Tips for Writing an Artist’s Statement

Artist’s Statements don’t have to be tricky, here’s a few tips on writing the best ones.

Originally posted on April 30, 2018 by Cheryl Sleboda

So you decided to enter your quilt in a show, and there’s the entry section staring you in the face: Artist’s Statement.  This is your chance to talk about the piece, but these artist’s statements can really come off as pretentious and disconnected.  Here’s a few practical tips to write the very best one for your quilt.

First of all, let’s talk about what an artist’s statement should be.  This is your chance to speak directly to the audience about your work.  If you are not there to explain the work, your artist’s statement does that for you.  Not every show can publish your artist’s statement in full, but some do, and it’s a good opportunity to promote your work if you are not present at the show.

However, this is not the time to brag or go off the rails on your place in the greater art world.  Bad artist’s statements are really obvious when you read them.  They don’t explain anything about why or how the work was created, and can sometimes feel like an afterthought. They focus too much on the artist, or use strange terms not related to the work.   A bad artist’s statement can lead to your piece not being selected for the show.   So here are a few tips to write the very best one.

-Write your thoughts about your work just after it’s created. If you have to write an artist’s statement later on, you’ll have lots of material to pull from.  From inspiration, how you feel this piece fits into your body of work, to tracking how long it took you to complete, these details will come in handy later.  Reading articles in Machine Quilting Unlimited, it’s clear the artists in the magazine have this kind of information ready to be turned into artist’s statements or even magazine articles.

-Tell us about your inspiration for this work. People love to read about what struck inspiration in you to create this work.  You can let your audience know what exactly stirred you to make a piece on the theme that you did.  Other quilters are always looking for new sources of inspiration, so this is a great place to begin your artist’s statement. “I was inspired by a comic book background fill technique…”

-Describe any unique techniques you use.  If you paint on fabric and then quilt it, or if you do fabric manipulations for dimensional effects, these make great discussions for your artist’s statements.  Like the inspirations, people love to discover new and exciting ideas in quilting at shows and galleries.  You don’t have to give away all your trade secrets, but a hint of how it’s done could lead to future works, future shows, or other opportunities. “Fabric folding raises the surface of my quilts and I’m fascinated by the dimension…”

-If the show has a theme, use the artist’s statement to tie the work to the theme.  This can be a bit tricky, but if you have a piece that would be perfect for a themed show, you may have to use your artist’s statement to explain how it fits.  You don’t have to be heavy handed, as good judges will see the connection.  Be sure the work fits into the show.  I’ll never forget judging a spring themed art show where the artist’s statement of a work depicting a person eating a sandwich read “Sandwiches are great in the springtime”.

Next time you are thinking about entering a show, don’t let the artist’s statement stump you!  Making them relevant and interesting to read will help serve you in getting into the show as well as making your audience aware of what you want to say about the work you created.


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