11 Dec

On Finding One’s Audience

Zeitgeist web

I love this quilt. I think it’s funny, I think it’s snarky, I think it’s topical, and I think it’s well made. I am proud of it.

So now what? As an artist I kind of feel like my work is a conversation, so it’s not really complete until someone besides me has a response to it. I very much want this giant cat to go out into the world and talk to people.

Zeitgeist is my “fan art” inspired by the Grumpy Cat internet meme. I combined the cat with the styling of Louis Wain, a Victorian era illustrator who’s large eyed cats and zany patterned backgrounds were thought to be an expression of his mental illness. To me the combination of Grumpy Cat’s pessimism and Wain’s schizophrenia perfectly expressed the current mood of the US. To embody this in a quilt large enough to wrap one’s self in further pushed the wackiness of the concept. Yes, comfort yourself with your crazy cynicism.

My first impulse was to submit it to IQF Houston’s annual World of Beauty show in 2013. The Houston show responds well to representational, bright and bold work. Besides, between Quilt Market and Quilt Festival, that’s a lot of eyes on any quilt in the show and that’s a great conversation. Unfortunately, I paid a long arm quilter to quilt Zeitgeist which means it was work for hire and thus disqualified from entering.

So, I settled for the New England Quilt Festival and Pacific International Quilt shows. They were OK, but not really who I thought my target audience was. These were, in general, not the crowd to get excited about an internet inspired, bold fabric using, subtle commentary kind of quilt. Mostly, I think people wondered if this was just a portrait of my cat.

For the sake of contrast and to introduce it to a different audience, I entered Zeitgeist into Art Quilt Elements 2013. Based on the types of work that usually get in, I was pretty amazed that the quilt was even accepted. That piece had no business being at Art Quilt Elements given what is normally accepted and awarded prizes, and yet it won Best of Show. It was the connection to current culture that spoke to the jurors. Yet I wouldn’t have guessed that it would win anything when I entered it.

All along though, I was waiting for the call for entries for the 2015 QuiltCon (biennial) show. The Modern Quilt movement that puts on the show blossomed online. It markets itself to the youthful quilter or at least the quilter with a “fresh” aesthetic. Bold prints are popular amongst many Modern Quilters. Their quilts are meant to be used, not to go on the wall — though there’s plenty that are wall sized. And while I don’t believe that Zeitgeist exemplifies Modern Quilting (and that’s why it was rejected from the Modern Quilt Showcase in Houston), I did believe that the internet surfing, meme generating, bold pattern using, hip, younger show-goers at QuiltCon would understand and appreciate my quilt. I thought that could be an audience that would get excited about it and talk with it.

I’ve been processing the rejection from QuiltCon for a few hours now, and the thing that really sticks out to me is just how hard it can be to find one’s audience. I’m not emotionally crushed, just kind of baffled as to where and how I should be showing my work in this vein. My friend Lorie tells me I’m fishing in the wrong stream. I need to look at the Art world. My work may be grounded in the quilt tradition, but the quilt tradition in any of it’s guises is not my audience. I’ve been mulling over the idea of a “Craft the Internet” show. I admit that I’m scared and apprehensive to put on a curator’s hat and do the work required to create a show, but maybe that’s the way to get my work into spaces where it can converse with an appropriate audience.

15 thoughts on “On Finding One’s Audience

  1. I enjoy your work and found this quilt quite stunning-wish I could see it in person. I think the internet has proven to be a great venue for sharing our art and creative work. However, it is just not the same as seeing it in person. I hope you find a way of solving this challenge.

  2. As the saying goes, “if you build it, they will come.” Do it. Make it happen. Your quilt is so amazing and I love the references – the meshing of pop icon Grumpy Cat and the paintings of Louis Wain – and your style. When I look at it, I think it is a modern quilt. It’s fresh and bold.

  3. I definitely Lol’z (hey how about that for trendy?) at the thought of this being a quilt of your cat! Hey I just think your topical themes are a dead ringer for crossover. Your call. This quilt makes me lol, smh, and ._. !!

  4. As someone who had to look up “Grumpy Cat”, and is clearly not tapped into the US zeitgeist, I confess that I didn’t fully appreciate the genius of this work when you first shared it. But that is also part of the conversation that can only happen if you put your work out there. Curating an exhibition is hard work but it is also empowering and is certainly worth exploring.

  5. Aim high. Your quilt is a whole different animal, and that’s a good thing. I am completely infatuated with it. Really it belongs in a museum as part of a major exhibition or collection of important 21st century art.

  6. Your cat quilt is a hoot! I love it. It is fabulous! For everything I have been seeing, if it is not piece made with solid fabrics – REJECT! I think it needs to be exhibited with my rejected “Where’s Jimmy?” quilt which I improv pieced the background using commercial prints, my hand dyes, and fabric from shirts made for the Coral Reefer band, and then I loosely appliqued an actual pair of Jimmy Buffett’s pants to look like they were floating on the water. I bet they had to get the smelling salts out when the QuiltCon judges saw it! You can see it on my blog. I would love to hear what you think.

  7. Congrats on winning that best of show award – that’s pretty awesome. If it makes you feel any better, 2 of mine that were rejected had received ribbons in other national shows as well.

    I’m glad you are moving this “conversation” forward. It’s a good thing to do.

  8. so love this quilt – I’m definitely your audience. great pop culture reference, wonderful, and fun. I go to quilt shows and don’t find much I like there in the mainstream quilting world. I know I’m not much help to you. I suggest making more quilts in this vein, then doing a one-woman show. it would be outstanding. or curate the show…

  9. I think you’d be an exceptional curator, Kristin, and hope you can find a way to bring Crafting the Internet to the world. Let me know if you need a minion; I’d be honored to help.

  10. I love your quilt & understood it immediately. I think finding the right audience is actually the hardest part of art/craft.

    I so hope you decide to curate this exhibition, I’ve already thought of what I’d like to enter 😉

Comments are closed.