Marg B. posted her thought provoking question at the end of March:
My current fascination lies in the topic, “Do art quilters who come to the work as artists, using textile as their medium, differ from those who come to the work from a sewing/quilting (versus art) background?” And…a sub-question: which ‘group’ has had more success as quilt artists? Or has this even been examined?
I have been pondering this two part question ever since it was added in the comment section by Marg. The question has entered many of my conversations with fellow artist friends without yielding satisfactory answers. Several tries to compose a post were abandoned. I finally came to the realization that in order to fully explore the topic I should gather several focus groups, or even create a lengthy questionnaire, distribute this form and hope that a large number of these would be returned. Analyzing the answers and compiling my findings would take up countless hours. I have to be honest: I am not a scientist!
While I do not have the answer from a wide demographic I have decided to share a bit about my personal journey. I enrolled in London City & Guilds classes in 1997 because the words “art and design” on the syllabus caught my eye. “Embroidery” was the fine craft that was part of the course, but I did not pay much attention to it. Neither did it worry me that embroidery would be part of the course. Already proficient in embroidery, I knew I could devote most of my time immersing myself in the study of art and design.
The original certification course I signed up turned into two diploma courses, and before I knew it, eight years had passed. Life continued: In the beginning I ran my fiber arts shop full time, later I was able to devote myself to full-time study. Staying focused became my mantra, sometimes neglecting family time, dinner with friends and social activities. My most loyal friends were waiting after I graduated, and my family was by my side throughout the long years of study.
First and foremost, I consider myself an artist: I am a visual artist who works in textiles. Quilting and embroidery are the techniques I employ to create texture and dimension in my work. When getting together with other artists, the medium does not matter as the elements and principles of design apply to all disciplines.
This brings me back to Marg’s question whether art quilters who come to the work as artists, using textile as their medium, differ from those who come to the work from a sewing/quilting (versus art) background?
In my conversations with textile artists I have not found a difference at all. I am of the opinion that art is all encompassing. Over the years I have seen firmly ensconced fiber artists sell off their equipment and move into sculpture (pottery, stone carving) or begin painting full time. I have also witnessed painters become full time textile artists, embracing quilting and embroidery to the point where their paints, brushes and easels gave way to a new sewing machine, fabric and threads. No matter which art form we embrace, we do it with passion, commitment and dedication, embracing the challenges and rewards that present themselves. I have a strong interest in photography which was originally sparked because I had to take pictures of my artwork for submission to exhibitions. One never knows what interest we might pursue next… or what might spark this interest.
During my continuous conversations with artists I specifically asked what success means to them. Success is an illusive word… Is it a reference to exhibitions? Finances?
From where I stand, success is ever evolving, it is a dynamic component of my career. At first success meant realizing the opportunity to study art, something I wanted to do since I was a teenager, but parental opposition led me to my first professional career as early childhood educator – I taught Kindergarten.
Once I was focusing on my art education, success meant completing an assessment piece without further work. When I fulfilled the requirements for the first certificate, I felt I was successful, and again when I received my first diploma. Eventually success meant acceptance into an exhibition at the Whyte Museum in Banff, and mounting my first solo exhibit in La Conner, WA in 2005. At the same time I began to teach, and with each workshop more students filled the class room, eventually leading to international teaching opportunities.
If a sense of accomplishment, happiness and personal satisfaction are synonymous with success I have experienced it at every turn of my artistic journey. There is not one thing I can identify as pure success. It is the many facets of my career that lead me to conjure up a strong feeling of success. I feel excited and proud when my students have a break through in class, when a former student has been juried into a show, or has received an award. Their success is my success!
Before I move on to turn questions over to the readers, I want to take the opportunity to mention that my success would not be possible without the steadfast support from my husband throughout our life together. He knew how much I wanted to study design when I was a teenager. He gave me the gentle push I needed to register for the London City and Guilds course. Over the following eight years he “held down the fort” at home and the business. Our young daughter provided support in her own way, cooking meals and helping out where necessary. When we moved to Saskatchewan Colin built my dream studio, a huge undertaking with many sacrifices. Success is not something I measure, it is something I embrace with humility. It is not something I could have achieved without family support, the trust of organizers and students, and a lot of hard work.
What does success mean to you? Does it relate to personal achievements, financial gain or being able to pursue your dream? Is it early retirement or the joy of a rewarding career? Is it the opportunity to further your knowledge by taking classes, or could it be the number of friends you have on FaceBook? Make sure to weigh in below. It is time to communicate your experiences!