Lately I've had a series of conversations with art quilters/traditional quilters/textile people, who have far more experience working in this art form than I do, about this semantics business between "textile artists" and "quilters." I distinctly felt the ever-so-slight accusation that "textile artists" were calling themselves this so they wouldn't be associated with "quilters." Now, I've lead a different life up until recently, so call me dense, but I really had no idea that there was cannon fire in this label realm. Meanwhile, here I come stumbling along like an innocent whelp headed to the village well with my bucket, unknowingly crossing the battle field to get there. Ka-boom.
So, is the perception really that if one calls oneself a "textile artist" instead of a "quilter" that this is disrespecting the generations of quilting women who came before, whose fine work paved the way for quilts to be seen as art form? Does "textile artist" sound elitist? What if one does things other than quilt? Are "quilters" linking arms and marching forward, holding the ground for the gallery space they've fought for all this time while subversive textile artists are slinking in through the back door and, quick, nailing their stuff up on the walls? Did I have a clue about any of this when I made my business cards?
Are "traditional quilters" equally pissed off with "art quilters?" (Umm ... why do I get the feeling the answer will be yes?)
I asked: Can't we just make and make well? Can't we all support and respect one another's art forms? But this left me feeling less like a whelp wagging her tail and more like a ... well ... a young whippersnapper.
Perhaps I need to consider my label, here.
So I've been doing a lot of thinking and reading and inner questioning. And I've made a list of the many labels I've received in my life to try and work through my personal choice in the matter. No, don't worry, I won't list them all here.
Oh, heck, of course I will:
Blonde, dumb blonde, smart blonde, expert, hack, shop girl, alterations girl, merchandiser girl (I'm not kidding), helper girl (again, not kidding), sewer, sample sewer, seamstress, pattern maker, pattern faker, production manager, clothing designer, cleaner of the lipstick off the wedding gown, delivery girl (I'm still not kidding), cutter, sales girl (whatever), academic, poser, cook, stuck up broad, first mate, Mistress (so ... right ... let's just say that a certain group of people in a certain large western Canadian city were sorely misinformed. Sorely. Not to mention presumptive. But, wow, that's so a different story and why, yes, it still pisses me off when I think about it), neat freak, organizer, perfectionist, angst-ridden melancholic, grumpy, mean mama, brave lucky woman who had a successful home birth, stupid lucky woman who had a successful home birth, interpreter, happy mama, peace maker, embroiderer, tea drinker, lover of red wine (except now it gives me a headache), felter, gatherer, hoarder, collector, memoirist, dumb-ass woman driver, feminist, 5 am exerciser, coffee drinker, wordsmith, lover of good writing, lover of memoir, lover of young adult fiction, not so much a lover of films because I'm just too damned tired at night, that woman standing in the bathroom stall next to you having a well-deserved cry, daughter, white-headed mule (thank you 3rd-grade nemesis, I'll not forget you), boater, Alaskan, Canadian, Nevadan, Californian,
Swede, sister, mother, wife, creator, editor, anal retentive bitch, grumpy (did I say that already?), brave lucky woman who successfully delivered a frank breech baby naturally in front of about 30 spectators in the hospital, stupid lucky woman who successfully delivered a frank breech baby naturally in front of about 30 spectators in the hospital, painter, neophyte, drawer, sketchbook keeper, cat-ish person, lover of fabrics, lover of thrift stores yet conflicted by the terror of potentially bringing home bed bugs, laundry bleacher, eater of moose, tide pool enthusiast, children's book illustrator, fashion illustrator, good friend,
wiper of counters, confident sweeper of floors, experimenter, yucky food maker, enforcer of the lessons of swimming, library user, doily rescuer, book maker, book lover, Kindle skeptic, new paper smeller, museum enthusiast, recycler, sometimes composter, shy but trying not to be, clothing mender, sock darner, knitter, crocheter, terrible gardener and killer of many plants, word lover.
Quilter. Writer. Textile artist.
Know me yet?
Now don't get me wrong. I love a slick-looking label. It really gives insight into a person -- who they are, what their work is like. It's one of those final touches that makes us all unique. Collectively, my labels don't look a thing like yours, in fact, yours probably look way more polished. I have a feeling that you really know how to generate one in a professional way. Some people fill their labels with false information (but we all know this is a complete waste of time and shake our heads when that choice is made). But of course this isn't a post about labels. It's about labels. And how we need them and fret over them and worry about what other people will think of them -- are they nice enough? do they match? give enough information? too much? are they too small? too big? look crooked? fit my personality? fit the personality of my work? -- and it's about how we somehow have to reach a level of acceptance even if the labels aren't perfect, even if other people don't like them or don't realize how we've created them in the first place. Maybe we need to just get curious about other people's labels, since we all position and affix labels in the way that feels right for us, right now.
Of course, it's good to remain open-minded. Of course removing and changing a label at some point in the future is always an option. Gosh, trust me, you can always change your label.
Unless you've used hot glue.
Do NOT use hot glue.
And yes, I am a whippersnapper. A textile artist lover-and-great-respecter-of-the-quilting-women-who-came-before-me-and-paved-the-way-God-love-and-bless-them-thank-you-thank-you-thank-you-fine-brave-women ... whippersnapper.
Artist in Anchorage, Alaska, sometimes blogging about the collision of history, family & art, with the understanding that none exists without the other.