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Thursday, June 07, 2007

To Sell...



or not to sell...that is the question. Well, it isn't really. How to sell is the real question of the day. I've been following Helen Suzanne's posts about selling her hand dyed fabric (which is very nice, I have to say) on ebay, and her comment on my blog. I had thought about selling hand dyed cloth on ebay, and have kept an eye on activity in the cloth section, but decided not to do it, probably for the same reasons as Helen.

My experience of selling handdyes is that it is hard work. And here, I'm talking about the UK, though dyers in the US may think the same! I seem to spend a lot of time explaining things to people. Now I don't mind that, except when it comes to justifying Why Hand Dyed Cloth Is So Expensive. The answer to that, of course, is that whilst dyeing is a joy and a pleasure, it's also time consuming, the dyes (in the UK) are expensive and there's a lot of washing and ironing (and therefore cost) involved. In its way, dyeing is as creative as the other branches of textile art. However, where traditional quilters are faced up with cheap imports from China as a reason for dropping their prices, dyers are faced up with screen printed handdyes (a contradiction in terms if ever there was one!). Neither the imports nor the screenprinted cloth has the originality of a well made quilt or piece of fabric...but it's the price that seems to count. Which is why I have rarely ever offered complex cloth for sale; it's interesting, a joy to make and work with, but extremely expensive, and nobody wants it. Or do they?

This is beginning to sound like a whine, and it's not intended as such. But opportunities for selling handdyes aren't all that common. If you do talks and workshops, there's a side opportunity to sell cloth, too. I'll be taking both lutradur and handdyed cotton to sell at Lyon, and shows like it are ideal opportunities for selling. If you have a website, like Helen, you can sell from there. Or there's Etsy. And there's mail order, too, I guess...and that seems to be about it. Am I missing something? Don't think so... So I find myself wondering about Etsy, which I thought was a US focussed business, but which seems to be attracting increasing numbers of UK traders. A straw poll seemed to produce a number of UK artists doing well.

So, what do you think about Etsy? Is it worthwhile taking on, or should we stick to the tried and tested? And Ebay, too. In the US, it seems possible to sell art through Ebay; why is it so much more difficult in the UK? Or is that just my perception? Let's talk, folks...what's your view? And those of you who aren't making to sell, but who want to buy....what do you really think about hand dyed cloth?

5 comments:

Helen Suzanne said...

Hi Marion (thanks for your lovely support). It's interesting what you say about having to justify the cost of hand-dyed. There also seems a fine line between a "complex cloth" piece and some sort of dye technique piece (Shibori included). Wouldn't it be so rewarding to sell complex cloth for what it is worth. Maybe because it lays in a grey area between completed or incomplete art work people don't know what to do with it? I know I've seen some beautiful samples of your cloths on the blog and sometimes thought I'd like to have it, but I know I'd never use it - just hoard it and love it... I suppose I'm trying to define the motivation of buyers here... fabric covers so many possibilities.

Helen Suzanne said...

oo just an additional thought...

If we're selling to buyers who will use the fabric in the same context as any other craft material maybe there's a market for bundled samples, if not fat quarters, in craft shops and maybe the right sort of gallery shop. Packaging becomes more important I guess too.

Valeri said...

I sell a lot of hand-dyed fabric,mostly cotton and I have found that it goes much quicker when it is actually in front of people than when it is being distance sold. Having said that once people have bought some they will come back for more even if they can't actually touch and examine it. And I find that I now get requests for mixtures. It also helps if people can see the fabric made up as it gives them ideas as to usage. One of my workshops is a quick 6 hour quilt top which uses 16 FQ's. The sample I show before hand sells the fabric! I did look into selling on Ebay but found there was a lot of fabric on sale at very cheap prices and I didn't think I stood a chance. Perhaps I'll look again. And packaging wasn't so important as display in shops and galleries. Also quilty people often mistrust their colour sense and like bundles already colour co-ordinated. I roll and tie my bundles with matching hand-dyed silk ribbon. Sorry to have rambled on.

The Wittering Rainbow said...

Hello Marion. There seem some good comments here already, but as I buy cloth a bit I thought I'd pass on my experiences too in case it helps. I've tuned into your blog for ages - I think from the beginning but I'd missed the fact that you sell your fabric. I know this may be me and you will admonish me for not paying attention, but perhaps it is something you could make more of? A sister blog with photos of the cloth would be free and is possibly worth a go? I like to dye and paint cloth, but I also like a change and to have other peoples' material as a treat or as inspiration. I buy from many places including Dijanne Cevaal who se cloth I love; gorgeous colours. I also buy from shows but as I increasingly don't go to them, I'm less likely to come across such fabric, and I also can't be bothered to do battle with crowds. Likewise with Ebay. I check it out occasionally but can't be bothered to spend hours going through all the possibilities for maybe 1 piece of cloth. It is useful going to a "shop" on Ebay though, so maybe you could offer the odd piece which might go quite cheaply and encourage folk to your store? I believe it's free to be a seller as well so has got to be worth a go. I think it comes down to knowing who you're trying to sell to. Is it quilters who want colour co-ordinated bundles and all the pressure of choosing taken away? Is that the sort of cloth you make? Do you want to change if it isn't? Or do you see your cloth as art pieces that satisfy a need to create within yourself? What would be your market if it was? Main stream shows etc are probably good places for own dyed cloth and maybe even a little complex cloth but the stalls are expensive and I imagine you'd have to sell an awful lot to cover cost. Ebay is free and reaches a lot of different people but the market price is low. The people who read your blog are the sort of people who are interested in what you do, so why not start there? Or have a link to a website? You need really good photos of the cloth though. Good luck.

katelnorth said...

Marion, I have an etsy shop and have sold some things, but only postcards, no hand-dyes. I have had a few people compliment the dyes with comments like "someday when I have more money" - I never tried selling hand-dyes on eBay, though, for the very reasons discussed already. I haven't tried selling any truly complex cloth, though, just fairly straightforward hand-dyes.