I am an untrained artist, one might say, though I’ve been making art for nearly 50 years now. Some of the art I recall making in the first of those decades included a crocheted doorknob cover (quite impractical as it made opening the door rather slippy), clothes for my stuffed animals (wherein I learned that a dropped hot iron will make a melty burn mark on carpet), and a pincushion made from felt over a tuna can and stuffed with cotton balls. See? Textile arts, or fiber arts — I tend to use the phrases interchangeably.
It can be intimidating to look online and find artists with more formal training, though for some reason in the fiber arts they tend to be British or Australian — and there tend to be more museums, galleries and guilds there too — what’s that about? Is it about having a lengthy history with a class of people who wore fine garments, or some type of feminist issue, or something else entirely? Hmm, must research.
Recently I realized that if I was going to be an artist, I’d better start arting. And though I’ve been dabbling in all sorts of art forms all my life (the first decade also included some mighty fine sketches of cats and of Wilbur the Pig from Charlotte’s Web), the fiber arts are where I’m putting most of my focus these days. There are many reasons for this, and if I’m honest I think part of the reason has to do with the fact that I’ve never really felt like a “real” artist due to my lack of training — but in textile arts, so little formal training exists, that doesn’t really have to be a limiting factor.
Another reason is the feminine association of textile art — in this culture the sewing, or knitting, or needlework, historically tended to be done by women. I love different aspects of this — the fact that feminists like myself have embraced textile art as a means of empowerment, as well as the idea that when I’m working with a piece of fabric or lace or a tin of buttons it was most likely touched or created by various women throughout the decades, in a way more slow and deliberate and thoughtful and loving than, say, a spoon or a piece of glassware, even though its purpose may have been just as utilitarian (or just as fancy).
So, my purpose for this blog will be to collect and document and use some of the techniques I’ve studied or developed; some of the vintage fabrics and sewing supplies I’ve collected; some of the artists I’ve found inspiring; some of the many ideas I have sparking more projects than I can reasonably complete in my lifetime or several lifetimes; and some of the opportunities I’ve found for viewing or collaborating or learning from other textile artworks & artists.
As I’ve been researching this (oh, and by the way, I tend to over-research things because I love to learn and understand) and putting my thoughts together for this site, I’ve seen Jude Hill’s name pop up frequently associated with fiber art pieces that I admire. Once I read more about her, I could certainly understand why — I related to so much that was on her “about me” page, particularly this set of sentences:
I don’t buy much of anything and I hate all the “gunk” that is applied to fabric art these days. It interferes with the nature of the cloth. I believe in recycling and re-purposing and my work is mostly made with old cloth. Old cloth is soft and much friendlier to the hand stitcher. I call myself an alternative quilter and a folk artist (if I have to use the word artist). — Jude Hill
Indeed some of the pieces I’ve been dabbling with recently are quite similar in aesthetics to Jude’s work; I was also gratified to read that she has “no degrees or credentials but I do have a lot of great ideas.” I can relate to that!
While she has taught workshops online, she is in the process of making them available, for free or for a donation, at http://spiritcloth.typepad.com/feel_free/. I am currently making my way through all the information at http://spiritcloth.typepad.com/spirit_cloth_101/. I’m also looking forward to reading a free excerpt from Inspirational Magazine (scroll down to find the “Free Taster”.