Sunday, December 04, 2011


detail from "Rêver 4"

 To continue a private conversation in public (and one I have been having with myself)  - Why use cloth as an art medium when the expressions I want to make have nothing to do with stitch or texture or hand?

What a pain in the ass it is sometimes and why in the world make art in a medium that has been stigmatized in so many ways that we have to spend valuable time countering stereotypes and consign ourselves to figurative textile ghettos to have any public voice at all.

It's been pointed out to me that a big reason people make art in the first place is to get "buy in" or acceptance of the visions that please or speak to them- an agreement of sorts. "I  like pie. I made a great pie. Have some. It's delicious if I do say so myself"

It's clear that most creative people would rather have agreement with their audiences (whoa!..sometimes in the form of exchanging art for cash!) than spend time cultivating the attitude of "F@#K you if you don't like it" and working in a vacuum or making pies and letting them burn black or throw them at passersby.

Since many of my readers are artists who work with textiles,  have you ever asked yourselves "Why cloth" and what were your answers?

untitled Rothko


ant said...

WHY NOT???????

deanna7trees said... can't touch, fondle, and admire a pie for very long, if it's any good. it will disappear in no time. not all creatives care whether their audience likes what they create. maybe it depends on how desperate you are for cash or how much self confidence you have or how important it is for you to be authentic to yourself or a 1000 other reasons. we are all so different.

Terry Grant said...

I constantly ask myself this and I still don't have an answer. It certainly gets me more puzzlement than respect from friends and others.

jude said...

no real reason. i understand cloth better i think.

Anonymous said...

because we had no money that could go towards a true education in other mediums. sure i had a camera but i have no education with developing or camera techniques. loved painting but local teachers often weren't well versed and by the time i got to college i was rushing through before the money ran out.

my mama educated in the only "art" form she knew and it had a lot to do with passing on a tradition that meant a lot and had sustained her through tough times.

my first scraps were gifts from her and because it was all given it took no money for either education or materials.

a true gift.

i only quilt because my mother quilted. i doubt i'd have bothered or picked it up had it not been for her.
and it travels well. i've always been a bit of an adventurer and i could tuck some scraps and cross a country and make something of meaning where ever.....little or no electricity, water, plumbing, light.

idk just some thoughts.

arlee said...

because while i can make a mess with it, it's not messy, because it carries into 5 minutes in the car with no spillage, because it's warm and gives anyone comfort and the urge to touch, because it's malleable and controllable even while out of control--it's paint i can apply to any surface or be any surface anytime for any reason, design or idea

Mandi said...

I ask myself this often. The tactile medium appeals to me more than any other. The challenge of exploring not only a surface but possibly form (I'm working with some sculptural ideas) is very appealing.

But sometimes it seems such a nice idea to chuck it all and just paint on canvas! Would certainly solve my dilemma of hanging/displaying.


grace Forrest~Maestas said...

because Rever 4 turns me on.
the Rothko does not.

if it's the truth, (and not a feeling of being confined to a figurative textile ghetto,) that the expression you really want to make has nothing to do with stitch or texture or hand,
then i think you should paint.
you've painted in the past. it's not like you would need to begin at the beginning. go for it.

what interests me here is the word

and maybe i'm just ignorant about
what's out there, but it appears to me that not many artists, women
artists have ventured IN, like IN,
to textiles as a deeply expressive
medium. there are quilts. or
art quilts. whizzed out on sewing
machines, beautiful combinations
of commercial fabric. beautiful
design. craftswomanship.
that doesn't do anything for me
what DOES and does in a way that is
a constant miraculous surprise, is
how i see such just orgasmic beauty
in a scrap of damask that YOU have
caused to have COLOUR, it's fray,
it's patina, stitched into a piece
of muslin that i dyed with leaves
growing in front of my house, stitched to another textile that
has lived many years as many things. and learning to collage
these together so they talk.
Cloth, to me, talks. it murmurs,
whispers, humms, makes poetry, tells stories. more and more to me, it is alive.

what interest me is to work really
hard at learning clothmaking and
see that stigma FALL. crash.
become nothing.

the Gees Bend women did this in a
totally unselfconscious way. and
my guess is that they did it because they created a culture for
it within their community. it was
from Need, sort of, but there was
something else too.
i'm interested in the something
else. i see it in the cloth you
dye, in your Littles. i see it in
Jude's genius, India's. Tell me
where else to look.......

mzjohansen said...

I think that's one reason why I am passionate about so many different medias. Sometimes I feel badly that I am not focusing more on one technique or the other - but they all speak to me and I have to listen and follow where the muse takes me - in whatever medium it is.

Cloth will, no doubt always be my primary comfort & love, but papers, paint pots and yarns are very soothing and inspiring too !

Quiltrobin said...

