I just created a "Professional Weavers" group.

I have often felt, upon attending conferences and guild meetings, that as a professional weaver my experience is vastly different from others. The constraints and limits that I face in having my weaving fit well into my financial life helps create my focus. There are so many benefits to this and also some drawbacks.

 

I am in the process of preparing for a nine day fair (League of NH Craftsmens fair at Sunapee) and realized two days ago that the fabric I thought I had plenty of, I was out of stock on. I wound a 400 thread warp, dressed my loom and wove eleven yards of fabric yesterday. Today, I am quickly moving on to all the other projects that need to get finished during the next week.

 

Does this feel familiar to anyone else out there?? In most fields, guilds are professional organizations. In weaving, they tend to be hobby organizations, which is great, but I'd love more of a support network within the guild structure.

Comments

Posted on Thu, 07/26/2012 - 06:28

Yes, weaving off 11 yards is purrrrrrrrfectly normal for me, too. I do feel that, when I go to guild meetings 4 to 5 times a year, I am "different" from many of my fellow members. They are all dear and inspiring and nice, but I don't find that I can talk about the 70 yards I put on a loom at a time or the hours I weave a week or the 9 floor looms that I keep in constant states of progress....their eyes sort of 'glass over'. When I travel and am in my booth, I am most often asked what software I use and how many helpers I have. But I don't use computers or helpers or even fly shuttles...I am an old fashioned weaver who dances the treadles and throws each shuttle....even if it is 54 ppi. I am pretty much a self-motivator, so I don't feel a loss...just alone.

Posted on Fri, 07/27/2012 - 10:14

I am also an "old fashioned" weaver. I had an AVL with a fly shuttle for a while and hated it. I felt really removed from the process because I couldn't really feel what was going on as I caught the shuttle. I've tried a few times to hire others to help me out, but I weave so quickly and perfectly and it's near impossible to pay someone to do similar work. Right now, my fourteen year old nephew helps out a little. It's a pleasure having him in the studio, he likes the extra money and he seems to "get it" (he's a drummer and I think it's connected).

So, even though I absolutely adore what I do and feel really blessed to be doing it, there are times that it's really, really hard. I can't say how much I would love a few days off right now and I woke up early to get to an excercise class this morning and my body just feels so pushed to it's limits that I'm choosing to stay home and wash and finish scarves instead.

Cat-Are the nine looms so that you can devote each one to a different warp for a long period of time? I've got twenty, but I run a school so most of them are for my students. Right now, I have three devoted production looms and I just get the warps on and off fairly quickly (right now, it feels like a new warp almost daily). I would love a fourth one so that as I'm preparing for a show I can jump around a bit more, but I can't justify the space in the studio.

Posted on Fri, 07/27/2012 - 14:46

Weaving is something I would love to make my vocation and perhaps I am slowly moving in that direction. The summer time presents to me so many fair weather jobs that I can spend very little time at a loom. Mostly I build up a list of items I would like to produce after the summer is over. I do get to do some weaving after sundown, however, and a few projects (jobs) can get started and even completed over the summer. Who needs sleep, after all.

I am looking forward to hearing of the various experiences that we all share as production weavers.

Adam

 

Posted on Fri, 07/27/2012 - 18:54

I just joined.  Although I've never used or thought the term "professional weaver" regarding myself, I do sell my work - that's why I weave it - and it currently accounts for about 1/3 of my income.  I still have a part-time paycheck job, mostly because it includes health insurance, which I can't give up without freaking out mentally.

I don't do sectional warping, usually limit myself to 12 yd warps, and have never produced yardage, I never have an empty loom.  So while I'm not in the same league as Laura, Dena, or Cat, I'm on board with many of the other stated thoughts.  

When I left my full-time, well-paid job for this part-time one and self-employment, very few people understood.  I'm still asked constantly if I enjoy my retirement, and people don't understand that I am, in fact, working many more hours.  Yes, I love my weaving job and chose it purposefully, but it is my work, not my hobby, as many assume.

Posted on Fri, 07/27/2012 - 19:18

After 35+ years of doing the local craft fair I still have people come by my booth and - with a somewhat surprised expression - say "oh, you're still weaving?"  Yes, I am.  And will be as long as my body holds out.  :)

cheers,

Laura

Posted on Sun, 07/29/2012 - 02:38

Hello all - I've just rerturned to weaving after a 20 year break while I had another career.  I was a professional weaver for 18 years, but that was a long time ago!  I just finished my first tiny limited edition warp of 14 yards to make sure all systems were working.  Now I'm ready to put on a 25 yard warp this week.  I sold all of my looms except my AVL mechanical dobby. So, I'll be running my little business on this one loom.  I'm just now trying to determine how to price my work.  I keep accurate records for time and materials, but I don't have a specific market yet.  The business end is taking considerable time... designing cards, hangtags, garment labels, etc.  Have any of you struggled with this?  Thanks!

