April 28, 2011

Quilters and artists


I said I would make this, and I did! Alas, it came out the wrong size. I fear I cannot be trusted to print things correctly off the internet. Oh well.

My grandma recently said something to me about my quilting. It went like "You can do that sort of thing because you're an artist". I asked if she thought of herself as an artist and she said "I wasn't raised that way". It made me stop.

Hmmm. What do you think quilters? Are we artists?

I definitely consider myself a quilter, because it gives me a sense of kinship with all you other quilters. It connects me to the quilters who came before me, and the ones who will come after us. It means something. I make quilts. I am a quilter.

But I also like thinking of myself as an artist. It gives me a little breathing room. It lets me give up whatever assumptions about quilting don't suit me. That quilting must have precision. That quilts are always made of blocks. That if you don't know how to do this or that then you're not a "good" quilter. When I think of myself as an artist it allows me to define my art form, my standards for my work, whether or not I am advancing, and in what direction.

I've seen and used and loved my grandma's quilts and I'd say she's an artist. How about you? Are you a quilter, artist, both?

29 comments:

amy said...

Great question! I'd say both, I rarely make "traditional quilts" but I can and have. Most of what I make could be considered functional quilts but I also make "art quilts" and I'm not afraid of mixed media, pattern drafting or using unexpected fabrics or materials. How about "textile engineer" LOL? I've been asked to sew some wild stuff & usually follow through with something! But yeah, I'm not afraid to say I'm an artist, starving even :p

Quiet Quilter said...

I am more of a quilter than an artist..mainly because I cannot "see" the finished project unless I have a picture. I am sometimes amazed at what occurs...

Gene Black said...

This is a great question for me! I was in fact and artist first as I started painting before I ever started quilting. However, "I wasn't raised that way" either. It was simply something within me that needed to express itself.
I often quilt like I paint, that is experimentally. I get started and let the work tell me where to go.
Both my grandmothers made quilts, but I didn't learn until long after both of them were gone.
I am an ARTIST and a QUILTER!

Jackie said...

I've often thought of this. I do not think of myself as an artist at all. It's only in the last few years that I've even begun to think I might have a creative side. At this point, that creativity has limitations. I don't feel the need to express myself like Gene and I'm not skilled at ideas. I am inspired by others and hope to keep growing my skills and confidence so one day I'll feel the freedom to create my own patterns, etc. Quilting for me is soothing, a stress reliever, and a way to give love.

Joyce said...

I think quilters become artists when they step beyond the pattern. I am an artist sometimes and at other times I enjoy doing a traditional quilt from a pattern. I feel less like an artist then but it's all good.

Keep Stitchin' said...

I'd say both, but to be honest, I think of myself of more of a quilter than an artist. I have an elderly lady friend that is definitely both, and yet she does not see herself as an artist; she is really one of the most creative quilters I know!
Awesome block, by the way!

Jessica said...

I never thought on myself as an artist, I shake too much to draw! But lately my quilts are looking a bit more artistic. I think as quilters we are drawn to colour, texture and design....and these bring out the artist in us.

quilthexle said...

What a question - and what a clever answer from your grandmother: "I wasn't raised that way". Which means, she gives you permission to be what you want to be, which I think is just super. For me, I would just say, I'm both; however, I still struggle to call myself an artist. I'm working on that ;-))

Stray Stitches said...

I consider myself a quilter but not an artist. Not unless you consider 'paint by number' being an artist. I am one who follows patterns. I do not create designs. I do select my own colors and fabrics for said patterns so I guess there's a little artist in me but not much. Great question to ponder!

Megs said...

Love your block - it turned out great. Size, shmize.

And your post - lovely. But I have a hard enough time calling myself a quilter. Not sure if I can embrace artist quite yet!

MariQuilts said...

Isn't this a great question? I do think of myself as a quilter and as an artist. I like to take my skill as quilter and mix it with my artistic side and see what happens.

A Left-Handed Quilter said...

Great block - and even greater question! I think I would call myself A Left-Handed Quilter and Improvisational Creative Artist/Genius! :)

First I have to improvise and be creative in "just" reversing right-handed directions. Then I have to fiddle and fudge stuff when I lose my 1/4" and the blocks don't fit like they should. The artist in me gets to choose blocks and colors and layouts - with or without a pattern. Getting it to work at all is sheer genius! ^..^

Amanda said...

Although this doesn't answer your question at all, I see quilting as an expression of the engineer in me: The planning how things are going to fit to together, figuring out what sizes to cut, and then how to make something still work after I've messed something up. :)

Catskill Quilter said...

Great question! When I made quilted items for a living, I considered myself a craftswoman. Now I do not have to make a zillion of anything, but I am free to make just one! Now I am a quilter and an artist; I consider my fabrics to be my palette, and I practically bristle at the idea that I may not need more fabric -- of course I do! We all do! I love the freedom of going into my workroom and playing, and that makes me SURE I am an artist!

felicity said...

I'd say both! I think there's an artistry to combining fabrics - colour, pattern, scale etc. - into something pleasing to the eye.

