Saturday, October 13, 2007

My thoughts on being an art quilter and more

I spent the day doing some wandering around by myself yesterday as dad was off on a tour of a ship and a museum with all the other guys. I felt he was pretty safe and would be well taken care of by the guys who are happy he came. Then sat at the computer and did a bunch of other work.

But, I posted the following on the ArtQuilt list which has had a number of people complaining about those outstanding quilters/artists who win a lot of prizes. Also a lot of complaints about quilting perfection being expected at quilt shows. So, I wrote the following:

I have been following the discussions about mitered
corners, work hanging straight, if someone should be
able to compete again when they have won a big prize,
etc with a lot of interest.

As long as people continue to enter true art quilts in
regular quilt shows, they will be judged at quilts.

The Mancuso shows do not delineate between art quilts
and "innovative" quilts. Art quilts are put in to the
same category as quilts that start out with some areas
of traditional quilting and then make changes to make
them more creative.

My feeling is that "art" quilts are completely
originial, based on the artist's conception of what
they want to say.

When I show my art quilts in art shows, there is no
request for an artist statement or any justification
for what I did. The work must stand on its own.

Many times art has something deep to say but may not
be readily available to the viewer. Sometimes there is
nothing to say other than to share the beauty of what
has been created.

The work must stand on its own artistic merits,
regardless of the medium used.

The skill used with the specific medium is all part of
the creativity of the piece and is part of the judging
of the art. What you say about it, isn't.

There are shows specifically designed to showcase art
quilts. The work is judged as art the the criteria do
not generally include mitered corners, full binding,
straight edges unless they are supposed to be. There
is far more room for how pieces are finished, quilted,
batted it at all, and generally put together but they
must stand as art.

When art quilt work is shown in art shows the judges
do not look at the back, do not judge based on
quilting criteria, but on the basis of the work being

There will always be those who reap most of the
rewards. In the art world, they generally move on to
showing in galleries, doing commissions, etc. This is
probably because art shows do not have the money for
prizes that our big quilt shows do. Art shows do not
have vendors which help to pay for the show and help
provide prize money.

Quilters who win major awards certainly deserve every
bit of recognition and award money. Unfortunately,art
quilts have not reached the point where the artist can
then move on to a more profitable venue such as

I am suggesting that you consider carefully where you
submit your art for judging. Understand that the
biggest winner quilters are usually going for the most
money. A major prize winner in one big show will make
the circuit of all the big shows to garner as much
recognition and money as possible. Once it has made
the circuit, the piece gets retired from the show

If you want greater chances of getting juried in to an
art quilt show, enter art quilt shows. But be aware,
those that receive the acceptance letters are those
whose work is standing out above the others. And,
sometimes that seems like the same people. But, also
understand that those same people get their share of
rejection notices also.

I finally got juried in to Houston for the first time
this year, after receiving several rejections. I am
still waiting to get juried in to Visions and Quilt
National as they are major recognition venues. But I
have my rejection collection from both of those but
will continue to keep trying...and improving my work
so that my chances will improve.

Art shows do not provide you with the judging
comments. You are juried in, the judge makes the award
decisions of which there may be just a few such as
first place and several awards of merit and may not be
broken down my medium used. They all compete against
each other...the representational work and the
abstract, the watercolors, oils and mixed media and
the awards are based on the best art presented at the

Quilt show rules are different. If you are going to
enter quilt shows, be prepared to have your work
judged as a quilt and not art.

Flashy techniques do not make it in the art world. If
you feel you are not getting into art quilt shows,
maybe it is time for you to take some art classes and
learn the fine art of composition, design, color, etc
in order to improve your textile work. Once you have
those skills firmly embedded in your process you will
find your work improving drastically and consequently
your chances of getting in with be improved.


Anonymous said...

Liz...very bold statement but had to be said..I wonder how many will understand what you were saying between the lines. Not many want to work hard and put in the time needed to become recognized. Thanks for putting it all out there. Louise

Sonji Hunt said...

Well stated, Liz.

I would also like to say that in the "art world" a lot of what gets recognition AND money right now is meant to be consumed on a public level as opposed to personal. By that I mean, much of the visual work is some form of video or digital or technological thing combined with social situations. Not the sort of stuff that individuals relate to easily. That is the point of it sometimes. Also, just as in anything else, a lot is junk passed off as being "art". That is difficult to combat. Individual, everyday working artists have to educate (like you have just done) their viewers and consumers and fellow artists and hobbyists.

BTW, I love my original Liz Berg piece and look at it daily and feel great about it!

Anonymous said...

Very well said. People who wish to whine versus work deserve what they get. The irony of these wannabees telling the people who spend their money, time, and love providing the venues what "they" have to do, never ceases to amaze me.

Rayna said...

Excellent post, Liz. I'm afraid some (many, actually) on that list will just never get it - but it has to be said.

Jeannie said...

Sometimes people have to be hit over the head to finally "get it". I know many who call themselves quilt artists, yet have the "quilt in a day" mentality. The thought of actually studying and learning doesn't fit with what they want. It is too hard and time consuming - much easier to whine and blame others. I'll get of my soapbox now...thanks.

Vivian said...

How true!
I've seen some technically perfect quilts that are downright boring when it comes to colour and design. Time and energy was spent on learning to cut and sew straight.
Art quilts are judged on the image and its impact. The design skills are built up over years, with much experimentation!

Deborah Boschert said...

So very thoughtful. Thank you, Liz.

Anonymous said...

So nice to see all the kudos for the post. You already know how I feel!

Anonymous said...

Seems perfectly obvious to me! Thanks for stating it so eloquently, Liz. Enjoyed your work at PIQF this week.

Amy Munson said...

Well said.

Unknown said...

All you have stated and stated very well, is so true. I personally do not think art quilts really belong in 'quilt' shows but rather in art galleries. However, if one is intent on entering them into quilt shows then the rules for quilts would apply to the art quilt. Of course I also know that there are not so many venues for the art quilt and hence many are stuck with dealing with the quilt shows for exposure. Hopefully someday this will change. Meanwhile I guess the backs of mine will have to be a bit neater. sigh.

Natalya Khorover Aikens said...

Thank you for telling the truth, and very well indeed. and I also love looking at my Liz Berg original everyday.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great comments. I think everything you say is on target, though I think some art shows do ask for artist statements and, as someone who has fairly recently worked in the museum world, I know that labeling that include artist's intent or other personal kinds of information about the work is coming into its own. This has more to do with our love of story (and maybe about marketing) than the media or genre.And in a gallery setting, the owner or salesman is expected to be able to do that job. But I think work does have to stand on its own merits, with or without an artist's ability or desire to say much about it.
I think the grousing is often about money -- and quilt show awards are so much more than most art show awards, so that those of us who make art quilts with an emphasis on the art part can' help but feel a bit envious!

jane dávila said...

Your post should be required reading for all art quilters - it contains much food for thought, well stated.

Btw, you've been tagged. Seven random facts about yourself, tag seven other people. See my blog - this was harder than I thought. Who inventing this tagging thing anyway??