WASWI – Where Should You Buy a Quilt Book?

One of my readers, Rebecca R., kindly wrote me last week, concerned, regarding the price of my book on Amazon. As she put it, “Amazon is price gouging you.” Yep, pretty much.

As I say a lot, I’m committed to being as transparent as possible in the name of sharing information that will benefit us all as part of We Are $ew Worth It. So here’s what I know about the numbers surrounding my book – a peek behind the green curtain, with some hard math numbers. I would love for anyone else to chime in with more knowledge in the comments.

1. A publishing company spends between $30-50K to produce a book. They edit, photograph, design, print, and distribute it, using a combination of salaried and contract staff. C&T Publications/Stash Books is my publisher.

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2. I did not receive an advance to make my book. I have no idea if more established authors in this industry get advances. An advance means you get some money up front, your royalties pay for that until the advanced amount is paid off.

3. The rest of the quilting industry (fabrics, batting, notions, etc.) helps authors by supplying materials and tools in exchange for exposure in the book. In my case, that was about 90% of the materials I used. This was seriously helpful, especially with no advance. Everyone who helped is listed in the back/resources pages. You should read this to see which companies help out the most, so you can support them. Yes, it seems rather incestuous, doesn’t it? But trust me, without this help designers couldn’t make new stuff for you.

4. It took me 8 months to design, write, piece, test, and quilt the projects for my book, and it was pretty much all I did for those 8 months (the pattern side of my business, my bread-and-butter income, was neglected). I had a couple of group sewing days where friends furiously paper-pieced letters for me, and another where a friend showed up to help spray baste everything. I sent out only one quilt to a long arm artist (and as it happened, we didn’t include that project). It was an intense and grueling time.

5. It takes about 12 months from when you deliver the manuscript and quilts before the book gets out into the world. During those 12 months, I have had more deep commitments in the editing, technical editing, design review, and especially the marketing end of it. The author is expected to do the brunt of getting out the marketing word across any and every platform possible. So while I turned everything in a year ago, my time is still being consumed by this. And will be for a while yet.

6. Pricing: My publisher determined the price of my book to be $24.95. It has 144 pages, and a jumbo pullout pattern sheet for the letters. This seems to be good value in comparison to others… I’ve seen 112 page books for this price.

7. My royalties on this book are 8%, which means 8% of the price that the publisher sells the book for after returns and other things that can eat into that number. Most shops that will buy the book will buy it for $12.50, which means I earn $1 per book. I assume (but don’t know) that bigger outfits like Amazon, or chains like Barnes & Noble or Joann’s might get a discount on their wholesale deal. If they do, my royalties for those units go down with that discount, too. If the publisher gives the book out as a complimentary/free copy, I get 8% of free, which is zero. Royalties get paid quarterly, so I’ll see my first check for Quilt Talk probably next January – which will be a full TWO YEARS since I started working on it.

7a. My royalties on an ebook are 15%, with the book priced at $14.99 on C&T’s site. I have no idea what the likes of Amazon or libraries might pay for the right to distribute ebooks. Let’s hope I get $1 apiece for these too.

8. What ever you think about Amazon, they are the juggernaut that drives how the market operates. Their ratings determine my future, as they drive my internet popularity, which is how far up the list I appear when you type my name into a search engine. Few people look beyond the first page of an internet search, so coming up on page one is very important. Your leaving me reviews on Amazon matters mightily to that search rating, not to mention influences other buyers. And I’ll be nudging you about reviews later, because that’s part of my marketing obligation.

9. Obviously, Amazon buys in bulk and spreads profit and loss across millions of products, and so they can afford to discount. I have no idea what they will pay for my book, but I do know that I’ve seen the price of Quilt Talk fluctuate on their site from $18 to $22 (they have algorithms for this based on YOUR buying and browsing history). Add the lure of free shipping (whether you buy more to get to the $35 free ship threshold, or have a Prime account) and it’s easy to see why book sales elsewhere are a struggle.

10.  Stores: I assume the big chains get a break. I know the independent stores don’t. They will pay $12.50 for my book, and hope that you’ll buy it from them (rather than come and look at it and go home and buy it on Amazon). Remember, if you want a quilt store or independent bookseller in your town, you actually have to buy things there. Amazon will survive you not buying the occasional book. The quilt store might not.

