Saturday, May 17, 2008

More Questions Than Answers

Over the last three weeks, I have had the chance to ponder this month's challenge: "How do you define yourself as an artist?" I have actually given it quite a lot of thought.  My initial response was that I was not an artist.  And after three weeks, although I have occasionally wavered and tried to justify calling myself an artist, I am still unable to do so.

Here's why.  I define an artist as someone who does at least three of the following:
  1. Spends a significant part of each day working in a chosen medium;
  2. Has developed a portfolio of items in the chosen medium;
  3. Has received some formal training in technique in the chosen medium;
  4. Has had items in the portfolio displayed in juried shows;
  5. Earns a living or part of a living by selling items produced in the chosen medium;
  6. Produces original work that advances techniques in the chosen medium;
  7. Is recognized by peers as being an artist.
By these standards, I am not an artist.  

I am also not a quitter.  I decided sometime on day four or five that I would complete this challenge even though I could not define myself as an artist by my own standards.  I decided that somehow I'd make my project satisfy me and the challenge.  So, here is what I came up with:

Since I am trying transition this year to a new medium, I decided I'd do a page for the book I started as part of last month's challenge.  I'd knit a sampler of stitch patterns on the page and then felt the knitted fabric to demonstrate the transition from fiber to fabric.  But I thought the stitch pattern definition would get lost in the felting process, so I opted for a felted page in stockinette stitch with surface embellishment to be added after the felting process.

Then, I went in search of question marks.  It is not as easy to find ready-made question marks as it is to come up with questions.  It wasn't long before I knew I'd have to make my own - question marks, that is, since I already have as many questions as I need right now.  Before I left on an out-of-town vacation to visit my mother on Mother's Day, I stopped by our town's bead store.  It was my first visit to the shop and I'm definitely going back because the proprietor was a huge help.  I discussed my project with her and she suggested some wire that could be fashioned into question marks and then sewn to the surface of the page.  But I wanted more than just wire question marks.  I found a lovely lampwork bead (the design is red, green and metallic gold on a beige background) and some glass seed beads in the same color palette.  I broke my budget limit of $10, but I will have wire and seed beads left over from the project, so I think it's okay.

For the knitted page, I selected some wool from a lot I had purchased 30 years ago.  It is a good neutral color that will gently contrast the wire and beads.  I didn't want a screaming, in-your-face palette for this challenge because I think I am neutral about how I define myself as an artist.  I am willing to say that I am not now an artist, but I am not willing to say that I will never be one.  So, I think neutral works well for that attitude.

I will post some photos shortly.  I am still trying to get caught up at work and at home after my vacation.  But I think I will be able to complete the challenge on time, as I've got 6 inches of the 8 inch page knitted.  If I can finish the page and felt it tonight, I can start the embellishment process next week in the evening.


loretta said...

I struggle with the term artist as well. How about "I'm a starving artist who prefers not to starve and therefore happily accepts the label 'crafter'?" I don't know art history, but surely there are famous artists who don't meet the criteria you listed. I think you're an artist. Does that help? Surely family counts as peers. And while I didn't pay for the art you so generously gifted me...I would. And don't classes as Stitches qualify as education??? There's your 3 items, Miss Artist!

Bernadette said...

Ah, my family members are so generous and loving. I feel the same about the beadwork you did that got exhibited at your local museum. That makes you an artist. It's funny to hear that you struggle with the term, too. I'd put you in the artist category just on the strength of having exhibited in a juried show. Maybe we are always more critical of ourselves than we are of others. And maybe if we are more critical of others than we are of ourselves it means we're cantankerous, nasty, old people no matter what our physical age. It will be interesting to see if others weigh in with comments.