No, I’m not talking about colour-rich versus de-saturated fabric prints.
A recent post has raised the interesting question of whether the hours we spend working on our quilts could ever be recouped in the event that we wanted to sell our work. I no longer do. I know that many, many people make quilts on commission. Some are considered artists and command impressive prices. The rest of us, and I include myself, having sold a fair few quilts in my time, could not hope to recoup a reasonable hourly rate for the time we put into our works of the heart. This applies particularly to items like large quilts which are entirely hand-pieced and hand-quilted. Too few people can afford the true cost of a quit. Too many of us make them…
I think perhaps we have to move away from the idea of our time as the thing with value, and start perceiving the item we make as the thing with value. And that value is only equal to what someone else is prepared or able to pay.
I’m compulsive. I would make quilts anyway, and I enjoy the process, so that has value for me. But I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no point counting the hours I spend in my enjoyment and expecting a return on investment. All that would achieve is a deep sense of despondency at how poorly I’m rewarded, whereas in fact the reward, for me, lies in the process and the pleasure my handwork gives, not the monetary reward. Which is why I no longer sell. Fortunately, I’m not dependent on my sewing to support myself, unlike some of my forebears!
These photos are of a few things handmade by me or members of my extended family. You’re looking at embroidery, patchwork, pyrography and crochet.
What you don’t see are the drawings, paintings, carvings, cabinetmaking, boatbuilding, wooden puppets, dollhouses, dressmaking, knitting, felting, drawn-thread work, tapestry, bobbin lace, tatting, pottery, marquetry, weaving and leatherwork, to name just the ones I can bring to mind. I’m sure there are others; we’re a creative lot.
Some were sold for far less than the value of their man-hours, but gave both buyer and seller pleasure. Some were made as gifts, more valuable to their receiver than anything that could be bought in the shops. Some were made as a technical challenge, an exercise in self-discipline and patience or as a learning process. Others were work for hands that did not like to keep still.
We create because we can and because we must. For me and many others, monetary reward is just a very pleasant fringe benefit…
Do you produce something that takes huge amounts of time to make, and have you been disappointed in what it has earned you? Or do you, like me, find that the journey and the pleasure your work gives is the point? I’d love to hear what you think.
NOTE: if you have read this post, please consider also viewing a follow-up, here.