11. Book signings: I’m doing several book signings at stores… no one is paying me to get to them. It is not customary for the author to get a cut of the sales action the book signing generates, beyond royalties. Book signings help stores the most, so if you can, it’s good to go to them. Even if you don’t buy my book there, it’s lovely to meet supportive people.

12. Quilt Market: If I want to promote my book at Quilt Market, I have to get myself there, and that costs about $1000-$1200 for plane, hotel, taxis, and food. I’ll be doing a School House Session at Market in October, which is a half-hour event where I pitch the book, tell shop owners how to sell the book, which projects make good workshops and classes (and I’ve already written the class outlines for those), and which products they can tie into  sales (rulers, cutters, mats, papers, etc.). My publisher is picking up the cost of this (they have to buy the School House slot from the Market people), but they don’t foot the travel expenses. While I’m there, I’ll also be signing at distributor booths to generate interest. Again, for no payment… basically, if I show up, these people will use me as best they can. Why do it? I hope to get contacts for teaching and speaking gigs out of this.

13. Pre-sales: Amazon is doing pre-sales, so I decided to as well. I chose $20 as my pre-sale price, but still need to charge shipping. This book is heavy, so my shipping options are $4 for media mail (slow to you, and a trip to the post office for me) or $5.60 for Priority Mail ($5.05 if I print at home). Regular old first class is around $7, so Priority it is, and I rounded it down to $5. I’ll be paying $12.50 plus shipping for my book, so let’s call it $13. So if you buy my pre-sale for $25 (which includes the shipping) I’ll make my $1 royalty, plus around $6 (I lose about $1 to Paypal), out of which comes mailing time, printer ink, mailing labels, order management time. I would love to be competitive with Amazon, and offer you the book for $18 including shipping, but at that point I’m making barely $1 in profit (not including the royalty $1) and frankly, it’s not a cost effective use of my time to do all that mailing stuff for break even numbers.

14. Book Plates: I’ve decided to do signed bookplates for those of you that want a signature scribble from me, but won’t see me, or want to support your local quilt and book stores. I thought I would be able to mail them to you for free, but the cost of printing the bookplate, putting it in an envelope I have to purchase, and then putting a stamp on it comes out to about $1. Which is my royalty on the book you purchased elsewhere. So I’m charging for bookplates or again, it’s not cost effective.

So in short:

  • If you want to help the author the most – buy directly from the author on her/his site, or at an independent function such as a guild lecture.
  • If you want to help your local quilt or book store the most – buy directly from the quilt or book store.
  • If you need to save a few $$ (and really, we’re talking the price of a couple of fat quarters or a frothy coffee drink with a tip) – buy from Amazon under one of their free shipping deals.

I would love it if you add any knowledge you have to the comments!

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Quilt! Knit! Stitch! Come see me there!

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Portland (Oregon) is hosting Quilt! Knit! Stitch! here August 14-16 at the Convention Center. This is a new type of show, catching all the needle skills in one place, and I think it will be a feast of new ideas!

I’m thrilled to be on the faculty, teaching two different classes – check them out and hurry over to the enrollment link (look for Online Enrollment in the middle of the page) if you’re interested in coming to play with me. Online enrollment ends in a couple weeks so don’t dally. I will be there EVERY DAY teaching, demo-ing or lecturing:

#304 – Learn to Paper Piece. Saturday August 16th, 9am to Noon.

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Learn to paper-piece while making the top of this LOVEly wall hanging (15” x 17”). The provided kit includes patterns on three different types of paper for you to test, pre-cut fabric for easy piecing, and clear written instructions for putting the top together. Baby Lock is providing machines for this class so you just need to show up with some cutting tools. BONUS: Megan Dougherty, The Bitchy Stitcher is my class minion helper for this session, so come meet her too!

#311 – No Fear Thread Painting. Saturday August 16th, 2pm to 5pm.

