In my last post I said I wanted to come talk about the magical experience of making quilts with fabric that could truly be considered art. In mulling this over, I of course got sucked into the “what defines art?” and “is your work being called art even important?” rabbit hole and decided instead to come talk about why I quilt.
My quilts are an expression of personal love rather than of intended Art (capital A). I don’t make them to be hung and examined. Quilts like Jacquie Gering’s evocative “Bang, You’re Dead” are purposeful, and intended to serve as Art with a message. And they do send a message.
…But so do my quilts. Except that my message broadcasts to a smaller audience (the recipient), and is uncomplicated (you’re important to me; I love you). That’s not to say I do not take seriously the importance of the artistic process and aesthetics, and that I am not mindful about my materials–in fact, I obsess over these things. It’s just that my intention for the quilt is different.
In one respect, my quilting is for others–I give quilts as gifts. But in a much larger respect, in my mind, quilting is strictly for me and not for others; that is to say, I don’t need to fancy myself an Artist to feel joy and pride about my quilts. If you want to call me that, fine–I’m charmed! If you want to call me a crafter, fine. I am not demeaned. I simply do what I do and try not to be concerned with which SPHERE my art/craft falls into. I sew because it’s therapy; I sew because it makes me happy; I sew because I love color; I sew because creativity is important.
Do I enjoy sharing pictures of my projects on this blog? I do. The reasons are three-fold: (1) photography is another of my creative outlets; (2) keeping some sort of archive of projects is important to me–I enjoy looking back and reading what I had to say about past ones; and (3) I love to goggle at and be inspired by the work of others, and I delight in imagining that my fellow quilters could come here, to my humble space, to be inspired–even in the smallest way.
Quilters joke about the annoyance we feel at being asked to hem people’s pants or encouraged to sell our stuff on Etsy. But the reasons above, not pride in the one instance or insecurity in the other, are precisely why I do neither of these. I don’t quilt because I want to make money.* Nor is sewing–including hemming your pants–my job. It’s what I do to escape my job (I work with lawyers–lord knows I don’t need another job). So the temptation to feel insulted when people imply that your craft isn’t worthy unless you’re profiting from it is great–until you remind yourself that you are grounded solely in your own intention. Cliché? Meh. But it really doesn’t matter what other people think or how they view your chosen outlet for creativity. They can do their thing and you can do yours. I try my best to be kind and honor the creative outlets of others–no matter how “trivial”–rather than place some sort of arbitrary expectation on them and make someone feel bad about what they’re doing. If your creative outlet is Popsicle stick log cabins? GET IT, girl. Do your thing. I won’t suggest you sell them on Etsy.
It’s easy to fall victim to these thoughts of: If my work isn’t as artistically amazing as this or this, then why even share it? How can I possibly compare? How could anyone possibly find my work interesting or inspiring when THIS is out in the world? Well here’s my answer:
I’ve focused for years–then discovered Brené Brown had articulated it for me much more effectively–on this idea that I will not feel shame about my work, nor allow myself to be shamed by Artists about my work.** I will continue to put it out there, and what I will not do is be preoccupied by the potential judgment of it by others. Again: you do your thing and I do mine. Who am I to tell someone what should or should not fill up their soul? If my kinda quilts make me happy, and your kinda quilts make you happy, then kumba-fuckin-YA. High five. God bless. (Sorry for cussing in public, Dad.)
Now. ALL THAT SAID, do I prefer working with and feel more connected to fabric that I feel was made with thoughtfulness and artistic intention? Yes, I prefer that fabric over chevrons. But I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason I feel that way isn’t because I judge that fabric as being more worthy of the title of art, but because I can feel that the artist whose work this was poured more love and thought into their fabric than is required by the simple reprinting of a polka dot print in a different size and color. And I appreciate that.
*I do think acknowledging the value–in time and money–of quilts is a worthy topic, though. Check this post out if you’re interested.
**Edit: It’s important to add to this that I’ve never personally been shamed, nor has anyone ever been mean to me about my work. It’s the fear alone that is enough to paralyze some and prevent them from sharing their work.