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.