Good Monday to you blogaroos and blogettes. I have yet to rant here, but today, for you, I will. Lately I've been searching the term fiber artist on Etsy and Crafting magazines. Buckle up for this, because I may unintentionally irk you. Maybe I'm being territorial, but as a person holding a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fibers, I get annoyed when I see someone promoting his or herself as a fiber artist, when they sell knitted scarves and hats. Now, I don't want to downplay those things. They are well crafted. They sell well on Etsy. Plus, I love wearing them. At the same time, I would never refer to those items as art. So are the ones who make them artists? Clothing and accessory designers, yes, but artists...?
To me, art goes beyond the utilitarian purpose of clothing the body and keeping it warm. I also feel that it goes beyond an acute sense of fashion and style. The work of a fiber artist has a message, an art historical commentary or an elevation to crafted perfection, a watershed technique perhaps. Call me catty, but I think the whole "everyone's an artist" motto undermines the value of art, especially the Fiber Arts, where artists have struggled to gain credibility among the traditional big guns of painting and sculpture. My mom mas made quilts for new brides and babies for 30 years and never introduces herself as an artist to new acquaintances. A.) because she uses traditional and contemporary published patterns and B.) because she openly professes her lack of innate or educated understanding of the elements and principles of art and design.
It's a very touchy dialogue and one that is handled in depth in The Invention of Art by Larry Shiner. If this discussion is up your alley, read it as soon as you can. In my personal opinion any technique or material can have a craft solution or an art solution depending on what you do with it. Here are three examples of how I see the breakdown. I chose three people whose items I would love to own from Etsy. All are talented with fiber materials or techniques, but fit different categories. Again, in my opinion.
The Crafter: curiouspug
The Designer: kanokwalee
The Artist: joettamaue
The first is utilitarian, made with commercial materials and speedy to reproduce, though super cute. The second ups the ante on aesthetics and mastery of craft, with a sophisticated color palette and a fashion "story" so to speak, but is still utilitarian. The last item appropriates a historical textile format, uses embroidery as a mark making tool that contrasts with that format, and is meant to be appreciated on its own with no other particular use.
Can we and should we make clearer boundaries? I make fiber art for show, sell upcycled crafts on Etsy ...and I like it that way.