Friday, August 12, 2016

Let's be clear


I have spent a lot of this summer doing other fun things besides quilting and blogging. I do intend to get back to this space now, as I miss it. And I very much miss making quilts and such.

I have also not been paying a lot of attention to the blogs I follow or even to instagram. I find instagram a lot less fun now that it is not chronological. For me a lot of the fun was being able to see what people were sharing right in this moment and connecting with them right now. Well, that seems to be less possible and so it is less interesting for me as now instagram is another thing that I need to "catch up on" rather than "check in to" for a few minutes.

That is all by way of explanation as to why I am late to the discussion sparked by the Modern Quilt Guild's blog post about derivative work - do read the comments too, it is a great discussion.

Before I share my thoughts, I want to make this absolutely clear - and I want to acknowledge Amy Garro as inspiration for sharing this thought, you can read her great post on her blog 13 Spools here:

  • If you are inspired by anything I share or make or my techniques or my attitudes, or whatever,  please copy it. You may copy it exactly, you may change little bits or all of it, you may mush the idea as you understand it with other ideas. Just be creative and have fun. Be derivative. Derive whatever you want. Go for it!
  • If you are using a pattern of mine or any idea, technique, or whatever of mine, I hereby give you a license to enter anything made from that pattern into a quilt show and to win prizes from it. If you do, an acknowledgement of my pattern or inspiration would be lovely, and do let me know so I can celebrate your accomplishments with the pattern.
  • Do know that I am personally enriched if you share work acknowledging that I have inspired you - this is not just me being nice. 



I have lots of thinking still to do about that MQG post, and I have not had a chance to read all the other bloggers and commentators on it, but here are my initial thoughts:


  • I make quilts, many of which are my own design, for the joy of it. Not for shows or for prizes. In many respects I don't care what the MQG feels or thinks about derivative work. But I do disagree with them.
  • If all one does is copy exactly another person's quilt, with or without a pattern, copying every design, every colour, every fabric, every quilt stitch, and every technique, that person has make a hand made quilt, which is fantastic! 
  • My experience has been that if you pursue an idea, whether your own or someone else's idea, and you explore it and play with it, soon you will have your own work. You will pick other colours and fabrics, you will change the sizes, you will alter design decisions, you will alter the blocks, you will change the focus, you will change the impression, you will combine one idea with something completely different, you will do many other things. If you are inclined to do any or all of these, your work will soon cease to be a copy, and then cease to be "derivative" and will be instead inspired by stuff. 
  • In my humble opinion, we are all inspired by something or 10 things, or 1000 things in everything we create. Whether those things are quilts or techniques or historical quilts or art or craft or architecture or life experiences or nature or fine art or conversations or music or poetry or emotions or many other things, we are inspired when we create. We often combine many of these inspirations or we can focus on one.
  • Eventually, if you are inclined to make up your own quilt designs, your own "style" will emerge. You will generally notice this has happened when other people recognize your work as yours. Those people may like it or they may not, but they will see your creative style even if you cannot articulate it well yourself.
  • For me, however, every piece of art and craft - is derivative in some way, whether the particular set of viewers recognizes the inspiration or not. 
Echoes

As a lawyer, I think that the MQG has done a poor job of trying to address legal concerns about the content in their show - that is that someone might sue them for a display/show that breaches copyright laws. They should have had a lawyer fully research the law and then write the post. And, the MQG is a WORLD guild, so it would be nice to see the Americans acknowledge that other countries have different laws.

But in the end, the MQG can make its own rules and policies about its show, just like others who show quilts. I had hoped that, as a member, the policy making process would have included more consultation and debate among members, but I understand the need for organizations to respond to legal concerns too. 

Spin

And while I am firmly of the view that the Modern Quilt Guild is made up of "my people", the important thing for me is that the MQG does not decide how I will create. The MQG views and policies will never stop me from exploring ideas, from copying work, from making derivative work, from making original work, from finding my own voice, from having fun. 

I make quilts, it is a joy to do so. I hope you feel that joy too.

Best,

Leanne 





49 comments:

  1. Another blogger (the b***hy stitcher) mentioned these MQG guidelines (quite tongue in cheek)- guess these had made quite an uproar in the quilting world.

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  2. Thank you for this blog post. Wow what an uproar the MQG caused.

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  3. Thanks for this thoughtful commentary, Leanne. I've also been pondering about this, and it's so nice to hear these perspectives.

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  4. Well said Leanne. I do agree with your point of view and have been lurking somewhere between hiding my head in the sand and stepping on a soapbox about it all. I may still write a blog post myself. What I was most bothered by was the "tone on tone" (blog post title, because naming things is so fun). I personally think that MQG had good intentions that went wrong and have done an admirable job attempting to correct course. Good can come of controversy and also of clearing the air but sometimes it makes me want to say "I don't know, I don't know, never mind!!".

