"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. 
In effect, the people who change our lives the most begin to 
sing to us while we are still in darkness. If we listen to 
their song, we will see the dawning of a new part of ourselves."

Rabindranth Tagore

Existential Intelligence is the sensitivity and capacity to engage questions about human existence – how we got here, whether we have a purpose, and whether there is meaning in Life. Existential intelligence embraces the exploration of aesthetics, philosophy, religion and values like beauty, truth, and goodness. A strong existential intelligence allows human beings to see their place in the big picture, be it in the classroom, community, world, or universe.

First proposed by Howard Gardner, existential intelligence is one of nine theorized intelligences and is considered to be amoral – that is, it and the other eight categories of human intelligence can be used either constructively or destructively.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


In 2001, I was still the chair of the Surface Design Studio at the Southwest School of Art and Craft. Complex Cloth was selling well, and I was getting invitations to teach in other locations around the country. I struggled with leaving a program that was near and dear to my heart, but my job had turned more administrative than artful and I finally decided to go solo. It wasn’t an easy transition, but it did feel right.

Almost ten years later, I ran into a former colleague at a dinner party. “Jane,” he said, “I’ve always wanted to tell you how sorry I was that you got fired.” I looked at him in disbelief. Fired? Huh.

I called up a close friend the next day. “Hey,” I said, “Did I get fired from the Craft Center?” She laughed. “Of course you did, Jane!” She paused and continued, “Everybody knew that.”


I had the same feeling this week when I read the headline to an article describing my current exhibition and visit to the University of Louisville. The headline in the Louisville Courier-Journal read Repairing Textile’s Tattered Reputation. Huh?

The article was fine. Elizabeth Kramer, the reporter, was fun to talk to, and she definitely got it. Where the headline came from, I don’t know. But seeing that headline certainly made me stop and think. I’ve been thinking about it all week. Is this just another indication that textiles are getting a bad art rap?

The corner of the world I occupy is lively, inventive and challenging. Just as it never occurred to me that I'd been fired (gee, I could have collected unemployment...) it has never occurred to me to think of my textile world as one with a tattered reputation.

On the other hand, I talked with a guest at my lecture the other evening about just this issue - why textiles aren't more MAINSTREAM - and we agreed that it wasn't technique or quality or message as much as it was marketing.

What can we do about that?


  1. Wear it like a badge of honor. Shabby Sheik. Or wear it, just the same, wear it. Put an incredibly high price on it, thats the marketing training in me. Then make smaller pieces that "go with" or "are from" the original, and price them lower. NEVER, NEVER EVER, discount a work of art. Its unbecoming, and cheapens, not to mention then everyone knows they can barter with you. Its a desperate attempt for attention to you, and your art, and no one will take pride in a piece of anything that they "FIRESALED". Who wants to hang a piece of ORIGINAL ART and say, "I got this on sale, or it literally was a steal?". Now, a bargain is different. Adding in a few smaller pieces that compliment your piece if selling the original, after the purchase, always gives the buyer more than they are expecting and is always best.
    When marketing the exhibit. CHARGE or ask for a suggested donation and donate part of the take to the institute. Bring in students of art and allow two or three of the best students nearby to exhibit their art with yours, for free. THEY WILL BRING PEOPLE!!
    And last but not least.
    TAKE 5 minutes, more if needed, and put your head down on the desk THE WHOLE TIME, while smiling.
    Now. BLOG. CREATE. LIVE. LOVE. Make others happy.

  2. Thank you for linking to the article about your art and speech. The write-up was flattering and accurate - why the journalist chose that headline probably has more to do with wanting to sound clever than it is a commentary on the fiber arts. Whatever, I'm glad for this blog and your strivings to elevate the role of fiber creations in the art world.

  3. Thanks for all your great work ... I just read the article, the headline online reads "Artist Jane Dunnewold brings textile art to forefront with visit" ... as I work on emerging into the world as a surface design artist, I ponder what it will take for me to gain recognition in the art world that mostly ignores art made on fabric. I suspect the answer is marketing, marketing, marketing. While I was in Portland I had a studio space inside a fine art printmaking studio where I participated with the members, and I felt I gradually gained some recognition and respect from the group. I look forward to my journey, making art cloth and sharing with the world. Kudos to you, Jane!

  4. During a discussion with a gallery owner a couple of weeks ago, he said the trend now is to refer to ourselves as "Textile Artists" rather than "Fiber Artists". On the way home, I wondered why we don't just call ourselves "Artists"....

  5. I saw this article online earlier in the week - since I have a daily update of news/blog/web entries for "Art Cloth." This article about Jane was found with this update I received. At any rate, I saw the same article title that Beth mentioned above. I had to go back and re-read the article for the portion of the subject that Jane was a bit stymied over. This area of the topic noted, "Repairing Textiles Tattered Reputation," was a subject I did not recall immediately. After re-reading several times, this was at the end of the article posted online.

    Working to pursue this nature of an art career, and being in contact with several dear friends, both in Marketing, I have learned much of difference over time. I have also found that in this day and age, the perception of this subject (Art Cloth or any other Art subject), by the artist, is absolutely necessary to get this moving out to the Market as Art, not a craft.

    I am pursuing and looking forward to the opportunity to pursue this level of Art going forward. Thanks Jane, for providing the interesting update and history of your work into this career, and your pursuit of this Art (and related required Marketing).


  6. When I started quilting 20 years ago I was so concerned with this issue I distanced myself from the art-quilt movement. Even though I continued to make quilts I also tried my hand at pushing the form, which led to installations, and eventually to community based practice. I got an MFA in sculpture from Bard College but was still making quilts but with a community twist - which in many ways was more rooted in traditional craft practice than ever.

    Now I think the contemporary art world is as much as a ghetto or more so than the art quilt, textile/fiber art or craft world. At least the common joe can relate to craft or to a quilt. The contemporary art scene is actually small, and marginal to mainstream culture.

    I probably sound cynical but I could care less if the NEA has their entire budget cut. Most NEA money goes to a small percentage of elite artists and institutions to create the work for the cultural consumption of the wealthy.

    I think it is more important to make consistent strong, meaningful work and build a broad-based audience for it within our own communities. More people saw my work, and I made more money selling my art/quilts at the local farmers market than most contemporary artists I know ever make selling through a big New York gallery.

    Although making art is very important to me, being accepted in the art world is not a relevant, or even a desirable goal anymore.

    Thanks for your lovely, thoughtful posts Jane. I really enjoy the debate.

  7. I wouldn't sweat the headline - somebody else writes them. It's a common ploy to use cute turns of phrase - even the august science journal "Nature" does it.

  8. Pithy headlines and eye-catching photos ... who reads the articles? That is an ever increasing attitude with the media in all fields, not just textiles or art. The 'truth' seems to be written by whoever gets the best story in first, with of course the best headline.

    What we need to raise the profile of textiles within the art world are good stories, preferably sensational, which then go on to survive scrutiny.