Riding the Fringes

So, I have been thinking very much about this post from Stephanie Forsyth’s fabulous blog, and even Melly Testa’s follow up on her blog.

When I started quilting, and especially when I moved back to Chicago from Baltimore, I found that I wanted to find a group of like minded people to share my work with and learn from.  Instead of feeling included, I feel like an outsider, riding the fringes of their pasttime.

op2And if that’s not enough, though some people would think I’m in some kind of “inner circle” of quilters at shows or meetings, I am not.  Even there I have had instances of rejection, times where people are in on some secret group that I’m not privy to, who look at me and decide to sit somewhere else.  And though some of these are more like minded folks art wise, I end up again feeling like the outsider who’s riding the fringes of acceptance.

Last year at Houston I had a catchphrase that I have since extended to my daily life:

I do not need your acceptance to have a good time.

This mantra helped me in several situations at Houston, and the time I had exceeded the time I had the year before (which had real downer moments, even though my quilt was in the show).  I have since discussed this topic with a few select people, and there are a few things I’ve boiled it down to that could be what set some outsiders apart from general “acceptance”.

  • They just don’t get the concept of our art, and because they don’t get it, they decide they can’t be seen liking it, even though they may think it’s amazing.
  • They are intimidated.  You can take this however which way you want.  Intimidated because I’m at this stage in my art at the age I’m at.  Intimidated by the types of art I create, or the electronic materials I often use.  Intimidated because I wear a skull on 99% of my clothing and therefore I must be “subversive”.  And feel free to replace “intimidated” by “weirded out”.  Don’t hate on me or my art because you personally don’t want to use lights in your quilts.
  • Their own need for acceptance by their perceived group of peers creates a “high school” effect, where they exclude others for the air of exclusivity.
  • That because I work a full time job, I must not be a “real” artist, and therefore not part of the club.  (um, Lisa Call, Lynn Krawczyk, and many many others… and I fucking dare you to say they are not artists)

I could spend my whole life psychoanalyzing others to figure out why I always feel like I’m riding the fringes of accepted quilt society.  I spent my whole school career being a “nerd” girl who liked boy things and never wore makeup… who joined the “strange” groups like Drama and Chess Club…who read comic books and played Dungeons and Dragons.  I know exactly what it’s like, and why it feels “bad”. But I’m a grown ass woman, and I don’t need people’s acceptance to be happy.  I’m not going to change who I am to try to fit in to these groups anymore.
Open Studios 2012 HoustonThe “nerds” are starting to see our day in the sun in pop culture, and so are we “outsider” quilty people.  We are testing your limits.  We do not look like the average quilter.  We are younger, we are weirder, we are using that materials you would never use in your quilt.  And I’m proud to be part of that group.

Stephanie touched on something that I have felt for a long time.  Her persona in person is different from her blog “voice”.  I have so much admiration for Megan Dougherty and Maddie Kertay who blogged with full on “salt” from day one of their blog.  I self censored because I didn’t want to offend clients or buyers of my work, lectures, and workshops.  Those ladies both have huge followings.  It made me think…the people I’d have to censor for, are they really my audience anyway?
selfnot usedI recently decided to redo my head shot (the one at the top) and I felt so strongly to wear my skull t shirt in it.  It’s more “me” and it’s more how I am everyday versus the trussed up “clean” web version of myself.  I think it’s time to do that for the blog too, and I hope you will stick around and ride the fringes with me.