Quilter or Artist

I am inching my way painfully back into my studio. The last month has been difficult: busy at work, helping my daughter move. Now, on to bigger and better things!

I’ve been reading other artists discussing what they call themselves. It is a personal choice. For me, I remember telling people apologetically I make quilts. I knew they were picturing their or someone else’s grandmother making quilts that were used on the bed until threadbare. I would wait for the blank stare and the total loss of interest and feel frustrated by my inability to make them understand.

Slowly over the years, the general public have been catching on. There are still those moments when I run into the old comments and dismissive attitudes, but more and more people look at me expectantly, waiting to hear more. I am a quilter even when my quilts do not look like quilts. Whether I am an artist or not is for the viewer to decide.

I remember when Autumn’s Glory won a blue ribbon in my local guild show for art. The piece was heavily threadpainted and I had wanted a painterly effect for the small landscape quilt. I watched a couple walking in the area near my quilt. I saw the wife stop to look and her husband impatiently pushing her forward saying, “That’s not a quilt, it’s a painting.” Made me laugh. Sort of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

I love fabric. The feel of it beneath my fingers gets my imagination running wild. I know many others in this field hate the “q” word, I love the word quilt. My family produced many quilters and I am one of them. My quilts are very different than theirs but that is as it should be. After all, I am unique and I am a quilter.

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2 comments
  1. Your own label for yourself is the most important one. The first time I labeled myself as a designer changed my view of myself. And though it took a little while to fully incorporate that (a few minutes, if I remember), now I can’t see myself any other way. “I’m a quilter and designer.”

    Then we can get into more discussion about whether the person who designs (as opposed to the person who executes the design) is an artist or a craftsman… 🙂

  2. Arlinda Johnson said:

    Hi Melanie, I do feel my own label for myself is the important one. I enjoy following in the footsteps of my forebears and working within the traditions of quilting while constantly pushing the boundaries of its definition. I don’t think of myself as a designer per se because I do not publish patterns or offer myself up to designing work for others. I do design my own work and it is not really meant for anything other than a continuing dialogue with myself and the viewers. Artist; I think most of us are too quick to designate ourselves as artists without having paid the dues. Fun to talk to you.

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