All those surface design techniques (shibori, screen printing (whether constructed, deconstructed, or otherwise disported!), discharge, pastes made of corn, rice, flour, potatoes, old shoes or anything else, stamping (with rubber, foam or gusto), clamping, phototransfer etc etc ) are so seductive!! They're satisfying to make because you've an instant result, often magic! But then, what d'you do with the fabric you've created? I'm sorry, but patting just isn't enough!
Art quilts are begun in many different ways: from a concept, a sketch, an idea, a pattern - but I think the most difficult way to begin a piece is from the fabric itself - which there is a great temptation to do when you have made luscious fabric. Could a painting be about paint? or a sculpture about stone or steel? For a short while there was a fashion to make work about the process - I remember seeing a framed canvas with one knife slash through it....and no paint at all!! But we have seen that. We know that ceci n'est pas une pipe! A painting is paint and canvas, not boats on water, Grandmother's flower garden was hexagonal pieces of fabric (especially if she lived in a city!). Therefore, I think beginning a piece "from the fabric" isn't a particularly valid, unique or interesting idea. Imagine: "hey! I made this quilt about this new fabric I just dyed/purchased!" What do you say in response? There's nothing to say except enquiring how or where...there's no interest in the design.
A quilt about stamping might be interesting to stampers wanting to learn a different way to stamp (raise your legs higher!) but isn't going to be very meaningful to a wider audience. (Thus Hoffman's comment that "quiltmaking is the most redundant when jurying because quilters don't step out of their comfort zone.") If we're only making work about things that interest other quilters, or stampers or tiers and dyers....then those quilts don't add anything to the art world - they are redundant, it's been said.
So despite the seduction of the medium, I do think a concept, or idea or overall structural pattern - something above and beyond the medium itself, that you want to communicate- is important if you wish to make strong appealing pieces. We see this in Joan Schulze's and Linda Colsh's work with images (whether from photo transfer or screen printing) - their images relate to an overall theme, an idea they want to convey - whether the loneliness of old age, or the gilded portrayal of women portrayed in advertising.
The organizing theme could be a concept like old age or it could be an overall patterned structure as in traditional quilts. That's part of the reason why many of those old quilts are so strong. There are many different kinds of organization or structure or "backbone" as Twyla Tharp calls it in her book The Creative Habit work - there's lots to choose from. But I do deplore those quilts that look like sampler pages from a surface design text book.
So now I'd better go and THINK about my gorgeous seductive fabric...as well as stroking it!
If you have been, thanks for reading! Elizabeth
PS - I do enjoy comments, they'll set me cogitating...and my responses will gradually occur in blogs to follow! so please do.....
the next blog, however, should have the pictures from QBL. For tomorrow I fly home - Delta and thunderstorms and shuttle buses willing.