Sunday, April 20, 2008


I’ve been meaning to post about something that happened about a month ago, the day I made this sketch. I have not really sketched anything for months, if not years. I keep reading about how important it is to have a sketchbook, and I believe it is important, but I just don't seem to find (or make) the time to sketch. So at one of my younger daughter’s soccer practices, I took some paper and a felt-tip pen and sketched the townhouses and trees in the distance. The results were not too great, but I was having fun.

As practice was finishing up, my older daughter came over to look at what I was doing, and gasped in surprise. “Oh my gosh, mama, you can draw like an artist!” she exclaimed. I was dumbfounded. Somehow, this crude sketch was more “art” to her than my work hanging on our walls at home. She sees me working everyday. I call myself an artist (although this is a fairly recent development that has taken place in the last few years). Yet my daughter only really thought of me as an artist when I drew on paper.

“How is this sketch more ‘art’ than my art quilts?” I asked my daughter, and she couldn’t find a good answer. I spent a few minutes explaining that art was not defined by the medium, nor limited to something done on paper.

On the Studio Art Quilt Associates Yahoo group, there has been much discussion lately on whether we should still be calling ourselves "art quilters" due to the stereotype that still exists that quilters are grannies making bedcoverings. There is talk of redefining our image, rebranding, marketing approaches.

When I designed my business cards, I chose to call myself a "quilt artist," and I still think of myself that way, because I started out as a quilter. I suspect that if I had started out by being educated as an artist, worked in another medium and moved to fabric and thread, I would call myself a fiber or textile artist today.

And while I can understand why so many of us are fussing about this issue, there's another part of me that thinks, "who cares?" I am reminded of the bizarre incident where the musician named Prince decided he was renaming himself using an unpronounceable symbol he created. Newspapers and magazines did not have this symbol to print in stories about him, and radio and TV announcers could not pronounce the name, and were forced to refer to him as "the artist formerly known as Prince." How absurd! Even if we call ourselves something different, does that change who we are, what we do, or what we create? Maybe. Maybe not.

In my mind, what we need to do is to continue to educate people that works made in fabric, threads and fibers can be art, to enter and participate in the art world as well as in the quilt world (which has mostly supported us), and to keep on keeping on...


  1. I just found your lovely blog and your quilts are so pretty.
    I'll be back to read more!

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  3. I think anything that is made with the intent to express one's creativity is art. Just because "I" don't agree with some of what I see out there does not and cannot take away from its intent.

    BTW, I too struggled with what to call myself...quilter, quilt artist or fiber artist. With some reflection I chose fiber artist because I find I like to create with all different kinds of media and have and will incorporate almost anything in my mostly quilted artwork.

    In the end, I think it really depends upon the individual and where they are mentally in their art career.

  4. Interesting post, Susan. For most of my artwork, I call my self a fibre artist, because like Grace, I use lots of things besides fabric and textiles. I am also starting to experiment with video, so I might call my self a video artist when I talk about that work.
    I totally agree that in the 'art world' there is a prejudice against the term quilts. Do art quilters re-brand themselves to get more acceptance or fight to keep the tradition of the grannies (which is really where it all began)there. Good questions.
    PS I really like your drawing!

  5. "Out of the mouths of babes" come comments that stop us in our tracks. Drawing is so much the foundation of other kinds of visual art - it's an education in seeing. As for the process of educating people about quilts being art, some people "get it" when they see the design work (ie, the drawings!) that show the development of the idea for the quilt.


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