Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Craft to Art, and Back Again

This is a small essay. I will be publishing some garment sewing tomorrow.

The subject of art versus craft continues to interest me, and others, evidently. Or perhaps I am just very tuned into this channel.

Most recently I spotted this post by fiber artist, Kathleen Loomis:
Clawing your way out -- or in

Kathleen makes the case that it is possible to back into the fiber arts, and be recognized or appreciated, if one first obtains a fine arts degree from certain academic institutions. Such fiber art is recognized as art. Even if it is not particularly good.

It has also been pointed out to me that if fiber art is made by a man, then it is noteworthy. It may be viewed as art. When women produce fiber art, it is craft or even domestic crafting. Perhaps I overstate the case, but see, for example, this art show in NYC: alt_Quilts. Two men, one woman, alternative materials. And the pieces are actually very good. Thought- provoking on several levels.

Last night at my quilt guild, a member showed a lovely piece she made that hangs in her *studio.* It was a lovely piece. Art that happened to be composed of fabric and stitch. The guild leader raised her eyebrows at the mention of her studio.

I must confess that I have trouble referring to my space as my studio. I'm much more comfortable calling it my sewing room. After all, I came to fiber art via my attempts to make things that are useful:

Can I wear it?
Can I sleep under it?
Can I put my stuff in it?

The label of artist is not something I come to easily. This denial denigrates my work, ultimately. It is self-sabotage. I don't actually make things, create art, in order to meet a need. No, I make things because I long to create and I am nurtured when I create.

Just tonight, I realized that calling it my studio means that I speak out loud my intention to create art. Calling it my sewing room allows me to just sew. That also means that I am not taking any risk. I am not pushing my boundaries. And that may actually limit my creativity.

My new, new year's resolution is to claim my artistic endeavors, to claim my sewing studio as a haven for my art, and to name myself artist. It will not happen tonight. I wonder if a year is long enough.

And you? How is your art?


  1. My studio is two small rooms, one for sewing and one for dyeing. They are used not simply for sewing or dyeing, but for experimenting, considering, decision-making, responding, adjusting. The processes involved and my engagement with them make this area a studio. My studio is where I come to life! Maybe being engaged with what one does makes life a studio.

  2. There is definitely an art in sewing - little adaptions to patterns, mixing and matching fabrics and colours, finishing touches - these all add to the artistic element of garment creation. I have always admired quilters and their apparently innate ability to choose and coordinate the right patterned fabric. You really need an artistic eye when working with colour.

  3. I love my studio. Some of what I do is art and some craft, but it all feeds me. A sewing room sounds like work.

  4. I love my studio. Some of what I do is art and some craft, but it all feeds me. A sewing room sounds like work.

  5. Semantically, isn't "studio", a place that one studies, ponders, and tries out, does not matter what it is? The equivalent in music, being "etudes", and the works produced being "opuses". Original "opus" does not mean that all have to be fantastic, just like that everything coming from a studio being art quality, or from an artist workshop of really artist quality. It does not really matter, what's important, is one strives to do better of what one chooses to do

  6. Interesting and thought provoking. Studio vs. room - a rose by any other name is still a rose - I call the place where I sew my sewing room. It used to be a bed room; the bed is gone and the sewing machines are there so now it is a sewing room. I create in other rooms of the house too, not just in the sewing room. I generally knit/crochet in the "living room" perched on the end of the couch or in the bedroom propped up in the bed. I suppose if I really think of a studio, to me it is a separate building away from living quarters. That's just what comes to my mind. Does it matter what it's called? not to me. Some of the best inventions that we depend on today were created in garages!

  7. I think being an Artist means you just Have to make/create where ever you are. But I think having all your 'stuff' in one place just fuels whatever your current creative desire is. So therefore I pronounce you an Artist Martha!

  8. Hi, Martha. Don't know how I missed this conversation. I agree with Linda T and I would add that with the "studio" thing, a lot of people are making money. It's like the commercialization of Christmas. Look at all the articles, magazines and books about "studios" to say nothing about those selling supplies, furniture, etc. I have a "workroom", which in my mind gives some value to the work I do there and declares to my family that I actually am working. Lately, I've been working all over the house. What counts is that the work gets done and that art is made.
    best, nadia