My main medium is stitch. First bone needles were found in the Upper Palaeolithic and so this medium is pretty old I would say. 😉 With my medium, I create both art AND craft objects. Textiles themselves are considered ‘wearable’ and thus it is difficult to draw a line between crafting and making art when creating with them… (Interestingly, the English language does differentiate between ‘textile art’ including crafted objects intended for use and ‘fiber art’ excluding them. In the German language, there is only one word for both: ‘Textilkunst’.)
Anyway… in my case I really like to pursue both paths: the one of the ‘craftsmen’ and the other of the ‘artists’. In fact, in my very own personal opinion, you can not have one withouth the other!
For the ‘crafts’ part of my creating, I don’t face many restrictions; I simply create design objects or wearables or stationary or whatever else comes to my mind and try to sell it in shops and at crafts fairs.
For the ‘arts’ part of my creating, there are some obstacles: In order to be able to have my pieces listed by galleries or to apply for open art calls etc., I need to label my work. And oftentimes, you can only choose between ‘photography’, ‘fine arts’ and ‘graphic design’. Well, sorry – I create art that doesn’t fit in your drawers! The founders of the Society for Embroidered Work (SEW), Cat Frampton and Emily Tull, wrote on SEW’s website: “The fight to get embroidery recognised as an art form has been a long one with roots mired in misogyny and it’s got a long way to go yet. (…) We hope that at a very basic level, having a society behind them, artists will be able to face the comments (‘embroidery is not art, it’s just a craft’) and the misunderstandings (‘Victorian ladies stitching idly’) with a straight spine and a steady eye. (…) As a society we can work on getting, at the very least, a ‘textiles’ box to click when applying for open call exhibitions.” I am a proud member of SEW and appreciate Cat’s and Emily’s effort to put a spotlight on our medium. (Thanks, guys!)
But to my knowledge, I along with my stitchy friends still have to decide on a label that fits into the art worlds common cathegories. So let’s quickly google a few of these:
Wikipedia says: “In visual art, mixed media is an artwork in which more than one medium or material has been employed.” Ok, I can adjust to this label, but still would love to distance my work from assemblages or collages…
Wikipedia says: “Art quilts use an art form that uses both modern and traditional techniques to create art objects. Quilt art generally has more in common with the fine arts (than it does with traditional craftswork).” Nice – ‘it has more in common with the fine arts’!… But have you ever seen an art quilt in a museum?? Neither have I.
Wikipedia says: “Fiber art refers to fine art whose material consists of natural or synthetic fiber and other components (…). It focuses on the materials and on the manual labour on the part of the artist as part of the works’ significance, and prioritizes aesthetic value over utility.” I like this label probably the most. But most galleries don’t look for fiber art.
So… what label does suit me and my niche? Art quilter? Fiber artist? Mixed media artist?? When applying for art calls, I generally choose ‘mixed media’. Simply because there is such a label. But I promised myself to abstein from putting a paint smudge on my work solely for the purpose to make it ‘mixed media’! If I experiment with mixed media, then I do it for experimenting and because I like it. Not just for the label. Because you see: although it is important to be able to actively participate in the art world and to be engaged in the art community, labelling my work is not essential for my creating. In the end – and also at the very beginning – I am just someone who loves to create with her hands and her heart!