respect to the community at large.

Tulip Couture Hat by Tissage, $900

I would love to hear some comments on this. Do you have a formula you use to price your products? As a consumer, how do you look at pricing when you buy something handmade? This is a tough issue on both sides, so I am sure that there are plenty of insights out there to help us all along.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

LowerTown Art & Music Festival: A Great Time to Visit Paducah!

Paducah in Western Kentucky

May 23 & 24
Memorial Day Weekend

Doing anything this coming weekend? Feel like a road trip? Wondering about the Artist Relocation Program in Paducah? Aaaaaahhhhh...... Yes, there is a festival and this is a great time to visit Paducah! All of nature is in full expression of itself: trees, flowers, and anything else that is green is growing, growing. The LowerTown Galleries have their red carpets spread out, everyone decked out in their best, celebrating this wonderful community and all the talent that, with the green, abounds.

LowerTown? Yes, Paducah, a small city in Western Kentucky, has an artist's community. LowerTown is a neighborhood adjacent to the downtown business district that was designated by the City as artist friendly. The City, along with Paducah Bank, enticed artists from all over the country to come in and revitalize a formerly depressed and forlorn neighborhood. The response was met by talent from all over the country. Painters, printers, fiber artists, quilters, and others following a muse came and settled here in the last seven years or so. Most have a wonderful sense of humor and generosity that helps unify the community into a viable, workable entity. Cooperation and respect, enjoyment of each other's work and a seasoned understanding of all it takes to build a presence all help to bind this group together. And, this weekend, Memorial Day, celebrates this wonderful group of people through the LowerTown Art & Music Festival. The following video by Aynex Mercado, founder of Paducah Fiber Artists, interviews a few of the artists in this neighborhood:

I wrote about the Festival last year in this blog. Click here to see the article and photos. This year the set up is a little different, focusing on more local artists rather than those from out of town. Live music promises to be fun and all the galleries will have special highlights during the festival.

I will be at HeART of Healing Gallery, doing Mehndi! Yes, it's henna season again. Here's an older picture of me with some of my cousins at a family reunion. I thought they would either think it was a really weird thing to do or they would love it. Everybody lined up to get their temporary and painless tattoo!

Rachel Biel Taibi, henna artist,
at a family reunion in Mondovi, WI.

While you are waiting for your henna to dry, you will want to explore HeART of Healing's wonderful colleciton of Kuna molas, Chinese Peasant Paintings, vinatage kimono, and paper cuts. Oh, there is more than that! Those are just some of the treasures offered by Dr, Christi Bonds Garrett!

Ah, and one more treat! My good friend, Abdul Wardak of Afghan Tribal Arts, will take over the parking lot at HeART of Healing with his carpets, beads and textiles. He truly has an amazing collection of all things Central Asian, so if you have the same lust I do for this region, do not miss this! Abdul was my partner in my last store in Chicago, Dara Tribal Village. Here is a funny photo of him, trying to look mean (he has a great sense of humor, a big teaser!) that I took of him at his house in Arlington Heights, a suburb of Chicago.

Abdul Wardak of Afghan Tribal Arts, being funny.

7th St. and Monroe. 11PM-8PM on Saturday and 11PM-5PM on Sunday. Remember that and come see us! We, and all the others in LowerTown, promise you a wonderful weekend in Paducah, Kentucky!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Importance of Seeing Color for the Fiber Artist by Gina

Trembling Diamonds Quilt by Gina

Shades of Gray - What do you see?

Most of us learned our colors when we were 2 or 3 years old. By school age, some of us were diagnosed with some degree of color blindness, a deficiency in perceiving value, tints and low saturation in color, brown and purple being particularly a problem area. For some people who are color blind, they only see shades which we call "value".

When I first began making art quilts using my hand dyed fabrics, I enjoyed creating the effects of luminosity and illusion. I dyed a lot of grays and 8 step color gradations. I combined these solid shades with batiks because of the subtlety of tonal range of batiks plus the fact that a batik often has a mixture of light and deep value within one color palette.

