Textile Painting vs. Art Quilt

"Dreaming: The Beach" detail, 2008

We artists in this world of textiles, fiber art, quilting go round and round about terms. Is what I do textile painting, fiber art, art quilts, studio art quilts? Why is it important? For one thing, if we are to ever have a broader understanding (perhaps, demand or desire) for our chosen medium, we want that broader public to "get it." Some of us making what have become known as "art quilts" as opposed to "bed quilts" come from traditional quilting backgrounds. Others, like me, have never tried such a project, and, while respecting the tradition and while borrowing, stealing and emulating some of the technical aspects, feel that our work is more akin to a painting than a bed cover.

Then, when one adds the aspect of surface design -- actually "making" some or all of the fabrics used in the artwork -- things get even a bit more complicated.

I am taking a free internet marketing course - The Thirty Day Challenge -- that has presented a whole new set of information that relates to taking this work to the web and what words one uses to describe art. What do people "look for" and how many searches does a particular set of words engender in a day. I won't go into it indepth -- still too much to digest --but its interesting to hear how an outside perspective looks at this "content." In the rubric of this course, if one wants to actually sell something via internet, one is looking for search terms (keywords) that have at least 80 searches a day, and fewer than 30,000 competing sites that include those keywords, as well as a whole lot of other search engine criteria that put one at the top of a google page, since that is how most of the people "out there" are looking for items and topics on the web. What's really interesting is that there are a whole lot of people inventing sites for marketing purposes that have very little to do with the actual making of content or product. So how do these terms measure up? Art quilt has relatively more searches but way more competing sites. Textile painting has less competition, but not many searches either.

Meanwhile, I am thinking about the artist talk I will make tomorrow (Saturday at 4:30 p.m.) at my solo exhibit of new (and recent) work at the Rockport Center for the Arts. Here's a bit from the artist statement booklet I made for the show:

This work continues my lifelong exploration of fabric as an art medium, as I pursue a vision as expressive and personal as that of any artist who uses watercolor, oil paint, or acrylics, albeit informed by the traditional craft of the quilter. Some of the fabrics I use began as vintage table linens rescued from estate sales, or embroidered Mexican dresses that have seen one too many fiestas. I keep my eye, like the raven, attuned to things shiny and intricately patterned. The selection of ethnic textiles from Africa, Mexico, Guatemala honors the work of those anonymous hands, no doubt many of them women’s. When the fabrics come together on the design table, color and pattern are the voices that speak to me, with stories inspired by the icons, images and natural beauty of these South Texas Borderlands. Stitched lines add another visual element, tying together the tales and textures.
The techniques used to create the fabrics and the art work include hand-dyeing, screen-printing with dyes and textile paints, soy and traditional wax batik, foil and metal leaf embellishment, hand and machine embroidery and stitching. One of the appeals of this work for me is its variety of scope, scale, precision and improvisation, and its connection to both the past and the future through craft and skill.

Notice that I kind of sidestepped the terminology issue -- the mention of the "quilt" is a bit oblique. (ironically, the piece above  incorporates more machine stitching and a more regular "quilting" pattern than anything I've done before.) What's your take on this? While I don't really expect to sell large works from my website -- I think art of any kind is hard to fall in love with on a screen -- I am toying with making my altered jean jackets available, maybe doing some cards, and the idea of an online workshop or course is still floating around in my large scheme of trying to make a living as an artist.

P.S. There's a preview of 2009 dates and topics for El Cielo workshops on the Workshop page now.