Thursday, February 16, 2012

What is Your "Label"?

Over the past few years I have had numerous conversations with other artists who work with textiles about how they describe themselves and their work.  Fiber artist, textile artist, art quilter, contemporary textile artist and mixed media textile artist are some of the common labels people give themselves. Some artists are moving away from including the word textile in their description, feeling that many people don't consider textiles to be "real" art or that it is too limiting when entering exhibits with a lot of work in traditional fine art media. Others feel that it is important to define themselves as working in the fiber/textile field, precisely because of its rich heritage.

I removed the term "fiber artist" from my artist statement a few years ago and haven't come up with anything I really like. Which begs the question - do I really need a label?  It makes it easier when talking with people about one's work - although even when I called myself a fiber artist, people didn't know what that meant. And even when talking with someone who is familiar with fiber art, one still has to describe the area of focus.

I still haven't decided on the best approach for me. I think it's an evolutionary process.  Several years ago, I began to compare my work to other media by saying that I used cloth as my canvas.  That I dyed, printed and painted on cloth instead of canvas or paper. Now I say that I create abstract paintings on cloth.  I borrowed the term from Kathy Williams, an artist from Memphis. It still isn't completely clear, because people often have an image of what a "painting" looks like.  But until I come up with something better, that's my label.

How do you describe yourself and your work to others?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.


  1. Janet Bolton calls herself a 'picture maker'. That
    feels right to me. I also think I'm always telling a story with cloth, or hearing a story
    and putting it down.

    Your work on cloth is art making in my estimation. As more people use this medium I hope the words will work themselves out.

    1. I like that - picture maker. Story teller is nice, too. Hmm, now you've got me thinking about my work in a much broader sense. Thanks!

  2. Well, I've decided to tell people that I'm an artist when they ask. This leads to: "What type of art?"....and then I explain. If their eyes glaze over, that is fine, and if not, then I will go only so far, and wait for another question. I hope I live long enough to see the day when our type of art is readily acceptable for entry in all shows. Lord knows there are enough of us out there!


    1. I remember when I first started calling myself an artist. I didn't believe it back then, but I knew that sometimes there is power in a label. I figured if I did it long enough, I would finally believe it. And now I do.

  3. I still call myself a fiber artist but I have been thinking on this as it seems my direction is changing. This change is not reflected in the work on my blog as I'm privately learning/experimenting right now, but.... Anyway, the work continues to include transfer painted fabric and quilted elements, but it's veering sharply away from what is considered "quilt art" and perhaps even from fiber/textile art. I digress.

    I read this article some time ago about a show of "textility" artists... have a look:

    For myself, I continue to ponder... more and more I'm leaning toward "artist" which would encompass all my work as I change and grow.

  4. Yes, I've been following that on Joanne Mattera's blog. That's a great example of how various art categories are blurring the lines. And I know a lot of textile artists whose work is also evolving to incorporate other media. I suppose this discussion is akin to the genres that writers and musicians are often placed in.


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