Professional artist versus amateur
Recently there has been a flap on SAQA yahoo list regarding professional versus amateurs and decrying the valueless competition offered for a fabric line design. Some have weighed in on their definition of professional while others felt that SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Association) did not have a clear idea or clear focus on their intentions.
Professionalism is more than working to be paid for efforts. That is commercialism and work is tailored according to what might sell. I once heard Jean Ray Laury speak about her design work–she showed a hooded jacket done in commercially acceptable colors and then one done in the extravaganza of color she preferred. I don’t know that those who call themselves professional quilt artists have two lines–one the experimental and the other destined for sale.
Practically everyone knows about poor Vincent van Gogh who sold only one painting while alive–the rest were heavily marketed by his sister-in-law in large part to make some repayment for the upkeep of Vincent over the years. And then there’s Leonardo da Vinci who had to scrounge around to find work after his patron in Italy chose another artist and he ended up making designs for war machines. I could go on but I don’t think anyone would dispute their dedication to their work or relentless effort to improve.
And perhaps that is the real core to professionalism. It is not just more money (although that is nice). It is about a concerted dedication to improvement, to always study, to look, and wonder what if? in terms of new materials, new styles, new colorways—but not with an eye to selling. Selling becomes the icing on the cake.
As far as SAQA is concerned, I’ve been a member since the newsletter was four pages stapled together. Now it contains artist interviews, color photography. Membership has grown in size and now the Portfolio is produced annually instead of whenever someone thinks enough new work has been made.
Maintaining my Professional Artist Membership has not been an easy choice financially. And sometimes I choose to do something not very arty, not very original, but somehow it always has my mark on it. The process is what I enjoy–not the final product.
Now it is time for me to gather together what I am going to take to a Bee meeting today–it will be putting a binding on a quilt that will be destined to be put aside for a wedding gift for one of my many nieces and nephews.