A little rant

Detail from Still 4

Detail from Still 4

One of the big steps I made in my transformation from making quilts as a hobby to becoming a full on, somewhat obsessed, artist was deciding to let the work itself decide what size and format each finished piece would be. And to let the natural flow of work dictate what I worked on and when. No more shoe-horning of ill-thought out ideas to fit a theme or a challenge. No more self imposed pressure to have something new to show every year at Festival of Quilts or Malvern.

Which is great in principle but doesn’t really work if I want to exhibit my work widely and, hopefully, gain recognition as an artist. Exhibiting as part of a group or on my own is the best way of having complete freedom but opportunities can be limited until people / gallery managers have heard of you. So the best place to start is to submit work to art quilt or textile calls for entry. In November I sat down and looked at what was coming up in 2016. And it could be a bumper year as my Still / Storm ideas work for several SAQA calls for entry. But – and here is the rant – why do so many calls limit the size of pieces? And why aren’t there more non-themed calls? I get that restricting size may make it easier to fit into some venues and might make it easier to curate a nice looking collection. And I get that having a theme can make a collection of pieces less challenging for the viewer but isn’t it frustrating?

Especially when you are an artist whose work wants to be BIG.

There are calls for entry which do not have size restrictions and, to their credit, SAQA have two in the latter part of 2016 but these are in the minority. Which means that sometimes we have to compromise. I’m just putting the finishing touches to two Still pieces that are 100 x 100cm. The ideas in them work and I am pleased with the results. But I know that it will be the next Still piece, the big panoramic one that is in my head right now, that will fill me with joy! And that the series will not move forward until I have ‘scratched that itch’. So, compromise but with integrity!


2 responses to “A little rant

  1. Thanks Sheila. I am lucky to have some opportunities coming up with the Etcetera group where I can show big pieces in white wall galleries. And hopefully group effort on the marketing front will get people through the doors. But I suspect nowhere near the numbers that established organisations such as SAQA can manage. And, of course, there is Fine Art Masters at FoQ – I had wonderful feedback last August. I’m thinking about organising a solo show in 2017 and welcome any advice! Definitely a scary idea!


  2. Or you could hire a gallery and go it alone, in which case you have total control over what you make! There are plenty of smallish galleries available for hire. However, big can be difficult to sell to cover your costs, if that is important to you. If not, go for it! Some relentless self publicising will soon make sure folk have heard of you. I did this last year, and was astonished how successful it turned out to be. Scary but good. Having total control means you can follow your whim, and you answer to no-one. If it doesn’t work out, then you can chalk it up to experience, and look in another direction next time. Or do it all again, exactly as you want it.


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