Aurifil and Using the Bully Pulpit

Like many in the quilt world, I’ve watch the shaming/defending of Alex Veronelli and Aurifil go by this week. Here are three posts that I think sum up the conversation quite well:

  • Abby Glassenberg began with a thoughtful piece about her perceptions of Alex’s jokes in relationship to his position as the face of Aurifil.
  • Florence of Flossie Teacakes followed up with her thoughts on how she likes to be marketed to.
  • Angela Pingel pointed out that in the fuss, we might have missed how supportive Aurifil is of the non-famous artists in our industry.

My turn.

Before I start though, disclosure:

  • I have been using Aurifil threads for several years, and recommended them in my book with no sponsorship at the time.
  • I buy my Aurifil piecing thread by the cone because that’s how much I like it. And yes, I’ve tried all the other threads out there. I used to work for a well stocked shop so I had a lot of opportunity to test things. I always come back to Aurifil.
  • I have reached out to Alex for threads to share with participants in my upcoming threadwork workshop, and was promptly sent a very generous package for the students. Full spools, too, not 10 yard samples.
  • I’ve met Alex on several occasions, and found him to be a professional and respectful man, who is genuinely excited about making a great product and getting it into the hands of people who sew. I actually think he’s as much of an awkward introvert as I am, the sort of introvert that puts on our public faces because we care about the work we’re doing.
  • I’ve never heard any representative of Aurifil disparage the threads of another company. They just sell their selling points. I like positive marketing.
  • I reached out to Alex to partner a collection of threads for my book, not knowing that, like the book, the lead times are looong. It’s not going to happen for Quilt Talk, but he told me to call when I’m cooking up the next one. And I will.

And so onto the task at hand…

The definition of a Bully Pulpit was coined by Teddy Roosevelt: A bully pulpit is a position sufficiently conspicuous to provide an opportunity to speak out and be listened to. We bloggers write because we have something to say and want to be heard saying it, hoping to achieve that sufficiently conspicuous position. Everyone loves to be heard. And with the privilege of free speech and access to any number of free blogging platforms comes, of course.. responsibility.

The current political climate in the US is one of deep polarization. The extremes command the headlines, and the choices offered to us are very clear black vs. white options, with no room for the gray between. Frequently the choices are presented to us with inflammatory language. “Support Hole-less Donuts, or you’re a DONUT MAIMER.” Where in this statement is the option for “I prefer creme filled” or “Croissants forever!”

I think this polarizing thinking has been applied to Alex. If you like him, you’re not a Feminist – gasp! If you don’t like him, you MUST publicly declare it, and burn your thread stock, and picket your local store that STILL carries it, and whip up all your friends into an equal frenzy, and possibly even split your guild into two over it.

Where’s the gray area? Where is there the space for “I like Aurifil, and Alex, but perhaps not that last joke on Alex’s personal feed”? I mean, really… isn’t there a person in your life that you like a lot, but whose political, religious, cat, and endless cute grandkid posts on FB exasperate you? And I need to point out that, yes, the internet blurs the lines between the professional and personal, but if you follow Alex’s personal feed you are effectively in his house. (For more on this, look up Erika Napolitano – and full disclosure, she cusses.)

I understand Abby’s discomfort, although having been raised in Europe, my worldview has less puritan and more Monty Python-esque humor embedded in it – and yes, yes, YES, I’m a feminist*. One who enjoys the occasional dirty joke and hot beefcake pix of fellas in kilts. Sheesh. I think Florence brings a better perspective to it… “Hey Aurifil… market to me like I’m smarter.” Angela rightly exhorts us to see the bigger picture before we vilify a single facet.

My advice? If you don’t like something, look away. Don’t keep looking at it. Just. Walk. Away. Don’t buy the product if you don’t support the company’s mission. Extreme example: don’t keep watching porn so you can complain about how awful porn is. If you have excess energy to burn, get frothy about other, bigger issues like music and arts education for kids.

BUT – if you’re going to go further, then get involved constructively. Don’t just say “I don’t want to see that and if you don’t take it down I’m going to flay you in a blog.” Reach out in private for a meeting FIRST, and bring some possible solutions to the table. Don’t just wave an inflammatory banner. And don’t be a bully. Contrary to the current climate, no legislation needs to be enacted every time someone disagrees with something. We are a diverse crowd – let us support each other’s differences.

Look. I will ALWAYS defend your right to think what you want to think, and act the way you see fit. You get to publicly or secretly enjoy a joke or two – or not. You get to boycott what you don’t like, and speak for what you love. YOU GET TO DO WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU. But when you have a Bully Pulpit, please use it carefully.

