Saturday, January 26, 2008

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em....a rant

My goal for 2008 as far as my art is concerned is "to get my art out there". Yes, I know I'm repeating myself, but if I say it often enough, I may actually DO it. In order to get that happening, I need to devise ways of framing/finishing/presenting it so it can be displayed along with other art. I already know how to finish a quilt for a quilt show - what I want to do is have my work alongside ORDINARY art -no offence intended to painters here.

The biggest hurdle we art quilters/ fabric artists /textile artists /mixed media artists (take your pick) face is that art made from fabric does NOT get the same respect or sale prices as paint on a canvas. This is not confined to New Zealand - I have seen passionate discussions on international mailing lists saying the same thing. The buying public have a mindset that quilts (and therefore fabric arts) are a "craft" and therefore of low value. Or is it that they are just not used to seeing quilting and fabric as art? The old dears at the local quilting guild don't help this any, with their scandalized comments about prices charged on quilts for sale at quilt shows. This all devalues the worth of what we do. Also it makes me mad.

What is the difference between paint on canvas and paint on fabric? Where there's excellent design, use of colour, technique and so on, why should one be worth more than the other?

Working on the philosophy of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em", I am going to present my art in the same way as painters do - the big names in art quilts are already doing this (I am a late starter in most things) , and it seems to get around the problem to a large degree. I'm hoping this DVD from Jane Dunnewold ( will help - I haven't watched it yet, but it says on the back "This how-to guide is perfect for anyone who wants to choose the right finish or frame for any work of art". It's aimed at fabric panels, mixed media artwork and everything inbetween. I'll let you know how i get on.


Donald said...

Hear, hear...

There is a parallel with photography: to improve, one path is to study artists in other media, particularly the classic painters. And when you do this you realise that photography is actually more challenging as we "paint" with light. This means having to be totally in the right place at the right time. Personally my modus operandi is: "OK I've got the light, now where is the subject?" But, an artist can compose the subject and then create the light [not to say there is not huge skill in this!]

So in theory if pricing was based on time and travel then arty photos should command higher prices than paintings. And I should imagine a good quilt [which demands huge attention to composition] would take even longer!

An interesting question I've had of late, asked about some of my work [printed on textured paper] has been: "Is this a painting or a photo?" So maybe this is the answer to recognition in monetary terms: mimic the presentation of paintings!

Here is a fascinating article, and although photography based, there are so many aspects relevant to other disciplines, of particular interest is the discussion on Belshazzars Feast, which is about quarter way down under the heading of Contrast :

or maybe this will be clickable:



Feather on a Wire said...

You're right work must be presented in a way understandable to the non textile public.
I've been thinking about this lately and have come up with two solutions.
One to stretch the work over canvas and the other is to place it behind glass in box frames.
I don't want to go down the road of paying fortunes for frames so am on the hunt for large (and inexpensive) box frames.
I found one one Wednesday which has the mounting card in the front, immediately behind the glass. I think this one has potential but so far I've only found this is one size and it's quite small.

Nellie's Needles said...

The only glass I've seen that really works over textiles is the highest quality museum glass. There is no glare and no distortion AND it is extremely expensive. Lower grade glass deadens the texture of textiles.

My favorite method of displaying my pieces for the galleries is to float them on a piece of plexi-glass. This seems to bridge that framing gap between paintings/photography and textile art. It also allows the art to float on the wall ... especially if there are spacers on the back side to make it hang out from the wall. Great shadow patterns can dance around the piece depending on the lighting. Also, the back of the piece can be seen and appreciated. Our medium is soft fabric. We should not have to "straight jacket" it to make it presentable.

kay susan said...

Be very interested to see how you get on with this Shirley. I did some watercolour landscapes on calico when I didn't have any paper to hand, and I was so pleased with the result that I want to do some more. I mounted them in mat boards and put them up at a local art show. There was a lot of interest in them, until people realised that they were 'fabric painting'. It seems it's only a 'proper painting' if its water colour on paper or acrylic/oils on canvas!

Joyce said...

The strange thing is that canvas IS fabric. I'll be interested to hear what you think of the DVD.

Susan D said...

I've just started to wonder how to frame and display some of my textile work so I'll be interested in what you think of the DVD and if you recommend buying it.

neki desu said...

fiber and cloth still mean sheets and tablecloths to 90% of the people. for small scale work i use plexiglass shadow boxes and as that material "reads" as slick it disconcerts the viewer making the person focus on the piece and the message, not the medium.

good luck,

neki desu

Ali Honey said...

For me it is a little different. I have in the past( very long time ago ) painted and exhibited on a tiny scale (Sold one) and have my own paintings and prints on my walls but I would never dare to give them as a gift - in case the reciever didn't like them BUT I will happily give away quilts or quilted bags etc.( cause they are functional, maybe? ) Food for thought any way! Good luck!

Judy said...

Will be interested in hearing how you like the dvd and her techniques. I love her Complex Cloth book, but that is as far as I have gone with JD. My silk painting group is always exploring different ways to display our can only use/sell so many scarves, you know!


brdhsbldr said...

I recently played fly-on-the-wall listening to the jurors at a regional art show where there were paintings, sculpture, photography, and fiber art.
"Framing" was their big complaint and I think rightly so. So much art work is degraded by bad display.
However, with the fiber art their thought was that the work should be displayed in such a way that the "hardware" would be invisible. They thought this was what would elevate it from craft to art.
So, a sleeve concealing the rod would have pleased them but a hanging displayed with tabs along the top and hanging from a decorative rod would not.
Some of the distinctions between art and craft leave me cold, but that was their thinking.