Del Thomas is a textile art collector and the owner of the Thomas Contemporary Quilt Collection. Her collection of art quilts boasts over 300 pieces ranging from pieces as large as 107” x 52” to as small as 4” x 6”. She is also a quilter who has been quilting for the past 70 years.
Over a period of time, I interviewed Del about collecting and becoming an art collector.
So let’s get right into it. I know you are wondering how one gets to own such a large collection of textile art, right? Well, this is how Del got her start – by visiting a museum. She says
“I had purchased a few contemporary quilts prior to 1987 when I attended the first Visions exhibit in Fallbrook, CA. From that day on I have only collected contemporary art quilts. I consider that the Collection started in 1985 when I bought the first contemporary quilt.”
Are museums the only place you can find art pieces for your collection? Absolutely, not! There are tons of places to find art and Del shares her sources: “Galleries, exhibits, artist’s studios, art quilts shows, magazines, books , online– anywhere there are art quilts”.
Often when people are starting out to collect art, they are quite unsure, sometimes downright scared they’ll not know what to look for. you can find direction for your art collecting by taking a cue from Del Thomas. Define a specific set of criteria to work with. Del explains her personal criteria:
“I have four criteria:
- Does the art quilt “speak” to me? Do I go back again (and again) to look at it?
- Can I afford it; there is a limit to my bank account.
- Do I have a place to store it?
- And, finally, if I could only have one of the art quilts, is this one the one I could live with for the rest of my life?”
After an art collector builds a collection, then what next? Is that the end of the collector’s relationship with the artists they collect? That’s exactly what I asked Del. And there’s a lot to learn from her insightful response:
“I like to support emerging artists and I am pleased when one of “my” artists turns into a “name” in the art quilts world. I definitely have a connection with almost all of the artists represented in the Collection. Several have become personal friends and almost all are in touch when they need to be”.
What can you do with such a large private collection, you ask, huh? Del enjoys showing her collection to groups of people. It’s one of her favorite things to do with her collection. She describes it this way.
“One of the best things about collecting is sharing the art quilts and their stories with others”.
That’s it for the first part. For me, what stands out from this interview is that although you might start by purchasing a piece of artwork, it’s not just about art alone. It’s about the stories they tell and about the people behind the creation of the art and their stories and the collectors and their own stories too. It’s an entirely connected web of inter-relationships, meanings, and story-telling.
The second part of my interview with Del Thomas (Words of Advice From A Textile Art Collector) will soon follow. I hope you enjoyed this first part.
I’ll love to hear your comments, questions, and thoughts.