* My feminist activism is here.

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WASWI: Quilters Newsletter Magazine talks about Value

The conversation about what are quilts are worth has reached one of the big guns, Quilters Newsletter Magazine! The Aug/Sept 2014 issue includes a very sharp article titled “What’s Your Quilt Worth?” It begins on page 38.

photo 2

Gigi Khalsa interviewed several industry professionals, including yours truly, and put together a well informed article stuffed with facts, opinions, and “behind the green curtain” advice.

  • Nancy Henry talks about the business arc of her Etsy shop, nhquiltarts.
  • Samantha Harvey of Sami’s Quilts and Crafts discusses the formulae she uses rigorously to price quilts. “Quilters who undercharge make it harder for anyone to get a fair price.” Woman after my own heart!
  • Katie Ringo of Katie’s Quilting Corner gives strong commission advice. She also says “Educate your buying public.” Right on.
  • Patricia L. Cummings of Quilter’s Muse Publications reminds us that the price of a quilt should include the wear and tear on our tools and machines, and the power to run them.
  • Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry discusses the price-per-square foot formula she uses (similar to a lot of fine art painters). She also talks about correct pricing when a gallery carries your work. Never undercut your gallery!
  • LUKE Haynes also uses a pricing formula, but he talks about his long toil in the trenches to build a body of work at prices that cover a living wage.
  • Carol Ann Waugh of aBuzz Gallery discusses the difficult job of competing with cheaply made imports.
  • And I talk, as always, about my belief that if we all work on this together, we will all benefit from it.


That’s me, in the opening paragraph! I’m the closer too!

From the core of my being, I believe that We Are $ew Worth It. And I hope you’ll join me in that.

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When are you “an artist”?

Can I just say it thrills me to no end to see that the We Are $ew Worth It posts continue to be sent all around the world? Thank you! I really think we can change this game….

Fireworks, by my sweet son, from a long time ago.

Fireworks, by my sweet son, from a long time ago.

Yesterday, Kay B left a comment on a WASWI post, and asked this: “My question is when do you consider yourself an “artist”? If you develop your own pattern? When you properly following someone else’s pattern? How about hand quilted vs. long arm quilted? I have seen many things listed for sale online that are lower quality that are charging more than for more quality crafted items that it is no wonder the general public is afraid to pay the asking price for hand crafted items. How does an appraiser determine a value?”

Before I tackle the big one about considering one’s self an artist, I’ll answer the easier one about appraisals.

Certified Quilt Appraisers have been rigorously trained through programs such as this one in the US run by AQS, the American Quilter’s Society. (Note that this is good place to look if you need to hire an appraiser, too.) Armed with that training, an appraiser can determine where a quilt fits in the current canon of knowledge, and value them accordingly. What factors matter? Many factors, including craftsmanship, ubiquity/rarity, geography/history, and the renown of the maker. For instance, I had a few quilts appraised some years ago, then shortly after, was published in some magazines and earned a ribbon at a national show. My appraiser informed me that the publishings and the ribbon both added to my value, and that my appraisals would now be higher because of them. Thus it follows that the quilts made by the acknowledged masters and superstars of our industry will appraise higher than the version of them that less famous people might make. Sort of like a doodle by Picasso is worth more than the one done by the sweetest toddler in your family (even if you can’t really tell the difference). And yes – it doesn’t really account for the emotional attachment you have for the toddler’s work!

So with this in mind, when do you get to say you’re an artist? My opinion is this:

You get to say you’re an artist the first time you pick up a pencil, or crayon, or needle, or hammer, or lump of dirt and try to make something out of it. WAIT, I hear you say…. that misshapen lump of clay that came home from 2nd grade that was supposed to be a pumpkin is not ART. No, it might not be. There is a rather extensive establishment that loves to wrangle with the question of “Is it ART?” and they like to be the keepers of that conversation, so I’m going to just let them wrangle it. And I’m guessing they will say no, the “pumpkin” is not art, unless of course Picasso made it… and… and… you get my drift.

Wile E Coyote and Road Runner. Lines by Chuck Jones, colors by my sweet son.

Wile E Coyote and Road Runner. Lines by Chuck Jones, colors by my sweet son.

