Then in June, I went to a weekend Artists Retreat organized by Martin at Arts Marketing. It was designed for artists to learn how to market art (from paintings to woodwork to performances to novels) and to meet other artists.
While working on the previous post, I got used to thinking of myself as an artists whose discipline is textiles; handweaving to be precise. In spite of the superbly organized Retreat, and making new friends, I came home feeling defeated because I felt a chasm between pure art (the kind you can't use) and applied art/craft (things with utility and beauty). I was not sure where I was heading, and I wasn't sure where my textiles fitted in the scheme of things.
The title comes from a chart I made in 2000 which shows pure artist (who may use fiber) at one end, and cottage-industry-production-weaver at the other, and pin-pointing where I wanted to be; it is my visual mission statement.
Drafted June 2006
I was very happy being an artist last week; I want to weave artistic, unique pieces of shawls, scarves and yardage that are wonderful to the touch, beautiful to look at, but are hard wearing serious textiles. But of course the story didn't end there.
For the first forty years of my life, I believed, "of course the glass is half full, and look, if you bend your knees this way, it looks more like 3/4 full!" But of late, I not only see that it's half-empty, but in certain lights, I looks completely empty. This week, it's not just empty, the glass is dirty!
I attended an Artists Retreat at St Arnaud this past weekend; it was well-organized, presentations carefully chosen, and overall it was a superb event and I hope to go every time they hold it. So make no mistake, it wasn't the Retreat itself.
But I came home feeling totally defeated. I didn't meet many who would traditionally be called craftspersons or artisans; there were potters, a fashion designer, and I believe, more than one furniture makers, but most textile people I met were textile artists, many using multi-media, some putting their 3-dimensional work into picture frames. Museum and gallery representatives were overwhelmingly interested in paintings and installations. Almost all the works on display were not utilitarian. In-vogue "craft" magazine are filled with unusable artistic crap. So many galleries declared: "we don't do textiles." And most devastating of all, the message I got from those who buy and curate was: "Don't call us; we'll call you."
So, what happened to craft? What happened to making beautiful things that work; that never-ending appreciation of holding something you use and having a good look once in a while to have your breath taken by its beauty, and the blending of aesthetics and utility? Is there no room for such "tools" in this mass-producing, mass-consuming, over-advertised world except for industrial, stretchable, one-size-fits-all polar fleece junk with the same logo?
I'm really at a loss as to where I am, and I feel the loss for the world. For now.