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Learn to thread paint (by machine) over a drawing using the basic art principles of shading and value. No drawing skills needed – truly! Baby Lock is supplying the machines for this session also. I’m bringing the drawings and stabilizers for you to play with, and all you need to bring are basic sewing supplies and a handful of threads. Megan says she wants to come help out in this class too! Lucky me and you!

We Are $ew Worth It – Lecture. Friday 3pm.

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I’ll be delivering the live talkie version of We Are $ew Worth It. I tell stories, make a fool of myself, and open the floor up for Q&A at the end. It’s fun stuff, not to mention important information… you should be there!

Open Studios – Paper-Piecing Demonstration. Thursday 4pm to 6pm.

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I’ll be in the Open Studios area, showing you how to paper-piece big things and little things, and featuring the letters from my upcoming book, Quilt Talk. If you can’t make it to a class, stop by and get some free tutelage. Or just stop in to say hello and show me the spoils of your shopping adventures!

I hope to see you there!

Questions? Leave them in the comments below.

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!

Stitch ‘n Swap – join the party!

The Generation Q Magazine team has done it again with their new book Stitch ‘n Swap! It’s a sweet collection of exchange-worthy projects, and psst… I contributed one too!

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I was hot off the design of the Chunky Wee Bag when Jake asked me for a project for the book. She mentioned some of her fave features in a bag and so I designed a new version that had those – she likes swivels on her straps and magnetic closures. It’s called the Out and About Bag and it’s on page 77:

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The book is full of fun projects – I’m itching to try the tea cozy by Karen Cunagin, and the eye pillow by Carrie Bloomston. In all, 19 designers contributed a total of 25 projects.

I’ve only recently started participating in swaps, and for me the best part about them is the challenge of trying to really understand your recipient so that you can make something that will thrill them. It usually means I stretch myself in using colors and prints I might not be drawn to, but I always learn so much from it. And then, of course, the excitement of opening the one that was made for ME! And if you get a chance to make something for me, you know that it should be ORANGE, right?!

I know you want me to tell you where to go for a chance to win one of the three books Gen Q is giving away, so here it is! Comment on the original Generation Q Stitch ‘N Swap post letting them know if you’ve ever participated in a swap and the coolest thing you’ve ever gotten in a swap. That’s it! All winners will be chosen from the Generation Q Magazine post Wednesday May 7th and posted Thursday May 8th.

Of course, you can buy the book too! Stitch ‘n Swap releases May 19, 2014. It has 112 pages filled with 25 projects from amazing designers and get this–it’s only $17.95. Pre-order now through C & T Publishing, or beginning May 1, from Gen Q’s website. Ask for it at your local quilt store too – maybe even ask them to host some classes using the book’s techniques. 

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If you want to follow the blog party, here’s the schedule – check out the contributor’s blogs so that they can tell you more about their projects:

Date:       Event                                    Who
4/24        Blog Party week 1                    Scott’s Placemat Pattern, Melissa T. Maher, Jeni Baker, Anne Deister, Emily Herrick, Sam Hunter, Lynn Kraus
4/29        Blog Party week 2                    Vicki Tymczyszyn (will blog for Generation Q), Carrie Bloomston, Victoria Findlay Wolfe, Rose Hughes, Heather Jones, Tracy Mooney, Elaine Wong Haselhuhn
5/6          Blog Party week 3                   Jake Finch, Scott Hansen (Blue Nickle Studio) , Karen Cunagin, Michelle Freedman, Linda Hansen, Kevin Kosbab, Melissa Peda

Remember! Comments here DON’T put you in the book drawing!

 

 

Dots, Dots, Dots, Dots!

I really hope you read that title with the rhythm of the Spam song in your head!

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Today is my stop on the blog hop for Quilt Dots. If you haven’t seen these great little quilt lover’s accessories, you’re in for a treat! The Dots are quilting designs on magnets, clips and buttons. There are also necklace and keychain bases that you can swap the magnets out on. There are so many styles of designs available… truly something for everyone!

I met Kim, the owner of Quilt Dots last year at Quilt Market, and she had just added a collection from my dear pal Megan, The Bitchy Stitcher, that featured her delightfully snarky designs. That’s me wearing Bitchy’s “Don’t Make Me Cut You” as a necklace, below.

