Monday, March 21, 2016

Art - What is it?

I don't call myself an 'artist'.  I accept weaver, crafts person, even 'master' - I got the paper that says so.

But I don't think of myself as an 'artist'.

In this day and age, being an 'artist' generally holds the connotation of someone who is trying to reflect back to society a new way of looking at something.  Their role appears to be one of provoking thought - sometimes gentle, meditative thought, sometimes revolutionary thought, but a reflection of what is, and what might be instead.

All I want and hope to do is make good textiles.  I am a solid blue collar kind of girl.  I aim to make my textiles as beautifully as I can.  I carefully consider colour, design, but most of all, function.

I call my textiles 'mundane' in that they are in existence to be used, preferably daily.  When people tell me my tea towels are too 'nice' to use, I wonder who said a tea towel wasn't supposed to be pretty while it did its work?  When did our society determine that pretty couldn't also be useful?  That the everyday chores of life and living were meant to be drab or bland?  The dishes need to be dried, why not do it with a cloth that feels good in our hands and is delightful to look at?

I can't draw worth beans, so for the tapestry problem for level four of the Guild of Canadian Weavers master level certificate, I went for the 'primitive' look.

I happened to have all of these yarns, already hand dyed.  The frame loom was set up with a linen warp and for the background I used two warp ends as one, then split them into individual ends so that I could achieve greater detail for the central motif - my butterfly.  In the photo, the warp is running side to side as that seemed to give me the most freedom and least angst than trying to weave the design from bottom to top.  It made weaving the 'leaf' shapes in the background much easier, too.

The tapestry took literally years to complete because I'm not really interested in doing tapestry.  When I'm weaving, I really want to be throwing the shuttle, not carefully passing weft butterflies through the hand picked sheds.  Then not liking how the shape was progressing and taking out and starting over.  My meditation in weaving comes from the aerobic activity of treadling, throwing the shuttle and beating, not the careful consideration of each thread being placed to create the design.

That is not to say that I consider tapestry weavers less - or more - of a weaver - they are just doing something different than my personal preference.  I have the greatest respect for tapestry weavers.

That said, what I do does require a level of artistry because I am still working with design fundamentals and colour theory.  But my purpose is not that of an artist.  I did the above tapestry because it was required, not because I enjoyed it.  I think it's fine, but it isn't a 'great work of art'.  It was a problem to be solved for marking and my only hope was that I passed.

That's not really the definition of an 'artist' in my mind...


steelwool said...

I like the way the butterfly seems to float over the background. Will try to puzzle out the explanation.

Lyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lyn said...

Interesting post, I like your definition of an artist. That's an age-old debate, I suppose, artist vs. craftsperson? Right now, I'm just working toward competent weaver!

Peg Cherre said...

That dichotomy between artist and highly-skilled craftsperson is so nebulous and difficult to parse out, especially when applying to shows...or thinking about which shows to apply to. My weaving is definitely functional, and certainly tends more toward the traditional than those who push the boundaries in color, texture, and weaving style. I find the benefit in knowing who we are as individuals and simply trying to be the best we can within our own realms. Do I try to push myself regularly, to expand my weaving horizons, to learn new things? Sure, but it's all still within my 'zone,' it all still looks like least to me. ;-)

FiberJunky said...

I always fall back on the technical definition of "art" that I was taught in college, where one of the main qualities of art was that it had no practical purpose. That's not what I do. I think the problem we run into is that the modern understanding of "craft" has become tainted by associations with popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners assembled by disinterested 5 yr olds. I much prefer, and work toward, an older definition of the word, where a craftsman is understood as a highly skilled maker of goods that are both very useable, and beautiful, and valued for both qualities.

Marjorie M. said...

Lovely butterfly...lovely colors. Tapestry is to be enjoyed.

Dorothy said...

I vaguely recall discussions of "what is art?" from student days, there seemed to be many different answers, some contradictory. In adult life, I learnt that many professions have people who give their work that extra something which is artistic judgement, scientists and engineers, as well as chefs, bakers, potters, florists, top sports people, it is not something exclusive to those who create pictures, sculpture and other items that might be gathered into an art gallery.

I like your tapestry butterfly, particularly the way the colour lifts its wings from the background.

KerryCan said...

I love this post and feel exactly the same way about my weaving!