Many people who work with textiles (or ceramics, wood, glass, you name it), myself included, struggle with defining themselves. Are we artists, artisans, crafters? The answer often seems to rely on our own inner perception of the seriousness of the work, or on some kind of amateur/professional fault line. But lately I'm hearing more people use the term "maker," an interesting, and possibly very helpful, variation on the theme.
For most of us, choosing a position on the art-craft continuum isn't really necessary until we have to define our work for others, or make decisions about our own long-term direction and whether we want to operate in a gallery/studio system, as entrepreneur craftspeople, or some other model. Then all kinds of issues come up -- are we good enough to call ourselves artists? Is craft too often misinterpreted as that dreaded thing, a hobby? What if we work in many media and don't have the kind of focus that being an artist or artisan implies? Do we have to separate function from beauty, design from provocation?
Identifying as a maker sidesteps a lot of this, and is liberating in that way, especially if we aspire to make beautiful things, or to make things with a clear aesthetic value, without worrying about whether it's art or craft. It also connects us with others who make things everywhere; it offers a bond between makers of all kinds, and it's refreshingly free of a gender context. And it situates us in an active, present moment -- we can make things now, whereas we often hear, "I'm not really an artist yet."
Best of all, it reflects a long-overdue appreciation for the spirit of making, without a doubt the silver lining to the recession. As much as I complain about all the junk that's out there in the so-called indie craft world, I do recognize that every entry point is a way for people to discover the joy in the process of making. From there, some will move on and others will find a lifetime of satisfaction, and possibly much more, in making.
Back at the ranch, a few links for you:
- Debra Lunn and Michael Mrowka are working with Indonesian dyers and Robert Kaufman fabrics to produce fabrics. The Robert Kaufman site has a nice slideshow here, at the top right of the page, showing some of the batik method. They've also begun to blog about their Indonesia experiences here. It's not always easy being a global textile explorer; their travel route sounds daunting.
- Via the wonderful Deux Frontieres blog and American Gypsy Living, a new discovery, I came across Bokja Design, a Beirut company created by designers Hoda Baroudi and Maria Hibri. Their mission: "To employ the age-old artisanal traditions and sensibilities of the East in the creation of contemporary furniture designs and decorative items." These pieces are sold at ABC Home in the United States, but mostly I'm including them for beauty and inspiration. The designers use vintage embroidered tapestries. If you've never been to ABC Carpet & Home in New York, by the way, you should not miss it if you love textiles. It's an extraordinary place.
Finally, over at The Textile Blog, John Hopper has been posting excellent profiles of contemporary textile artists, including our friends Deb Lacativa and Cathy Kleeman. His latest profile is an artist new to me, Peggy Brown. Peggy's quilted works are very painterly, my favorite kind of art quilts. Every time I visit John's site I find something amazing and enlightening.
My lovely friend Betsy gave me some acrylic inks for my birthday last week. I've been eager to try these, and I'll report back.