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Kim added my Sassy Button designs to her catalog, and you can find them here.

Quilt Dots has a great giveaways EVERY DAY of the blog tour, so jump to here to see what you could win. Psst… I have free patterns over there!

Be sure to leave your comments THERE (not here… which is why the comments are turned off here). The Grand Prize is a full year’s worth of Quilt Dot goodness delivered straight to your door!

The Quality of Patterns – A Discussion

A friend forwarded a post from Marianne of The Quilting Edge this weekend, in which she invites discussion on the topic of poorly written patterns. Give it a look, and check out the lively discourse in the comments!

As a pattern designer, I’d like to address a few of the points from this side of the aisle!

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First up: this is part of my internal “mission statement” when I design a pattern. I can’t speak for every other designer, but I do know that my closest designer pals are like me, all striving to do a conscientious job:

  • Mind the fabric. The fabric “generosity” in the materials list is a tricky tightrope to walk. I round up to the nearest 1/4 yard, or add an 1/8 yard if I’m on the 1/4 line. This only changes if the fabric is being used for cuts larger than an 1/8 (say an 8” cut) in which case I give you one extra large cut in case of an oops. C&T’s rule for my upcoming book was add 1/4 yard to my calculations. I do work hard at writing patterns that use up most of their parts… in several of my jelly-strip based ones you can use the strip scraps to make a binding (I happen to love the puzzle of using it all up!)
  • Be honest about my assumptions. At the beginning of every pattern, I tell you what the pattern assumes you already know: how to sew a 1/4” inch, how to rotary cut, how to layer/quilt/bind, etc. In my paper-pieced patterns, I give you links to several tutorials that I think will help you as my assumption on paper-piecing is that you will learn it from a book or video, not the pattern. And it just isn’t cost effective to put all that extra tutorial into the pattern – the paper cost goes up, and most of the time how you do it is not how I do it so it’s wasted.
  • The pattern should be the key to the kingdom on the cover. For me, this means I give you accurate steps to make the exact thing in the picture (exceptions noted above), and maybe a couple of other sizes. If it’s a special technique, then you get ALL the steps. I once bought a pattern that said the equivalent of figure out how big you want to make it, then figure our how many of these blocks fit into that, and have at it. I don’t consider that a pattern.
  • Be honest about the skills required. On the back cover of every pattern, I call out the skills needed. I don’t just say Beginner or Intermediate because I don’t think that’s enough information at all. I list the skills you will actually employ. As I write mostly for the Confident Beginner Peeps, I call out specifically if you need an accurate 1/4” seam, or just a mostly consistent one. If there are templates or paper-piecing involved, I say so. If you will be dealing with bias edges, I say so. I want you to know what you’re getting into, and I especially don’t want you unsuspectingly biting off more than you want to chew.
  • Draw as much as possible. Every one learns differently – some people need all the words, some people need the drawings. I attempt to add computer drawn illustration to as many of the steps as I can. It bulks up the paper, but I think my readers are worth it.
  • Make it MAKE-ABLE. I dream up a lot of things that, in the end, would be horrid to have to make or worse, explain. So I don’t turn those into patterns. Frankly, if my reader could make such a convoluted thing, she is probably figuring it out her own way, and isn’t buying a pattern to do it! Instead, I figure out how to break things down so you don’t sweat through them. I learned a little of this from a composer friend, whose superpower is writing music for each instrument that the musician could play easily (not writing it at the edges of the instrument’s range or sitting on its octave breaks). I fundamentally believe that quilting should be fun, so I try hard to write things that are fun, too.
  • Get it tested. I have a bunch of people on board to check my work. One friend is the master of sorting out my grammar. Another sorts out the flow of steps (“no, Sam, put this before that.”). Another catches the instances where the parts on her design wall don’t look a thing like my drawings. One hates to read the words, so she sees if the pattern can be navigated by the pictures. Another does the opposite, making sure my words actually describe what’s going on. Others spend their precious time and fabric stash actually making the pattern. It really does take a village – and most of them do it FOR FREE.
  • ‘Fess up when you blow it. While all of the above should catch everything, sometimes it doesn’t. When that happens, I fix the pattern, update the print masters and PDF files, and publish the oops on the Patterns/Errata page. And I’m eternally grateful to the person that told me about the problem.
  • Be open to feedback. Critique is necessary to making a better product, even if it stings. I do my best to listen openly to suggestions for improvement, with the understanding that I just won’t be able to please everyone.

