Monday, October 21, 2013

Integrity and an update on my flannel quilt

I belong to an online group for modern quilters and this morning, one of the topics caught my attention. There was an issue of one quilter being untruthful about where her inspiration (and perfect copy) came from for a particular quilt she created. Bad form, not illegal. Distasteful for sure, but I don't surround myself with people who would lie about something like that. Regardless, it got me thinking... I'm not entirely sure where I stand with this concept and I wanted to reach out to you all to see what your thoughts are.

Sometimes I see something somewhere in some place that just moves me to create a quilt. Those are quilts of my own design and imagination and I love them. Sometimes I see an art print that just needs to be interpreted into textile art and I create a quilt from that (or a tote, or a pouch, you get the idea). Sometimes I just see a quilt I HAVE to have and I blatantly copy the very foundation of it, maybe making a few changes here and there, but basically copying the exact design. And I love those quilts too.

When does it become wrong?

I recently witnessed a very public online debacle regarding one quilter who created a quilt for herself based off a quilt she had seen created by someone else. The quilt was for her own home and she gave credit to her inspiration but still she suffered the wrath of the online quilting community (certainly not everyone, but a smattering). Because she posted the images of her quilt to her blog, she was seen as having stolen the design, stolen the color palette. Even though she was honest and forthcoming with her design inspiration, people still drug her through the mud and basically ruined the excitement of finishing a new quilt.

I steal ideas all the time. I see something a friend is making and think, "Man! I totally love that. I'm going to make me one." I see hand towels and pillows at Pier 1 and think, "How freaking cute is that?! I'm going to make one!" I see remodeled kitchens and handwriting samples and crafts and recipes and I steal all those ideas too, bringing their beauty into my home. And I see nothing wrong with it.

I understand the frustration an artist gets when someone else comes out with a design similar to their own. It happened to a friend of mine just a couple months back. Sometimes one person is just immoral (the copier), stealing designs and trying to get more exposure before the original designer does, making the masses think the copier is the original designer. Sometimes, two people out of the 6 billion living on the planet have the same idea at the same time, making both the original designer.

Sometimes a designer picks a design that has been out forever (or is super simple to recreate) and claims it as their own imagining. Sometimes they even get their patterns published. Kudos to them for seeing a need and meeting it. I know there are hundreds and thousands of people out there who NEED patterns to create; who can't make without being told dimensions. I'm glad there are options out there for those people. But that's not going to stop me from making a Carpenter's Star block and calling it a "Swoon", or using my Drunkard's Path templates to create a Retro Flower quilt, or from calling the off brand tissue a "Kleenex".

Modern quilting is supposed to be fun and our online community was created to give us all a place to share and encourage each other. When I finish a quilt, I'm excited! I want to share the quilt's story. I want to share my heartache, my frustrations, my process, my elation when it's complete. I want to share about the people I made it for; who they are and how every stitch was placed with the future owners in my mind. I want to hear the same from of all of you. I want to see the pictures of your daughters and granddaughters snuggling their quilts. I want to see the charity quilts you create and the stories of the people in need who made you work tirelessly to complete such a perfect and thoughtful gift. I want to see the quilts you make for yourselves. And I don't care if you didn't make up the pattern. Or the inspiration piece.

I guess what I'm saying is the community is getting less inviting and more exclusive and I don't like that. We were all beginners once. We have all been inspired by something other than our own thoughts and dreams. We all have skills and visions to bring to the table and I would hate to see anyone stifled just because they made a quilt someone else may have already made.

And please note, I'm not talking about when people take patterns created by designers and rewrite them to sell, or even people who try to sell pieces made with a pattern when they didn't get the express consent from the designer. I don't want to get into the legal-ese of all that here. I'm talking about when people make something as gifts, for themselves or people close to them.

So here is a confession: I stole the idea for the flannel plus quilt I made for my best friend's wedding. I saw Jeni of In Color Order creating a plus quilt out of Anna Maria Horner flannel (AMH is my FAVE!!) and I thought, "I just have to have that." So I bought up flannel to make one. Then my best friend saw my stockpiled flannel and asked me to make one for her too. So I did. And it turned out lovely. And I didn't use a pattern.

AMH Flannel Quilt

Now, Jeni has a pattern for that quilt which you can purchase here. I, personally, did not need a pattern for this quilt. I cut a bunch of squares, arranged them, then sewed them together. It made sense to me.

I didn't mention this in my original post about the quilt, mostly because I forgot. It's a plus quilt. Everyone is making plus quilts. But in light of recent grumblings, I thought I should mention it here and update my original post, as to not be labelled a thief or other terrible, untrue title.

My intention here is not to start a war. I just want to hear opinions from others in the community. Am I wrong?

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