I discovered a website, x-rite, that has three color tests to try. The three spectrums of color were what to me seemed to be rather murky and complex shades. I began to wonder if I had a color deficiency in one area of the light spectrum. It took me about 8 minutes to take the test, and the results were computed immediately.

Since I spend a lot of time and resources dyeing fabric for my art, I was glad to see that my test results were very close to what is “the norm”. I had been a little concerned after seeing 2 of my art pieces in black and white photos and thinking how different the shading effects were in the absence of color. These two art quilts were made with low saturation batiks and grays.

You would be helping other fiber artists if you reported back any surprising results after taking the test, and I for one would be interested in hearing any feedback you have.

Color vision is a blessing we take for granted. Did you know mice are completely color blind? Genetic scientists are experimenting with gene substitution in mice with some remarkable success. These scientists hold out hope that color blindness may one day be reversible.

Lateral Fault by Gina Delorenzi

Guest Post by Gina DeLorenzi

Gina is a self taught fiber artist. She has developed a traditional craft in unique ways. Color and simple shapes drive the quilt making process. Using her own hand dyed fabrics, she combines traditional techniques and patterns in bright and vivid contemporary expressions.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Juggling Your Art with Your Online Business

Regular readers of Fiber Focus will have noticed that I haven't posted much lately. I admit it. I am overwhelmed by all the tasks involved in having and marketing an online business. And, I am sure that this is a common challenge for any of you who are also following this road. I thought I would share some of where I have been in cyberspace in this post. Those of you who are starting out, will hopefully avoid some of the growing pains by learning from those of us who have been hitting our heads in the School of Hard Knocks.

Dara Tribal Village, my former brick and mortar store in Chicago.

First, a general backdrop: I started down the road of retail sales, always focusing on ethnic crafts and textiles, in 1988. Most of those years were in Chicago, in four different stores, the last one being the largest at 5,000 square feet. I started selling online in the late 90's. Yep, while everything was still on dial-up! The goal has always been to have a business that was solvent and that could support my artistic endeavors on my off-time. (Ha!) Marketing has changed a great deal over the years. We used to place ads in real papers, have events, join local organizations and do a lot of hoofing around with fliers and business cards. Now, that hoofing is done mostly online.

My business, Rayela Art, has three online stores:

Rayela Art on Etsy, my biggest store.

Rayela Art on eBay, my oldest store,
but currently seriously low on product for lack of time...

Rayela Art on 1,000 Markets, my newest store.

Rayela Art's focus is on ethnic textiles, both finished hand made items and supplies like fabric, textile stamps, trim and remnants. I also make things: textiles, hats, bags and other things out of fabric. 1,000 Markets does not allow any imports, so I moved all of the things I have made there. Shoppers can combine purchases from all three stores together to save on shipping.

Last year I realized that I needed to get out there and market my stores. It used to be that having a presence on eBay was enough to generate sales. But, as more countries have gone online, I have more competition for my ethnic products. I buy from small traders and importers so my prices will always be higher than someone who is selling directly online from Uzbekistan, Tibet, or Indonesia. Having a good track record, a reliable postal system and decent shipping rates does help my business. Each of my online stores belongs to the larger community where it is housed. When I started selling on Etsy, two years ago, I followed their forum with avid interest and learned a lot about what other people were doing to market their stores. Looks like I needed to have a blog. Thus, Rayela's Fiber Focus (this blog) was born, a little over a year ago.

Most bloggers write about what they are selling or about their art. I knew that I wanted this blog to be the educational component of my business. The cultural importance of what I sell is central to my interest in these products. Yes, I also love the techniques represented, the colors, and the tactile feeling of these pieces, but more importantly, I would like to help talented low income people access larger markets through my stores. Unfortunately, Etsy does not allow new imports, so I am unable to represent fair trade products anywhere except on eBay. I decided that the blog could be a place where I could explore how fiber art and textiles impact society, how they contribute to economic development and how contemporary fiber artists explore traditions they have been handed. I also decided that I wanted other people to contribute posts on fiber-related topics they were interested in. It has all been very interesting for me. Yet, each post takes me several hours to do and the time commitment can be difficult to sustain.

