2011 Artist Statement
Nancy Waldron-Griffin 5/22/2011
Quilting is a key to my secret garden, a way down the rabbit hole, it’s my looking glass.
t an earlier time in this journey I thought: ”Why write an artist statement?” After all, if I wanted to write about quilting and textile art I would've sought to become a writer instead of a quiltist. Without really thinking much at all I had concluded that writing such a thing would be a waste of time and worry. After all, the point of my efforts (aside from simply staying comfy on cold nights) was to communicate visually, right? I surmised that people could just look at my work and take from it whatever they wanted to take. Well, I surmised flat wrong.
What I’ve come to realize is that people I come into direct contact with often want to know more about what they’ve seen of my work, or about something they might want made for themselves. Of course I can answer questions posed directly and even have an immediate exchange. However, on the net or when using other media, I cannot. What I can do is to offer these few thoughts, or artist statement, as the language component of what, why and how I do what I do. It’s meant to introduce and welcome interested persons to share in my pride and joy as artisan and the value I place on craftsmanship, continuity, invention, color, texture, and imagery.
My first remembrance of quilts and quilting is from my Grandma’s house, when I was little. Where and when I grew up there weren’t any blankets...there were only quilts. There were the quilts that got piled on the floor to make a bed for us kids...there were quilts in need of repair...quilts made by Grandma while sitting on the porch with a scrap bag on the floor beside her. There were only quilts and all the quilts were old; even when they were newly made. It’s nothing short of a miracle that, despite these influences, my quilts don’t parrot the choice of materials, designs or techniques of the quilts of my childhood, they aren’t made using fabrics bleached on a clothesline and are certainly not muted in color.
To account for where my work comes from and/or how it comes, beyond little hints such as those above, the most genuine comment I can share is that, again and again, I’m prompted to begin creating by small transient “things” or combinations of “things” or “stimulus” I have encountered in the course of everyday life. According to MerriamWebster this something that rouses the mind or spirits or incites to activity. I think this may be as close as I’ll ever get to what a rainbow trout experiences upon spying a fly skimming across its line of sight. These stimulus aren’t just any old things though; they’re only what I react to in a specific, positive and productive way. They are things or events that come to me cloaked as a musical phrase or notes that form a chord...a thing that becomes greater than the sum of its parts. This begins a compositional process of bringing together elements to form the design and increasingly to rely upon my craft and experience. I’ve spoken of this with a writer, a musician, and a finish carpenter who each share a sense of the familiar in these thoughts.
As roughly described above, it should be fairly clear that my work process, or the journey of birthing new designs, may be powered by a boundless variety of personal experiences...experiences from music, images in nature, tribal themes and even shadows amidst a summer dawn’s light. God only knows where next is; I find myself caught in a thought and off my merry way I go. As I begin to work, define and integrate elements of the design it’s as if I were trying to focus upon something distant and vague. Then, depending on opportunity and my capacity for obstinate labor, distance yields to persistence as I work, and my design becomes closer and clearer; and more colorful.
Needless to say, the particulars of growing a design to maturity varies greatly, especially in the case of commission or custom work. Regardless of the aesthetic particulars of any given example of my work, a primary concern in its making was to create something that would have lasting value. For my purposes, lasting value is largely defined by the integrity of my choices of materials. Within my range of choices you will only find the best, most authentic fabrics and materials from the world’s marketplace. Among the sources currently of interest are Bali, Indonesia, Ghana, Nigeria, Peruvian, Andean, recycled, select designers and, of course, the good ol' U.S. of A.* Keeping an acceptable range of unique and authentic textiles and materials on hand is expensive and must constantly be the concern of unending efforts. Prospecting for new materials leads me on an unending hunt to find the finest of both new and vintage pieces to a puzzle that may or may never get put together.
As I turn toward the homestretch of this snapshot, I want to touch lightly upon my background and what keeps my little train saying, “I think I can..’. To say, as I did above, that I grew up with quilts and quilting will likely feed into a stereotypic view. In anticipation of such thoughts or comments, but without any devaluing characterizations implied, quilting is far more than play therapy, or a way to pass the idle hours of a post productive life. Quite to the contrary, at a time when I am experiencing critical challenges as bread winner, healthcare winner, etc., I have embraced art as a career choice...a choice that carries with it the utmost practical consequences for my family and I. I approach this effort, in part, motivated by the same things that cause most folks to go to work every day; that is, to pay the bills. However, the most important thing about becoming a quiltist can best be understood through the words of Joseph Campbell looked me right in the eye and said: “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.”
Nancy L. Waldron ###
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