This post has been a collaborative effort and a result of several really wonderful email discussions. First I want to thank and acknowledge Kelsey @Lovely and Enough who engaged me in a conversation about Art vs. Craft. You can find her thoughts on the topic on her blog here: art versus craft. I highly recommend you read her thoughts and join us in this conversation.
I do not see myself as creating art. I believe that the quilt world is made up of traditional, art, and modern quilts. I see myself as a budding professional quilter, and I feel like the quilts I create span the traditional and modern quilt spectrum. I believe that is very true except for one clear exception: I believe my Reclamation Project series (Woman, Crave, Lost) is art.
When I started to think about Art vs. Craft, my brain jumped over to a slightly different set of tracks. I started thinking about all the artistic talent in my own family, and I reached out to my father-in-law, Frank Fuchs, who is a talented artist.
A native of the Pacific Northwest, Frank spent his childhood playing in orchards and camping with his family in the Cascade Mountains and on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. After touring Europe and North Africa, Frank married a New Mexican and moved to Albuquerque to study architecture and art at the University of New Mexico. A registered architect, he has worked throughout the United States and China.
Frank is equally at home with watercolors and oils. His landscapes, still-lifes and portraits reflect his love of the places and people where he has lived and traveled. His paintings are in private collections throughout the US and have hung in many juried shows including the Taos Society of Portrait Painters, the Western Federations of Watercolor Societies, the New Mexico Watercolor Society, Masterworks of New Mexico, the New Mexico State Fair, and the Los Alamos Art Center. He is a past-president of the New Mexico Watercolor Society and past-chair of the New Mexico Watercolor Society Signature Member Group.
I was curious to get an actual artist’s point of view on these topics and others, and I asked a series of questions that Frank graciously responded to.
1. ::Background:: As an architect and artist, you have a diverse artistic background to pull from. Are there any cross over skills between these two realms (architecture and art) and have you seen one side influence your work in the other?
Design and the Design Process is used in both architecture and art (and crafts). Seeing is the means of educating (training) yourself in design and drawing (graphics) is the language of design. Learning to see design and being able to express yourself in the graphic language are the two greatest skills needed in architecture and art.
2. ::Art vs. Craft:: What do you think distinguishes an artist from a hobbyist or person interested in craft? Are there also further distinctions and classifications within the art community (I am wondering about the distinction between art and fine art, and are the distinctions different for different media: watercolor, oil, pastels, photography, etc.)?
Arts and crafts are both results of creativity. One difference between arts and crafts might be that art is often intended to evoke emotion in the viewer. Artists and craftsman fall into one of two categories, professional and non-professional (student, hobbyist). Skill often differentiate the two levels, but not always. Professionals make their living in art; hobbyists don’t. I’m not aware of any distinctions for different media.
3. ::Business:: As an artist, how do you choose which work to submit to shows and/or galleries? Do you exclusively think of creating your work to list for sale and do you take on commissioned work?
How good the piece is: what I think of the painting and how people react to the painting, or, how well did I communicate with my viewer.
Yes, I do you take on commissioned work.
4. ::Design:: Thinking about your artistic style, is it important to you that you create original, somewhat unique work or do you work to achieve a particular style or use a particular method to compose your work? What excites you most about the artistic design process?
I would rather be good than different (Mies Van Der Rohe). Painting is a form of communication as well as self expression. Using a variety of painting media (oil, watercolor, pastels, etc.) is always exciting and challenging to me.
5. ::Your style:: Please share a piece of art that is a favorite in terms of expressing your artistic style. What about it represents you or excites you most?
Kavi. This painting illustrates, in my opinion, the subtle use of light, color and expression of transparent watercolor.
6. ::Tools:: Do you have tools outside of your canvas, brushes, and media that are essential to helping you create your art?
Adventuring, being in the zone, a place to work, and my Camera are also part of my creative process.
Frank’s assessment that “art is often intended to evoke emotion in the viewer” resonated deeply with me. Do you find that you view the distinction of an “art quilt” with this statement or do you feel that there is a different or additional criteria to define art quilts?
