Friday, November 19, 2010

When is a Quilt 'Art'?

I read a journal entry by another SAQA vision member this week where she pondered if it was okay for her to use a traditional pattern that she was drawn to use with some fabric or if she needed to come up wih an original design, if she needed to be always thinking "outside the box".

Her journaling reminded me of some questioning that I sometimes find myself caught up in as I find my way in this world of Quilt as Art. When is a quilt art? Does it have to hang on a wall to be called art? Obviously, if it is designed for a wall, it is easy to define it as "quilt art." But does that mean that if it is wearable or the size of a bed quilt that it isn't art?

Sometimes I think that in our reactions to misguided comments like "Is that a potholder?" or "Can I sew those together so I can use it on my bed?", we can make the mistake of defining "quilt art" too narrowly in our minds and that can limit our creativity.

Quite honestly, any quilt that I make is art - whether it will go on a bed or not. It is the fact that I am an artist and I have created it that makes it art. As I explore this world of art quilts, I find that sometimes I want to create a wall piece, but other times I am simply in the mood to create a bed quilt. I have learned not to judge myself harshly for having that desire to create an artistic quilt for a bed. The truth is that I am just getting used to defining myself as an artist and as I get comfortable with this "hat", I am finding that I don't want to take it on and off depending pun the potential usage of the piece that I am creating - it's all art - because I made it.

In the end, this is more a matter of semantics and where we are in the creative process. There is a need to have quilts as art pieces recognized in the world. I totally respect that need and that movement. What I am addressing is the issue when, early in the design stage, a quilt artist finds his or her creative force being limited by a perceived constraint on what they can create as artists. It is an interesting trap that we should all be aware of. At least, that's how I see it!


  1. Great post... and how true. This could be true for any form of creativity whether practical or otherwise.

  2. Well written...I have pondered the question as well. It is easy to get stuck in labels and thereby narrow our vision. Oh to be fearless, to see all that we do as creative process, and!