The blog hopefully sends potential customers to all three stores. Instead of spending gobs of time marketing each store, it makes more sense to try to get the blog out there. So, there are many networks where a blog can hopefully attract new readers. I am on Blog Catalog and Technorati.

Rayela Art on Blog Catalog

Rayela Art on Technorati

Both of these also have communities and forums where a business can promote itself. A pundit I saw on TV said that every day 50,000 new blogs go online. It is easy to have your blog just disappear in the sea of cyberspace. Many people hope that their blogs will generate income (I know I wish mine did!) by selling ad space or participating in affiliate programs. I do both. I sell ad space and advertise through Project Wonderful, a great concept that is affordable and manageable.

Rayela Art on Project Wonderful

Having an online store and a brick and mortar store is similar in that you build customer loyalty and your reputation through relationships. This is done through social networking sites and social media. Another thing that has changed greatly since I started selling online is that this has become a movement. We are in the middle of a craft revolution here in the United States and that has led to a huge increase in our own cottage industry production and online presence. All of these little businesses have absolutely no chance of succeeding unless they either come up with an extremely desirable product or they build relationships and become rated by their customers as an excellent place to shop.

Here is a little video that explains how this works:

The relationships are built through social networking sites. Wikipedia's list has more places than you can imagine! I kind of roll my eyes at Twitter, but am there:

Flickr's focus on photography has been an extremely useful tool for finding blog images or networking with other people interested in cultural textiles.

Rayela Art on Flickr

Then, there is Ning, an umbrella organization that hosts templates for anyone who wants to start their own social networking group around a theme. I belong to several and started the Fiber Focus Group there.

Rayela Art on the Fiber Focus Group

My favorite social network has become facebook. You can have a private page for family and friends or a public one for your business. I have both:

Do you see a pattern here? On each of these sites, my logo, the snake with legs, is repeated. This is called branding. You get out there and repeat, repeat, repeat, both with your logo and your message. The primary goal is to increase your sales, to become a viable business. But, the relationships that grow out of this effort are also valuable. I live in a small town in Kentucky and spend most of my time in front of the computer. There is a wonderful community of artists here, but most are not interested in the specific topics I like to explore, so I can satisfy some of that by chatting online with people in Australia, Turkey and who knows where. I have a nice group of cyber friends now that I can whine to or rejoice with about any number of things. It can be a lonely existence, this business of selling online, and having some history with people whom I've never met has made it interesting for me.

All of this takes time. There are little gadgets that you can get from each of these sites and post them all over the place. You have to log in and out everywhere you go. What about all of the time it takes to physically run a business? Making or buying things to sell, photographing them, posting them, answering questions, keeping records, getting taxes ready. What about the normal demands of life? A yard that's out of control, a house that is falling apart, a piece of furniture that needs to be painted, two weeks of rain with four dogs and muddy paws, dishes to do, laundry to wash. Oh, and you have to eat, bathe and brush your hair and teeth. One of my cyber friends, Susan Sorrell, is the networking queen. Everywhere I have gone, she is there first. I have let several things slide, but she is constantly posting, writing, chatting, AND making her art. I really don't know how she does it.

My advice is this: pick three things and do them well. If you have a blog, make it a thoughtful one. Facebook is a rewarding place to be. And, then maybe a social network that reflects your interest. Everything you join generates new e-mails. I think I delete a hundred a day, but I do skim each one first. Over time, you find where your interests are best served. I have not slowed down here on my blog because of lack of interest. I have tons of stories to explore and look forward to these times. But, I also need to get the rest of my life into order so that I feel both productive and less chaotic. I try to structure my days with computer time in the morning, anti-potato action in the afternoon (anything physical), and then either creative work or more computer stuff at night. Days are full and whiz by.

