What You Call Yourself

Answering the question of what I do is interesting. Depending on the person, I might say any of the following: artist, folk artist, doll maker, site designer, painter, printmaker. All of these things are true.

I was talking with someone who doesn't see the art in folk art, much less in folk art dolls. To them, art is paint on canvas, preferably OIL on canvas. To them, art is in a frame, on a wall. Since I am not framing my work in a traditional sense, what I'm presently making is not art to them.

I came across two artists who have given themselves labels that I really like. One is Este MacLeod and the other is Heidi Howard. Este MacLeod calls herself a "painter and applied artist". Heidi Howard calls herself a "Maker & Painter".  I particularly like that label, because it sounds so active.

Maker & Painter
Mover and Shaker

I like that Este McLeod's and Heidi Howard's art statements push against the boundaries. Since my life has many other constraints in it, I don't want to be hemmed in artistically.  it's an area of freedom.  So for today, I will also call myself Tamer of Textiles.


Lori Ann Corelis said...

Tame away Dixie!!
Iso get how hard it is to give ourselves a label that other's understand . . . if I say I make teddy bears I get puzzled or condescending looks, like I play or dawdle at it, and yet often people really don't want the full description. :-) For many "What do you do" is just polite banter and what they want back is a 3 word description. Thankfully there are enough who are genuinely interested to keep us going!) In 27 years I still don't have the perfect phrase for what I do . . . maybe by year 30! :-)
Happy stitches!

Jan Conwell said...

That was fun, Dixie. If somebody asks me what I do, I generally say doll artist. It does sort of pin me down or hem me in, linguistically, but the person who asks is seldom interested in the breadth of my artistic expression--they just want a tag to put on me in their mental file. "Jan, doll maker. Whatever that is." If I get to know them better (and visa versa) they'll learn I do lots lots more, that my garden is another form of canvas for me, etc., but for quick conversation, I just leave it at Doll Artist. I do try to make the capital letters audible. ;~P

peacheysplace said...

I often get those condescending little "pity you" smiles when I say I restore antique dolls. From no on when asked what I do, I think I'll just say "Stuff". That about covers it all.:)

Dixie Redmond said...

And isn't that just proof for the pudding? You've been creating art all this time. :-)

Dixie Redmond said...

I've gotten to the point where I just say "I make antique inspired folk art". For most people that suffices. And also, it's true. I see my doll making as being under that folk art umbrella.

Dixie Redmond said...

Gosh. Anyone who gives that look needs to be pitied. You are creating something.

Nancy said...

Jan, I like your attitude! I think you're right--most of the time it probably flat out does NOT matter to other people what we do. We just think it does, and finding the perfect "label" may bind us mentally. Marketers keep saying that artists (or arts organizations) need an "elevator speech"--something that defines us in 30 sec. or less. I've always found that to be a very difficult concept and have thought perhaps I just didn't believe in myself enough or that I didn't work hard enough or take enough time, or that I dabbled in too many areas-- whatever.

I noticed one interesting thing about thosee two references Dixie mentioned -- they refer to themselves in the 3rd person rather than the 1st. While I know that's certainly not universal on websites, I wonder if it might be helpful if we stood back and looked at our own work as if through someone else's eyes. Perhaps we could "see" our work more clearly and describe it more fully. I still can't just cut loose and call myself an "artist" though--seems pretentious somehow. But that's me. ;-)


Jan Conwell said...


Nancy, it took me a long time to come to grips with "Artist". We're taught not to "show off" (or "show out" as my Me-ma used to say)...and the term Artist is often seen as a qualitative label instead of a career description. I used to think I could say Artist once I was paid for my art, but reaching that landmark didn't help. I had to simply apply the term, get used to it, and stop being afraid of it. Now I dare anybody to tell me I'm not an Artist. :~D

Dixie Redmond said...

Nancy, I think you have a good point. It is hard to be objective about our own work. If I were describing what I do as if I were an innocent bystander (!) how would I describe it? I'm trying to pay more attention to what I AM doing, and honestly report back to myself.

"Do not let what you cannot do
keep you from doing what you can do."

John Wooden