Friday, May 18, 2012

Voices from the past

An elderly artist friend of mine is cleaning out the house she's lived in since 1963 and I went over to collect a trunk full of old books and magazines to take to the grab bag of our local fiber art group.  Unfortunately, a half hour later I managed to step into a hole on my daily walk and turn my ankle, so I spent the afternoon lying down in pain reading 20-year-old magazines instead of sewing.

But it's always a lot of fun to read old magazines, especially in a field where you are relatively knowledgeable.  Coming across the names of people who are still active in the field is heartening, even as seeing previously unknown names pop up over and over makes you wonder what happened to them. 

You can always find some cheap chuckles over the expectations and assumptions of long ago, so different from ours today.  Authors had to put quotes around "found" objects, then give some examples -- bicycle parts or automobile gaskets -- so people knew what they were talking about.

Apparently there weren't too many books about artist/quiltmakers, a relatively new concept in those days.  The reviewer of Nancy Crow: Quilts and Influences sniffed that "the reader, however, may wish for more information" -- for instance, exactly how tall her "extra high" worktables are, a list of fabric sources, and hints on grant writing for the fiber artist.

Articles on how to shoot slides of your art, and about the heroic efforts of support staff in removing slides from the trays after jurors have rejected entries, remind us of how computers have transformed so many aspects of our artistic life.

A top-level tapestry weaver (now dead) wrote this account of his start in the field:

"When I first declared myself a bona fide full-time artist, I was determined and committed to survive and succeed.  I quickly accepted that an unwavering faith truly does move mountains.  Within days of my declaration came a call from one of Chicago's better art galleries looking for a fiber artist to submit a proposal for a possible corporate commission.  I submitted a proposal and the client signed the contract immediately!  That first commission was the beginning of a three-year nonstop series of commissions all received through the one gallery."

Could it possibly have been that easy?  Granted, the 1970s were a golden age of fiber art in architecture, as corporate clients looked for ways to soften the hard surfaces of shiny new office buildings, but I wonder if there were a few details in that story that got omitted...

Here's another fiber artist:

"Recently I walked into a show and marveled at the blast of color welcoming me.  Great semicircular copes of vibrantly spotlit color flew from the rafters, while gardens of flower hangings marched across the facing wall.  Flower-filled watercolors plastered the walls to the left; etchings, drypoints and printed watercolors held their own on the right.  Pedestals supporting ridiculous soft sculpture punctuated it all.  It was a shock, for it was my own 'Audience of One' exhibition, and I have no remembrance of how I did it."

Aw, shucks, lady, give me a break...


  1. thanks, Linda! much better today, although still on aspirin and not going anywhere.

  2. LOVE your fine lines and postage quilts. Hope your ankle is feeling better. Being a mom of 2 grown sons, I really enjoyed reading about your Mother's Day gift!