Sunday, April 29, 2012


Yesterday, I was in the audience of a panel discussion titled "What is Art".  As someone who has emerged from the craft world, I'm often exposed to the de-valuing of my work, because of my medium.  None of the three panelists made any distinction between the two worlds during their formal presentations, one going so far as to say that art can be created with any medium.  All of them included technology-based creations and performance  in their definition of art.  They had been asked to bring three examples of "art" and three examples of "not art", but all of them qualified the definitions a bit, two providing examples of "good art" and "bad art", and one who referred to "art that makes me exhale" and "art that annoys me".  Only after the presentations, did an audience member ask directly about the distinction between "art" and "craft", and again, none of the panelists would acknowledge a distinction, each stating that craft can be art.  One audience member even quoted Wikipedia definitions of each, which, generally, state that craft requires skill and art doesn't.

There was discussion about the purpose of art, and all of the usuall suspects were mentioned--provide beauty, evoke emotion, encourage dialogue/pass a message, or have a purpose such as encouraging social change.  When the issue of art not having function was brought up, all three of the panelists disageed, pointing out that more and more commonly in today's society, art is created for a social or political purpose/function.  One went so far as to say that the issue of the function of craft was simply being used to discourage acceptance of art created from other than traditional media.

The one issue that has given me pause for thought is that art today is  often created based on  a thought, idea, or message.  My art is based on the pleasure I find in line, shape and, most of all, colour.  I'm not trying to influence people's thought or ideas, the way much younger artists do.  Maybe it's a function of my age nad the comfort I find in living life day-to-day.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Problem Solving

The problem of what to enter in an upcoming show remains.  The "Waterfall" has been de-constructed.  I finished a UFO that would have been okay, but I want better than "okay".  So, I've started a box.  Haven't made a box in a couple of years, ever since the box-making course I was to teach at a national conference was cancelled.  There are a couple of different construction methods I use, with one being for a functional container and the other for a box as a soft sculpture.  Choosing the soft sculpture method, meant that I had to relearn some of the steps.  Funny how things drop out of my memory.  Too much junk in there I guess.

Found a piece of hand dyed fabric in my stash that is exactly big enough for the box body and lining--not half an inch to spare.  Have a title "Subtle Seas"--yes, it is water-related.  The box body is finished, and I'm now working on the embellishment.  Sewing the shape together is the last step and must be done by hand.  I've given myself a deadline of May 7th, when my Ravenesque Fibre Art Support Group next meets, so that I can ask them for feedback.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wow! Quite a response!

Obviously my last post struck a nerve with quite a few people.  All of the feedback was both wanted and needed. Thank you.

 Many of you responded with comments on this blog, and others e-mailed me directly.  Most of the e-mailed comments were from people who had insights into the situation based on their own experiences, with this Guild.  None of them disagreed with any of my comments. Some of  them offered their own experiences, and these experiences only served to support the idea that this particular guild is steeped in tradition, and determined to maintain the "status quo".

Some, who have taught at the Guild, found many individual members very enthusiastic about more creative quilt-making, and very skilled at putting creative ideas into their designs. As someone who has taught there, this echoes my experiences. They appear to be "closet" art quilters.

One lady, in her e-mail, used the term "Quilt Mafia".  I like this term, and have her permission to use it.  "Quilt Police" are open and obvious with their comments about what should and should not be done ( we've all met them!).  "Quilt Mafia" are more insidious, and covert, in their efforts to control what we think, and what we do, in our quilts.

Many of you had suggestions for dealing with the situation. Some thought that a forthright response would be to stand up at a meeting and bring the situation out into the open.  Others suggested that I put my energy into organizing a second local Guild that openly encourages art quilters as members.  Many of you were concerned that I, as a individual, make sure that I have some local source of support and encouragement.

I have spent over 10 years on the Executive Committee of this Guild, and 8 years on the Major Workshop committee.  I have been associated with the Guild since it was formed almost 30 years ago.  I brought the first set of by-laws to the floor, and, unfortunately, I also had to bring a very unpleasant, and disentious financial situation to the floor. Talk about standing up with or without a flame proof suit!  During the same time I put in 23 years on the executive of the local Embroiderers' Guild.  I'm old and tired.