18 thoughts on “Artist Spotlight: Frank Fuchs”
Interesting thoughts, I’m not sure about the ‘evoking emotion’ distinction. I think lots of quilts can evoke emotions – feelings of love, happiness, nostalgia, security, and I wouldn’t categorise them as ‘art’. I just looked up a definition of ’emotions’ and this was one element of it: ‘instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge’ – that definitely works for me with quilts. I think quite often art tries to provoke thought and sometimes debate, as well as emotion – and I think that is true of your reclamation series. But then there’s definitely art which doesn’t do that, and is no less art. Perhaps the ’emotion’ part applies more to what is put into the creating of the piece, a personal emotional investment or release by the creator, rather than the intention to evoke emotion in the viewer (which again would apply to your reclamation series). But then I think that can apply to quilts just as much too. Certainly I feel that most of my quilt making has a huge personal emotional investment, if it didn’t I don’t think I could do it. And in fact, there are a couple of WIPs I have that are completely stalled, and, thinking about it now, I’m sure that’s because I’m not feeling any emotional connection to them. So maybe I’m coming round to the idea that quilts are art! And, you say you don’t think your quilts are art, but what about if someone buys one of them (for example, your tessellated leaves or triangle transparency) and instead of putting them to use on a bed, hangs them on their wall? Does that make them art? Perhaps there should be a distinction in terms of purpose/use of the item, or in terms of how it’s viewed by other people? Are practical items ever ‘art’, if they are, do they have to lose an element of their practicality? But if a quilt is art hanging on a wall, why is it any less art covering a bed? Oh dear, you see you’ve set me off again! I’m going to take a stance here, not sit on the debating fence, and say – quilts are art! And your quilts (not just your reclamation series) are art, therefore you are an artist!
I definitely agree that quilt making for me is an emotional process, Sally. I do not think that my typical quilts create emotion for others, though. I do think that my clients are happy and excited about the quilts I have made for them (your example of Tessellated Leaves is a good example here). I am certainly flattered that you see me as an artist, but I do not view myself that way… yet. 🙂
I found this very intersting and had a little discussion with my husband about it. I think that art is in general more intended for display, and crafts can be artistically designed, but in general are more intended as useful objects. My husband said if someone designs a beautiful table, that is art, but the actual creating or making of the table is craft. I thought that makes sense. Art is thedesigj and craft is the construction.
I think that design can be an artful process for sure, and I think the break down of the construction as craft is an interesting viewpoint. I am excited that this was interesting enough for you to have such a big conversation with your husband. Thank you so much for sharing.
I think I agree a lot with Carrie’s comment–to me art is often made with the intention of expressing and/or displaying something. To me the word craft means one of two things–something made with skill to be used or something made for the fun of it (as in arts and crafts for kids, where the resulting item is usually simple and temporary). But sometimes art is meant to be used in some way. I guess both Art and Craft have a lot of grey area and multiple meanings. I talked with Matt about it, and he also used the table example, like Carrie’s husband–but he hadn’t read her comment. He says that when his dad worked in a cabinet shop he would make nice cabinets, but occasionally they would hire someone else to do intricate carvings in them–and to him that was the dividing line between a craftsman and an artist (or artisan, which is another grey area between craftsman and arts). We agreed that the uniqueness and number of hours spent on things comes into play. Matt had a good example/thought: most quilts he sees he considers to be a craft because they are common patterns and fabrics. Most modern quilting he thinks is artisanal because it requires a lot more creativity in design and execution. HIghly unique and intricate pieces lean more towards art. He then mentioned that all musicians are considered artists, even if they only cover other people’s work (including classical composers)–but the level of skill required to get the intricate details right is maybe what makes them an artist? And then he came back around to “I ‘unno.” I think I’ll pose these questions to mom to get her perspective.
Katy, Frank, Michael, and I talked about this topic for about an hour last night. We all came at the discussion from a different angle and viewpoint (which of course I can’t really remember in detail now). But basically I don’t have a very nuanced view of art. I realized that I viewed art almost only as paintings or sculpture and tended to not really consider music, dance, etc. etc. etc. until someone else brought it up. I really struggle to think that what I do quilting is art, but I can get there for a few of my quilts… maybe. It is a really interesting topic and I am really enjoying hearing other people’s viewpoints. I really love that Matt came to the cabinet example on his own, too. That seems to be a pretty powerful description.
Really interesting. What stood out the most to me is his statement that professionals make their living by what they create. I was asked last year to display my quilts at a professional artisan night. I didn’t feel professional, but did put my quilts on display (because I was volunteered by someone I respect). Some suggested that professionals have put a certain amount of time into what they do. And others asked me what I did that was professional. I just said that I occasionally made quilts on commission. The family joke now is that I am professional because I teach free-motion quilting. Yet, I don’t feel any different than I did a year ago…
I think that teaching and getting some commission work is definitely setting yourself on the road to being a professional. I also like the suggestion that professionals can be marked by the amount of time. I have heard 10,000 hours batted around as the time required to become an expert at something…
What an interesting post, Yvonne. For me, in visual arts, but also in other forms, like literature, it is art if the creator has something to say, is creating to communicate. What they have to say could be political (like, for example, some of Picasso), ethical, but equally it could be more personal, or technical. So some artists are telling us something about how light works, how colour interacts, about form or technique; some writers are telling us about the act of writing, about language and how it works. Without this intention to communicate, (and evoking emotion is one permutation of this) I don’t think something can be art.
Intention to communicate – yes, I like that sentiment a lot. Thank you!
