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!!!

Hugs,
Thomas

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