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    1. HI Karen, as a member of the MQG and dedicated QuiltCon volunteer, I'd love to hear your perspective. If you do end up writing that post, would you be so kind as to send me a link to it - as the Region 5 Rep on the Board, I'm trying to gather input from members and would really like to hear what you have to say. Jules (jules@themodernquiltguild.com)

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  5. Amen to what you've said here. When I was reading the post from MQG I realized that people are attributing improv quilting to women who are alive and teaching the art form today. In reality improv has been around for over 2000 years. If MQG is truely an international organization they should be looking outside of the view of a handful of people to see how these techniques have existed in other countries for hundreds of years. Perhaps copyright laws don't apply outside of US.

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  6. Well said. 100% in agreement with you!

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  7. A great and timely post Leanne. Completely agree with CapitolaQuilter about MQG who must wish they could start again but they have responded with patience and grace. I'm with you it is a murky area and a solid legal view needs to be sought albeit a view that might take quite a conservative course. It's interesting to compare it to the UK. Our major quilt show started yesterday with a modern quilt section for the first time. I asked one of the show organisers about derivitive quilts and she confirmed its not an issue here after all 'all quilts are derivative'! I guess originality of design/style would count for more in the judging rather than a copy of an existing design so that encourages orignality which was very evident and a more relaxed approach certainly hasn't hampered the quality.

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    1. Hi Jenny, the Festival of Quilts sure looked like an amazing show! If you're in the UK, you have a representative on the Board of the MQG - do let me know if you have any comments or concerns and I'd be happy to address them. Jules (jules@themodernquiltguild.com)

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  8. I appreciate your words and your permissions in this post. There was a quilter who looked at an antique sampler quilt, drew out each of the blocks and put it in a book. It wasn't even real patterns with directions. She then sued someone who tried to sell a quilt she had made looking at these drawings. If you sell a pattern, I think that I should not be allowed to sell the pattern, but certainly I should be expected to be able to make a quilt and do anything I want with that quilt. Some people want to draw out as much profit from their work, even when it is not warranted.

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  9. For some reason the key board froze up before I was finished. SHOW YOUR WORK by Austin Kleon as well is also a really valuable read.

    I have asked for permission and given permission....no problem with that but these things need to be kept realistic. We are all influenced and I am all for giving credit where credit is do but I totally agree with you.

    Miss having lunch with you.....one of these days????

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  10. Thanks for sharing these thoughts. I appreciate your perspective on the issue!

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  11. My favorite post yet, thank you for sharing your words and for making me feel like if I care to copy a quilt I still can and its still ok to do so. I haven't ever done this (but have threatened to a few times) and some of these posts were making me feel bad for even thinking it! Anyway, love your words, love steal like an artist. :)

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  12. Well said!. I buy the books and still do it my way, this is why I don't buy kits, mine will not be like the other 500 doing the same pattern.

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  13. Well said. Thanks for sharing your views.

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  14. I think you and Amy Garro both shared a similar (and more rational) take on the topic than the MQG. Though I don't at all resent quilters who would rather no one copy their work exaclty. As to the MQG, I'm not AS certain that their hearts are entirely pure, here. I do think there is a little bit of power politics and gate keeping going on. For that reason and a few others, I've opted to NOT go in for membership. I discussed it a bit on my blog, as well. :-) I'm hoping more people will, as it's encouraging a broader discussion on the topic.

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  15. Love your attitude and that of Amy Garro on this matter. Quilting is built upon years of shared influence and look how wonderfully it's flourished!

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  16. Thanks for your perspective and I think Audrey has stated things very well as well.

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  17. I think QuiltCon is taking itself way too seriously. Some of their rules are just plain silly. It seems like most every quilt would be disqualified.
    Several months ago in the CQA magazine a similar "rule" was discussed in an article by Kathy Bissett about a show she was curating. A quilt that was submitted was deemed to use a Native Canadian symbol. It was determined that unless the quilter was Native (she wasn't) that the quilter had to get "approval" from an "approved" Native person. I wrote a letter to the editor and had some correspsondence with the CQA president expressing my objections. The symbol in question is iconic and appears in much literature and art. I noted that it was a good thing Gauguin wasn't a quilter because his portrayal of native women wouldn't have made the cut. I don't think the article should have been published by CQA because it suggests that CQA supports this silly idea. This was way beyond copyright or inspired or derivative. It's quilting folks--lighten up.
    Thanks for your sensible comments. I've seen similar comments elsewhere in blogs and I am sure that QuiltCon has received similar opinions.
    So what about the 9-patch? Is that a copy? Derivative? Or simply inspiring?

