A lot of people worry about "developing" a style. Style is something reviewers like to write about. But what is said about the topic is getting to be a little predictable and doesn't show any real imagination on the part of the reviewer. They probably like to write about it because if an artist has a particular "style" it means that you as the viewer or Reviewer (one who looks again - if you think about it!) can appear very knowledgeable and say aha yes that's a so-and-so!! Humans do like things to be recognizable - we like to be able to predict our world! We especially like to be One Up on those predictions!
Reviewers urge artists to develop a style and consequently many art quilt makers feel this is an important step on their journey...I've learned to piece and appliqué, I've learned about values...oh what's next ? Aha ...develop a style! And then one must make a Body of Work. When I hear the phrase a Body of Work I always think about a human body endlessly (though not,alas, tirelessly) working and working and working... I actually don't understand why the collective term for art work has become a "body". It's nothing like as imaginative as a Murder of Crows, or a pride of lions, or a shrewdness of apes! Or how about this: "an ostentation of peacocks" - isn't that wonderful?
and then us artists are down to a plain old Body. A busy body usually - if one wants to develop that body. It does sound rather muscular doesn't it? I think maybe they want to put us off by making it sound hard. Of course to develop the body, one needs a trainer! So I think maybe in future i should style myself as a trainer. Now I wonder if that would be called developing a style?
However, enough of these linguistic fantasies! A Batting of Quiltmakers?
As to the HOW one might deliberately develop a style...I think that's actually fairly straight forward. Look at the art you like...narrow it down, print out your top 20 favorite quilts every - no matter who made them. Pin them up on the wall and look at them. What are the commonalities? Once you know that, then deliberately build those commonalities into your work. Yes it will feel weird and cumbersome at first, like developing a new tennis playing style, or a new hair style, or a new kind of handwriting, but soon it will become a part of you. OR, you will realize, no I'm just not the kind of person who only works in black and white - or whatever it is - and you'll drop that aspect of style out.
So it's definitely Doable...and this will also happen gradually (as long as you don't take TOO many workshops in different techniques!) by itself as you narrow down your interests and fall into similar ways of working.
But WHY should you develop it? Well "they" say it's because people (those d...d reviewers again!) like to be able to recognize your style. That in the famous gallery in which you'll now be invited to show - having got your Style, visitors can recognize your work. That everybody who wants something covered in Red Dots (or whatever is part of your style) knows to look through your portfolio. But are these good things for you? Do you want to be "classified"? I've read about the problems in the popular singing world, that if you can't be classified as Rock or Reggae, Soft or Hard, Metal or techno, you're not attractive to the labels and the outlets. But is that really also true of art? of quilts??? Well perhaps so - in some ways. I read that it's still the case in some quilt shows that one has to say whether or not one's work is pictorial, or abstract, figurative or landscape etc and that they will change you into another category - or reject you - if you don't fall into a specific type. But that's hardly a reason to limit yourself.
Now I do think there's a lot to be said for working in a series, and in fact devoted several pages to the why and how of doing that in my second (and probably last!) book: Working in a Series. And it's very likely that working in a series will lead to you developing commonalities in your own work - but wanting to Develop a Style Before you've made a lot of work, before you've worked in a series, etc might well be putting the cart before the horse. Which makes it an uphill battle for that poor old nag!
So, since I don't want to continue beating the poor old nag of a topic! I think I'll make a nice cup of tea and just not worry about style...I'm going to leave that up to the reviewers!
If you have been, thanks for reading! Elizabeth