For me, sometimes it takes a few similar yet different things to make me wonder about things of which I do not know.
In my podcast with Jacquie Gering, we talk about being a quilter versus an artist and how that might change people’s expectations of a quilt. This self identification process has been a recurring theme and something I discuss with Christina Cameli and others.
Then a few weeks ago, a picture was posted of a quilt on several social media platforms. Both the designer of the quilt and the long-arm quilter were given credit for their work but not the quilter who pieced the background of the quilt top. Several quilters were surprised at the omission and felt the designer should have given credit to the piecer too. I became curious about why credit was not given to the piecer, how that person felt about the situation and why this practice was seen as acceptable.
After several conversations with different people, I realized the omission of credit to the piecer is considered accepted in the fine art world. Since this particular quilt was designed by someone who is in the fine art world, the expectations of work and credit are different than those within the quilter/handmade community. The piecer understood they would not receive credit and while the designer appreciates the work of their piecers, they did not feel giving credit was appropriate. Until then, I was unaware that these two creative communities might view credit and their work differently.
There seem to be at least four areas where there are differences between the fine art and “maker” communities. This is not an exhaustive list and not everyone will fit into each category neatly. For sake of simplicity, I am identifying quilters, crafters, and handmade makers as “makers”.
Most fine artists have (or consider working towards) degrees in fine art. That is not to say you have to a degree in order to consider yourself a fine artist. However, most fine artists choose to continue their education in a program. (for example, at an art school or liberal arts colleges with art degrees.) There are fine artists who may be working with crafter/maker materials like textiles, such as Ben Venom. Regardless of their medium, they consider themselves fine artists first. There are also makers who have fine art degrees such as Sherri Lynn Wood. While most makers do not have fine art degrees, they may have degrees in other subjects. Many start out being self taught. Makers also learn from other makers and attend conferences/classes to learn more about their craft.
It seems to be accepted for fine artists to try out many mediums. They are not “just” screen printers or photographers or textile artists. They have their own sense of design and the medium can change. In fact, fine artists can apply under one medium for their fine art degree yet work on many mediums during their course work. The expectation seems to be different with makers. It is often assumed that makers work within one medium exclusively. In fact, creatives like Samarra Khaja, often have a harder time explaining their seemingly disparate interests, even though they all are extensions of her design and aesthetic.
Most fine artists intend for their work to be seen in galleries, museums, or art spaces. In fact, it is standard for the curriculum vitae of fine artists to include where their work has been shown. Many makers intend their work to be functional. They may submit their work for juried competition, such as quilt shows, but more often than not, that is not their intention.
Credit for Work.
Within the fine art community, usually the artist receives sole credit for their work unless there is a collaboration from beginning to end. Some fine artists work with others to produce components of their work. However, while some makers may work with others to make a component of their work, they often give them credit and if they are submitting their work for jury, credit is expected. For example, when a quilt show asks for your submission, they ask who pieced, designed and quilted the piece. It is expected that each person who contributed to the quilt will be named. For some makers such as Christa Watson, it is important to them that each component of their work be done by themselves as part of their own process.
What you consider yourself and how you choose to interact with the broader community are personal decisions. However, it is worth noting that others are affected by your interaction and there can be different expectations within each community.
What do you consider yourself and why?