On Being a Quilter


A Sunset Quilt

I’ve had the opportunity in the past few weeks to get out of the studio and attend some panel discussions given by artists, critics and gallery owners.  The topic of each was a discussion of the artist’s work and the development of his career.  Each was an artist who painted on canvas…a straight forward description…no specialty words needed.

I am also an artist…I paint and I quilt.  Umm, that word…QUILT.   Many art quilters avoid that word in describing their work.  When I first began presenting my quilted work, the majority of my pieces were framed under glass.  The photo above is an example of such a piece.  Many people thought these pieces were watercolor paintings, but as they looked closer, I assured them they were cottons, pieced and quilted.  I did not avoid the word “quilted”.  I still do not avoid it when describing what I do.  I may explain that I do art quilts or contemporary quilts, for the wall, not for the bed and not using traditional quilt patterns.  Over the years I have used fabric art or textile art occasionally, but I don’t feel it is necessary to justify that my quilts are art…whether they are framed under glass or hung freely on the wall.  At times, a quilter needs to select a category, or medium, to classify their work for an exhibit or competition, and then the fiber category applies, but in conversation I say I am a quilter.  I do not feel I need to categorize myself as a fiber artist…when you talk to me, I use the word QUILT…I am a quilter.

Maybe if contemporary quilts were more frequently exhibited in galleries, the word “quilt” would be used comfortably by more artists.  Speaking of exhibits, I have some news…next time…from the studio


    1. Thanks. I think when you say you are an artist, people assume that you paint on canvas, or board, or whatever. I paint also, but the quilting sometimes needs more description. Sue

  1. Your quilts are beautiful and surely look like paintings, but there’s a lot of prejudice (and even ignorance) against certain kinds of Arts and Crafts. It’s great that you don’t avoid the word, it helps people widening their minds!
    When I tell people I make things out of discarded materials, most of them give me ‘that’ look (discarded = garbage…), as if my work was filthy or something…

    1. If I didn’t know what your art was like…but I do know from your blog…but even if I didn’t…as an artist, I would be fascinated and anxious to see, because I find much art made from discarded or recycled items to be ingenious. It just boggles my mind, as yours does. I can see how you are in the same position as I am when using “that word” when describing your work. I feel it’s an opportunity to broaden someone’s awareness. For me, they get the concept of a quilt…three layers sewn together…and then I can show them how the same technique can result in a different look, and then direct them to a website or maybe a venue where they can see even more possibilities. Thank you for a good comment. I guess quilters are not the only artists who encounter the “words”. Sue

  2. I have started explaining what I do by handing people my card. Otherwise, I hear about their grandma’s bed quilts. An image is worth a thousand words.

    1. Very true! I truly admire quilters who create traditional quilts, especially their expertise at piecing and elaborate quilting. And those who hand quilt large work…oh my!

  3. I agree with the comments on persisting prejudice.Small changes.Example,1 large handmade market site, not even a art quilt category.Misplaced under confusing locations Unlikely to.be found.by those searching for art.Unacquainted with the term art quilt,it’s not entered into searches,They might like if exposed to. Would you search for art under handmade quilts? Unlikely.different things. Or perhaps a search under fiber art?Buried under knitted caps. The kind of thing we face if our work isn’t well known enough for a show.

  4. The image is beautiful and it is even more meaningful to me because you have used your medium so wisely. I love the color, the composition is compelling, thanks for posting. Always forward to seeing your art.

  5. Your quilts are paintings to me. Here in the US at the museum near where I have my studio there was an exhibit of quilts and there was never a question about whether they were art. Your work is beautiful and I always look forward to seeing you art. Thanks for posting.

  6. I try to avoid the “Q word.” My work tells a story or makes a point and I don’t play by the quilting rules. When people start thinking quilt they miss the point. It took me a long time to get over the need to explain my work — people either “get it” or they don’t. When I call my work a quilt or hang it in a quilt show they are much less likely to “get it.” So I tend to go with artist/art or on occasion fabric artist/fabric art and try to show my work in art venues rather than quilt ones. It’s much less frustrating for me.

    1. I don’t find it frustrating to explain what I do. I find it to be an opportunity to engage people in a conversation about the many aspects of art quilts…both 2D and 3D. I am working on more quilted vessels and now can show people how using the same technique…quilting…can be applied to many different forms. As for quilting rules, unless you are entering a judged quilt show, they aren’t even an issue. Sue

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