Kate 

Posted on Sun, 07/29/2012 - 03:20

I've been told that marketing takes as long as the making sometimes.  One way to handle this (although I have never been able to do it!) is to schedule x hours a week to work on marketing issues.

cheers,

Laura

Posted on Sun, 08/05/2012 - 04:28

First, yes, I have so many looms so that I can produce a large variety. On The Old Structo, I weave stoles, on Arlene, I weave scarves, on Doris, I weave blankets and yardage if I get an order. Then, the other 5 looms Hazle is 30/2 Tencel/Silk, Deedle is "Desert Daze" fabrics, Jimmy is "Desert Nights" fabrics, Margaret is fine 20/2 rayons, Stanley is heavier cotton jacket weight fabrics, Grace is fine 60/2 cottons...I never get bored.

I started out running my own weaving school and had 18 looms, but retired from teaching weaving and downsized to the 9.

It takes discipline to take time off and keep a schedule. There's cleaning day each week, there's Mondays in the garden, there's Tuesday lunches and I have a very nice boss (me) who recognizes if time off is needed. There are times I do not take visitors any more than a CEO would allow someone to just wander in and sit down in his office and hang out! This is a job, yes, but I have an inner calling to weave...English and Scots-Irish roots so how can I NOT?

Yes, there needs to be balance in business and scheduling when to wear your business hat will FREE you up to not think about those 'chores' when it's time to weave...try it...it will help you actually weave MORE!

Laura, I think there's a yearning and an envy that people might harbor. The people who have not jumped off to do what they want and they have not made peace with their decision to have financial security over artistic endeavors....both have honor, but they are still not happy. I have been verbally attacked because a person stands in the middle of my booth and says that I don't charge enough for what I do to warrant the time, effort, expense. I just wait for them to wander on their way...they just don't get it. Yes, I too will be a weaver as long as I am breathing. I refuse to feel guilty for loving the work that I do....I've paid dearly for the privilege and I've worked hard for years to get where I am now!

I think Adam has developed a way to balance both weaving and work... now just be happy, go with that plan, be proud, ENJOY!

Posted on Sun, 07/29/2012 - 13:16

Firstly, I just gotta say how excited I am that this discussion is happening. Thanks for joining me.

Yes, balance is the biggest part. I've got a seven year old on top of the two businesses (running my school and doing shows). I try not to do it often, but yesterday I set up a nest for him on my studio floor and he read and played while I wove.

In terms of what Kate brought up and how long all the other stuff takes...I did (and continue to) take it all really slowly. Every year I take on one or two big picture tasks and slowly, over time, become more and more professional. I have a designer that I work with on the postcards, hangtags, business cards and it's taken a long time to find the right webmistress. I've worked with lovely people, on trade, who did beautiful work, but for each one of them, when things got too busy, I was the thing that didn't happen. I finally realized that it was time to bite the bullet and pay someone. It's working out really well and I'm glad I made the choice.

The question of pricing is huge and always there. This year, I am raising a few of my prices and it's still really scary. Part of the question is where and to whom I am choosing to sell. Most of my customers are working class to middle class who decide that they are going to splurge on one special thing and this is going to be it. I listen to many stories from my customers of how important my work is in their lives and the significant events that have happened with them wrapped in my work. I work hard towards having my prices reflect the time and money that I've put into my work, but also stay somewhat accessible to many people. I know that for many craftspeople, their ideal market is customers with a lot of money. They do shows that reflect that and their marketing is geared in that direction. I think it's fabulous for them, but it's just not who I am.

And Peg...twelve yard warps are totally respectable! I don't warp sectionally and my maximum is 32 yards. As I get closer to a show, the warps get smaller. I do sometimes wish I had the space for more production looms, but that's mostly so that when I get closer to a show I can have more warps going. 95% of the time, it's fine.

Posted on Sun, 07/29/2012 - 17:06

Thanks for having this discussion where the non-professionals can get some insight into what you do. About the only way to learn about paths toward becoming a professional weaver online is to read the weavers' blogs. This conversation is exciting to me. 