On a much brighter side, there is a small fibre art support group locally.  I love these women!  They make me crazy. When I come home from a meeting, I am so inspired and enthustiastic that it  takes hours for me to calm down enough to sleep. At the same time I belong to the regional group, The Fibre Art Network  ( Look us up This is where my energy will be going for the next little while.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Home from the quilt show

with some very mixed feelings. 

It all started when I was filling out my forms, to enter those pieces that I felt were good enough. Imagine my disappointment when, upon reading the judging criteria, I realized that none of my pieces were eligible for entry!  After calming down and thinking about it for a couple of days, I recognized that they had the option of setting any criteria they wanted for their show, and I had the option of choosing whether or not I would enter. Since it would have meant starting from scratch and creating pieces specifically for the show--pieces that it would be unlikely I could use anywhere else--and that would have to be created under a very demanding deadline ( 2 weeks), I reluctantly decided not to enter.

But that didn't stop me from volunteering!  I was very involved in the supervision of a travelling art quilt exhibit, that had been invited to exhibit in conjunction with the larger show.  There were a few glitches, but the show was hung and was very well received-- by the public.  How gratifying it was to hear all of the comments!  We even managed to sell a piece.  But at the same time, there were comments made by show committee members, and other Guild members, that made me wonder if we were only there on sufferance,--subtle comments, that left you wondering if you had actually heard correctly. 

I attended the banquet associated with the show, and the guest speaker left no doubt about her feeling regarding the "Modern" quilt movement.  She has no use for it, or anyone else, that made other that very traditonal quilts.  When the prizes were awarded, as they always are at such banquets, I was shocked when it was announced that, because there were few art quilts entered, the prizes had been moved to a different category.  Not that there weren't quilts worthy of the prizes, (there were) but just that there hadn't been enough entered--after they had provided criteria so rigid that it was almost impossible to enter any art quilt.

Later, in conversation with someone in a position to be knowledgeable about such things, I was told that the show critera and the judging classes had deliberately been set up to minimize the participation of art quilters. This person thought that the whole thing had been a planned strategy to prevent art quilters from taking any prizes, and to discourage art quilters from becoming involved with the Guild. Some of this may have been in response to an art quilt taking Best of Show at the a previous show, but that quilt was actually a wonderful example of hand applique--however, done by a recognized "art"quilter!

If it is really true that this was a strategy aimed at discouraging art quilters from participation in guild activities, it was a successful one.  I have been a member for over 30 years, and have particpated at every level, serving many years on the executive, and having been awarded a life membership, but I don't think they are going to see much of me in the future.

Friday, April 6, 2012

new work

Here is a full view and close-up of the piece "Too Far Away", that has gone off to the Fibre Art Network exhibit "From Away", which is being shown in conjunction with Quilt Canada in Halifax in May.  Later the show will travel for about two years.  the piece is free motion quilted, painted with silver acrylic paint, and then hand beaded.  The piece is 36" by 16".

This is a small beaded piece that I've been playing with lately.  It will finish at 12" by 12" before framing.  I used hand dyed cotton, hand made straw beads, and Flexi-firm shapes that had been either painted, or covered with the same cotton fabric,but a different section of the fabric in a slightly different colour.  There is mainly hand stitching, and all of the beads are stitched by hand. I'm currently working on a companion piece using the same hand dyed fabric.

And what happened to "Waterfall" you ask?  Well, my support group had several suggestions for "fixing" it.  I tried a couple of them, and then my husband and I agreed that it was beyond fixing.  Quite a disappointment, but I won't display work I'm not proud of publically.  so, I'm not sure what to do.  I will certainly re-make it, in a different design, but I don't think it will be done in time to enter into the show that I had originally made it for. There is another show about a year from now, that it may suit.  I have another piece in mind for the pending show, but I will take it to my support group on Monday for an opinion.