Thursday, December 08, 2005

Small is beautiful (sometimes)

Today Gabrielle was talking about small fiber works on her blog. She was talking about a current trend among art quilters to make small quilts, even postcard size quilts, and wondering about the relative value of small work, which she put in the category of "studies" and "play". She believes "at some point we need to move onto developing some larger pieces incorporating all we have learned from this play."

I had a strong immediate response, which was that a small format is every bit as legitimate as a large format. The two are different things. Small pieces require their own approach and are not simply miniaturized versions of something that should be large--at least when thoughtfully executed. I offer, as an example, this piece that I bought from Rosemary Claus Gray.

This piece is about 5" square. I love it and can't imagine it in any other size. It is the soul of simplicity, yet perfectly balanced with complex color and the beautiful layering of sheer fabrics.

On the other hand, I have to agree with Gabrielle that much of what is being done has no real composition, no real design. It looks like a swatch cut from a larger piece or a sample of multiple techniques. The fabric postcard craze is just that, though some lovely pieces are being made. Still a lot are the "swatch" variety or a hodgepodge of stamped and collaged images without much originality. I participated in one of the first rounds of fabric postcard exchange. I have to admit it was a lot of fun, but not something I wanted to do again. Making the postcards did not feel like doing "real art" and I approached it more as a design exercise.

Many people made one of a kind postcards for each person. I came up with one design and repeated it. When I was finished I was ready to go back to doing something more challenging.

Ironically, a portion of my day today was spent preparing and mailing off my Fine Focus entry. This exhibit consists of pieces that are all 12" or less on any given side. That may be one reason that Gabriells' discussion pushed my buttons the way it did!


  1. This is interesting. The past year I've found myself focussing on small works - postcards, journal quilts, maybe a bit larger. Larger works just don't seem to happen. But they don't just feel like samples - I did enough of those in C&G.

    Off to read Gabrielle's post now!

  2. Your Fine Focus entry is beautiful. I agree with you, small is sometimes just meant to be. Jen

  3. I, too, found this post very interesting since this week I have been free-motion quilting a 60x80" bed quilt (gift to youngest grandkid). Just this morning I decided that I never again want to quilt something this big! Not only that, I came to realize that I love the small format for my art - whether it's pen and ink, watercolor, weaving, or art quilting.
    I've loved making fiberart cards - they have spurred my creativity in ways that I might never have thought. Yes, many of those pieces aren't 'art' but that doesn't mean many others are now excluded from being 'art' simply because of the respective sizes.
    Throughout history, every artistic medium has had miniature versions as well as 'full sized' pieces. Miniatures have their own place in the art world. Whether or not all artists choose to work within that given size restriction is irrelevant. Just my opinion...

  4. I decided to talk a bit more about the value of postcards on my blog but when I returned to yours, I see all I've done is repeated your views less eloquently!! But thanks for focusing my mind on why I do these. I haven't made many but I think they serve a useful purpose. I think I will continue to make them and not feel like I'm wasting my time. They are what we want them to be, they just may not suit everyone. I also found they were the one thing that got me out of a very long period of having no inspiration.