Sometimes Life (and Art) Gets Messy

Quilter's Burn Out Copyright 2013 by R.A. Robbins
Quilter’s Burn Out Copyright 2013 by R.A. Robbins

We all want life tied up in a pretty package with a nice bow on it don’t we?  But sometimes life gets messy.  Because art is a reflection of life art sometimes gets messy as well and that makes people uncomfortable.  We would rather look at nice controlled “pretty pictures” than stand face to face with the messiness of life.

In that messiness there is often a lesson, or even a laugh.  Todays art quilt was my answer to feeling used and abused by the art quilt show system.  I was so frustrated I actually burned a quilt.  Well I didn’t actually just set fire to it, the burning was part of the design and was done in the kitchen sink with plenty of water ready.  Burning the quilt didn’t change anything about how shows treat artists, but it did make me feel better.

4 thoughts on “Sometimes Life (and Art) Gets Messy”

  1. I would be interested to know just how the art quilt system abused you. It’s something I’m starting now, and if there is abuse, I might need to rethink the medium I use. You can e-mail me privately or leave a comment on my blog if you don’t want it public. BTW I love the quilt, it just says everything about frustration.

    1. Hi Claire! Good question. It’s mostly things that most people just accept as the way things are, but I come from a business background and started out representing my own work.

      Once I entered the quilt show world it seemed to me that as an artist I was being required to take on all the risks while the show organizers reaped most of the benefits. The entry fees and expense for photography, discs, printed materials etc. add up quickly if you enter shows regularly, especially if you count the rejections. Most shows do not accept responsibility for damage to the work while at the show. You are usually told to get your own insurance to cover your work, but I discovered that my insurance would not cover my work while it was out of my physical control. Sometimes work took up to two months to get back to me, but many shows have a very small window of time for your quilt to arrive at the venue. If you are sending a quilt by mail or FedEx the timing can be difficult. If you send multiple quilts to one show they have to shipped separately. I understand that this is for the convenience of the show and makes hanging easier, but it increases my expense.

      The last straw for me was a show that turned out to be not as advertised. What was supposed to be a two week show with daily hours turned out to be scheduled for only a few hours on two days. The rest of the two weeks the quilts were going to sit in a locked building. The full color catalog of the show also did not materialize. It just seemed that they should have been sure of their funding before making promises.

      Most of it was business but there was one personal matter. The judges comments that came back with the quilts always focused on traditional quilting techniques, even for art quilt shows. I come from a fashion sewing and studio art background and often intentionally do not use traditional quilting techniques. It just got really frustrating that they “didn’t get it.”

      Many people enter shows and just accept these things as part of the experience. It’s up to each artist to make decisions based on their own work and what the consider acceptable.

      1. Hi Rogene
        Thank you very very much for that, I am duly warned. I am also a studio art person and not much into traditional quilting techniques, I’m learning them only because I want to know the “rules” so I can break them. I truly believe that a design that hits you between the eyes, something with energy and impact, is better than something completely dull that is perfect in every way. Luckily here in South Africa they do appreciate something that is a little bit different, but they also insist on perfect technique, I’m much too focused on the impact of the design for that. I have also avoided joining any of the quilting cliques. As Groucho Marx said, I wouldn’t belong to any group that would have someone like me as a member, haha. I’m hate that in-group/out-group attitude so many of them have.
        I’m sure we’re not alone in this thinking. It’s just a matter of finding an alternative. I intend to and I’m sure you will too. For now I will put up anything I think is good enough in my etsy shop and see how that goes. .
        Best of luck

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