I sew and I quilt. These are relatively simple statements and actions and provide my life with much joy as well as practical product. People sometimes ask me if I consider quilting to be a craft or an art and by extension, am I a crafter or an artist. Seemingly innocent question which deserves an answer. Therein lies the problem for me, Quilting - art or craft? I answer yes, an unsatisfactory reply but not all choices are clear cut. Some require an explanation and I am just about to give you one.
Let's define our terms first, shall we? For this purpose I am relying on dictionary.com.
craft - an art, trade, or occupation requiring special skill, especially manual skill
Here are 5 reasons why quilting is a craft according to this definition.
- It requires special skill to be a quilter, you have to be able to sew and measure with accuracy.
- Quilting is done with your hands or your hands guiding a machine, it is an entirely manual skill.
- Quilting is an occupation, some people earn their living this way or define themselves as a quilter.
- There is the "art" of quilting, of knowing which colors go best or which fabrics would work in a quilt.
- Quilting is a trade, in the traditional sense of having it as what you do and in a bartering sense. I once traded a quilt for a pool table.
It seems to me that we have established that quilting is a craft so we are done here? Hold on, didn't we start out by trying to decide between art and craft? Let's continue. It's hokey I know to rely on a dictionary definition but we started that way for craft, we have to be fair and do it for art. Again, I quote dictionary.com.
art - the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.
Here are 5 reasons why a quilt is an art according to this definition.
- Quilts which are beautiful, many of them breathtakingly so.
- Quilts are appealing to many people, the reason behind quilt shows and museums.
- Quilts are absolutely of more than ordinary significance, especially today when something to put on your bed or wall can be mass produced and purchased.
- Quilts adhere to aesthetic principles by the fabrics chosen, their juxtaposition and the shapes that are used. You can't follow a formula, it is an art to choose what to use.
- Quilts are used as ordinary household items or as something with no purpose other than to provide beauty to our homes, lives and world.
What you may have noticed is that I switched from a verb, quilting, to a noun, quilts. The two are intertwined and interdependent. Quilting is the action of producing and making a quilt. It is a craft which requires skills. If those skills transcend the mere production, if they also please our eyes and souls and aesthetics then that quilt is art.
Am I a crafter or an artist? I am not entirely comfortable with either designation. Crafter conjures up kids working with popsicle sticks and glue. It is what people who produce "arts and crafts" are. And artist seems so lofty to me, a bit pretentious if you will. Will I ever consider myself to have reached the realm of artist? I don't think so because my quilts are so useful. Are the ones on my bed crafts and the ones on my walls art? Maybe?
I am neither crafter nor artist, I am both. I am a quilter. I craft quilts which are artistic and the process of making them and the finished product feeds my soul.
Craft or art, either way quilts make me sew happy.
What about you? Do you consider quilting to be an art or a craft? And by extension, are you an artist or a crafter?
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Interested in more of my musings? Check out this post about art and sewing.
Filed under: General sewing thoughts