Until I had the opportunity to work on the Quilt of Possibilities project in celebration of the Ontario Greenbelt’s 5th Anniversary, I more or less considered myself a crafter. I like making things. My first passion was cross stitch. Now it’s knitting. I’ve tried quilting (I took a couple of classes), and beading is okay. Scrapbooking, not so much. I know how to sew and I own a sewing machine. (It doesn’t get much use). Which really just goes to say – I dabble.
The more heavily I become involved in craft though, the more awestruck I am by the beauty of handcrafted objects that I see at shows, in shops, and online. Not just objects, but objets d’art – amazingly beautiful, handmade pieces of creativity and expression, wrought from the artist’s passion for an idea, a theme, even the materials.
I lamented having being on vacation before the deadline to submit a contributing quilt square, busy with work before that, and the Christmas holidays to deal with before that, not to mention a new job. Excuses, sure, for not having submitted a quilt square of my own.
Subconsciously, I think I recognized why, when I started to see the images of the quilt squares that had been submitted, and read the stories of how the artists had been inspired by the Greenbelt. This wasn’t craft that was being created, but art. Art made more powerful by the strength of the community united in the act of putting the Quilttogether. I confess, to having been intimidated by that strength, and talent of expression.
One of my favourite squares uses the recycled pieces of men’s shirts and a variation on a traditional quilting style to create the look of a field of crop rows, as if seen from the sky. Another playfully shows a corn maze, the maze itself made from the silk of corn painstakingly applied to the quilt square. The passion of that vision, to have come up with something so unique, and so individual, takes my breath away. To have that reaction, how could it be anything but art?
The “art vs. craft” debate is one that I’m sure our grantee partner, the Ontario Crafts Council, could wax far more eloquently on than I. Rightly or wrongly I don’t believe that there should be a distinction between the two.
And yet I have been guilty of creating one in my own mind.Art to me has always been, well, art. (I recognize the failing of this as an argument, bear with me). It’s something bigger than us, important, placed in great halls and museums, talked about in hushed tones and has this inexplicable, elevated air about it. A lot of times I don’t “get it”. It’s in the eye of the beholder, I guess.
Which is probably why I view craft as art. It is what speaks to me. Craft has always struck me as being friendlier than art. More approachable. More likeable. More accessible. Relate-able.
Perhaps it should be up to the individual. I don’t feel like an artist, and knowing so many talented crafters, I’m not sure my paint-by-numbers approach to following a pattern or instructions of someone else’s design necessarily measures up to being thought of as a crafter either.
Recently I read an interview between two respectable knitters wherein they debated whether or not a project knit by following the directions of the pattern, with the yarn that was called for, was art or craft. In one of their minds they felt that it was “merely craft” if following the instructions, but that if a knitter chose to use a different yarn, or adapt the pattern to suit them better then that was art.
Respectfully, I disagree with the idea of anything being “merely craft”. And having seen many kinds of craft projects adapted to use different materials than what were called for, with less than stellar success, I don’t think that’s the right answer either.
That’s not to say that there is any less passion in the creation of craft. Rather, I believe that it is the passion that drives that creativity that results in art.
For me, the simple act of making something from nothing results in a feeling of immense satisfaction, and enjoyment. If I’m lucky, there’s passion too. But it’s not what drives me to create, and I think therein lies the difference.
I can say comfortably that I like to make things with my hands. I’m okay with that.
-- Allison Decker
The Quilt of Possibilities is currently on display outside the 4th floor public viewing gallery at Queen’s Park until Friday, June 11th. The Quilt of Possibilities has also been selected by the Ontario Crafts Council to be one of the curated craft objects on display in Deerhurst this June for the Muskoka G8 summit. To download a copy of the Quilt’s catalogue and see a time-lapse video of the Quilt being assembled, visit: www.craft.on.ca/Programs/Greenbelt .