Posted on Sun, 07/29/2012 - 19:52

Peg, the length of your warp doesn't detemine anything.  :)  When weaving rayon chenille scarves, I do 5 meter long warps - two scarves.  Since the 'best' thing to do with rc imho is lots of saturated colour, I like to do just two off of each warp, changing my warp colour for the next, and so on.

Being 'professional' to me is taking  your work and your committment to it seriously.  Striving for perfection (while realizing that is a process, not necessarily a destination!), doing the best design work you can.  

Pricing is always a bugabear.  So much depends on one's access to a market willing and able to pay a premium for hand crafted work.  Since I live in a small, geographically isolated town, I have to travel to distant metropolitan areas for the bulk of my income.  Driving 500 or so miles to shows, usually in winter weather, is....challenging.  Doug is urging me to add another show but I'm hesitating.  We aren't in our 30's any more and with the economy and markets the way they are, I'm wondering how much longer we can continue to do this.  OTOH, when a market saturates, as they will, it's a good idea to go somewhere else.

Part of my income comes from teaching - selling weaving is a very seasonal thing - I don't bother doing any spring/summer shows - it's a big drain on finances and energy for little return in my experience.  I've also started a series of publications that I hope will bring in income during the 'down' time (financially - the work never stops!).

Being a single person business means that you have to do it all or call on the help of family/friends at times.  If you get sick there is no one to phone in sick to!  I've done more than one show barely able to hold my head up because there simply wasn't anyone else.

It's a challenging but infintely satisfying way to spend my life.  After 35+ years I can honestly say that while I would like to change some of the things I've done I've not regretted my choice to be a production weaver.  :)

For anyone interested I wrote down everything I could think of about being in the business - it's available for sale on my website as a pdf.

cheers,

Laura

Posted on Sun, 07/29/2012 - 21:17

I don't know what it means to balance. I guess I'm too impulsive to do that. I weave whenever I can which just turns out to be less often in the warmer season. My situation is somewhat difficult to describe as I am a part of a more cooperative group of people who are doing many things. I find my time is precious as a result of wearing many hats within this group. Right now my biggest hat is to assist in running a small cafe/deli in our community. It is challenging since I haven't done such a thing before. (and btw, you can teach an old dog new tricks ;>)

Gotta go.

OK I'm back. Our group is located in many places and some of these have storefronts where we sell things that we make ourselves. We also run delis called The Yellow Deli where we also sell some of the things we make. I am hoping to make handwoven items to sell in these locations as well as on ETSY. It's fun (I really like weaving) and I don't like marketing, so the various stores are just my style --- weave and send stuff to the stores. If it works well I will include others from the group in the years ahead to keep up with whatever demand gets established (hopefully a lot of demand). This may include apprenticeship programs to include young people and teaching to increase my "work force."

Anyway, it's fun to try to balance and get all the things done that I am called to be part of. More often it seems that I should acurately call it juggling rather than balancing :>)

Adam

 

Posted on Mon, 07/30/2012 - 14:32

Hi Dena and all

I see some very experienced folk here, which is great news for me! I am in the process of "turning pro" and the excitement is tinged with fear... I could start by saying a lot about how Guild and non-Guild structures operate in the UK, and how hard it can be to find a peer support network, but luckily for everyone here I have to leave in a minute to go to the dentist :-)

Cally

Posted on Sun, 08/05/2012 - 02:03

Although I have a website and I do my best to keep it updated, when I have to choose between weaving and updating the site, weaving ALWAYS wins.  Besides, even when I've spent lots of time on the website, I don't get lots of hits or sales.  For me, it's all about shows.

While I dislike the setting up and tearing down, I actually really enjoying working a show.  The direct customer contact is terrific.  Not only do I enjoy the compliments, regardless of whether the person ultimately buy or not, but talking to people is how I know what colors, fibers, sizes, and styles people like to see.  I learn as much from the lookers as the buyers.

Another thing I like about doing shows is that I almost always demonstrate as part of my booth.  At this point I don't have a portable floor loom or a multi-harness table loom, so I just bring my rigid heddle.  Although I'd like to have more options than it sometimes provides, the simplicity of the rigid heddle loom lends itself well to the kind of brief 'presentations' that people want at a show.  Plus, it always draws people in to my booth -- always a good thing!  Besides, when I say in my application that I'd love to demo & need a corner space to do that well, I'm generally given a corner, which is wonderful.  (There's a tip to others who do shows.)  Finally, although I only do juried shows, which supposedly bring in people who understand that everything is hand made, I know for sure, based on comments, that many people don't think I do the weaving myself.  So when they see me weaving on my little rigid heddle, it makes them look more closely at my work, and begin to understand why my scarves can't be compared with what's purchased at a big box store in quality or pricing.