And now, my answers to some of the comments on the Quilting Edge:

The shop that sold the pattern is responsible for the quality of the pattern. NO – the buck stops with the author. AND such gatekeeping just isn’t possible for most shop owners. Like you, they buy a pattern based on the appeal of the cover, and sometimes have it made into a sample if they think they can sell fabric or a class for it, but they cannot read the fine print of everything they carry. I would imagine if you let them know a pattern is a mess, they probably won’t buy more of them (or others from the same designer). It’s certainly how we did it in the last store I worked in. But like Target can’t be responsible for the content every crappy DVD it sells, neither can your LQS read and test every single thing. If you want to buy a pattern in a store, you can always ask to open it and give it a once over before paying (every store I’ve been in has been cool with this). I don’t think the LQS should foot a return because they have no way of ensuring the buyer didn’t pirate a copy before returning it – I know this screws over a scrupulous buyer, but unfortunately, there are more folks who wouldn’t think twice about copying and returning a pattern, thinking copyright law is merely a suggestion.

The pattern designer is trying to make a quick buck. If only! There are precious few quick bucks in the pattern business. If the designer does half the steps I listed above, they still worked on that pattern for DAYS. And bought a bunch of fabric too. Let me break this down for you… on a $10 pattern in your local quilt store – $5 goes to the store, $5 to me if I sold it directly to the store. My expenses to make the pattern (paper, printing, bags, assembly) come out of my cut. If one of my distributors sold it to the store, the store still gets $5, the distributor gets $1.50, and I get $3.50. And I still need to cover my expenses in that $3.50. So I get maybe $2.50 of that $10. Yes, I get most of the $$ on a download (minus hosting fees and banking charges) but still. Trust me when I say the buck is not quick.

The free patterns aren’t written well. Part of this is you get what you pay for – truly. Part of it is that a lot of the free patterns are paired with lines of fabric, and they often get written at the 11th hour before the fabric debuts at Quilt Market (and the designers get offered little or no payment). I have been approached by more than one fabric company to produce a fully tested pattern with a 2 week deadline before market for no payment (“we’ll show people your pattern!”) other than an offer of the fabric to make the quilt (not the batting). I certainly don’t do my best work in those circumstances, so I imagine other designers don’t either. It would also help if people stop expecting to always get it for free. If you expect a free download, then you should also expect that the designer or fabric company probably didn’t PAY a team of editors and testers to make sure it’s right. Yes – everyone should make the best product possible regardless (I certainly strive to – my reputation matters to me) – but as I said you often get what you pay for when FREE is involved.

The patterns aren’t well written – part 2. One comment was from a person who released a pattern that she said she had tested, but she also admitted that she doesn’t read other people’s patterns. I would hope that people who take pattern designing seriously take the time to learn their craft and research their competition. That said, you’re still likely to come across something that looks as cute as heck, but is perhaps written by someone who doesn’t have a depth of experience to construct things more easily, or even use commonly understood vocabulary (FWIF, I voraciously read other patterns to see how they are written and illustrated so that I can constantly improve my game – I do it to invest in my business). I wish some of our newest pattern designers would take some time to hone their craft, and learn from their fore-mothers (I’m a HUGE proponent of learning the rules before you go about breaking them). But I also accept that there’s nothing new about the new kids on the block wanting to blaze the trails a new way, and sometimes we get new and exciting techniques from it – yay for innovation! The other side of the coin is that we sometimes get caught when that new fangled stuff doesn’t work out so well. With the ease and speed of pushing content out to the internet, we are going to get a lot of amateur work out there, jumbled in with the good (just look at YouTube). I think you just have to accept that you will occasionally get rick-rolled.

