But is it ART…or is it MY art?

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Oh what a cute little piece of vintage commercial fabric. I could see this design reworked with appliqued yo-yos and embroidery.I could use any commercial fabric of my choosing for the background, or I could use some of my hand dyed fabric for a more artsy look.  But then the questions arise. Is it my art quilt, a copy or an inspirational derivation?

What if I did nothing to the fabric except put a binding on it and some beads. Does that make it art? And if it makes it art, is it MY art?

If I want to submit it to an art show or a quilt show, can I honestly do that and call it MY ART or MY QUILT?

Recently I’ve had this very issue come up. When I asked what makes a commercial fabric that is simply bound and beaded art, I was told it is the artist’s hand that changed it, otherwise it is just fabric.  Ummmm…maybe ….

My response was that it is the artist who transforms any medium into art. But I don’t see binding and/or beading a commercial fabric enough to transform it into art….and especially not art that you can honestly present as your own work. You aren’t the designer of anything except the binding.  If you are beading the design it isn’t much more than paint by number.

I think this discussion goes far beyond a fiber artist using commercial fabrics for their art. Pamela Allen is a master at using commercial fabric and making art and there are many more.  With the ability to purchase  unique fabric from the designer who sells it on sites like Spoonflower, the chance of something being claimed as the fiber artist’s own art and design increases. I think it is dishonest and I wonder what you all think about it?

I know I’m outspoken and not afraid to enter into a spirited discussion about all things fiber and I hope you will let me know your views on this.  I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday this week.

6 thoughts on “But is it ART…or is it MY art?

  1. An excellent post… and so weary-making! Someone asked me yesterday if I was an artist, and I replied.. “no, I just make stuff”… There is such freedom in not using a label, of never entering any shows or selling to anyone, certainly not a gallery. Mama died last summer.. She loved everything I made, a conduit for our Love shared. Having grown up in the depression, she would make something from everything.. I remember a puppet she made me as a child using a cut toilet paper tube for the head. A bit before she died, I assisted her as she made a hanging two-sided mermaid.. and as she sprinkled the glitter she said, “Isn’t this FUN!” Neither of us wondered if it was A-R-T… and neither of us cared. It was beautiful, she enjoyed making it, the family enjoyed watching it spin around as it hung up. Memories and Fun. Is it art? Does it matter? I guess sometimes.. for shows and galleries… not so much for Hearts and Souls…

  2. Hi Laurie. It is hard sometimes to call ourselves artists. Sometimes we just want to be a maker and enjoy the process. I’ve heard the argument that if you think you are an artist you are and the other argument that if others think you are an artist you are. Maybe you get to choose? But for me throwing beads on a piece of fabric doesn’t make that piece of fabric your art worthy of entry into a show.

  3. I have yet to put beads on fabric, but it can be a bit of Round Robin-ness I think.. adding to what is already created. I agree that in itself, it isn’t “art”…. What if someone makes beads? What about taking a pattern, straying from the original and adding one’s own creative additions? Isn’t that the same as adding “beads”… Labels make things tighter and tighter until we find ourselves in a little box of our own making.. much like the police that the quilt people rant about. I am imagining a meter that shows how much of what you are doing is original, how much commercial made stuff added. It goes from piddling, to crafting, slowly to what can be called art. Then I think of the quote someone posted from St. Francis: ““He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.” We can think of writing.. at what point is it plagiarism? But that is a whole other conversation… sort of the same, but different. (oh no, did I make a circle.. back to adding beads on commercial fabric, but in writing?).

  4. I had a whole long reply Laurie and it went POOF! There are 2 meters for me, one is my ethics meter if I am calling the work my own it will be my own design and execution. The other one is my BS meter..trying to pull the wool over the eyes of a jury or judge in a show. Unfortunately I’ve seen some of that recently and that is what spurred this post. It wasn’t about our freedom to make beautiful things.

    A gorgeous whole cloth quilt in solid or batik has the artist’s hand in the design of the stitching is at opposite ends of the spectrum from a floral fabric that someone outlines with quilting and beads. Again not to say that a wonderful beaded piece where the beading, not the fabric, is spotlighted is on a different end from an embellished coloring book kind of beading.

    To answer your question about changing a pattern, I don’t use patterns and most artists who work in fiber don’t work with patterns. Changing patterns and calling it your own original work is another entire discussion about copyright and I’m not a copyright attorney…thank goodness!

  5. I don’t think beading a fabric that someone else designed is original art, but it could be considered a collaboration. *If* the fabric designer even knows he/she is collaborating. I understand the concept of buying something, which is then yours to use as you wish, but that does not give you the right to call it your own original art. The flip side is perhaps those artists who use found objects. Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” (urinal on a pedestal). Picasso’s bull head made from a bicycle seat and handlebars. It’s hard to draw the line sometimes, although intention can be a factor. Is it junk or is it art? Trash or treasure? Is Yoko Ono’s apple on a pedestal art? Who is the artist? Did she personally select *that* apple?

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