Tuesday, March 14, 2017

By Any Other Name....

A few days ago I was asked to write up the description for a new course that I'll be teaching this spring. It began with an email and then a Facebook conversation about some word choices and how we react to using different words. Although there was no final "right" answer, it showed me how each of us define what we do as artists and what we call the materials we use!


The title of the course will be: "Cloth, Collage and Composition" and although the alliteration works well, the word "cloth" seemed not to be a good description of the materials we use.... in the write-up I use the word "fabric" to help clarify how and what we'll be creating.

Then I went to my Facebook friends with the question:  

I'm wondering about the use of "cloth" or "fabric" when describing what we do as artists. Do you use one and not the other, or interchangeably? Does one conjure up different meanings than the other...

....and I was happily chatting with friends over the following few days about the choices we use. 


Here are some of the replies:

  • I use "fabric" consistently.
  •  I just say I'm a quilter. It's almost like a badge of honor, sometimes I'm almost daring them to say "how quaint" lol.
  •  It's a conundrum. My textile instructor used the term Cloth Constructions to describe her work. I tend to use Textile. To me, fabric sounds like something unrelated to art, as in sewing clothing. Each of us has a history of the word I think.

  • I think there is a place for each of these words. There are subtle differences in meaning. The best word choice likely depends on your message and your audience. For example, I'll call myself an art quilter when I'm speaking to a guild, but use the term fiber artist or textile artist when I speak to gallerists or museum directors. It's a guessing game to decide which term has the right meaning for the listener.
  •  I use cloth when it is exceptional. Fabric when it is merely fabulous.
  •  Fiber is so much more chic, you get more people enthused about fiber or textile art than cloth art. Hmmmmmm, something to think about.
  •  I think it depends on where you come from also, and your background! Growing up, we called it "material" in the 60's, i didn't hear the word "fabric" until i was in my 20's, and started using "cloth" in the last eight years. All are applicable in my vocabulary, but for whatever reason, "Cloth" sounds more intimate.
  •  I don't think I've ever used the word cloth to describe anything I do. When I was growing up, my mother always said material. But now, I use the word fabric mostly.

  • Fibre to me is the material from which we construct the threads, yarns, fabrics, whether they be natural or man made etc. textiles always sounds so industrial to me textile mills, schools of textiles etc.

  •  I like your use of 'cloth' and don't see it used often enough! I have moved to describing my work as mixed media, a term that seems more widely accepted by the art world and the general public.

  •  Here you go: Cloth is a fabric used to make a garment or anything that has a specific purpose. Thus cloth is just a type of woven fabric. All cloths are fabrics, while all fabrics are not cloths.
  •  Very interesting question that made me think...I use both fabric and cloth depending on what I'm doing with them...I dye fabric and probably use the word fabric most of the time...I use the word cloth if I'm making what I call complex cloth...to say I dye cloth or that something I layered is complex fabric just feels all wrong to me...
  •  Fabric is just more open-ended in terms of meaning. Cloth also carries a religious connotation as in "man of the cloth". I agree that textile is a good word as well.
  •  To me, cloth is related to clothing. I refer to what I purchase off the bolt, fat quarters, whatever, as fabric.

  •   I don't use the word, textiles, very often. I think of it as referring to museum collections, garments conserved for educational studies and occasionally in reference to the group of items I'm going to need for a mixed media project. I think the word textiles is used more in educational settings.
  • I like to use fibre as it is a broader term including paper.

  •  I use the word textiles. It incorporates different thicknesses, fibres, vintages. But I like cloth too - a very smooooth word.

So, from this I see a wide range of interpretations - no one word is the "correct" one and each of them have subtle differences. Part of the usage may be personal experience and history, part may be education - and it's a conversation I'll be sure to use in my course.....which BTW is here in Victoria in May-June on Tuesday afternoons, 2-5pm! The registration isn't up yet, but let me know if you're interested and I'll keep you updated.

What do you think? Let me know!







Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Why the Dinosaur needs a House...or Desert Island Designs Great Kick Off!

I did have the shoe box ready to pack, but it seems as though a group of dinosaurs needed a house and so....my grandson and the homeless T. Rex won out!



Another similar box was found and I've assembled the different items that I'll be using for March to make art. Where did this idea come from? There were a couple of different issues that have bothered me for a time and I thought it would be worthwhile to work through them and see where I was led.

First, an issue that attacks all of us from time to time is a surplus of stuff...we don't just have fabric, we have yards and metres and piles of it, we don't have just a couple kinds of paints, we have textile, transparent, opaque, watercolour, silk, airbrush, a multitude of colours and varieties. We have an overabundance of threads, needles, books, mark making tools and much much more! And in our culture we often tend to run after the latest and greatest...we see something new at a workshop and instantly it becomes the "must have" item that we order online that very night!
Does all this help us to make more and better art?

Years ago I lived in England and would listen to BBC radio and a programme titled "Desert Island Disks", the premise was (and its still running, by the way: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qnmr ) that the guest would choose a number of discs (records) to take with them to a desert island. So this idea of "Desert Island Designs" has come about with ONLY a shoebox of supplies to take to our "virtual" desert island for a month.

Secondly, this ties in with my idea that that we often make excuses to not make art because we don't have a certain "essential" item, a particularly thread, a "perfect" fabric....and so on! So smack me on the head....just get on and make the art! No excuses, no what ifs, just get down and DO IT! With what I have NOW, not what I wish I had!

For the month of March, I'll be working out of what I manage to cram into my shoe box (ok similar to a shoe box....) to make ART. Not just samples, but art that I finish, ready to mount and hang!

Why not join in? If you can't manage a month, try it for a week, or work on it every Thursday, or whatever! We have a Facebook Group to join in as well!
https://www.facebook.com/groups/392488947773739/

PS. You don't have to be a textile person...why not an acrylic artist or a watercolourist?

So here's my box that's packed and ready to go.....

 2 metres of PFD fabric and a few pieces of linen thats been hanging around in my bins for years...it was expensive linen when I bought it years ago....it's time to use it!



A small sketchook and some Khadi paper, I'm thinking I'll do mark making on the paper, ear it up and combine it with some of the other fabrics and add stitching.



I've put in a small bottle of India Ink and brushes, both for fabric and paper.



A Thermofax screen is essential - one designs used in many ways!



A Gelli plate, brayer and black Neopaque paint - a million options with these tools....



Lino cutting tools and my last, precious block of Mastercarve. I think it's the best product ever made, hands down, too bad it's discontinued! It's time to use the good stuff! 


 A selection of threads for hand stitching, instead of feeling that I have to bring every last thread to my Desert Island, the key is to limit the palette, look for variety in value and texture.


 A Colour wheel, always an essential item! Some Inka Gold for highlights, a washout marker, needles and pins and a shaper tool for more marking.


A selection of little bits of fabrics, some fusible web and Misty Fuse.


Some fabrics I've marked and painted, mostly 10" or smaller, for cutting and stitching.


There's also some scissors in the pile somewhere! 

Other artists have chosen to add wool felt, cotton fabric, indigo dyed fabrics, pencil crayons, grid paper,  inktense blocks, procion dyes, soda ash, stamps, thread, needles, paint palette, fibres,beads, dippity do, cup, ruler, Angelina, water baste resist, pencils, basting glue,sponge, paint palette and a dusk mask....what would you bring?