I’m talking about YOU. In my mind, if you are a MAKER, you are an ARTIST. The intention to make with your hands is an ARTISTIC intention, regardless of what you then make. I know that for some it’s a huge struggle to claim the title because I struggled too. I’ve never been that great at drawing, and so when I drew misshapen things as a child I was told I was no good at art. But I’ve since decided that my elementary school teacher didn’t really have the authority to tell me what I am. I successfully earned an AA in art by working hard at learning to draw (I had an excellent teacher, but I’m still middling at it). I got my BA in Sculpture because constructing stuff makes more sense to me. I got my MFA in Fiber because by then I had figured out that playing with fiber is my superpower. And I still hate to draw. And that just no longer matters.

I don’t think you need to be making original patterns to call yourself an artist. I don’t think it matters if you quilt by hand, machine or check (but I do think you have to acknowledge the long arm artist when you hire one). I think you just need to MAKE. Make what interests you, make for profit, make for love, but just MAKE.

As for the pricing differences one sees online? Those appraisal factors are in play, but so are the factors of what the market will bear and the self confidence of the maker. An honest pricing calculates the time and materials and takes into account the artist’s skill. Some people don’t charge enough to cover that. Others do. The wide range in price vs. quality in the handcrafted world is no different than in other industries… for instance there are well made good-value cars and expensive rattletraps out there. That’s the joy of a free market. As a buyer, you get to decide what to exchange your moola for.

But back to the ARTIST conversation before I leave you. You’ll see me talking about “your studio” and some of you might think “right… that would be my dining room table.” I refer to you and your making this way because, to me, you ARE an artist. The space doesn’t matter. The size of the machine doesn’t matter. The fact that you might do it with kiddos underfoot or cats in your lap doesn’t matter. There isn’t a magic door you have to go through to be an artist. You just have to MAKE.

So let’s go do some of that! MAKE, MAKE, MAKE…

photo 4

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All Inclusive

CoExist Stars 2

I recently attended a guild meeting, where the speaker began her talk by making a statement along the lines of “those ugly charity quilts some people make are not art.”

Yeesh. Talk about divide the room.

I’ve been quilting since the late 1980’s, and back then the argument was that if it wasn’t hand pieced, or at least hand-quilted, it wasn’t a quilt, because our grandmothers made them all by hand.

Then in the 1990’s it was art quilting vs. traditional quilting. And now, it seems, the rivalry is modern vs. everything else.

What’s with the US vs. THEM thing? As a Facebook friend remarked last week, she’s so OVER the conversation of whether or not a quilt can be called “modern.”

I can’t help but think that, in this mostly female endeavor, any such divisiveness is just corrosive. Our grandmothers laid the foundation of feminism (in the true sense of the word, as in the respect of women as equal members of society), and I can’t help but think they’d be ready to swat our hands with a wooden spoon for not cheering on our sisters, regardless of how different from us they may be. Incidentally, I think they would also be howling with mirth at the idea we should turn our backs on sewing machine technology out of some Luddite-driven sense of reverence for the good ol’ days.

It doesn’t matter how you make quilts, or even why. Yes, I know that there are people who imbue every thread of their composition with deep meaning, and trust me, with an MFA in Fiber under my belt, I would enjoy the intellectual wrangle of a good chew on the “making meaning” conversation with you. But I’m also equally happy to cheer you on when you decide to make a quilt with pink frog fabric for no reason other than pink frogs make your heart soar.

You get to make the thing that turns you on. You get to spend your free time making charity quilts. You get to spend ten years piecing hexies for an insanely large bed quilt. You get to make everything in purple because it’s your favorite color. You get to try new things. You get to do the same things you’ve always done and be damned with the new-fangled stuff. You get to use nothing but batiks. You get to use Kona Ash in everything. You get to sweat the details on a competition-level quilt. You get to chop your points off because accuracy isn’t all that important to you. You get to quilt it on a home machine. You get to quilt it by check. You get to make your version of beauty. You get to abandon things that are not your cup of tea.

The point is YOU GET TO DO IT YOUR WAY. And the meaning it makes is the meaning you give it. This isn’t brain surgery, although I would argue that the pursuit of it is just as important… a surgeon can heal the body, but a quilt can heal the soul. But enough of debating all this. No more making other people’s art “wrong” – okay?

Just go make something you think is lovely. We’ll all be better off for it!

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JCP is ripping off an artist – UPDATED with GOOD NEWS!

Excellent news – JPC is working with the artist to sort out the copyright violation. See Kal site for an update.

Huzzah for a big corporation doing the right thing by the artists!!!


Original post:

To be in the arts means we are a maker of things. To make a business of art means we need to sell those things – and the internet is an effective way for most of us to do that.