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  18. I'm so happy to read your post about "derivative" theory. Life is totally, no other known way, Derivative! We all as babies all over the world learn by copying every sight and sound around us--if we don't, we fail to thrive as babies and die or become dead to our senses. But you have stated it so generously and creatively, it just made me happy to read your words. Of course I copy whatever seizes my fancy--constantly and I'm always thrilled and grateful to learn a new thing or a new way to express myself. After I've learned it, it's undeniably all about me even though I sing the praises of the person who showed me the way. Didn't the MQG ever read the many accounts of famous discoveries being made all over the world by humans working in total ignorance of anyone else's work on the same exact idea??? The desire to create, to produce a result, to experiment and yes especially to COPY a beautiful thing or a smarter, easier method isn't owned by any species. Animals do it, humans do it, I haven't said anything about the creeping expansion of claims that quilting designs can suddenly be turned into intellectual property and off limits to "imitators". Mostly because I'm a lawyer myself and it's not worth my time to argue with folks who don't know the first thing about the law. But also because it's all just SEWING, folks. It's been going on for thousands of years. I wish people would lighten up and put down their heavy burdens of trying to protect their own derived creations from the hordes threatening to steal their ideas. Good people are glad to give credit where it's due, and I happily buy patterns all the time to save myself the work of reverse engineering, and I'm grateful to the pattern writer and the generous free tutorial writer. I never yet met a sewing woman or man with a bad heart who wanted to diminish a fellow's creative reward. So thanks for the permissions. If I ever publicize anything of my own I will happily "copy" your permissions to let everybody know I'm flattered if something I made has value to anyone else anywhere. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I invented an amazing design a few weeks ago--and I can't figure out how everybody found out when I haven't told a soul before now??? Anyway that design you're calling the 9-patch? That's IT!! It just came to me out of the blue while I was doing some Improv playing around. ......


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  19. I love this and totally agree Leanne. There is no greater compliment than someone taking one of my patterns and building on it. I was once contacted by a lady who had used my Kea (parrot) pattern to create a pigeon which she depicted on the rooftops of Manhattan. She won a prize with it. It was a fun and creative piece. I loved what she did and enthusiastically shared her success with my followers. I wouldn't dream of being grumpy that she had entered MY pattern in a show. She deserved the prize for her creative and beautiful quilt.

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  20. Amen to this - I'm making my first quilt at the moment, and because I do various other creative things where I think about copyright and appropriation, I've been fretting a little about the fact that it's heavily inspired by a quilt I saw a brilliant quilter was quilting for an unnamed creator, over on Instagram. Never mind that my quilt is for my home, and not for show... Lots of food for thought here. I've decided the most important thing is that I'm actually doing it (and am very excited about it!) so thanks to my anonymous inspiration!

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  21. Amen to this - I'm making my first quilt at the moment, and because I do various other creative things where I think about copyright and appropriation, I've been fretting a little about the fact that it's heavily inspired by a quilt I saw a brilliant quilter was quilting for an unnamed creator, over on Instagram. Never mind that my quilt is for my home, and not for show... Lots of food for thought here. I've decided the most important thing is that I'm actually doing it (and am very excited about it!) so thanks to my anonymous inspiration!

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  22. Leanne, what a post. Being in Berlin, I am probably unawares what incident caused this post but thank you for your frank words, acknowledgement of diversity and openmindedness. I agree fully with what you expressed in this post.

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  23. Brava Leanne!!! I'm not sure how anyone thinks we can possibly create without being inspired by others! It is the nature of Life. We are inspired by others, we create, others are then inspired by us, they create, and so on...... Our world has become too litigious - in every aspect and walk of life! How I wish we could just quilt together, encourage and inspire each other, and keep the "law" out of it!!!

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  24. Very well said Leanne! If it wasn't for inspiration, past and present, from somewhere or someone, imagine how stagnant our creativity would be. I've appreciated how outspoken others have been (like you and Amy) about the entire MGQ discussion.

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  25. I am of the same mind. As beginners, most of us must copy. Somewhere along our quilting journey we begin to step out on our own, but every quilt we've ever seen, every block we've ever learned, every colour combination we've fallen in love with will be incorporated into our quilts. I say imitation is the ultimate complement.

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  26. Thanks Leanne. I appreciate your take on the subject, which I'll confess, is very overwhelming to me. It's kind of made me question alot - at least my showing publicly what I do. I sometimes feel I don't have much original creativity - I'm very influenced by what I see on the web, in my own life, in books, etc. Lots to think about...

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  27. I agree with you 100%! My son's high school art teacher encouraged them to use famous images in their artwork and make them their own. Some of the derivatives were more creative to me than the original art work on which they were based.

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  28. Wonderful post, thanks very much for such a positive perspective on it. I am afraid that I do feel the MQG leadership has overstepped and that they are attempting to define "modern quilting" for us all, and then defend that definition with a bunch of misdirection. As a quilter it's important to me to acknowledge that we stand on the shoulders of the quilters before us, and that there is a tradition of passing on patterns and possibilities to each other. As a member of MQG, I would hope for them to foster a more inclusive, expansive definition of modern quilting and to promote education which includes properly researched legal advice, and acknowledgement of the quilting world prior to 2011.