That particular block pattern has given a lot of people I know significant trouble size-wise. It's not just you!

anotheryarn said...

I studied design and art (just a little, but more than most) in college. I've never been able to call myself an artist - quilting or otherwise. Part of it is because I've always focused on making useful items first (not that art doesn't have its place, I just have a hard time making something with no function beyond beauty - sigh, that still came out wrong.)

Quilters can be artists. Artists can be quilters. Quilters can just be quilters and artists can just be artists. Sometimes they overlap sometimes they don't. That is how I look at it.

Hollie said...

What a great question. I definitely consider myself both. I think that quilting is an art form, for sure.

Mama Pea said...

Good question. I certainly consider myself a quilter (or at least a topper). I would sure like to be an artist...I aspire to be an artist. Not sure I feel like I'm there yet. But is there ever a "there?" :-)

RamonaX / Gail said...

I love that block! I need to start working with more triangles...

This topic is one that I've thought about a lot, not only with sewing, but with other mediums as well. Here's my two cents:

A Craftsperson is one who has achieved a certain high level skill set to be able to bring a design to life through physical creation.
A designer is one who creates and plans out a design.
An artist is one who can conceptualize a design AND create it with their own hands with technical grace.

Deb said...

Great question! I believe I am a quilter with the heart of an artist. Like your grandmother, I "was not brought up that way." Art was more strictly defined...I couldn't draw, so I was not directed to art classes. It wasn't until I really started quilting that I discovered I had an intuitive ability with color, form, etc which I couldn't explain to others and which I was surprised to learn others didn't automatically "know." I'm anxious to move into the design phase of quilting...but so far, I'm happy creating what moves me.

Kay Lynne said...

I think we are all "quilting artists". We just use a different medium--fabric. Some of us are more advanced in color choices and patterns and some of us just want to keep it simple, which is just fine. Just because we use a sewing machine instead of a paint brush--it's still art. There are some that do use a sewing machine and a paint brush on their quilts, which is really neat ;) Happy Quilting!

Zegi said...

That is a good question. I think of myself only as a quilter because I consider art a means of conveying or expressing an emotion. I consider quilting more to be an expression of my creativity and I don't think of creativity as an emotion. Also I think the term artist comes with high expectations...expectations I don't want to project onto my quilting.

emedoodle said...

I'm totally an artist... ok well I don't really think of myself being too categorized like that... but I did always want to be an artist when I grew up. Does this mean I'm grown up now?

Carol Browne said...

I feel I'm more of an artist than a quilter. I never get the sizes right for the blocks, either. I have to make a lot of things work - my stuff rarely comes out as per the instructions for some reason. I think I just need more practice!

Lucy said...

I am both, thanks for asking! I enjoy taking traditional blocks or designs and giving them an update, but I enjoy working from my own designs and "quilting outside the box" as well. I was an artist long before I was a quilter, but quilting is such an open form of expression that it suits my artistic inclinations very well!

MrsDragon said...

I consider myself to be both. I make quilts, therefore I am a quilter (Although there is a whole sub question there, do you have to actually do the quilting to be a quilter? Do you have to do the piecing? If one person pieces and one person longarms, are they both quilters, neither? Interesting stuff.)

However, I come to quilting as an artist. I hate following other people's patterns. Heck, I generally can't resist tinkering with my own. If I know exactly where I am going, the process gets tedious and I am anxious to rush through. This is why I love "wonky" and improv quilting. Not that I don't have great admiration for those who create amazing quilts that nail every techinical detail, and I am working to improve my skills, but that like Gene above, I like to intuit my way through it.

Also, like Amanda, I am an engineer who revels in figuring out how to make it go together.

Linda Beth said...

Coming a little late to this discussion, but was quite inspired to see so many peoples' responses to your question.

To me, I believe that anyone who creates, whether from their own design or following a pattern, has some artistry within him or herself. That said, I also still struggle with actually CALLING myself an artist, though I know that is how I see myself. And I certainly consider myself a quilter, making quilty things and all! But the labeling is hard, because (as you've illustrated) everyone has a different perception of what it means, and I think there's still a stigma connected with both of those labels, changing though they may be.

Lauren said...

I most certainly think of it as art. Even if someone is following a pattern, there is still time, energy and skill that the person puts into the quilt. Without actively knowing it, we use the principles of art every time we make a quilt. Think about it, if a pattern calls for 3/4yd of dark blue, that requires our discerning eye to choose the better choice between the sea of blues in front of us in a fabric shop. we agonize over the spatial relationships between pieces and color. We alter patterns all the time - a larger border here, a row fewer there. Instead of paint we work in cloth, and instead of a sketch we have a pattern to inspire us. I think denying that quilting is a form of art has become society's way of marginalizing traditional art forms, to make them less legitimate on the larger scale. That's just my opinion though!

Anonymous said...

My husband and I encountered this same topic in relation to stained glass art, when our original designs were submitted to the Oregon State Fair...to be juried...and were rejected as 'craft'....by the jurists. ...very frustrating!!! I totally agree with you, Lauren, that quilting also is an art form! No'el

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