Boy, this is something most artists struggle with. If two of us are together in person or cyberspace it is a frequent topic of conversation. I’ve written a couple of posts on this myself and joined into quite a few conversations. There seems to be no real answer to “how do you find your voice” or “what is artistic voice”. There are as many opinions as there are people to write or talk about it.
I was looking at all the SAQA donation pieces for this year’s SAQA auction. It is one of the main funding mechanisms for this wonderful international organization of nearly 3000. If you aren’t familiar with it, artists make a 12 x 12 fiber art piece that is then auctioned off in a reverse auction on the SAQA website. Starting last year, some of the pieces were taken to the IQA festival in Houston for direct purchase.
Back to my observations. As I scrolled through I could easily recognize certain artists’ work before I looked at names. No doubt about these people having a distinct and loudly heard voice. I skipped over those and looked at the ones that I didn’t recognize the artist without reading the name. Many of them are the people who are still trying everything new they see and hear about whether it is in a workshop or they saw it in a magazine. Two people can use the same subject and one will have a definite sophistication and the other will look like a craft project or a copy of someone else’s work.
There is an evolution from crafter to artist that I see in the fiber art world with a lot of newer artists. Nearly everyone begins with experimentation of techniques and styles until they find what fits them best. Just like fine clothing, it sometimes takes a lot of alterations to get a perfect fit. I have always had a hard time with the craft aspect of art quilting that in my humble opinion sometimes takes it out of the art world. It is that aspect that leads the public to many times devalue the work and think there is a kit out there to buy so they can DIY. There is a huge difference between fine craft and big box store craft..one is shown in museums and collected, the other decorates your home until you are tired of it and donate it to the thrift shop.
I suppose I still struggle with my voice although I can see a real progression. I don’t try new materials, techniques or styles. I’ve been destashing unused and unwanted stuff from my studio. I hope I’m on the road to developing a recognizable voice without loosing any of the passion or fun along the way.