The patterns aren’t written well – part 3. Just like in other industries, there is good and bad, and unfortunately, it’s up to us to determine which is which. One comment said we need a pattern review site – and yes, that would be wonderful. But would you pay to belong to it? Someone has to foot the bill to provide that service to you, and they should be able to profit from their labor, no? Also… would you take the time to write when things are good? I have sold a bunch of patterns in places that allow a review, and no one has written to say if they’re good. I’ve had more emails about my errors than I have had thanking me for making a pattern that was easy to follow. So unless you are willing to review the good, the data will be radically skewed. Another comment said that they felt no responsibility to write to a pattern author – but may I stick my neck out and say I’d rather hear WHY you think my pattern is lacking (in technical terms) than just sit here an wonder why the sales are slack?

In conclusion, the pattern making business is just like any other area of commerce. While, like you, I would love to never buy a bad pattern again, the reality is that there will always be good, and there will always be bad. It doesn’t excuse bad writing in any way, and it is the unfortunate burden of we buyers to sort through that. Hopefully the laws of business will take effect such that the cream rises and the people who write poorly cease to thrive and quit doing it. But I would also offer this… yes, it’s a bummer to pay good money for a pattern that doesn’t live up to your expectations. But I know you’ve also paid for disappointing movies or meals. It happens occasionally. NO ONE CAN PLEASE EVERYONE ALL THE TIME. If it happens to you, please take the time to write the designer to let them know what disappointed you, so that they can improve. The good ones will take this critique and up their game. As for the designers that choose to ignore it, you need not shop them again. And if you DO like it, please, please, please drop us a quick note. It might be the note that stops us from throwing in the towel on the design business. It might just inspire us to make more good things for YOU!

And yes… please comment away – I love a good discussion!

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!

 

A day with Calder

All images courtesy LACMA’s site… no photography was allowed in the gallery.

A couple of weeks before I moved away from SoCal, I took a day off from packing to spend with a dear friend, and we caught the latest special exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art – one of smaller works by Alexander Calder. LACMA’s group was a wonderful portion of work – enough to be sated, and not so much that it overwhelmed.

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Most people meet Calder on a larger scale than can be exhibited in a gallery. His work graces a lot of big public spaces (hello Grand Rapids!) and are most easily identified by their ORANGE color, organic shapes, and their ever-so-slightly-spidery stances. The standing works are known as “stabiles” as counterpoint to the hanging “mobiles” that Calder also made.

This exhibition had a mixed group of smaller stabiles, a lot of mobiles, and several pieces that had elements of both – grounded but with parts that balanced in the air, and that moved gently with the currents made by we shuffling patrons.

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While Calder’s large work can feel solid and serious, the small pieces are delightfully playful. They are perfectly balanced in a way that looks utterly effortless, each blade in a mobile perfectly placed in space. Some of the pieces felt quite refined, and others felt like they were perhaps early attempts at a concept, and showed more evidence of working out the puzzles of the design. My fellow viewers and I surreptitiously wafted our exhibition brochures and blew at the sculptures to get them to begin their dance for us. Several of the pieces gave me that great feeling of childlike wonder – when you’re a grownup, you’ve seen so much that awe seldom visits. I found myself happily grinning like an 8 year old as I watched the mobiles move. My favorite works were the ones that felt a bit like fish skeletons (I have an affinity for skeletons born of studying anatomy in a former profession). My friend Sandy was more taken with the pieces that were inspired by plant life (a topic close to her heart).

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Just to note – none of Calder’s wire portraits were included in this group. If you get a chance to see some, take the time. They bring the linear aspects of drawing into dimensional space, and some of them have kinetic elements that add so much to the character (the portrait of Josephine Baker dances in space!)

Sculpture presents its own special problems in installation. Most of the time you end up with a large box of a room to work with, and the works get dotted around with hopefully enough space between them to walk. The difficulty in this is that there is seldom a way to look at one work by itself in isolation – there is always another work or people in the picture. This installation, however, was beautiful (LACMA’s images of it here). Each work had room to be enjoyed by itself, and most were installed against undulating backdrops that removed the delineation of “room” from the visual plane. I later found out that Frank O. Gehry designed the installation (read more about that here) – no wonder it was finely a finely tuned marriage of art and space! Several of the pieces were lit to emphasize the shadows cast by the moving parts. While all art interacts with its space, sculpture’s third dimension often brings shadow into play as an element that can also be used as part of the composition, and in this case it was beautifully shown.

