Marketing on Instagram - Jane Sassaman

SAQA Seminar (Artist Q&A)


Tell us about your background.

I have been making quilts since 1980. I was an "art" quilter from the beginning. Although I was crazy for Amish quilts, my quilts were meant for the wall not the bed. I quilted in the closet for a long time, all the while setting my sights to be represented in Quilt National, which was THE cutting edge show for art quilts. My work evolved and I finally entered and was shown in Quilt National at the Dairy Barn in 1989, my first quilt exhibit. This exhibit changed my life!

My parents took me to the opening, while my husband stayed home with the kids. As a shy quilter, I would have never considered attending without some encouragement and persistent pushing. Oh my! I met every influential quilter in the world… my world. I had found my “people”. Since then I have been exhibiting and selling my work.

Johnny Jump Up


How do you use social media?

I have been a very reluctant participant in social media… again, shy quilter. I had a Facebook account but never did anything with it until BERNINA asked me to participate in a contest to decorate a sewing machine. I didn’t want to get 2 votes while Ricky and Tula got 2 million. So I started to post on Facebook.

After a while, I started to enjoy the challenge to post something unique on a regular schedule. Thanks to BERNINA for waking me up to the possibilities. But Facebook has always felt contrived to me… too many outside influences, too corporate, too many sharks, too many unknowns. Then I tried Tumbler, but my password was immediately screwed up and I threw in the towel.

By then Instagram came along and it seemed much more user-friendly and image-oriented. As a woman of few words and lots of pictures, this was fine. Also I could follow lots of other artists that I was interested in and discover new ones. Plus, you don’t have to bid or apply for acceptance… you just follow whoever interests you. It is a giant encyclopedia of inspiration.

These days I post on Instagram and simultaneously share on Facebook, an Instagram feature. I never post on Facebook independently. But I do get a good response from my posts on Facebook.

Spring Trio

Spring Trio


What type of things do you like to post?

I try to show my work and also what inspires it, so lots of nature shots. The artwork usually generates the most response. But it takes so long to make a quilt that I worry folks will get tired looking at the same project over and over again, so I try to shake things up a bit.

Choc Columbine

Recently I have been posting my quilts as they are being designed, not just after they are finished. It is a diary of the process, my daily life. Many folks assume that art just flows out of a talented person, not that it can be a struggle, often uncomfortable and discouraging.

So I try to walk people through that thought process. Because I am showing work in progress, folks will sometimes share their opinions. At first, I was a bit surprised and a little disturbed. But then I thought, ”Heck, you are asking for it if you show unfinished work!” Now I enjoy the discourse, especially as a teacher. I really appreciate that followers take the time to get involved. And I also know that I am still “the boss” and have the final say. Now if someone leaves a very rude opinion I may think differently.

I post in real-time and I have been meaning to make a list of all the hashtags I should be using. I enjoy the camaraderie on Instagram. It is amazing to be corresponding and following people all over the world. But, of course, there are days when you just drop the ball.

Sweet Potato Quilt


What advice do you have for someone who is interested in trying to use Instagram?

Instagram is currently my social media of choice. It is very user-friendly and can be a new canvas for visual artists to play and communicate. It is a wonderful way to keep in touch with friends and rub elbows with creative types all over the planet. It is also a good way to discover your presentation style… fun, funky, moody, formal, etc.

Rumor has it that lots of art directors are trolling for new talent on Instagram. If you want to write a book, many publishers require that you have a large social media following before they will even consider you. If you are just getting started with your career or launching a business, Instagram is a ripe field to plant some seeds.