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Frequently Asked Questions About
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Pricing and Selling Your Work

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Answered by Caryl Bryer Fallert

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Question: Can you offer some advice on pricing and selling art quilts? I am a fiber artist and I have gotten a commision. I have placed in national contests and I machine quilt my work to within 1/2'-1".  Can you give me some advice on what to charge? What is standard for a rookie?  So many people undercharge and I know I will not enjoy doing it if I feel I am giving it away! Thanks for any help you can offer!.

Answer: Pricing is one of the most difficult decisions we have to make as fiber artists. My own work, like the work of many other well know quilt artists, is priced by the square foot. While this seems like a crude way to price the product you your heart and soul, it is a practical way to predict ahead of time what a commission piece might be worth. Since some of my quilts have very complex piecing and others are whole cloth, I have a different square foot price for each different style.

So how do you decide what your square foot price will be? First you need to keep track of your time on at least one quilt in that style. How long did it take to design your quilt and prepare the paper pattern? For me, the design often takes longer than the actual piecing and quilting. How long did it take to piece. How long did it take to baste, quilt, and bind. How long did it take to put your studio back in order after the quilt was finished? Add up all these numbers and divide by the number of square feet in your quilt. That's how long it takes to make one square foot of quilt in that style.

Now you need to decide how much your time is worth. Minimum wage is between $6.00 and $7.00 per hour. This is the rate of pay for unskilled, entry level jobs. Since you have won awards in national contests, and have been ASKED to do this commission, we can assume that you are NOT unskilled. Skilled labor is worth more. What do you hire other people to do? Clean your house? Mow your lawn? Fix the plumbing? Repair appliances? How much do you pay them? In the Chicago area, the going rate for housekeeping services is $10-$15 per hour. The last time I had my toilet fixed............(don't ask!).

Once you have decided on a number for your hourly rate of pay, you need to multiply that by the number of hours it will take to make your quilt. A 40" x 60" quilt, for instance is 16.66 square feet. Suppose you are really speedy and you can actually design, piece, quilt, and bind a square foot of quilt in 2 hours. Your quilt will take 33.32 hours to finish. Now suppose, hypothetically, that your time is worth $15.00 per hour. The figure you start with in figuring your price will be $15 x 33.32 or $499.80.

That's just the starting figure. Are you are working with a gallery, agent, designer, or architect, or do you plan to work with gallery in the the future.? They are going to want a commission. They have, hopefully, done some the marketing, interaction with the client, and accounting for you, and they expect to be paid for their time. If it's a gallery, they will usually expect to be paid 50% - 60% of the selling price. If you need to be paid $499.80 for the quilt, that means the person the gallery is selling it to will need to pay at least $999.60 for the quilt. If you have found your own client, and done your own marketing, accounting, and client interaction, then you need to pay yourself for all of these things. If you ever plan to work with an agent or gallery, you need to plan ahead and set your prices accordingly.

Now you probably are going to want to document this quilt by taking photographs and writing up some documentation and an aritsts statement for your client. How long will that take? Another hour? (you really are speedy!) Pay yourself and your agent each another $15.00. So now the price of the quilt is up to $1029.60. Does the client expect you to come to their home or business and install the quilt? How long will it take to drive there and back (one hour?) How long will it take to install it? (another hour?) Do you have to purchase special rods to hang the quilt? (add $15.00) How long does it take to cut, sand, paint, and drill the rods. (add another $15.00) How much did you pay for the sand paper, drill bit, paint, and saw? (Add another $5.00- you can't take it all on this one quilt) Do you need special equipment to hang the quilt? (level, nails, hammer, step ladder) (add another $5.00) Does the client want the quilt to be sprayed with UV protection? (add another $15.00) Of course you have to double all these numbers, because your agent is going to take half.

So finally, because you work faster than most of us, and are willing to work for what you are paying your housekeeper, (that's one quarter what you are paying your plumber) you can sell your quilt for $1189.60 (let's round that up to an even $1200.00)

You are so right, too many people undercharge and give their work away. I'm glad you asked.  I'm sure there are many others out there wondering.
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