First off, you may want to go read this article by Germaine Greer reviewing an exhibition of Edrica Huws' art quilts in The Guardian, a British journal/newspaper. To say that it's a tad biased would be a mild comment. But it IS very interesting and thought provoking, to be sure. The QuiltArt mailing list is certainly having a great time bashing Greer and defending patchwork, whether it's piecing patterns or making pictures or creating art.
Greer makes a point that sewing has always been women's work - often for "frittering away" their time... Here's a quote - and I hope I'm not violating copyright laws by putting it here. If I am, I'm sure someone will inform me quickly!
"What could be the point of such an exercise in futility? The work of art is supposed to defy time but fabric is bound to fade and rot, even when it is kept in between layers of tissue paper and shut away from sight. There's nothing new in this kind of heroic pointlessness; women have frittered their lives away stitching things for which there is no demand ever since vicarious leisure was invented. Mrs Delaney was spending hours of concentration making effigies of flowers out of bits of coloured paper mounted on black card as long ago as 1771. Why didn't she just paint them? You can see her paper mosaics in the Enlightenment gallery of the British Museum, if you insist, but be warned. You could end up profoundly depressed by yet more evidence that, for centuries, women have been kept busy wasting their time."
I presume Greer's politics is feminist in the extreme, although I may be wrong. For many more centuries than not, sewing was an essential task - not to be compared with "vicarious leisure" time in any way. That sort of time has actually involved so few women over such a small portion of history that it's a wonder to me that Greer is so hostile about it.
Perhaps I will draw the wrath of artists everywhere by saying, in my own personal experience, I often feel that I am frittering my time away for no real cause. I love to create, design, sew, paint, etc. but I make no money at it - much as I'd like to. I don't even manage to pay for all my supplies with any earnings made from my art. I am totally supported by my loving husband and considered by many to be somewhat of a self-centered, unbalanced, and/or lazy woman for not accompanying him in the work force to make our retirement easier on both of us. After all, I have a BA and an MA, yet I am a stay-at-home wife, doing normal housekeeping chores (as seldom as possible), cooking (again, as little as possible), and creating, reading or otherwise "spending time" whatever way I wish.
I am a somewhat unique woman in this narrow window of history where women CAN fritter away time, are independent enough to do what they want if they have the courage to do so, and am treated by my spouse as a true partner. And, to be totally honest, there are times when I feel as though I am among those who "have frittered their lives away stitching things for which there is no demand" - has no one else ever felt that niggling sense of guilt? That we should somehow be doing more, better, best at anything except what we are presently choosing to do?
We were talking about the "unexamined life" just the other day - my husband doubts that the examined life is one that many people take part in. I disagree. I think anyone who has time to think eventually examines his/her life to some degree. In psychotherapy, that examination is often into the minutia, which may or may not be helpful. A spiritual person often examines his/her life - that's one of the ways to explore different options from the old patterns that essentially rule one's life. The degree and type of spiritual and/or psychological self-exploration can provide one with totally different experiences from very good to very bad, but such explorations do offer one opportunities for growth and change.
To say I've never questioned the value of my activities would be to say that I have never explored the paradox of life. Oh, I've explored them, alright, but I haven't come to any firm conclusions about whether or not I am wasting my life/time/energy/money on artistic pursuits. As long as I create, I maintain a sense of meaning, purpose, enjoyment, pleasure, and essential value for my life. When I stop creating, I begin to die by process of a slow and painful surrender into depression.
Did Greer's article anger me? She aroused lots of feelings, which included anger, but mostly because her own hostility was so palpable in the article. I felt lots of other things, too. And my conclusions are that I need not defend myself to Greer or others, I only need to be clear with myself what is right for me.