is one of the most difficult decisions we have to make
as fiber artists. My own work, like the work of many
other well know quilt artists, is priced by the square
foot. While this seems like a crude way to price the
product you your heart and soul, it is a practical way
to predict ahead of time what a commission piece might
be worth. Since some of my quilts have very complex
piecing and others are whole cloth, I have a different
square foot price for each different style.
So how do you decide what your square foot price will
be? First you need to keep track of your time on at
least one quilt in that style. How long did it take
to design your quilt and prepare the paper pattern?
For me, the design often takes longer than the actual
piecing and quilting. How long did it take to piece.
How long did it take to baste, quilt, and bind. How
long did it take to put your studio back in order after
the quilt was finished? Add up all these numbers and
divide by the number of square feet in your quilt. That's
how long it takes to make one square foot of quilt in
Now you need to decide how much your time is worth.
Minimum wage is between $6.00 and $7.00 per hour. This
is the rate of pay for unskilled, entry level jobs.
Since you have won awards in national contests, and
have been ASKED to do this commission, we can assume
that you are NOT unskilled. Skilled labor is worth more.
What do you hire other people to do? Clean your house?
Mow your lawn? Fix the plumbing? Repair appliances?
How much do you pay them? In the 1990's in the Chicago area, the going
rate for housekeeping services was $10-$15 per hour.
The last time I had my toilet fixed............(don't
Once you have decided on a number for your hourly rate
of pay, you need to multiply that by the number of hours
it will take to make your quilt. A 40" x 60"
quilt, for instance is 16.66 square feet. Suppose you
are really speedy and you can actually design, piece,
quilt, and bind a square foot of quilt in 2 hours. Your
quilt will take 33.32 hours to finish. Now suppose,
hypothetically, that your time is worth $15.00 per hour.
The figure you start with in figuring your price will
be $15 x 33.32 or $499.80.
That's just the starting figure. Are you are working
with a gallery, agent, designer, or architect, or do
you plan to work with gallery in the the future.? They
are going to want a commission. They have, hopefully,
done some the marketing, interaction with the client,
and accounting for you, and they expect to be paid for
their time. If it's a gallery, they will usually expect
to be paid 50% - 60% of the selling price. If you need
to be paid $499.80 for the quilt, that means the person
the gallery is selling it to will need to pay at least
$999.60 for the quilt. If you have found your own client,
and done your own marketing, accounting, and client
interaction, then you need to pay yourself for all of
these things. If you ever plan to work with an agent
or gallery, you need to plan ahead and set your prices
Now you probably are going to want to document this
quilt by taking photographs and writing up some documentation
and an aritsts statement for your client. How long will
that take? Another hour? (you really are speedy!) Pay
yourself and your agent each another $15.00. So now
the price of the quilt is up to $1029.60. Does the client
expect you to come to their home or business and install
the quilt? How long will it take to drive there and
back (one hour?) How long will it take to install it?
(another hour?) Do you have to purchase special rods
to hang the quilt? (add $15.00) How long does it take
to cut, sand, paint, and drill the rods. (add another
$15.00) How much did you pay for the sand paper, drill
bit, paint, and saw? (Add another $5.00- you can't take
it all on this one quilt) Do you need special equipment
to hang the quilt? (level, nails, hammer, step ladder)
(add another $5.00) Does the client want the quilt to
be sprayed with UV protection? (add another $15.00)
Of course you have to double all these numbers, because
your agent is going to take half.
So finally, because you work faster than most of us,
and are willing to work for what you are paying your
housekeeper, (that's one quarter what you are paying
your plumber) you can sell your quilt for $1189.60 (let's
round that up to an even $1200.00)
You are so right, too many people undercharge and give
their work away. I'm glad you asked. I'm sure
there are many others out there wondering.