Art or craft?

I had to laugh tonight, I came across a post on Facebook from a woman talking about her art. She shared 26 photos taken of her and her 4 patch quilt and talked about how she’d been doing this for 27 years. It was a nice enough quilt but I admit I shake my head at some quilters who call themselves artists. It seemed pretentious to me. There are certainly quilts that are art and quilters who are artists but those of us who craft … who create warm things for people to wrap up in … I think of us as creative and crafty. I don’t think of us as artists. I guess we can label ourselves whatever we choose but I choose to think of myself as someone who makes pretty blankets!

Mo just turned 3 this week but when she was learning to talk she refused to say Gram … she said everyone else’s name but would not say Gram. As she wrapped up in a quilt I’d made one day, Chris laughed and referred to me as Blankey Ma. She immediate started calling me that with their encouragement and I was OK with it. Is there anything better than a beautiful warm blanket?!

I don’t mean to offend anyone who thinks of themselves or identifies themselves as an artist by this post. It’s just not a title I use or apply to myself and I find it pretentious when applied to someone who makes simple traditional quilts. But isn’t this a gorgeous Hourglass quilt?!!


  1. This post made me smile. Several years ago we remodeled our house and I was getting some new space in my sewing area. The architect kept referring to the area as my “studio” and I told my husband it was a sewing room as I am not and artist but more of a technician–I follow patterns but I am seldom creative.

  2. obviously by her standards she was an artist….artist, quilter, seamstress all relative terms…whatever term she uses, it adds value to what she does and makes her happy…no problem whatsoever…maybe we should all call ourselves artists….

  3. Who is it said “Art is in the eye of the beholder”? Anyway, I like “quilter” just fine; that is one gorgeous hourglass quilt–you all look so snuggly under it…hugs from soon to be snowy CT Julierose

  4. To me the most important component in my quilts is love. Art or craft is not important. The smiles of the recipient are very important so just keep them smiling Blankey Ma!

  5. I am a first time grandma – she is only 9 weeks old – and her cousins call me Heaven as they can’t quite manage my name. So I’ve become Nanna Heaven!

  6. I know you feel lucky to have Mo name you, I would. I agree with you. I don’t think of myself as an artist, but I do think of myself as a quilter. I’m happy with that. It is a way for me to occupy my time and produce something useful. BTW, your green and white hourglass quilt is lovely.

  7. I am a quilter who is also a fairly new to the art of watercolor. I hesitated to call myself an artist until I recalled the time I went into a large museum in Connecticut and saw a huge painting that was solid white with just a small speck of a red circle in the lower right. This was being recognized as great art. Now I have no trouble saying I am an artist as well! I believe my art is already way better, but I may be missing something that art “experts” saw lol!

  8. Wonderful picture – those are two happy girls! Beautiful quilt, too. I agree with what you said – to me, saying that my quilts are ‘art’ is pretentious. The quilts I make are to make people warm & happy, period. I’m definitely not an artist, I’m a quilter. Those who are able to make ‘art quilts’ (we’ve all seen them) are gifted….which is definitely not me. But I’ve enjoyed what I do for well over 45 years, and so have others who have received what I’ve made with love. Merry Christmas to you!

  9. My mother in law, may she rest in peace, always said I was an artist, & I always disagreed. I am a quilter, & a crafter. I follow other people’s patterns & trace any design that I want to paint. I have a precision hand, & I’m very astute with a needle, but I couldn’t paint a picture to save my life. She always valued art over craftsmanship. While I believe she liked the quilts I made for her, I don’t know why my personal description of quilter/crafter was never good enough for her. Funny thing is, now that she’s been gone 4 years, I begun to branch out & make my own designs in improvisational quilting. Maybe she just saw something in me that I didn’t at the time.

  10. What’s gorgeous are the three beauties beneath the Hourglass quilt, Mary! Regarding the artist or crafter debate… I make quilts, but don’t consider myself crafty. I occasionally make art quilts, but have a hard time identifying as an artist. It’s a conundrum! Hello, my name is Joy and I’m a quilter.

  11. Several years ago my best friend and my daughter visited a quilt museum with my best friends daughter. My friends daughter kept disparaging the museum because all it had was quilts (old gorgeous antique quilts) and quilts are not art. My friend was extremely upset with her daughter because she know what beautiful quilts my daughter has made. Some art but most utility. My daughter discovered that what she loves to do is make quilts that people use so she hasn’t made many art quilts. Those only get hung on a wall or put in a closet she wants her quilts to be used and snuggled in.
    I make quilts that fit the person I am giving them to so that they get used. I have been asked if I have a quilt style and I said I make just about everything. I have done improv (my least favorite) and traditional. I have done brights and traditional colors. I try to make a quilt that the person who received it will love and use. Sometimes it is hard to complete because it is not what I enjoy doing but knowing that they will like it helps me complete it. I guess that is were the creative part comes in for me, personalizing the quilt to match the person.