I've raised my prices a few times in the past few years.  As I get more confident and comfortable in my skills (both weaving and marketing), I realize that I do myself and other weavers when I underprice my work. Still, I know my prices are still low, and am a little resistant to increasing them again, because like Dena, I do still want my work to be attainable to a broad range of people.  

Regarding warp length, I've chosen relatively short (10-12 yard) warps for a few reasons, the major one being that I like to provide as much variety - of color, fiber, and weave pattern - in my booth as possible.  I don't feel bad or unprofessional about that length, but I do realize that it's nowhere near as time efficient as longer warps.  We all know the set up takes WAY more time than throwing the shuttle!  Ahhh, that pricing thing.

Posted on Sun, 08/05/2012 - 23:13

Thank you Dena, for creating this group, you finally made me join Weavolution.  I have always kept up with what was happening through Michael's discussions, (and I know I have probably confused some people when I jumped into a discussion under his name!!). I had nothing against the site, but when time is limited, I tend to come home from work, and go to my studio where I weave most evenings.  While I work outside the home (or is it studio), I have considered myself a weaver, and a professional,for a long time.  Due to time constraints, I tend to limit my warps, but I also like to give variety.  I market simple garments and shawls, and try to do no more than 2 pieces per warp.  I want customers to buy something unique.  My longest warps are 17 1/2 yards and are towels.  That arbitrary number is the length of my warping board.  One of my goals is to tackle sectional warping in the next year.

Like a lot of people, I am not a fan of the marketing end of the business.  Finding the right venue, and the right price, can be a challenge.  I had read Laura's recommendations on another discussion, that we should raise our prices if items don't sell-don't mark them down.  A lot of us probably need that advice, and tend to undervalue what we do.

I look forward to the many threads this discussion seems to be taking.

Cheryl

Posted on Sat, 08/18/2012 - 13:50

There will always to push-n-pull over those two concepts, but that's part of what being a professional is all about. There has to be a certain discipline to do what is business-savey. This is why I found it best to have an 'office day', when you awake thinking marketing and you'll weave tomorrow...or that afternoon!

Cheryl, I'm so glad you joined...this site is wonderful and we need more focused caring people like YOU! Help keep this conversation going!

Peg, I used to only make sales at shows except for the ever-so-rare studio visit until I started to really focus in and got myself OUT there! It will lead more people to your website. Start a blog, get a facebook page (mine is non-professional but I show my weaving, my current project, garden photos, life-as-a-weaver stuff. Also, when you are at shows, do you provote your website? My blog usually gets about 100 hits a month (no, I'm not burning up the internet!!!), but, after a show, I have 100 hits every 5 or 6 days for awhile! Also, a blog, isn't it easier to update? There's a group here on Weavo that I am a member of called "Weavers Who Blog"...or something similar....might that help?

Cally, how did the dentist trip go? You will find that "going pro" is a gradual thing....boy, has my booth changed over the years!!!! And, I recently added clothing made, all or part, out of my handwoven fabrics. It helps to be open to change and development...people kept coming into my booth ready to try on my samples, so I've just added clothing!

Laura, I've been meaning to tell you that I love your new photo...it's GORgeous!...photos are SO important in creating a good internet presence!

Posted on Sun, 08/19/2012 - 09:00

I'm not anywhere near a pro weaver, still a lot of unknowns for me. I also appreciate this thread discussion.

On the point of marketing, that is often the hardest part of any work and not everyone is a salesman. I'm a forester and thus the following comment stems from the sawmill trade. Just because you have a sawmill and lots of logs to saw, doesn't mean you will be successful. You can saw all week long, but if you don't market the lumber you'll be done for. ;)

Posted on Sun, 08/19/2012 - 13:01

 Does anyone find that buyers are really able to appreciate textiles via photrographs or are websites more a display for the public to consider you professional?  I don't have a  website yet and quite frankly all the time necessary to put one together just seems so daunting when there is so much weaving to be done. I wonder how much effort to put into it. Up to this time I have sold work thru galleries and shops but have just taken on outside studio/gallery space within a building housing 2-D artists, some have websites but I don't hear them saying that they sell through these either. I'd like to hear about experiences with website evolutions and ideas about staying simple and basic vs getting more complicated if anyone would care to share.

