This is what the fabric I use to make art usually looks like when I start, a big white blank canvas. A big part of the design process for me is adding color to this cloth.
But when I'm finished, what do I have? What do I call my medium? I vacillate a lot on this issue. Here are some of my options, along with pros and cons for each:
1. Art Quilt
pro: most people can figure out what I mean by that
con: most people will start talking about their dearly departed grandmother, the quilter. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but my pieces are neither for the bed nor traditional in any way.
2. Fiber Art
pro: art made out of fiber--what could be simpler to understand than that?
con: the general public has no idea what that means.
3. Textile Art
pro: at least now it's clear that we're talking about fabric and not basket making.
con: they still don't get it.
4. Textile Paintings
pro: some well known artists (Lisa Call, e.g.) use this term
con: I think it's still kind of ambiguous
pro: it's concise
con: could be talking about anything
In the end, if I'm trying to explain my art in the absence of my art, I have to use more than one sentence to get the point across. It helps to have pictures with me at all times...but in practice, I don't always do that. So I work on honing my 'elevator speech', and spread the message as I can. The upside of having to explain my medium in order to help someone understand my art is that frequently they think I invented it all...I tell them I didn't, but if they want to believe it, well, who am I to insist?
my elevator speech:
I make fiber art about the disappearing Midwestern prairie, using white and black fabrics that I dye, paint and discharge, hand and machine stitching, resulting in abstract expressionist wall hangings.
If I can remember it.