“Kavi” is impeccable. Gorgeous in its execution and emotion. I am blown away. I like the Mies quote “I would rather be good than different.” I think it is important to develop your own style and be mostly consistent in it, but perhaps it is good to step back and realize that the ultimate goal is not to just be different than everyone else but to hone your skills and become good at what you do. Being different and simultaneously being subpar get you no where.
“Kavi” is a great example of Frank’s work. His portraits are amazing. I think that honing skills is a key, but also feeling free and bold enough to try something new and not being frozen by the fear of the new is something to keep in mind!
One thing that struck me when watching the fabric design series on creative bug was using doodles to create surface design and repeating patterns that it was referred to as artwork. It struck me as funny at the time even though I tend to be quite liberal and consider a wide definition of art and I like to think of a creative exploration as exploring art. Whether it is good art is another thing – certainly not high art as described in yours and Kelsey’s writings. I think it was Degas who said his art was intended to make the world a prettier place. I quite like that sentiment.
In a college philosophy module on aesthetics there was an examination on art/craft from a utility point of view. Anything can be art but not everything is. If you make a cup or a table with the intention of making a useful item it is not art. If you use the same cup and table as part of a sculpture or as props in a photograph then they become art, remember the unmade bed in the Tate Modern that caused such a stir?
A table created as an ornament to be used more to look at than used as a functional item?
I don’t know why but we seem to have categories of traditional, modern, contemporary and art quilts. They cross over somewhat but we certainly seem to make a distinction intentionally. I do consider my quilting as exploring art, I have learned more about colour as a quilter that ever as a photographer. I might consider myself a good quilter and a beginner artist! Finding your voice takes time and I’m having fun playing.
Sometimes the distinctions between types of quilts seems silly, and sometimes it almost makes sense to me, Ruth. I think that knowing where your aesthetic lies can help in the design / conceptual stages (focus as Cheryl says below), and knowing the community to get involved in for support might be beneficial. As you say, I can view myself as a budding artist perhaps, but I am not so sure that I can view most of the quilts I make as art. I believe at the heart of my particular drive and desire is to create something functional. Occasionally I do strive for something more artful and emotive, but by and large I have a large value system surrounding the functionality of a quilt. That’s just me, though. 🙂
This is a really interesting post. Most of the quilts I make I think would fall under craft, but a few would be more art. I think that it is a distinction I have in my mind subconsciously when I start to make a quilt thinking about its intent but I have never really thought about it in terms of art versus craft. Very thought provoking. I think that analyzing my thought process as I begin my design process would help the design process and focus.
I think there are a lot of subconscious decisions that go into the creation of any quilt. After having this discussion, I am realizing how much value I place on creating functional quilts that are meant to be loved until they fall apart. The process might be somewhat artistic and creative for me, but the end product is probably not art. I am just fine with that. But on the occasions for when I strive for a more emotive and artful piece, I am definitely in a different frame of mind when I work on them.
Great post and discussion! And thank you for introducing Frank’s art and thoughts. Love that portrait and the way he uses light and left it with a kind of unfinished yet complete vibe.
A lot of quilters don’t consider their quilts to be art, because they don’t think of themselves as artists. Pablo Picasso said “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” When I talk to quilters, some admit that they’re intimidated by the thought of stepping outside the box.
There’s nothing wrong with quilt-making as craft. Craft or art, one is not better than the other to me. People should embrace what they create, and make as many or as few creative/artistic decisions in their quilt-making process as they wish.
I make quilts primarily as art, practical utility is optional. Like Kaja said, art is a form of communication and expression. Or an exploration of design possibilities.
Ruth talked about doodles as fabric design artwork. This is art–commercial art. We usually think of art as something requiring a great deal of talent and practice to produce, Frank’s portrait rather than a simple scribble. However, like a ballet dancer who makes difficult dance moves look effortless, it actually takes skill to turn a bunch of doodles into a cohesive pattern and not just a scribbley mess. Fine art can be as complex as a portrait or as simple as a doodle. Commercial art is not only a doodle turned into fabric or stationary that people want to buy, it can be just as complex as that portrait.
Traditional, modern, or art quilts. What a can of worms! When I make a quilt, my goal is not to make a quilt that fits into a particular box. It never enters my mind to make one or another. I create the kind of quilt that tells the story I want to express in the best way possible. So one day it might be an art quilt, the next day modern or even traditional. Mostly likely it will blur the lines a bit, and that’s the way I like it.
I really like how you introduce and embrace the idea of commercial art; that is an aspect that I had not considered before you brought it up.
I also agree that the need to label a quilt (traditional, modern, art) is a bit of a can of worms. I am realizing that what most of us create blurs those lines, and there is clearly nothing wrong with that. I definitely enjoy the process and feel like there is more to learn and explore every day.