Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Being Creative in our Art and our Budgets: by Kate Themel

I have been thinking about the cost of sewing no matter what it is you create..Quilting, Dolls and so forth..I ran across this wonderful article by Kate Themel
It made me think about our ancestors..thinking of the turbulent times they lived through just like what many of us are going through now..Yet many gorgeous quilts , dolls, fashion, still flourished and made art what it is today..a huge answer is recycle!
Example my husband really needs his closet sorted out and instead of giving away his shirts I am going to cut them for fabric.. and letting the family know to hey throw your discarded clothes my way..Think of the dolls and quilts and so on that can be created from that alone!
The article below is so worth reading I hope you enjoy it as much as I did..Hugs Sherrie

It has been named “Issue Number One” on news programs, radio spots and around the dinner table. How does financial trouble affect our ability to create fine art? And what can we do to lessen the effects?

The making of fabric art and art quilts can be expensive, compared to paper and watercolors or charcoal pencil. As artists, we often make sacrifices in other areas of our lives in order to pursue our creative goals. Sometimes this means adjusting our budget so we can buy materials. But

usually we are not willing to compromise our design by using cheap materials. I’m sure I’m not the only one who debates silently while wandering around my favorite fabric store: “Hmmm…. $9 per yard? A little pricey but I love it! And I love THIS one… and I must have THIS one… Well, I can go another year with this coat… and if I promise not to go to Dunkin Donuts on the way home….” The store owner has gotten used to the sight of me standing for long periods of time staring off into space.

Clearly, the economy has slowed down. Many people have lost their jobs and some have lost their homes. More than once, references have been made to The Great Depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Most Americans had to cut back drastically on their expenses. In many households, buying fabric for colorful and decorative quilts might have seemed impractical. But many beautiful quilts were made during this time period and not all were made by wealthy women. How did they do it? What can we learn from that era that can be applied now?


Waste Not

Then: Feed sack and scrap quilts were popular during this time. Contrary to popular belief, scrap quilts were rarely made from “worn out” clothing. For practical purposes, it wouldn’t make sense to spend time and effort making something out of a weakened fabric. Most of the time, the scraps were leftovers from other projects using good quality fabrics (i.e. curtains, table linens, clothing). Rather than throw out the small pieces, women would save them in hopes of getting different colors or patterns from their friends’ stash. During their fabric swaps, women would often trade patterns, iron transfers and templates.

Now: Although feed and flour sacks have become a thing of the past (except in reproduction fabrics), the practice of saving and trading can be applied today, especially with our renewed focus on conservation of resources.

Dresses made from flour sacks, worn by children in a coal mine community. 1937

Dresses made from flour sacks, worn by children in a coal mine community. 1937

Share Expenses

Then: When buying fabric was too expensive for one quilter, often women would work together. One popular example was a system known as “halves”. To save time and money, 2 women would pool their fabric and agree on a pattern. One woman would piece together 2 quilts and another would quilt both of them. In the end, they would each keep one finished quilt.

Sometimes a bargain could be struck with a client who had some money but no time or no sewing skills. That person would buy enough fabric for 2 quilts. One finished quilt would go to the person who bought the fabric and the quilter would keep the second one as payment for her work.

Now: This idea works well for people who make traditional quilts, but with some ‘tweaking’, the idea could be used by fabric artists. For example, 2 artists may use similar materials such as bleach, resists, soy products etc. They could pool their money and buy products in bulk, often getting materials at a lower cost. Some fabric artists share fees so they can buy large ads in magazines and periodicals. This provides greater market exposure for everyone in the group and cuts down on each person’s financial burden.


Then: Many times, women would trade a finished quilt for food, goods or services; they might even trade animal feed for a quilt made from the feed sacks.

Now: Almost anything can be traded for your artwork, if you are able to quantify its value. Many people would love to buy art but cannot justify the cost in their minds, especially if they are worried about their job security.

“Ace McGunicle, Quilt Detective” writes about her experience in “The Case of the Battered Quilt”:

As Ace demonstrates, you don’t have to barter for fabric or art supplies. Maybe you need help moving or housecleaning and another person needs a unique and creative present to give to their mother for Christmas. We just have to think as creatively when it comes to business, as we do for our designs.

This quilt, made from sack scraps, is for sale by American Antiques,

This quilt, made from sack scraps, is for sale by American Antiques,

In many households, women organize the budget and set priorities for the family. Often we are inclined to sacrifice our own needs for those of our children or spouses. We can fall into the creative “booby trap” when we downgrade our artistic passion to a hobby or a luxury. Of course I’m not suggesting that people let their children starve so they can buy fabric. Sometimes all but the basic necessities have to be put on hold. But if we have any discretionary funds, there are ways to pursue our artistic dreams without breaking the budget.

As an artist, have you been impacted by economic events? What kinds of ideas have you heard or tried in order to save money while remaining artistically active?

Facts about Quilting during the Depression were gathered from these sources:

1 comment:

NadineC said...

Well.......I'd like to think that all these years, I've been buying and storing up fabric for the "big fabric famine." Of course that was just a light-hearted way to justify buying so darned much fabric. But while the fabric famine hasn't quite hit us yet, the economic situation makes my previous hoarding seem to make a bit more sense (or is that just more of my justifying???). And all along, I HAVE been saving buttons off shirts that were no longer serviceable, and those small scraps of fabric, interesting "parts" off discarded items, etc. Recently I started saving the "strings" that fray off fabric yardage when I wash it before just looks so cool all wadded up, different colors - I'm going to "create" something with it, yes I am! I grew up as a child of parents who went through the depression, so I recycle, reuse, and don't waste a lot. And in the process, I sometimes find fun, creative, and special uses for stuff others would throw away. Now I just have to figure out where to PUT all this "creative stuff" hahaha! Thanks for an interesting article, Sherrie :-)