Does Art Jargon Help or Hinder?? - Textile Lunch III

We had another textile lunch yesterday. Two regulars were absent, and two others non-textile artists joined. Once again I was put in the position, at least I felt that way, to explain what I was seeking, and my concern yesterday was how to raise and keep high the profile of handweaving and handweavers in the art/exhibition context, but also in the public eye. This was in conjunction to what and for whom to make our respective "things".

I get a bit flustered expressing myself because I don't know art jargon and everybody else (five of them) were either art course or ex-teachers. I feel compelled to be understood, so I feel compelled to speak articulately and precisely. Talking to Rosie I learned I was hoping to pick up art jargon and concepts from these lunches; things these ladies know without remembering they probably had to learn at one point.

Afterwards, I went to Page and Blackmore and started to read an article on Australian textile artist and national treasure Liz Williamson in on the latest issue of Craft Arts International. It takes me a long time to make my way through art writings, but yesterday, after a while I began to wonder if Liz thought in ways this writer/critic/reviewer wrote. In other words, I realized it’s the writer/critic/reviewer’s job to write well, in an art-educated manner, to sell magazines and/or get people to see exhibitions and like/dislike the works accordingly, but I am not meant to know for sure whether the artist herself thought/said/created in ways described in the writing. It's the writer's opinion, isn't it?

Another thing I noticed was this; pertaining to non-pictorial textiles, reviews/articles often focus on colors, material, and the artist’s personal background, as elements/expressions realizing the initial concept, sometimes making what appears a fairly tenuous link. I felt the writer's need to unravel the textile and nitpick on elements of the cloth rather than to take it as a whole. The hand or the way a wearable piece looks on the human body is seldom, if ever, discussed in the art context, but is sometimes included in the craft context. Yes? Meaning, art writers are not well-versed in craft and craft techniques? I need to read a few reviews about paintings, sculptures and perhaps architecture or installations to compare with what's written about textiles, as I can't recall anything right away. This nit-picking might be a universal thing. In addition, here's a big disclaimer: I couldn't afford the magazine, so I haven't finished reading it, but Tim at Page and Blackmore has been warned I'll be back to read to the end.

To myself, I ask two and half questions: a) Do I need to think in art jargon as I work; do I need to be ready to explain myself in art jargon? If not, does reading art-talk about textiles help or hinder me, for now? And b) how do I work my concepts into non-pictorial cloth?

As for our collective fame/glory/fortune, I'm still working on it.


  1. Of all the jargons out there, I confess I find art-speak one of the silliest. I know that people need precise ways to speak with each other about technical details, but the rest just seems to be so much clubbiness - the language of those in the know - rather than an honest attempt to communicate.

    In any case, I reckon that it is far more important for a practitioner of any discipline to be able to explain their work to people outside that discipline. In the case of my doctoral research I am finding it quite hard to do that, but I am working on it!

  2. Oh, Cally, "Clubbiness"! That's exactly it!! I used to be so good at ignoring art-talk and even weaving-talk and just "tell it like it is" when making or explaining my weaving. Where did I go wrong?

    Because I don't often buy art magazines, my art reading has been limited to the art pages in more "general interest" magazines. This could be the source of my confusion. I mistake art-writers for journos and think they are "reporting" what the artist said, rather than showing off their, the writer's, knowledge or perceptions. Theater, film and music review, likewise.

    Boy, life feels circular. I feel I'm at this 12 O'Clock position, and I need to get back to the familiar 6 O'Clock spot again.

  3. Mmmm, this suggests to me that what we need is a small anthology of artists who are reasonably coherent in words writing about their work... Or even just one artist! Have you read Theo Moorman or Anni Albers on their weaving? They are very accessible, and also succint so the books are nice and short. I've been reading Paul Klee's diaries, but finding it a bit of a struggle.

  4. I have Albers and Moorman, but haven't read them. This year seems to be you Klee year, Cally.

    I got a couple of interesting emails from an ex-teacher artist and I'm trying to digest it about art writing... At least now that I understand it's no journalism, it should help me a little...

  5. great post Meg, you're a deep thinking woman! xo

  6. Of course, it'd be much better to be able to just make things, with no other concern, like a child!!


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