What does it mean to "engage questions in [craft] work that interest the world of art and craft" though? That is truly the issue, I believe, and perhaps the clearest distinction between those who can be called serious craftspeople and those who may simply enjoy keeping their hands busy while they watch TV.
Not that there's anything wrong with that! Lest you think I am an anti-hobbyist snob, let me point out that the bed quilt I am currently making is reserved for stitching on in front of the TV. While I designed it myself (not in front of the TV!), I have adapted the motifs from other sources (Turkish tiles), and it follows all the rules of a conventional quilt: made to be used on a bed, comprised of three layers stitched together, made of commercially produced printed cottons and constructed by conventional applique and piecing. It is not innovative; there is nothing at all about it that would "interest the world of art and craft" but this project offers pleasure in the making, personal meaning and utility for me. And for this project, that is enough.
|sketch for Iznik tile-inspired bed quilt|
When I weave scarves, shawls and wraps for sale, I am thinking not of my own favorite colors, but of colors that are current, popular, and versatile with most women's wardrobes. I am thinking of designs that women of varied body shapes and sizes can wear in daily life. I am thinking of how my pieces can be unique, special luxury items that are nonetheless affordable. I am thinking of what I can accomplish on my loom, with my skills, using materials that I can easily obtain. But this work still does not "engage questions that interest the world of art and craft," because it is responding to what is rather than what could be. It is essentially practical, traditional and market-based.
|tencel infinity wrap|
|Chemical Crows, Skirt, Collar, January 2008; Ribs of children's umbrella, industrial boat filament yarns, cow leather, and metal eyelets. Image courtesy of High Museum website.|
In my own studio, I do attempt to engage questions of interest to the wider world of art and craft when I design and weave tapestry. I am attempting to make it new, not by innovations in tapestry technique or materials (yet), but by exploring very old themes and subject matter in a contemporary context. One question I am engaging is "Can anything meaningful to contemporary viewers possibly be said about the Virgin Mary in the medium of tapestry?" It is too soon to say. For me now, the attempt is utterly absorbing.
The important thing, I think, is to be aware of what you are about, what your intentions are, when you engage in making. Whether you consider yourself a hobbyist or a professional, what questions are you engaging? Do you see yourself moving fluidly between categories, or firmly in one camp or the other? How is your approach to your work influenced by how you define yourself? Deep questions! Feel free to share in the comments below.