Thursday, November 18, 2010

So what is it for? why d’you do it?

stitched piece

Sitting at home stitching and thinking…

Thank you so much to those who commented on my last post – it’s lovely to have a dialogue and also to hear different points of view from one’s own.  I do find that my own point of view gets a bit predictable over time!!

And as a result,  as I stitch away, I have been cogitating upon the question that a couple of folk raised as to why was I making the art quilts in the first place.  And I think the answer is the same as why a person would write a book or compose a piece of music.  The writer writes to be read, read with enjoyment and recognition and ah-ha moments on the part of the reader.  They write for the reader to  say “phew! I’ve felt that but didn’t have the words”, or “oh! that’s a devious twist to the plot took me by surprise” or “yes! I remember that too”  or “Now, I understand”  and so on.  The composer writes music to be heard: if the notes sit only on their little staves and go no further then I do not think the composer would feel very fulfilled.  My father once wrote a little guitar piece and it was one of the most joyous moments of his life when John Williams (yes, the  John Williams!) played the piece for him.     The visual artist (whatever the medium) makes art to be seen.  The goal is that people should look at it, with pleasure or horror or surprise or deep recognition or some other emotion.  Up until that point, I think, all the effort and time one puts into the work (whether it be a novel, a poem, a concerto, a film, a sculpture, a choreography, an architectural plan) is done in order to learn the skills necessary to make The Piece  which is launched out into the world to stand on its own (remember I do love Mixed metaphors – the best kind!).  The momma bird does not produce baby birds with all the skill, care and attention she can manage in order to have them clutter up the cupboards in her nest!

Actually I’m pretty good kicking out stuff from my nest’s cupboards! If the darn things won’t fly, let them crash to the ground say I.  Perhaps they will fertilize some interesting crops of weeds down there.

So, tell me, am I wrong here?  Are most creative people making things for the sheer pleasure of doing? then when they have made them just cramming  them  into storage?  We all know that making anything isn’t that easy; it’s hard work.  It’s a lot easier to read a book, or play a game on the computer, or wander round the garden with a cup of tea – not that these arn’t very legitimate activities! (they must be since I practice them all daily!).  And I do concede that sometimes when you’re making art you can really get into the zone and time flies past as you exercise your skill, but there’s always another hill or hole in the ground ahead of you to be climbed over or dug through.  If it was known that from here on out everything you made would never ever be enjoyed by anyone else, would you be able to continue?

So, think on! and let me know!!  And, if you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth


Ruth said...

I just went back and read the comments from your last post. Very interesting conversation. I think most people do want their work seen (and bought) by an audience. I don't know too many people who hide away all their creations thus we have millions of blogs, ETSY sites etc. I just read an interesting post on Jane Dunnewold's blog about not showing work in progress - but I guess that's a different story all together!

Jackie said...

Goodness, what a thought to have my work unseen by anyone else. I admit that it's pretty fun to have people admire my work, but that's certainly not the sole reason for creating. I think it's the process. As you mentioned, being in the Zone and running into problems and wrestling with them and winning! I enjoy having my work around and others do too, but much of it is stored. I would prefer it to be hanging on someone's wall, but it's the process--from the very first idea through completion. Then I'm ready to begin again. Interesting question, thank you!

Kristin L said...

Sure, I want my work to be seen -- I want people to have a connection with it, and I want the affirmation of it being purchased or accepted into shows. However, not getting into shows (happens more often than not) and not selling work (though I manage to sell one or two small pieces a year) have not stopped me from making my art. The compulsion to create is definitely stronger than the need to have it seen and accepted.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post.
Sometimes we sew for it to be useful, but it is true we want the usefulness to be pretty. So I completely agree with you!

Patty said...

Interesting to have all these artists to talk to. I am not an artist. I do have some knitting projects, but I am the kind of person who follows the directions--very boring, but sometimes produces a usable result. I do have quite a few projects that need to be sewn together--or maybe unraveled.

I am reminded of when children make pictures and we often ask them what it is.

Marianne said...

I am not an artist; I am a craftsman (or at least try to be). This makes it very easy for me to answer the "So what is it for?" question because I only make things that are utilitarian, be it to put on my body to keep me warm, over my body for the same reason, in front of the window to keep light out, to spare my wonderful dining table from scorching and stains, to carry my shopping etc AND from time to time something to put on the wall for me to look at (or to cover a nasty water stain or the last tenants lack of DIY skill) . Why do I do it? To keep my sanity – to celebrate when I am happy, to snap out of it when I am melancholy or really angry, to lift my spirit when I am sad, to enjoy a rainy day inside or enjoy the sunshine and capture a bit of it in what I am doing. DO I need for other people to see what I am doing? No! This is something I do for me – very egoistic – but my surroundings would suffer greatly if I didn't. If I send somebody a homemade card and they enjoy it – great! If they don't I don't care – I will have enjoyed making it.
Isn't it great that it takes all sorts of people to make the world go around?
As always it is a great pleasure to read your blog, Elisabeth!

Deb Lacativa said...

I just finished whipping up a baby quilt from a set of blocks that I had sewn up a while ago because I was blocked as an "Artist" - something I do a lot of, enough that I've named the activity "Dogpaddling".

I've also just come to the last mile on an art quilt - you know, that place where you wonder if it's time to stop ? And then, there's one more piece that has a foot in both camps, work that I've been leaning towards for a while now, art quilts that you actually use. The term "Art Quilts" has always felt like an oxymoron to me like "Art Forks" or "Art Chairs".

Your post made me stop and think about how I felt as each of these three current pieces ended. Finishing the baby quilt forced me to break out my back up machine, tune it up and get comfy with it - a morning's work by itself. Still, once I pulled the finished quilt from the dryer, I smiled at the sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that this gift would be appreciated, used and cherished. The art piece remains set aside, waiting for me to add something to it for completion, probably paint because more fabric just won't do it. The crossover piece becomes more and more "Mine" (as if I needed another blanket to sleep under) and so troubles me to think of putting it up for sale in the gallery with the Art.

Do we all suffer with multiple personalities because of our medium? How many water colorists feel the need to paint the kitchen on a regular basis?