Posted on Sun, 08/19/2012 - 15:01

This group is a wonderful idea.  Thank you for creating it.

About 13-14 years ago I started doing shows in the NorthWest (USA) selling my work.  I learned a lot and loved doing them - for about 5 years. Then I returned to my old job for a few years to improve my retirement benefits.  When I was ready to start weaving again it was 2008 and anyone could see it was not a good time to start doing shows again.  I used the time to experiment a bit more than I could when I was doing shows and occasionally managed to sell a few scarves at some local galleries.  A couple of years ago a new membership gallery opened locally at about the same time another gallery closed.  I joined and found it to be a very positive experience both in sales and encouragement.

Shows:  I loved (and well hate is too strong) - disliked doing shows and the profit wasn't really there for me.  I might try some in a year or two.  When I was doing shows I found it difficult to create new designs because of the time involved.  Weaving so I could have enough inventory of my good sellers took a lot of time.  So while I did create new things - it was only about one a year.  

Galleries:  very tricky...Even though I consider myself to be cautious I had some negative experiences.  Even a good long term relationship went bad.  But the one I am involved with now is excellent.

Working in the studio is what I love doing.  But it can be isolating.  It is difficult when I am trying to create a new product and want some feedback.  

Weaving professionally is different than hobby weaving in many ways.  Often what is 'popular' with weavers generates no interest with the general public and what is of no interest to weavers sells well!  And then there is fashion to contend with.  But a good design can transcend all that.

Love reading about what others are doing. 

Best wishes.

Stephanie S

 

 

Posted on Sun, 08/19/2012 - 16:45

thanks for doing this!  I remember when the "penny dropped" about there being a gap there between those of us who do this vocationally and the hobby-weavers (some of whom do some very exciting work, so not running anybody down.  Anyway, another FIT student and I decided to go to the local Guild meeting.  It was in a very, very upscale Brooklyn brownstone, so, right away, we knew we were in the presence of the well-heeled LOL....the president announced that we needed to discuss "issues that effect all of us" and they all felt the "BIGGEST issue was "how to just get started on a project."  Karen and I looked at each other and one of us, I forget which, whispered "try knowing your rent is coming due."  We didn't go back, altho the ladies were very nice, just, well, we were not on the same page...also, we were quite young at the time and probably a little more "judgemental" than we are today. But, there IS a gap between it being "something to do" and a way to earn money.

Posted on Sun, 08/19/2012 - 16:48

Stephanie, do you belong to the Seattle Weavers Guild?  Their sale in Ocotober is excellent.  PM me if you want more details.  

BTW - I will be presenting the SWG September Saturday meeting program - on issues related to selling your work.  :)

cheers,

Laura

Posted on Mon, 08/20/2012 - 06:05

Thank you Laura.  I wish I could hear your program at the meeting in Sept.  I live in Central Oregon.   When I was doing shows I joined the Portland, Oregon Weavers Guild and participated in their sale for two years.  The Seattle Weavers Guild Show has tempted me but  Seattle is an expensive place to stay in a hotel so I passed on it.  Perhaps I should consider it for 2013.

Best wishes.

Stephanie S.

Posted on Mon, 08/20/2012 - 13:14

Thanks for your comments, Cat.  I do have a blog, where I try to post a few times a week.  Yeah, sometimes it devolves to a few times a month, but the point is I update regularly, usually about weaving.  I have studiously avoided Facebook.  I don't want more computer-related things to suck up my time.  Plus I can't figure out what I would do differently on FB than I do on my blog.

I do always promote my website at shows.  My plan to do this even better is that the next time I have my business cards printed (I have several hundred I need to get through first) I'm going to redesign them and include a QR code to bring people there.  Since most folks have smart phones (although I don't) a QR code on my card should help, I think.

I'll check out the other group you mentioned on Weavo, about weaver/bloggers.

Always open to constructive comments & help!

Posted on Fri, 08/24/2012 - 13:10

I'm really glad that so many of you have joined in the conversation. For a long time, I have been stumped as to how to get great support within the existing weaving community and it's now clear to me that there are plenty of other weavers on a similar path.  I am feeling like the initial thread is getting long and could use some organization.  I am going to start breaking out threads and creating new posts for those specific threads.  I invite you to do the same.  Let's keep the conversation going and continue to have a presence on Weavolution!