It also means that the things we make are visible, even to the people that have no intention of parting with their money to own something beautiful that we made. The lesser beings in this karmic soup take the idea of another and run with it.

Kal's stolen work

It would seem that JCPenney is selling bags whose fabric in an unlicensed and un-permissioned copy. Kal Barteski, the artist whose work has been appropriated, writes about it here:

First up – DON’T BUY ONE OF THESE! Don’t support the theft of other artists’ work.

Next up – head to my FB page and pick up the post about it, and please, please please, forward it far and wide. Let’s help Kal get this issue VISIBLE. There is power in numbers.

We artist must ALWAYS have each other’s back, especially when dealing with huge corporations with lawyers on retainer. We Are SO Worth It.

Room for everyone – and vive la difference!

My dear friend Josh, the man in glitter behind Molli Sparkles has hit a nerve out there… he is part of a guys-only quilt bee group, and it seems that some gals have taken umbrage with the name of the group (No Girls Allowed Quilt Bee) not to mention the exclusion of girls from it.

Sigh. Let’s stop all this now, shall we? There is room in this for ALL of us. Ladies, gents, kiddos and cats too, if the pix on Facebook are any indicator of truth.

Yes, I am a feminist. Yes, I want women to have equal opportunity. Yes, I am a member of a couple of women-only bees…. that in all honesty, we want to keep that way. (Or at a minimum, in our own female world view, we didn’t think to ask any fellas.) Yes, my first quilt guild got their bloomers in a bundle over the first guy to brave the biddy gauntlet and join (hell, they got all up in arms when Sam here volunteered to be president, most of them thinking I’m a fella because of my name – not once seeking me out to find out who I really am). But seriously – if we want to be treated inclusively, we need to TREAT OTHERS THE SAME. If we want to get into the locker room, we have to open the door to the powder room. I know the scales are still nowhere near balanced, but our playing narrow-minded and small isn’t going to rally anyone to the cause.

I urge you to read Josh’s follow up post here. It seems that the original post has reached a reader’s son, who now is excited that there is a welcoming place for him to explore his desire to sew. And the fellas in the bee are sending care packages to this lad. Ladies… we do this very same thing! We find the spark of interest, and we fan it with care packages of fabric. What on earth could be wrong with that??? Are we not here to get other people to fall in love with quilting?

So to Josh – bravo! – you done good!

To the young lad – welcome… we love having new people in the sewing tribe! (and please just ignore the biddies… the cool people already do)

And to the naysayers… get off the internet and go do a nice thing for someone today… maybe the steel around your heart will soften up a little!

Great Exposure!

PigeonbitsImage from the delightful Melanie Gillman of

As this lovely year comes to a close, I want to thank each and every person who has written me from the We Are $ew Worth It posts. Every story, be it a win or not, has resonated deeply with me, and because of that, I have some big plans for the campaign for next year. Watch this space, keep the stories coming, and have a wonderful new 2014… you really are worth it!

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Book Winner! And a little chaos…

BeforeBehold! The “before” picture! This is my new studio-to-be… in my new apartment! Since I last wrote I packed my stuff and upped and moved to the Portland, OR area (from downtown sunny Burbank CA!)

Pretty much everything I own landed in this room, and I’ve been working my way through putting it all where it belongs so that I can rebuild the studio. I’m getting close, and when I do, there will be prettier pix. In the meantime, I seem to be living at either Target or the hardware store as I buy all the things a new home needs (why do I always need to buy different trash cans every time I move???)

While I was on the road, the deadline to pick a winner for Quilting Isn’t Funny came and went, and when I landed I didn’t have internet (I am quite disturbed about how disturbing it was to be disconnected, if you know what I mean!). So now that I have internet, and a computer, and it’s on my desk and I have a chair to sit in, a winner has been chosen! chose number 39 of a field of 58 – Kathryn, who wrote: “Most frustrating.  It’s got to be squaring up the quilt.  If all the blocks measure square I”ll never understand why my quilt measurements are off.  But I still struggle with this more than I want to admit…………”

Kathryn – watch for an email from me!



O Thank Cuteness

The Staff of Generation Q Magazine started something a couple of years back, called O Thank Cuteness (this year’s version here) and it prompted me to write about my favorite guy on my art/travel blog (sadly neglected since the inception of Hunter’s Design Studio… being an entrepreneur is a delightfully busy gig!)

So here it is… out of the archives and into today’s post. And every bit as true as when I wrote it!


