And of late, I find the question arising again, as I look at my pretentious blog profile in which I not only call myself a writer, but also a 'novice fiber artist', a thing written as much to state intention as would-be reality. We've established I'm a remedial spinner and knitter (I do make a great farrow rib scarf, though), but I've been working with felt, wet and dry, for over a year. I've created scarves and altar cloths, vases, snow people, etc. and am in love with the almost-alchemy of felting. I'm happy with some of what I've made, disappointed with others, or rather, keenly aware of the flaws...the many flaws.
This past October, Linda & I went to the NYS Sheep and Wool Festival. I posted about the scarf I made in a class for a dear friend here. The day Linda & I went was somewhat rushed; we had to do the same event we spent two days at the previous year in a mere four hours because we needed to get home to feed her foster kittens. It was a mad dash through, but on our way out of the last building, I pulled Linda down the book aisle. The previous year I'd encountered Sheepish on the book table, and loved every page (and a few weeks later bought Hit By a Farm by the same author), so I wasn't about to miss any treasures this time. At the far end, we were both caught and mesmerized by a piece of woolly art on display; it was there with the artist Lyn Slade, and her book, Creative Needle Felting: Wool Art With a Painterly Style. I couldn't plunk down my money fast enough! It's taken me awhile to finally start working with the book, but what follows are the photos of my first project, following her directions:
And the final photo, the finished....product? piece of art?
I didn't create the original design. I worked from a photo and followed directions. This isn't my original work, but as a non-crafty person, I have to admit to feeling mighty proud (and dare I say that while I see every one of my numerous flaws, I think my red-winged blackbird might be even a smidgen better than the one in the book?). This took me so far out of my believed abilities and is so different than anything I've ever done. Do I think doing this piece makes me an artist? No. I didn't create the image or devise the technique; while it's not paint-by-number, it's at best a flawed copy of Lyn's exquisite piece. And yet....I'm proud of it. And doing it has changed me a bit. I recently watched a Winter sunset and found myself thinking about how to capture that moment in wool. I'm going to work on another of her projects beginning tomorrow, because that piece will teach me blending (one of my glaring issues with the sky in the piece above), and how to create the illusion of reflection. And when I finish that piece, the one to follow will be my own design. Already that worries me: who am I to design a piece of art? I can't draw a straight line (literally, even with a ruler; it's sad & scary to watch!). I'm not an artist, am I? At what point might I call myself a fiber artist (novice or not) and not feel like a pretentious fraud? I still feel that way when I refer to myself as a writer, but I don't see another 40+ years ahead to get over the qualms of naming myself 'artist'....and perhps I have no business doing so, now or ever.
So what makes an artist, or a writer? At what point does one earn the right to define one's self as either of those? Are you a writer and/or artist, and how comfortable are you with those words? What differentiates crafter from artist, or are they one and the same? What do you think? I really, really do want to know.
As for my rendition of Golden Meadow, it's going in my office at work, to remind me that my job is what I do, not who I am, and to make me smile at both the scene and the accomplishment.