  12. I call myself a ‘quilter’. It took me a long time to even say that. I’m not an artist and never will be but I sure can make gorgeous quilts. Green is not a color I like except in nature, but your green quilt is beautiful.

  13. Artist is on a sliding scale. The quilts on the walls of museums on one end and the quilts that consist of scraps grabbed and sewn without thought on the other. I think the number of decisions that go into a quilt turn it into art. If you make decisions every step of the way reflecting your personal esthetic, you are an artist. (more so than the canvas with a splotch of paint wherever it landed) How much YOU is in that quilt?

  14. I agree, I am not an artist. I like to think of myself as someone who loves crafts and sewing is one of those crafts. And my “studio” is a bedroom that is now my sewing room. But, there are some quilters who I think make some true art with their quilts. There is just no other way to describe it.

    • Don’t cut yourself short. If you just follow instructions in a kit, sure it’s a craft. Admirable, respectable valuable craft. If you see a quilt that is unique to you, it’s ART.

  15. I consider myself an “artisan: a person skilled in a utilitarian art, trade or craft; especially one requiring manual skill.” Because I’ve been making quilts for so long, I think my skill level has advanced also, so giving myself that promotion from “crafter.”. But definitely not an artist. The quilts I make are blankets for keeping warm, not things to look at. So utilitarian is the key word for me.

  16. Lots of quilters are artists, but quilting has always been looked upon as women’s work, so the artistic endeavor was downplayed – especially in the quilters own heart. I say, if you feel like an artist, you are. It’s a personal perspective. If you feel like a crafter, you are. Labeling someone as pretentious is maybe not understanding their heart. Be kind. We are all in this together.

  17. I would not call myself an artist. To me, an artist is someone who creates something new, not a copy of someone else’s work. I follow someone else’s patterns to make my quilts. I did “design” a quilt for my granddaughter several years ago. But it was a square in a square so not really original. I agree that if someone else wants to call themselves an artist, that is okay. Your quilt is almost as beautiful as the people it covers.

  18. What gets me are those Quilters who believe they should be able to sell their quilts based on the price of materials and the number of hours they spent making them.

    Just because someone spends a bunch of time on something doesn’t make it valuable.

    They should see the number of quilts you donate, Mary! All using color coordinated nice fabrics and carefully and skillfully sewn!

  19. Love that green hourglass quilt. That picture of you with the girls is priceless. Grandchildren are such a wonderful gift!

  20. I love this picture. It makes me smile to see those happy faces. I love making quilts for family members and try to make it to suit their likes and personalities. I would say that I’m a quilter and crafter with a little bit of artistic ability. My older sister is the artist. She’s the art major and is truly gifted.

  21. I’m fine with being called a quilter. I’ve been called worse things. As for what kids call their grandparents, our 2 youngest started calling us Old Grandma & Grandpa because we have gray hair. They started that almost as soon as they could talk in short sentences. They call their other grandparents LibbyMillie Grandma & Grandpa because at the time they had dogs with those names. Out of the mouths of babes!!

  22. I have been a sketch artist, a painter, a clay modeler, and now I sew, both embroidery and quilts. Some times my own creations blow me away, and sometimes they are just comfy.

  23. I am a quilter who happens to love squares and rectangle. It must be the teacher in me. I do not consider myself an artist. They are the ones who do the art quilts that i will never be able to duplicate. Our grandkids are just starting to talk. My twin sister became a grandmother wo months after I did. When we were talking about what we wanted out grandkids to call us I said I wanted to be called Grandma Dona. She said but she was going to go by Grandma Dena. My other sister says that works out fine since you look alike they can refer to you as Grandma Dena/Dona

  24. I made a hand quilted a crib quilt for my sister’s first child. My Italian brother-in-law said it was a work of art and had it hung on a wall in the nursery. Perhaps it’s all in the eye of the beholder, but Italians know good art when they see it!

  25. Yes, the term artistic is something I could NEVER use for myself. I am good with my hands and with fiddly things and I am committed to doing something from start to finish but I know I have nearly nil in the imagination and ideas department. I DO but I don’t necessarily CREATE.

  26. Your hourglass quilt is beautiful. I am in the process of putting one together of all mixed up hourglasses, of all different prints. I named it 2020. I certainly do not consider myself an artist. Like you, I’m a person who likes to make things to keep people warm and loved. I’ve made many since I began in 2008 and have given most of them away. I only began when I first knew I was going to be a great grandmother, so great grands were the first recipients, then grands, then sons/daughters in law, friend’s children, sister’s great-grands, etc. Through all that, I still think of myself as a beginner. That feeling probably comes from the reality that I will never be an expert, I am my own worse critic, but still love the activity and the relationship with fabric! I grew up using quilts for warmth, made by grandmothers who made them out of necessity. I much prefer quilts to blankets.

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