Thursday, May 24, 2007
Here is the next felt piece -the second of four. They are very simple, an expression of the joy of colour and texture. I sometimes find it hard to know when they're finished, I keep stitching and building up texture whereas with a tapestry I reach the top and that's it - I'm done! This might seem silly but I've also got to admit that I am slightly scared to leave them too simple, too unembellished. Knowing how I do the way in which people appraise 'craft' as opposed to 'art' there is part of me that feels I need to give people obvious value for money in terms of labour.
For nearly 7 years I had a gallery in England. I dealt primarily in the applied arts but I did sell some paintings as well (my husband Ian's). I noticed that invariably when someone was considering buying a pot, wood carving or textile, they were interested in the process (good) but also the length of time it took to make. When they were buying a painting, if they liked it and had the money to spare, they bought it. The time/labour thing just didn't enter into it. There is an implicit acceptance that you are buying into someones idea, skill, training and reputation - a little part of them in fact - and that that has a certain value. The number of times I've been asked "how long did it take you to make" or someone has said " that must have taken you ages" and if it hasn't I don't let on, feeling that it would devalue the piece in their eyes.
The sad truth is that a only tiny minority of craftspeople make a decent living from their work. I know people with work in major national collections, represented by well known galleries who can only continue doing what they do thanks to teaching or design work or because their partners also earn. The big auction houses have done much in recent years to boost contemporary ceramics prices but I'm not sure it really trickles down to the ordinary maker. Textile prices certainly lag behind, perhaps textiles will always have connotations which are too domestic to merit decent recompense.
Diana Fayt has more to say on the subject here.
Kate Blee has an exhibition at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh in June described in Selvedge as 'new work marking a landing stage on Blee's journey towards the joy of simplicity'.
William Scott- a master of simplicity.