What about you? Have you learned how to juggle all of these things successfully? I would love to hear how each of you deals with all of these opportunities and demands.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Ricky Tims Brings Rhapsody to Paducah

Bohemian Rhapsody by Ricky Tims

This past week, I had the good fortune of meeting Ricky Tims this past week as he taught a workshop on his Rhapsody quilts at the National Quilt Museum here in Paducah. Ricky Tims has carved himself a niche in the quilting world. Recognized internationally as an artist an and educator, he is also one of the few male quilters to take such an extensive leadership role in this art form dominated by women. I first saw his quilts at a group show at the museum which showed the work of three male quilters, one of them being Ricky Tims. His stunning choice of colors, beautiful designs and immaculate stitching make them a wonder to behold.

Ricky Tims, "The Quiltin' Harley Dude"

Known for his good humor and enthusiasm, Ricky Tims can pull off flaunting "tough" symbols like riding a Harley or wearing a cowboy hat from his native Texas. At the same time, his quilts show a depth of sensitivity for beauty, color and grace. A gifted musician, his music is hauntingly beautiful and soul oriented. All of this love for raw beauty, art and nature comes together in Autumn Rock, "40 acres of heaven", a get-away for quilters in southern Colorado.

Autumn Rock, A Piece of Heaven for Quilters

The workshop Ricky Tims had here at the Quilt Museum focused on teaching students how to design and execute the technique he uses in the beautiful medallion quilts that have won so much recognition. Ricky Tims has several books out on the process, both step-by-step instructions and patterns for individual pieces. I learned most of what I know through books, but there is nothing like having the guidance and personal interest of someone who has already worked through all of the kinks and who know what short cuts will achieve the desired results.

Students learn how to break an intricate design into a simple concept.

A simple drawing breaks down a complex quilt medallion.

Several steps take the student from a small drawing to a full-size template. The large piece has been drawn out on freezer paper.

Freezer paper drawing at a Ricky Tims workshop.

The freezer paper is cut up and ironed on to the fabric. Each student had brought their own stash of fabrics that they were planning to use. It was fun to see how different each person's taste translates into a unique visual, a combination that will make a similar technique achieve very different finished pieces. Ricky Tims uses hand-dyed fabrics, vibrant in color, which produce gorgeous contrasts. He also has his own line of threads, which in the Rhapsody quilts, have a necessary and complimentary impact. Those, along with books and patterns, are available in his website shop. You can also purchase cds of his music there.

Cutting freezer paper for the Rhapsody quilts pieces.

The pieces are sewn, appliqued, and assembled on a wall board. Working in a structured manner helps keep order in a process that could easily become chaotic and overwhelming.

Sewing a piece for a Rhapsody Quilt.

Pieces assembled and pinned to a wall board.

Of course, the master knows all the tricks of how to make edges meet, how to keep them from puckering, how to make seams flow naturally, when to quilt, and how to make colors sing to each other.

The participants, all women from around the country, were engaged in their tasks, thrilled to be both with Ricky Tims and here in Paducah. I sat and talked to a few and of course, they spoke of the burdens they left at home, of the relief they felt in taking a respite where for a few days, they could dive in to their creative juices full time. I thought about how any creative task really becomes a healing agent in our turbulent world, of how something so flat as fabric can make one feel so alive, of how important the quilt industry is to our city, and of how people like Ricky Tims use their gifts to inspire so many people. It gave me a warm feeling inside, an acknowledgement once again, that this is also my path, that I really do enjoy being a part of this larger community. We come in all shapes and sizes, some clunk along with mediocre results while others fly into orbit with their talents, but we feel called to the cloth, the fiber that weaves us all together.

Rhapsody Quilt workshop with Ricky Tims at the Quilt Museum.

Links to visit:

Ricky Tims (the site is divided into his quits and music)

The National Quilt Museum (list of workshops)

Nacho Grandma's Quilts (a list of other male quilters)

Here's an excellent CBS interview with Ricky Tims, focusing on the quilt industry and its economic impact. Ricky Tims emphasizes the importance it also has in developing community.

Many thanks, Ricky,
for all you do to inspire all of us!



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