What's So Funny About Fiber Art?

31 Aug 2010

When we first started Quilting Arts, one of the ways we spread the word about our fledgling magazine was by passing out lapel pins with funny, quilt art-related sayings on them at quilt shows. "Give me all your buttons and nobody gets hurt" was one. "I don't exaggerate, I embellish," was another. And who could forget the very popular (if somewhat snarky), "Stitch this"?

These buttons not only made people laugh and established name recognition, they also tipped off everyone who saw them that we were not your conventional quilting magazine. Humor is a great way to get a message across.

In fact, one of the things I appreciate most about contemporary fiber art is the freedom to get funny with it. Intricately stitched fibers with unique surface design applications can bring tears of joy to my eyes. But the ones that make me laugh really connect with me and win my heart.


My menagerie of cats and dogs always keeps me laughing, so it's no surprise they're often a source of artistic inspiration for me. Especially our min-pin Louie, whose inquisitively cocked head always gives me the giggles. I loved creating a little quiltlet featuring each of them. These quilts were personal for me, but what gives them an amusing and universal twist is the cartoon "bubble thought" I added to each one. Louie's dreaming of a steak, Sophie's thinking of the next squirrel she'd like to chase, Maggie would like a nice bone to chew, and Dickens has fish on the brain.

When I saw the September/October issue of Fiberarts magazine was dedicated to humor in fiber art, I couldn't wait to open it. The examples range from thought-provoking to laugh-out-loud funny.

I've long been a fan of Cindy Hickok's meticulous machine-stitched work that features characters from old masters' paintings cleverly gathered in unusual situations. I am thrilled to see that she's been branching out into 3-D forms. (Cindy was profiled in the Summer 2005 issue of Quilting Arts).

Pairing a funny caption with a vintage photo is always fun, and when the caption is written in stitching, all the better! Jane Waggoner Deschner thoughtfully--and wittily--marries found photos with embroidery to complement both art forms while creating her own.

The issue also features Janice Jakielski's ornate mixed-media headdresses that humorously explore notions of sensory perception. 

One of my favorite articles delves into the creative process of Stephanie Bryant, writer and publisher of the comic book series "Handknit Heroes." I love the postcard for the series that shows a magenta-garbed superhero impatiently asking, "So, are we gonna go fight crime, or what?" To which her counterpart replies, "Yep. Just let me finish this row." Substitute free-motion stitching for knitting, and I can totally relate. (John would play the part of the impatient superhero, though his costume would certainly not be magenta!)

The art in this issue of Fiberarts is definitely fun to look at. But the theme also carries a thoughtful message: Don't take yourself, or your art, too seriously.

Now, that's a great saying for a lapel pin.


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