Thinking about quilts and art

My wonderful husband and I went on a day trip on Saturday to visit the Quilt National exhibit at the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, Ohio.  I don’t spend much time in the world of art quilts, but I know that this is one of the most prestigious shows there is.  I have been once before – maybe in 2009.  The show runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day in odd numbered years.  You can learn more about it here.

I can’t share any of the quilts with you as photography is not allowed.  As you might expect, there were quilts I loved and some that didn’t do much for me.  However, the exhibit really got me thinking about quilts and art.

While I’m a firm believer that quilts are art, I don’t think of the quilts I make as art nor think of myself as an artist.  I think of myself as someone who makes quilts and who strives to make beautiful quilts, but not necessarily works of art.

So, why not?  Since I primarily design patterns and teach, I don’t create quilts to be sold as works of art.  Additionally, as a child, I had no discernible artistic ability.  I made lots of craft projects, but not art.  And, somewhere along the way, I began to think that art was something you did to communicate an important message.  Seeing all the amazing quilts at Quilt National reminded me that sometimes beauty is an important message and enough, all by itself, to make something a work of art.

So, will I start thinking of myself as an artist now?  No, I’m very happy being a quilt maker.  Maybe it is just a semantic distinction.  Do painters think of themselves as artists or painters?  If I ever start making quilts to sell as works of art, I’ll have to revisit these thoughts and see if I feel differently.  If I do, you’ll be the first to know!

How about you?  Are you an artist, a quilter, both? 

I have to end this post by saying, as interesting as these thoughts have been to me, the most important thing is that we make things that bring us joy – no matter what we call them or ourselves!

6 Comments
  • christaquilts.com
    Posted at 00:13h, 24 July Reply

    Great food for thought! That's too bad they don't allow photography, though.

  • Anne / Springleaf Studios
    Posted at 16:24h, 08 July Reply

    Leanne put my thoughts to words very well. I have an art background and a graphic design degree but I call myself a quilter and designer. Actually I probably think of myself most of the time as a designer. However when I talk to people about my family I might say we have three artists in the family. My husband does graphic design and sculpture, my daughter jewelry and me quilting. In general though I don't think of myself as an artist. I guess I reserve that for the fine arts like painting.

  • Sarah Fredette
    Posted at 16:50h, 07 July Reply

    My husband and I have looooong conversations on Is it Pretty or Is It Art? all the time. Like, once a week almost. The end result, or at least my standpoint, is that it is up to others to deam it "art." I grew up with my grandmother, who is an incredible artist to everyone but herself. To her, she's a painter, or she likes to draw. Van Gogh (and sooo many others) thought his work was complete rubbish, and they weren't valued until long after he died. Maybe that self doubt, that lack of confidence is needed to be an artist. Once you start doing it (quilting, painting, etc) solely to make art, you loose the art of it altogether.

  • MariQuilts
    Posted at 04:02h, 01 July Reply

    I do think of myself as an artist and quilting or fabric as my medium. I don't think it really matters whether we sell our work or not.

  • Leanne
    Posted at 13:33h, 30 June Reply

    It is an interesting discussion and maybe next time I see you we should have a lunch and discuss. Things are confused by the labels of the quilt industry and quilt shows, some quilts are traditional and some are art quilts and some are modern quilts. But is the maker of all of those, especially if she designs the quilt – be it geometric or a portrait or a collage, etc. – an artist or a designer? I also get caught up in the debate between art and craft, which is a much older debate, and applies nicely in terms of quilting as it is craft but then again, there is art to it too. In then end, I just do as I like and I don't much care about the labels.

  • Jayne
    Posted at 13:10h, 30 June Reply

    I agree we have to make what we love. It wasn't until the past several years that I figured out what my 'artistic' calling is. Quilting. I believe you are an artist. You are sharing the art of quilting with others. There are many forms of art not limited to the mighty pencil or brush!

Leave a Reply to Jayne Cancel reply