I make very non traditional quilted textile art works, commonly called ‘art quilts’ , although as I and others have said before, there really isn’t a totally satisfactory term to cover these endeavours.
Recently a publisher announced plans for a new periodical for ‘art quilters’ to consist of one part information including how-to articles and advertising, and the other part focusing on individual artists and their works. It sounds to me like a cross between a catalogue and a magazine, with the inevitable ads. This kind of venture has been tried before. Ten years or more back, there was one with huge amounts of lovely pics and original writing including interesting reviews , but it folded after a couple of years’ struggle with production difficulties -the supporting advertising revenue didn’t seem to be there. Another more recent publication has become a series of mass-appeal project pieces with advertising – very, very technique- and how-to oriented, and really short on the art side of it all. Safe and mainstream.
As one friend privately commented last week, among aspiring art quilters there is so much emphasis on technique and very little attention paid to learning more about art, the general perception being that for those wearying of making traditional quilts there is the art quilt field to just blithely transition into. There are heaps of classes covering how to manage the mandatory dyes and paints, printing manipulating digital images, and all the while designing intuitively … ‘intuitive’ is a buzz word in the art quilt field.
And not only that, but there are associations, organisations one can join to learn all about promoting and marketing your art in a series of professional development programs, ranging from mentoring phone hookups to on-line encyclopaedic treatises on everything the aspiring art quilter could possibly need to know, from what size a mailable quilted postcard should be, to whether quilted art should be framed, mounted or hung, with or without glass, and so on. You can even pay someone to help you design your studio; and no one calls their work area a ‘sewing room’ or ‘work room’ nowadays, it seems.
The main point is usually missed totally: that in truly original work there are no rules.
‘Art quilters’ will flock in droves for subscription copies of this new publication, and will seize the opportunity to be featured artists by submitting images; but I predict none of it will result in wider appreciation of the genre, nor will it result in more high quality writing , or thoughtful reviews of quilted textile art. Michael James ruffled feathers and caused frenetic controversy a couple of years back by suggesting that quilters as a group are woefully ignorant of the wide world of contemporary art and design, mostly happily reproducing what they are taught by workshop teachers who present predominantly technique based classes. Among the many contemporary quiltmakers I personally know there are relatively few original designers demonstrating mastery of design and colour, who choose to use sublimely appropriate techniques (high or low tech) who really think about the content of their designs, and whose work can be identified as being of note within the contemporary art scene in their region in which they operate.