Saturday, August 09, 2008

art cloth or art quilt?

Yesterday, when I read Diane Perrin Hock's post about my book on her blog I was struck by her thoughtful comments about how people are using hand-printed fabric and since it is something I have grappled with myself (as have we all, if we print) I asked her permission to have a conversation here about it. Here's the excerpt I thought was so thought-provoking and right-on. I have the impression that, as surface design techniques are being taught and used more widely, more people are making cloth, adding quilting to it, and calling it "art." I feel like I'm seeing more and more pieces made to simply show hunks of hand-created fabric, without (to my eye) good composition, thought to artistic principles such as balance, focal point, etc. Wrongly or not, I've concluded that a lot of people who delve into surface design end up falling in love with the fabric they make and then can't bear to treat it as actual cloth to cut up and integrate into anything. I can see that making the cloth is an artistic process, but to me, that doesn't necessarily make the resulting cloth "art" in and of itself. I will admit that when I first started printing, I was guilty as charged if I printed a large piece. I still have yardage I have not used in a piece. This is only one quick example. For the most part, however, I print on scraps and 1/4 yards - and the mostly small pieces are easier to use because they are already cut up. Putting them together into a composition is more of a challenge...and I have said many times that composition is not easy for me since I work so intuitively. I'm not sure, however, that cutting into your own cloth is so different from the perceived trauma of cutting/using a "gorgeous" commercial fabric you might never get again. How many of us have yards of stuff we have bought and can't bear to use? Or are we mature enough to have gotten over it because we know there will always be something else we love? Let's talk.

8 comments:

Deb Lacativa said...

Rayna - this is precisely why I sell many of the large pieces of hand dyed fabrics I make. I've found that I have a hard time chopping them up to become elements of something larger.
Let someone else take that sharp plunge. You have pointed me in a good direction for a solution - using smaller pieces of fabric to start with.

Gerrie said...

Gulp! When I read that, my first thought was -she is talking about me!! However, I think I have learned to cut mine up and I have even started creating pieces that will work together. I just love the process of making my own fabric and will continue to find ways to use it in my work.

Karoda said...

I'm guilty on both accounts...but to reduce the stress with the current pieces I printed I kept the focus of the subject of the quilts in the fore front of my mind when I printed...maybe I'm be a print on demand kinda person.

rayna, does printing in small yardage ever frustrate you when composing a quilt? do you find yourself running out of unique one of a kind fabric to tie a piece together?

Judy Sall said...

I'm very new to surface design, so I'm still struggling to determine if what I do is art or not. I have some art training, but from 3 lifetimes ago! All I know is I do love using the techniques associated with 'surface design', and I hope to be able to grow artistically as I improve my skillset...

Rayna said...

rayna, does printing in small yardage ever frustrate you when composing a quilt? do you find yourself running out of unique one of a kind fabric to tie a piece together?

Good question, Karoda. Actually, no.
I learned to make quilts with scraps and if I ran out of a red calico with yellow blobs, I bought another red fabric - whatever they had - maybe with green blobs. I always thought it made the quilt more interesting.

Whether I was working with bought fabrics or my own, I never worried about runnning out.As long as there is some commonality - whether it is color, feeling, or motif - it does not have to be the same fabric.

I will admit to occasional printing on demand, as you call it. I just did that with a scrap of fabric I had that needed a little bit of blue so it would pull together a piece I was working on. I will often go back into a piece of fabric to make it work with something else.

Also, I find that pieces I print on the same day will often work together because even if the designs are different, I have used the same colors of paint or dye on all of the pieces. This is not deliberate - it's just efficient.

Beverly said...

Funny you would post this on the same day I posted my own musings about learning to batik, and thinking that making my art cloth with a project in mind might be more successful than concentrating on the individual pieces of cloth. Your comment, Rayna, makes me think I am heading in the right direction with that. And isn't it fortunate that I prefer creating on smaller pieces of fabric! (Mostly a budget decision, I'd rather have small pieces of lots of different processes/colors, than a few bigger pieces.)

Helen Conway said...

I have not yet done any printing as such but I have been happy to cut up my few handdyes - possibly because the results were not all the spectacular! I do have some indigo shiboria dyes I did at a workshop thought that I have not yet used as it seems daft to go to all the effort of making a pattern then 'ruining' the pattern! I have no compunction about cutting up gorgeous commercials _ I buy a ridiculous ammount of them so I can both cut and keep!!

laura said...

when i print or paint fabric I work in small bits: 1/3 yard or less. When I buy from Dyers or commercial fabrics, same thing, 1 yard or less.

My reaction to Diane's well considered post was sideways. It seems to me that the seductive nature of our materials and processes can keep us from seeing the WIP with a critical eye. Beginning students in painting studios are often asked what their favorite part of a WIP is. Then told to get rid of it.

It's a hard lesson and often painful but sometimes that wonderful bit is exactly the barrier between something working - or not working.