overhead view of large quilt conference showing vendors booths and quilts hanging in a crowded exhibit

Showing Your Work: choose your audience

February 17, 2014

We’ve talked a little bit about your goals for showing your work.  Today let’s chat a little about who goes to  different venues and how each might meet your goals.

Quilt Shows

Most of the people attending quilt shows, the kind sponsored by quilt guilds, are quilters. Some are ginormous, huge, great big shows like the International Quilt Festival in Houston with over 50,000 attendees each year. Well, no. Only THAT show is that big. There are lots of other big shows and lots and lots and lots of other lovely local shows. In my experience, the majority of quilters who attend are traditional quilt makers. The others who attend usually come with a quilter. I show my work at some of these shows for the chance to win prize money, to get my work seen by people who might hire me to teach, to win a ribbon, and just to share with others that I KNOW will appreciate quilts. At a bigger show your work might be seen by a magazine editor or publisher. It happened to me.

Shops and Cafes

Ann Flaherty's work at Coffee & Crepes in Cary, NC

Ann Flaherty’s work at Coffee & Crepes in Cary, NC

The kind of customer who comes to a retail establishment depends entirely on the kind of retail establishment doesn’t it? Fancy five star restaurants will attract a different crowd than a hole in the wall cafe. I don’t turn my nose up at either. Although I’ve never sold a piece off the wall at a retail place I’m just happy my work isn’t sitting in the closet. You never know who is going to see it. I show my work at these kinds of places just to make the world a more beautiful place, no real expectations.

Community Art Centers

ARTQUILTS at the Durham Arts Center

ARTQUILTS at the Durham Arts Center

I love showing my work in community art centers. People who love art frequent these places. They might not be there specifically to buy art but they are always interested and often not as well versed in textile work. I find children in these places more often than anywhere else and I love that. I’ve sold a few pieces from group shows held at art centers even though the center itself wasn’t set up to handle sales transactions. I’ve won an award or two at shows. Mostly I’ve been able to interact with a lot of people who love art. And most of them are not textile artists. It’s fun to get outside of our little world sometimes.

Art  Galleries

The Schweinfurth in PA

The Schweinfurth in PA

In my mind, people who walk into art galleries are there because they love art. Some of them even go there on purpose to buy it. The gallery owners really want people to buy the art – that’s how they stay in business. A really good gallery owner will do the work it takes to sell your work for you. I’ve had work in juried shows in fancy art galleries and won a couple of cash awards in those shows. Really what I keep hoping for are sales. Someday when my production level is more consistent (as in, I actually MAKE more artwork!) I think I’ll look for gallery representation.


Micheal James at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC

Micheal James at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC

This venue to me seems to be on the high end of the venue spectrum. I think if a good sized museum purchased one of my pieces for a permanent collection I would feel as though I had really, really, really accomplished something in this part of my life. It’s a big dream. It might happen someday. Who goes to art museums? Like the community Art Centers, people who love art. Lots of educational opportunities are usually provided so children go there as well. I don’t think people go to museums thinking they will buy art, but people who are art patrons might see one of your pieces at a museum and look you up.

Oh, and by the way, Autumn Adams is the lucky winner of the giveaway for Pam Hollands book! I totally forgot about it.


Other essays in this series:

Showing Your Work: motivation

Showing Your Work: choose your audience

Showing Your Work: choosing venues

Showing Your Work: fine craft shows

Showing Your Work: traveling trunk show

Showing Your Work: a museum experience

Showing Your Work: local venues

Showing Your Work: photographing your art

Showing Your Work: organizing entries

Showing Your Work: judged vs. juried

Showing Your Work: the jury process

Showing Your Work: behind the scenes

Showing Your Work: rejection

Showing Your Work: more about rejection

Showing Your Work: shipping your artwork

1 Comment

  • Reply
    Heidi Zielinski
    February 24, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    I enjoyed this series of posts and can identify with lots of what you have said. I am still entering shows although I try to keep it to ones that I feel strongly about and when I have a piece I think is worthy–it is expensive to pay entry fees and send the pieces all over the place, often paying for shipping both ways. I’m still entering some of the big fiber art shows every year hoping that one of these days I’ll have the right piece at the right time!

    I enter shows and show/sell my work in galleries because it gives me the positive feedback and encouragement to keep doing what I’m doing. Like many quilters/art quilters, I enjoy sharing my work with others, exposing people to art quilts as an art form, and of course making some money to help me support my habit! My talented fiber art group did a unique show that has been traveling to a couple of our State’s (Montana) art museums and we are very proud of that. This winter it will go to the Provo Utah Library which has a large new gallery space.

    I admire your diversity in pursuing your art and doing things like publishing a book and teaching on a national level. I aspire to those things but likely will not get there until my young (11 year-old) son is out of school. You are brave and must have more energy than I do to pursue them with kids at home. You go girl!

    Thanks for these posts. Would enjoy hearing more about the teaching experience. I’ve just started teaching locally and planning to do more…

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