Last night my textile art group had its executive committee meeting and we were talking about our new website, which is nearing completion. We've got all the public pages up, and now it's time for members to put up their own gallery pages (five images, short bio and/or statement, and links). The question for discussion: did we have the correct labels for people to categorize their work and viewers to click on to see it? We had embroidery, quilting, felt-making, etc. etc. etc.
Then I had one of those klong moments in which I had to contemplate putting the label "quilting" on my work for the world to see. Didn't make me happy. Especially in light of Jane Dunnewold's recent remarks about the "textile ghetto," I have been thinking about how we artists who work in fiber and textiles so often shoot ourselves in the foot. Not bad enough that we are branded as residents of the textile ghetto, but now we have to specify what street we live on in that ghetto?
The other people in the room unanimously disagreed. They thought that when people visit the site, many will naturally want to check out who does the kind of work they're familiar with. So weavers will first click on the "weaving" category and look at those gallery pages, and maybe if they're sufficiently intrigued and have a few minutes to spare, they'll look at something else before leaving the site.
I guess that's a valid hypothesis, and I admitted defeat, but I'm still not happy. Spent some midnight hours lying in bed thinking about this, trying to articulate why. No answers, but a lot of questions.
Are we trying too hard to be user-friendly to other textile artists and aficionadas, and in so doing clouding our image for art lovers, curators, collectors and others who don't need categories?
By using labels do we encourage our members to stay on their street rather than explore other techniques, even -- gasp -- non-fiber materials and approaches?
How many categories are too many? Aggregating knitting and crochet, or collage and assemblage seems obvious, but does dollmaking deserve its own category? What if somebody joins who loves tatting or spinning -- will we make a new category?
If I don't label my work as quilting, what will I label it as? Will I shoot myself in the foot if I don't use any label at all?
Am I being too elitist about this whole issue? Are most textile makers perfectly happy to be known as weavers or quilters? Maybe only those of us with too much time on our hands and too many pretensions in our heads can fret about whether and how we fit into The Art World.
Is this all a ridiculous conversation with myself? Should my midnight angst about how I portray myself as an artist just stay there in the bedroom and not waste the time of a regional textile art group?
What do you think? As it happens, I'm on the website committee and we're not meeting again for a week. If anybody has any useful thoughts, I'll share them!