Great question, Deb! For me, a lot of it is about touch. I love the feel of cloth and fibers in my hands. My hands have a longstanding relationship with cloth. Touching cloth or fiber flips all kinds of good switches in my brain. Cloth comforts me, makes me feel secure and warm, happy. There is so much power in its potential to be transformed into beautiful and useful things.

magsramsay said...

I like to alter the surface of cloth with stitch and paint with acrylics. With paint you can produce a subtlety and precision in colour and form that cannot be achieved in stitch and fabric alone. Stitched , coloured and textured textile backgrounds are also far more exciting to paint on than canvas or paper - they are unpredictable and responsive, absorb paint differently and I like how glimpses of the fabric show through the paint.

Judy Sall Fiber Art said...

I started playing with fabric when I was very small and my grandma let me raid her stash to make doll clothes. I don't sew clothing much... don't like following instructions. And I have painted, but lost my way in that medium some years back. It's when I began dyeing that fiber became my favorite medium, and the love affair between dye and cloth has been ongoing for about 14 years now. But then I look at what you, Jude, and others do with your fiber, and I have such an appreciation for your work! It's totally unique to you, so even though we work with the same raw materials (no pun intended!), we each are able to create our own visions, just as others do in their own medium of choice. It is nice when others can appreciate our work... I will admit to being thrilled when someone buys one of my pieces... but I primarily do it for myself... nothing compares to that jolt of joy when something I have in my mind comes to fruition in the fabrics I use to create it!

Anonymous said...

I ask myself the same question all the time. Most often the answer comes down to something like: you can't touch a painting. You can touch cloth and it can touch you back. Cloth holds and reflects light in a way that paint just doesn't. Sometimes I wish I could just paint instead, simply because it's easier. You don't get the puzzled question 'what is it?' with a painting. How I wish that textile art could be something 'legitimate', 'out there', 'real' in terms of the art establishment. Do you believe that one day it will be? I don't know...

Vicky aka Stichr said...

my parents were artists, but it was obvious from early on that pen and brush were not for me....but put a needle in my hand and i could paint you a picture! oft times my mama would draw the pictures for me...

Unknown said...

Textures, touch, and connection. Like you, I constantly ask myself this, especially since I enjoy painting and usually use paint in my quilts.

But it's ultimately the fiber that calls me...and I grumble because if I would stop with the painting, I'd be done...instead, I need to embellish, and quilt the danged thing!

When piecing by hand, and I don't do it much anymore, I love the zen like motion of running needle through cloth. Hand applique seems like a miracle, and being able to carry my stuff with me, and usually I can do a small project, is a heck of a lot easier than dragging around a field set of paints, pad, water, etc.

Anonymous said...

Jude Hill's Spirit Cloth drew me back to thread & cloth after a 30 year hiatus and I may well have made the best piece of my life ever whilst attending her Magic Diaries...but making marks with ink or pencil on paper is where all the dreams get translated from the ether into the real world and from there they are developed with whatever materials are required... be it glass or stone or wood or bone or metal or thread or cloth or leather or all of the above with a few found feathers & shells thrown in ... it's the dream thing that decides ... or so it is for this old crow

Judy Martin said...

I ask myself this all the time.

I too wonder why? Why use cloth if I want to be accepted as a fine artist? Why put myself in a ghetto?

I've answered it and shall continue to answer it I think for years to come. I don't see myself stopping with the cloth thing.

The most basic reason might be because of the intimacy cloth has with the human body. The fact that we have been touched by cloth from day one...right through our lives.

So cloth is like the body.

And paintings, whether on paper or on canvas...are also on cloth I think. But too much removed for the intimacy I want to have with my viewer.

I've given up on being recognized now...and that is also a big thing. I just want to do the work I want to do...and it's up to others to figure out why.

Great post. Great question.

Jeannie said...

I try new media, experiment, but the whole time I am wondering if I could do this with cloth. I took up woodworking because that is what my Dad did. I went running back to cloth! So, I stick my foot in the paint, paper, & photography pools, but my heart is always with cloth. It is a tactile thing. There are so many textures and I can create even more, if I want. So, I will continue to explore, but will go to my grave with needle and cloth in my hands. (Excellent question! I guess the punch line is why and for whom do you create? That will give you the answer. - so says my Magic 8 ball!)

neki desu said...

because i won't have it any other way.
because working with it gets the best out of me.
because i like that feeling.
because i really really don't give a f*&*what others think, better be a good textilian than a medicre painter or sculptor.

KAM said...

Followed the link to the great post from your FB page...wonderful to think about the points you raised...much meat for writing and imagining and thinking in there. The post, often from folks I know, some very well...enlighten how your words fall to others. Reading Michigoose, ahh, how much I miss her; Lisa was a dear and treasured friend.
I work in cloth because it is where my creative muse is comfortable..loving the holding of my work in hand as I progress. It just is what gives me a sense of going well on my journey. Thanks for sending me to this "back page". Kristin

Karoda said...

What else would I use to make quilts? It is about the quilt and the Quilt in the end.