I like stuff…

That may not seem like anything big, to say that I like stuff, but it is a whole new concept for me. I have spent the last twenty years of my life in the academic art world, and in all that time I maybe liked 1% of what I saw, and that is being generous. It may seem unusual for an artist to not particularly like art, but you’d be surprised. It didn’t mean I didn’t appreciate a greater percentage of what I was seeing, but there was very little I liked. You see, I genuinely believe that art should be extraordinary, should have an effect on the world, but I don’t know if that is really possible anymore, at least from the museum world. You may wonder how I felt about my own work; well in my book I made maybe a handful of pieces with real merit over the entire twenty years.

That’s why it feels so strange to find myself liking things these days. I am quite new to the fabric and quilting world, but the list of stuff I absolutely love is insanely long. A big part of the change is because I do see quilts doing precisely what the art of the museums didn’t do: it affects the lives of people in direct and real ways. Quilts, or at least the snuggle-under quilts I am so drawn to, are made to be a part of people’s lives, to develop lives of their own, to get icky and messy with love. That is what I love about quilts: we are supposed to touch them, get to know them, grow up and old with them. I have yet to meet a quilt I didn’t like.

The same holds true for fabric. It may not all be my style, and I may not want to buy every print I see, but there is something there, in every single print, that will talk to someone. There is, perhaps more importantly, a use for every print. That is the strange thing about this new fabric community I find myself a part of, I don’t have to like stuff to like it.

I don’t mean that I have ceased to be critical; if anything I am even more critical than ever – I am just differently critical. I look at things from so many more perspectives: I look at novelty prints through the eyes of the kid who loves soccer, at large prints through the eyes of a colorist, and at almost everything as it would look cut into a two-inch square. That’s what happens with things that are made to have lives; you really need to see them differently. They need to be seen through the lens of their purpose, not just your taste, to be considered in the light of their own internal logic (Go Go Gadget Derrida!).

Worry not, I haven’t become a fabric hippy; it isn’t all a love-fest around here. There are definitely things I like more than others, but I would defy anyone to predict just what those things would be. My tastes are astonishingly eclectic, and they grow wider with every day. There is still so much for me to learn here; I so often feel decades behind. But the most important thing I have learned thus far is that this community, the fabric and quilting world, is the warmest, the most open and compassionate environment I have ever worked in. I feel unbelievably lucky to find myself here, to be working here, and to call so many of you my friends. Of course I am professionally excited to be going to my first Quilt Market, but the real reason I check that countdown clock on my blog is to see how long it is until I get to meet so many of you. And if you are coming to Market I should give you fair warning, prepare to be hugged.

Oh, and one last thought. There has apparently been a whole lot of snarkiness as of late here in fabric/quiltland, and typically I have been remarkably oblivious and hope to remain so, but as Kim over at True Up tweeted today:

So, to conclude: Yay stuff! Yay fabric! Yay quilts! Yay stitching! And most of all: Yay community!!!


EDIT: Take the “It’s okay to not like things pledge” and add the badge to your site.

It's okay to not like things pledge

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<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0la5DBtOVNI"><img src="http://www.thomasknauersews.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/things.gif" alt="It's okay to not like things pledge" width="150" height="146" /></a>

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13 Responses to I like stuff…

  1. 1
    Jacqueline says:

    This post made so much make sense. =) Thank you for sharing. Hope your Sunday is Sunshiney!!

  2. 2

    Brilliant post.
    The world is a much better place when you find things to like and be positive about, and be respectful of the things you don’t like as products of someone else’s love and hard work. Mwa!

  3. 3
    Kaye Prince says:

    Haha, Thomas you’re killing me! I just put the button up on my sidebar right under my “because nice matters” button! I love the fact that everyone is speaking out about this (which I just did on the blog last week too) rather than just letting the nasties run the place!

  4. 4
    Amanda says:

    I like stuff too! Badge added!

  5. 5
    thomas says:

    Thanks for the love all. I’m all for being critical of what we do and what we make, but being critical requires real thought and consideration. Mean generally isn’t critical; it’s just mean…

  6. 6

    Def seeing things through the eyes of others goes a long way toward appreciation. Loved your spin on this.

    • 6.1
      thomas says:

      Thanks Jan. I’m all for criticism, but it really ought to come from real critical thought, not just preference. Trust me, no-one wants to know my preferences…

  7. 7
    Brit says:

    As someone who is also in the art world, I completely agree with everything you just said. I may be only 19 but I’ve been creating art my whole life and I have to admit that sometimes I get a little jealous of artists from the past. Today it seems like a lot of things are off limits in the art world. And since I’m currently getting my BFA I’ve really become quite disgusted with the whole academic art system (no offense 🙂 ). I’ve had encouraging professors in semesters past, however this semester seems to be that if it’s not their style then you fail.

    BUT I adore quilting! And I love that you can talk for hours to a complete stranger just because they are a fellow quilter. You are so right about the fabric choices too. There are tons of lines out there that aren’t my style and I probably would never use for personal projects. But if someone gave me a quilt composed of every fabric line I disliked I would be thrilled! Because at the end of the day, it’s a blanket. And it’s a blanket that took a lot of hard work to make. Thats what makes quilting so special.

    Congrats on your new fabric line coming out! I’m an aspiring textile designer my self!


    • 7.1
      thomas says:

      Art school can indeed be quite the adventure; I actually did a BA at a small liberal-arts college, so missed much of the BFA craziness. I still have to say that I truly believe in Art, and in what it can do. Remember that the history remembers the great changes, the practices has always been very much like it is now. I haven’t given up on big-A Art, but I am definitely taking a step away for a while to enjoy this new, different, and equally significant practice. Right now, being part of this community, swells my figurative heart, and for that I am profoundly grateful.

      Good luck with the travails of art school, bleed it dry…

  8. 8
    Wonderful wife says:

    Hooray! As we tell Bee, “You like Barney. Mama and Papa don’t like Barney very much. That’s okay.” You wouldn’t think that would be so hard to get across!

  9. 9
    jacquie says:

    as usual, you said it best. i love that this can become a movement. I’m putting the button on my blog. hope you had a wonderful, successful market.
    boo to snarkiness…

  10. 10
    Helen from Hobart says:

    We have a new ‘Museum’ here in Hobart (Tasmania, Australia) that you would LOVE. It’s called MONA – Museum of Old and New Art, and people from all over are flocking to it.

    No labels, but you are loaned an iTouch, which they call an O, It has a GPS in it, so it knows where you are in the Museum and shows info about the item you are in front of. Info isn’t always the same – some is even “art wank” written in academic gobbbledy-gook. Before you move on they like you to let them know how you feel by pressing + or x

    website is http://mona.net.au/

    http://mona.net.au/what's-on/exhibitions/ watch the + x
    like some of the exhibits – they are not what they seem.

    If you ever manage to get down here (last stop before Antarctica)
    give me hoy.
    Hugz Helen

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