My friend Jake, who spearheads Generation Q Magazine, got a blog topic going this week – “Oh, Thank Cuteness!” She wrote about her daughter, and invited the readers to chime in with their versions. She got me to thinking about my son Steve, known to many in my life as The Boy (the capitalization is honorific here) and so here goes…

Steve’s personality was evident in utero. Every time we got an ultrasound wand near him he turned his back playfully and kept us guessing as to his gender. We could tickle his feet through my tummy, and in return he would torment me with bump-heaving hiccups. He made us wait to meet him, finally consenting to arrive the better part of a month late. The reward in this is that he smiled early.

From the get-go, he had a sense of humor. Mischief sparkled in his eyes often, and still does. He’s relentlessly funny, not in that doesn’t-know-when-to-quit annoying way, but in a lightness of being that is just present, even when he’s not fully awake. It’s a lightness that carries me often, as I tend to take it all a bit too seriously.

At two years old, Steve grabbed the hose while I was washing the car and sprayed me down, squealing. It was the first salvo in water wars that continue between us even today. As a youngster, he would ask the most hair-curling questions, but could find the humor in the then-ickyness of the answers. As a sleepy teen, he took to tapping my head and mumbling “snooze” when I tried to wake him up. I once painted his toenails while he was napping, and he laughed and wore it for the day before asking for the remover.

Steve understands the concept of having fun. He encouraged me to give up the 2-day ritual of decorating for Christmas and instead spend it in pajamas eating leftover Chinese food, while watching a full season of something geeky with him. In fact, this is how we spent our last Thanksgiving together, getting properly dressed only long enough to go to the movies in the afternoon. I reflect back on that day and remember it as one of my faves.

It would be easy to see all this fun and humor and imagine that Steve is just a party guy. Far from the truth. He thinks deeply about lots of things, and continues to ask the tough questions. The first election he voted in was the one that put Schwartzenegger on California’s throne, and there was Steve, wading through the pamphlets and brochures, trying to figure out how you pick a winner out of a pack of a hundred when all you can see is the slick marketing.

Like his mama, Steve wears his heart on his sleeve. And literally at that. When he decided to get tattoos, he asked me to help design something that spoke to his ideas of family heritage and life philosophy. No impetuous, beer-fueled doodles for him. I was honored to be trusted with this, and he graciously let me share a version of the same ink (it’s on my foot). He has since added more to his collection, all beautiful, and of course, consciously chosen and personally meaningful to him.

Obviously, there is a lot about Steve that has a lot to do with me. But then there is that part that doesn’t have anything to do with me at all. It’s a construction of what he has observed and tried and discarded, ever refining who he chooses to be on any given day – and I find that I really like that guy. I like how straight he tries to shoot. I admire that he keeps trying. I’m humbled by how loyal he is to those he loves.

We are tight, Steve and I – and this is the greatest thing in the world to me. They say you can tell who a man is by how he treats his mother. Let me tell you… Steve is a good man.

One BadAss Market, coming up!


If you don’t know this lovely lady, do let me introduce you: she’s Maddie Kertay of the BadAss Quilters Society.

Maddie is a force of quilting energy, and sweetly caters to many of us who consider ourselves on the fringes of that unfortunate sector of quilting that thinks it OWNS the Quilt Police. You know the one… it stares you down when you use a little salty language (Pardon your French? That didn’t sound like French to ME). At BadAss, Maddie has made a home for a more relaxed approach, full of bright images and positive reinforcement no matter how straight (or not) your seams are.

The Houston Quilt Market is nearly upon us, and of course, Maddie decided to put on a party. She has put together a networking event for everyone, where we get to eat fab snacks, play business card swap, and listen to people talk about stuff they think is important in our industry. The line up of speakers is sweet, and I’m thrilled to say she’s letting me have the microphone for a few minutes to talk about that thing I’m always talking about – art and craft have VALUE.

The official title of the gig is the BadAss Quilters Society Networking Gala – The Big Wing-Ding! Follow that link to read more about it. And yes, she’ll add me to the official published line-up as soon as I email her one of the photos that my pal Larry took of me last week! (Yes… I procrastinated getting head shots done… doesn’t everyone?!)

Not going to Market? Fret not! Maddie is going to videotape all of us (gulp!) and make it available for you. I hear there might even be some live streaming! So go follow her post to keep up with the latest, or catch her on Facebook here.

Oh… and about that head shot… what do you think? Me and the Ultimate Power Tool! Yeah!

Sam Hunter HS1