Why do we call ourselves QUILT artists?

I’ve been thinking about this A LOT lately. I’ve read many other Q artists’ thoughts and reasons, read quite a few arguments that pit quilters and artists against each other and think I have finally come to the REASON that I don’t mind the title.  A quilt artist can do so many more things with a single image other than paint it. Period.

When you look at quilt artists’ work, or textile artists or fiber artists if you prefer one of those titles, you will see what I mean. How many different ways can one of us do a portrait or a landscape and not a single one look anything like someone else’s.  Some of my favorites to illustrate this are Joan Sowada , Nancy Cook and Kate Themel.  If you don’t know their work, take some time to really look at their galleries on their web sites. Then  there are the abstract or non-representational artists like Diedre AdamsCarol Larson and Anna Hergert.

There are many more wonderful artists, and not all of them are women. Men have long enjoyed a leg up, so to speak, in the fine art world but that is another discussion. In our world, there are many more women than men but there are some men breaking into the medium.  I’ve wondered why they would choose to be a part of a misunderstood arm of fine art. It seems we are always explaining ourselves to other people and not always successfully. It has become so bad that many are dropping the Q word from their vocabulary. I think that is cutting off your nose to spite your face as my mother used to say.

  • I can take a  photograph of the beach as inspiration and then I can :
  • make a digital print directly on fabric
  • paint the image on fabric 
  • sketch the image on fabric with thread
  • manipulate the fabric for texture to represent sand or tree bark
  • interpret the image into color blocks of fabric
  • discharge fabric to represent what is in the photograph
  • make a map of the image and use small bits and pieces of fabric to reassemble it 
  • use mixed media to embellish the fabric 
  • put it on stretcher bars
  • hang it from a rod
  • frame it under glass

These are just a few of the things I can do as a Q artist and they have been simplified for this post.  I don’t think a painter has as many options to express themselves in their art. If I do watercolor or oils, when the painting is done, its done.  When a Q artist finishes the composition, then it goes that extra step of quilting. Period. It isn’t a quilt until it’s quilted whether it is a traditional quilt or an art quilt. That makes this branch of the fine art tree uniquely ours and I’m  proud to use that Q word rather than think of it as demeaning.

7 thoughts on “Why do we call ourselves QUILT artists?

  1. Many artists are technically accomplished in a wide variety of media. Many of us don't use the term 'quilt artist' because it is limiting. The term 'artist' is valid for anyone working in any medium(s)- I don't even use the terms 'textile artist' or 'fibre artist' unless someone expresses intererst in my medium. I am an artist, and I create. If it weren't for my chosen fabric+thread+various processes, it would be something else – wood, granite, paper, paint, dye, metal, cookie dough … the potential is infinite, and I am not going to limit byself by particular labels.

  2. Alison, I never said you should. This post is about ME and the Q word. I used only SAQA Studio Art Quilt Artists website links in my post since this post is about that word we use to describe our international organization. However, you do use the word in relation to to your art all the time in your blog when you talk about choice of fabrics and quilting. I am choosing to be honest in this post about how the Q word relates to me and I won't apologize to you or anyone else for it. I know a lot of watercolorists, potters, sculptors, etc. who don't ever apologize for what they do.

  3. I like to use the term quilt artist for myself because like to show how I got to be an artist – through quilting. In my area there are very few fiber or quilt artist – its almost like an emerging medium. Plus – since I've been a passionate quilter for 20 years – a lot of people don't realize I've made the jump to artist – so it helps them transition their thought too. I honestly think this is a pretty petty issue and I don't apologize either – ohhh and yeah – I am NOT ever going to put my work under glass – I mean why work in texture fabric if its going to be under glass?!?!?!

  4. Yes, it has become a petty issue to those of us who have no problems with it. I guess I am calling out those people who want to distance themselves from it but then continue to enter quilt shows and exhibits and talk about quilting on their blog and website. I think that is dishonest and they want to have their cake and eat it too…another one of my mother's old sayings.

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