The Challenge of Naming

My views on ‘artist statements’ are well known – that the best statement on a work imho is a well chosen title, and  preferably short – although I do admit there have been some very clever rather long titles for creative works in all media, but it’s not a widespread trend.   I’m sure all writers, composers, painters, sculptors – in fact all creative people at times have trouble naming some or all of their works to their satisfaction, and from personal experience, I know that in some stubborn cases it can take ages to get beyond a working title like  ‘untitled/greys’ or  ‘ blue one with silver /gold patches’ or similar kind of thing.  Sometimes I have measured, signed, dated, and priced a work in my master list before it’s very own distinctive title finally emerges; one piece remained as ‘untitled’ for 3 years until someone asked to buy it and I felt forced to give it a name, not a very inspiring one but it was entirely appropriate to the design content.    Naming is an essential part of the whole process, and I could no more farm out that part than any other part of the process, like quilting or binding.  

Recently I have seen several calls for help in naming quilts on the various quilt art lists I read – there was even one by a PAM (Professional Artist Member) of SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates)  which I see as rather amateurish, when considered.   These calls for assistance are sometimes even matched with a little prize/give away for the person whose proposal is accepted by the artist.  Rather sad imho, that someone is not up to the final little challenge in the overall process of creating a work of art.  Today someone was looking for a snappy title for her blog – which is also a creative work, but I’m not sure she sees it quite that way.

10 Responses to “The Challenge of Naming”

  1. Hi Alison,

    I have taken the very self centered position of thinking that you post was about me.

    I have taken onboard everything you have said and I agree! It was very unprofesional but I’m just at the start of my artists journey and I am learning very fast.

    I was stuck and panicing! Every name I came up with was as corney as! Jenny Bowker helped me out with – not a snappy name – but a name that reflected what I was trying to say – I just couldn’t find the words – I needed some separation to see the name!

    Thank you for saying that my quilt is a creative work – I do appreciate that! Not being a very verbal person normally I find it very difficult to “name” quilts – I feel them and I know what they are saying but others need to have names for them so I need help to do that! The final name is my choice.

    If I’ve got this wrong and your comment wasn’t about me please ingore this.


  2. Paula says:

    HI Allison,
    I totally agree that naming is an integral part of the process, imagine if you had a child and didn’t come up with a name for her? I think creating art is like raising children. Sometimes they are troublesome, other times sweet. Regardless they need a name so that you can call them in from the mud puddles. Nonetheless, I consult with trusted friends and family members when trying on new names to my pieces. If I see that deer in the headlights gaze, I know I have to reconsider.

  3. Gerrie says:

    I am so glad you said this. I always wonder about the artist who needs someone to name their work. I think in the end it is just a ruse to get someone to look at it.

  4. Kathy Loomis says:

    I think one of the reasons some people have a hard time naming their works is that they really have never thought through and articulated what they are trying to say when they made it. That’s one of the down sides of simply making decorative work, rather than having a message or concept or theme behind it.

  5. Alison says:

    My post was prompted by a call this week promising a give-away to the successful responder, but there have been quite a few lately. I didn’t want to deliberately malign and upset any of my readers (Sally took it personally, but no need to – I had forgotten her call several weeks back, and don’t remember the details of that) but being the age I am, and always having been both verbal and very opinionated, I thought it was time to put this out there as food for thought.

  6. Alison says:

    Kathy and Gerrie – you both make good points I hadn’t thought of, and I am sure in many cases you’re right.

  7. Olga says:

    On the whole, Alison, I’m with you on this. I certainly would never ask for suggestions for a title; but there are sometimes situations when I am personally stumped. From time to time I am moved to make a piece which does not reveal itself to me until I have spent time contemplating the finished work. Usually the verbal description comes to my mind along with the visual; but the former can be restricting, or somehow just not quite right – such as when a title in another language hits the spot just that wee bit more than one’s own.

    But, in general, as you say, the title like the work must come from the maker.

  8. Olof says:

    Giving a quilt its name is part of the creative process which I think the maker should attend to in the same manner as other elements of the design. Actually, I do enjoy naming my quilts. The title usually emerges out of what I tend to think about the most while I’m making the quilt. I cannot imagine how another person could come up with a name for me about that.

  9. Alison says:

    Exactly, Olof

  10. Chérie Hoyle says:


    I used to make lace in that pattern, but differently from the way you suggest:-

    Make 2 loops of chain into a circle, then make 4 triple crochet stitches out of it with 2 chains between each, finally do simple single crochet around the top of the triple crochet and the 3 chains in between to make a circle. Start each circle separately and link to the previous one when doing the final circle.

    It takes as long to talk about it as do it. I was into fine crochet at the time and even used heavyweight sewing thread, still have a stainless steel crochet hook which has such a small hook that as my eyesight has shown it’s age, I have to feel the hook with my fingers as opposed to seeing it clearly! Must have been mad!

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