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What’s in a Name? Quilter? Artist? Professional?

I’ve been talking with some of my private coaching clients and IAPQ members lately about how they think of themselves professionally. When someone asks you, “What do you do?” do you call yourself a professional quilter, a quilt artist, a quilting professional, an artist who works in fiber, or something else? Do you even call yourself a professional?

This conversation began when I was talking with a potential client and she thought that professional quilter meant someone who quilted on a longarm. Back when The Professional Quilter first began publication in September 1983, the longarm industry wasn’t even a shadow of what it is today. Back in the day, our readers were teachers, shop owners, pattern designers, judges, crafters and contemporary quiltmakers who sold their work. By strict definition, a professional was someone who made money from her work, so everyone was a professional quilter. A concern for many of our readers at that time was taking that leap to really think of themselves as professional. Thank goodness we’ve made progress on that point.

As a result of this conversation, I started thinking about the name of our organization and whether when we call ourselves the International Association of Professional Quilters, newer professionals in our field don’t see themselves with that label. Do they feel excluded because they think professional quilters are people who quilt for money, specifically with a longarm? I also think other “titles” could make a different group of professionals feel excluded.

So, I’m asking you to join in a conversation on our blog. What do you call yourself: Professional quilter? Quilting professional? Artist? Quilt artist? Quiltmaker? Artmaker? Something else? And, do you feel excluded by any of the other names?

Please share your thoughts below.

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6 Responses to “What’s in a Name? Quilter? Artist? Professional?”

  1. Eileen Thomas said:

    Hi Morna, since you have been coaching me, you know my name, but others may not. My hubby thought of this one… a quilter and artist, sounded like a quiltist to him so I have adopted that name. Eileen the Quiltist.

  2. Kathy K. Wylie said:

    It depends on the audience. Within the quilting community, I believe it would be understood that a “professional quilter” earns money from quilting-related activities. But outside the quilting community, I tend to get “you’re a WHAT?”. I now call myself a “quilt designer” – something that most people can understand – and if they want to know more, I’ll explain that I’m an author, teacher, speaker, judge, etc.

  3. Jean M. Judd said:

    When I began subscribing to Professional Quilter journal many years ago, I was focused on the “Professional” term and there wasn’t alot out there aimed at the professional quilter. I like the IAPQ definition as well and still focus on the “Professional” term as I still do all of my stitching by hand, not machine. I do not feel excluded by the title of the organization. The Association aspect indicates that are bound together by a common thread.

    As for how I refer to myself, I am a textile artist and leave it at that.

  4. Bonnie Sneed said:

    I describe myself as a quilter and an artist. (I like “quiltist,” Eileen!) While I love to design and make art quilts, I am also a longarm quilter, so my bread and butter is often derived from the more traditional market. I didn’t feel in the least excluded by the Professional moniker in the title of IAPQ. I did sense – through the title – that this organization would offer a unique insight into the business side of the industry that is often overlooked by guilds and other quilter’s magazines, so I didn’t hesitate to seek membership. I think there are many organizations, magazines, and websites that already serve the hobbyist/craft market quite well. I appreciate your uniqueness, and hope to utilize your offerings more in the future.

  5. Shelly Stokes said:

    I describe myself as an author, creative mentor and entrepreneur serving the quilting and fabric art markets. My business has evolved dramatically over the years, but I always feel at home in IAPQ. When I first subscribed to the magazine, I was drawn in by the word “professional.” I was looking for information about the business side of quilting, not just the creative side.

    Does a name matter? It has to have something that catches my attention. If I think there is enough content that I can use in my business, I’ll look past some aspects of a name. I’m most interested in taking ideas from other people and finding ways to integrate them into my own business.

  6. Patrice Prosser said:

    I have been quilting for a long time and have made some money at it. I have always considered myself a quilter, but not a professional quilter. I have not felt excluded by the other names. Don’t we all have labels that are attached to what we do?

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