I’ve heard some art quilters express frustration about finding their voice. By this I take it they feel they haven’t yet developed a style and approach that’s unique to them. One woman I met had spent a lot of time taking workshops with well known art quilters, and each of her pieces was a reflection of the teachers’ styles. She was having a hard time extrapolating the components that would merge into her unique vision.
I can sympathize. Sometimes my work is very clean edged and angular; other times it’s curvy and blurred. I sew along merrily, making what appeals to me. Then I’m pulled up short by someone else’s work that makes me feel like a great big fake, an art quilt poseur who’s been snatching a bit of this and that from a lot of “real” art quilters.
Each month I meet up with a small group of art quilters to talk about our work in progress and give each other candid feedback. And I mean the “what were you thinking, you’ve run the viewer’s eye right off the edge” kind of feedback; not the “I like it” kind. This is exactly why I participate in the group. I want candidness.
Recently one group member asked me, “do you consider this piece finished?” Gulp, well yes. I felt like I had really missed a turn somewhere. Driving home, I decided that I had taken the piece in question as far as I wanted to. It wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever made, but it represented a departure and an experiment for me. The lessons I learned making it should inform my future work.
This brings me to the step after finding your voice, and that’s trusting it. Only I know what I’m trying to do in my art and presumably I’ve spent at least some time figuring out just what that is.
Recently I bought Intentional Printing, Simple Techniques for Inspired Fabric Art by Lynn Krawczyk. I’ll probably be writing more about this book in the future, but one point Lynn makes at the beginning of the book is germane here. She writes, “I’m convinced that having a strong voice in your art is as simple as knowing what you like. … The things that we choose to put in our art are direct reflections of our personalities, and that translates into your artistic voice.”
I’ve tried out enough different techniques to know which don’t seem to be good conduits for what I want to do – beading and applique are at the top of that list. That doesn’t mean I’ll never use them if I feel a quilt warrants them, but they won’t be my starting point.
I find I’m drawn to changing fabric – dyeing, painting, printing, sewing little bits together to create new fabric. My personal challenge is to make that changed fabric the foundation of a piece, not the final piece itself. And that will mean some mental discomfort as my childish side will be saying, what do you mean it’s not finished.