If you want to learn more about Calder, I would highly recommend the American Masters episode on him, released as a documentary DVD that you can probably get from your library. The Calder Foundation also has film clips on their site. It’s worth seeing a little bit of the man in action to see his impish sense of play and whimsy.

And a last word about “no photos in the gallery.” Usually I find this utterly tedious… why not let people have that snapshot to jog their memory? Yes, yes… the establishment wants to sell their book… I get it. But really, I’m more for sharing the art far and wide – we make art to touch people. If the establishment wants to make some extra money, offer high quality postcards for a buck apiece… they are more likely to get a few dollars out of me that way. A lot of people can’t afford the book, or don’t want to read all the academic writing, and many tourists don’t want the weight of it in their suitcase. As for someone “stealing” the work? Thieves will steal no matter what – forbidding cameras won’t stop a determined thief. And having said all that… in this age of the smartphone, it was delightful to be in a space of people who were looking at the work and trying to interact with it, rather than documenting it (if you are trying to capture the moment, you are not IN the moment). Sandy and I had some lovely snippets of conversation about the art with other strangers, conversations that might not have been had if we were all snapping our phones. Food for thought…

Slicing, dicing… and oiling!

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No, it’s not a cooking/recipe post! Heavens no… it’s a post about rotary cutters!

Did you know that oiling them can help them roll more smoothly? Yep. Just like oiling your sewing machine. And you can even use the same oil!

You’ve probably noticed that your rotary cutter can get a build up of gunk under the blade. Left alone, it can cause the blade to roll less smoothly. Why does that matter? I have one word for you… SAFETY. Anything that makes you lean harder into the blade increases your chances of an accident. So let’s look at how to oil your cutter…

First, take the cutter apart. I always do it on a flat surface, and I put the parts down in a line in the order I take them off:

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Next up, clean the mess off the blade cover (the grey haze on the black below), and VERY CAREFULLY off the underside of the blade:

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Add a single drop of machine oil on the blade cover (terrible picture… I was trying to take it one handed and not pour a quart of oil over everything… but you get the idea, right?)

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Then put it back together! If you’re tired of keeping track of the spring washer and nut when you take the cutter apart, consider getting one of Olfa’s new cutters with a quick release on the blade:

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Just pull back on the yellow tab and it releases the pin that holds the blade in. This is a nice update to the cutter… the handle shape fits well in the hand and the whole thing is lighter than the original. (Disclosure… Olfa gave me one to review!)

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FYI – the pull-down for the blade guard is higher on the handle than in the traditional cutter – it has taken a bit of getting used to. The bottom line is this… you must get the cutter that you will CLOSE. If you can’t easily push the guard up, then get one that springs back. You are NOT ALLOWED TO LEAVE THE THING OPEN on the table!

OK – back to the blades… When do you change out a blade? As soon as the sound of cutting doesn’t “swish” anymore… the sound gets harsher, louder, more grind-y as it dulls. As soon as you notice that you are leaning harder into the cut. And well before you notice that you had to go back and saw on a cut because of the dull spot from when you ran over something. The harder you lean into a cut, the more likely you are to have an accident. If you are really, really leaning in, and you jump the blade off the edge of the ruler, guess where it’s going to go? Right across your ruler hand. YEOWCH.

Yes they are expensive, but less so if you get the 5 or 10 pack on sale at the chain store with the coupon (and there is always a coupon… if not in the mail then in the chain store’s free smart phone app). And if you’re being a total peach, you’ll suck up the coupon difference and buy them at your local quilt store (you DO want the local quilt store to still be there when you want great fabric, right?).

Your hand is worth it. TRULY. If you slice up your tendons you are going to want a hand specialist to put them back together, because you need this hand to made more quilts without hurting for years to come.

How do you get rid of a dead blade? I collect them in a spare blade case, which gets tossed when it’s full:

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And when I don’t have a case available, I tape them to a piece of mat board (these are my dead 60mm blades, and this piece of board hangs in my studio):

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OK – now go clean your cutter and make something!