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  29. I think that you are very generous in your attitude to sharing your work and admire and respect you very much for this choice. I think though that there is a problem in a judged quilt show, based on the straightforward idea of originality, which the MQG has tried to address in its article. I don't think that it is necessary to have a lawyer explain this.

    Most people understand the concept of plagiarism in written work. If you quote (ie copy) directly from someone else's work, you credit the source - you don't steal someone else's hard work and present it as your own. If you quote (copy) a very large amount (or the whole) of someone's work you ask for permission first. If on the other hand, you incorporate someone else's ideas with your own and then present them in your own words, then your work is most likely original.

    Quilts in a judged show are judged on merit and presumably this includes both technical and design skills. If you copy someone's design, then you should credit the designer. If you have copied a work that originally appeared in another medium – a painting perhaps – you should credit the artist.
    In theory what the MQG calls 'derivative quilts' (ie ones which are copied or closely copied) could still be judged on interpretation and technical skills – perhaps the MQG could consider this.

    If, however, you have taken on board other people's ideas and incorporated them with your own and expressed them in your own way then you have made an original quilt. That's how art works. I don't understand why this article has caused so much anger. I don't think the MQG is denying that almost all art is inspired in some way by other art. It just tries to explain the grey area in between – is your quilt alike enough to another to be considered a copy, or different enough to be original? - and to give some pointers for navigating your way through these murky waters.

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  30. you go girl..When I lived in Miami, I worked as a therapist in a smallish building with 30 therapists renting there...OMG...and you know...there was enough work for all of us, as each of us was different, appealing to varied personalities...great post and adorable quilt.

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  31. If you looking at the history of quilting, it's precedence if you will, it is full of sharing and community as well as self expression. To emphasize self expression as more important than community would be to cut off a large part of our identity.

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  32. If you looking at the history of quilting, it's precedence if you will, it is full of sharing and community as well as self expression. To emphasize self expression as more important than community would be to cut off a large part of our identity.

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  33. Thank you, this was wonderful reading, I have admired your designs and quilting for a long time, I really admire your attitude!

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  34. I enjoyed reading about this, and your opinion on it. I agree with you.
    Gosh, here we are living in 2016 and we think we have anything new?
    I believe your view on this is correct.
    Rules stifle everyone. Jeez let's leave the lawsuits for more important things

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  35. Loved this and I admire you for it. I too believe that the MQG should have consulted members instead of making these changes due to the complaints of a few. Loving the debates and lively discussions but I'm finding these rules or guidelines as they like to call them limiting and insulting. Too much power is held by a few and many members are going to break away.

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  36. Agreed. Your quilts make me joyful! I'm not a member and generally avoid classifying myself in any way. I feel like I'm still learning and just grasping my own style. The best way for me to do that is, as you say, by making quilts!

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  37. Hear hear! They have opened a can of worms and it's going to be interesting to see how it plays out. Once again they have forgotten they are a worldwide organisation as well which is very disappointing. That has happened too often as they take the money from us outside America. All it would need is an sentence to say that while quiltcon is held in the US then their copywrite laws apply to quilts shown.

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    1. Hi Shevvy, as a member of the MQG outside the US, I am your representative on the Board (I live in Australia). I'd be very happy to hear from you if you have some time to send an email with your concerns. My email address is jules@themodernquiltguild.com, hope to hear from you soon. Jules

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  38. I appreciate your clear thoughts on this so very much, and agree with everything. Thanks for taking the time to articulate so clearly how I feel as well.

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  39. Thank you Leanne for your thoughtful post. I assure you that the Board are taking the response from members to the initial post very seriously. As you can appreciate, feedback around the web via blogs and Facebook is hard to collate - as your representative on the MQG Board, I would be very grateful if you could email me the link to your post and any further comments you may have so that your feedback can assist us in the review process. Any members may email me but more specifically, my role on the Board is about representing members outside of the USA, I would be grateful to hear from them. My email is jules@themodernquiltguild.com

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  40. As a newbie to the world of quilting I want to thank you for this post. After reading the post by the MQG; I quite honestly felt like I never wanted to quilt again. I felt like the fun and potential creativity was no longer permitted unless you were a part of the 'clique' and that someone's size 10 boot had thuggishly stamped all over any chance of having fun.

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  41. Interesting debate -- MQG is starting to sound a bit like the now defunct NQA, hmmmm?

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  42. and this is why I have a problem with thew MQG. I really apprecialte your time spent saying it's OK and also 13 Spools blog post, to copy, derivative or not. I have always felt there is nothing new in quitling, just interpretation. Being in the US, the sue happy US, I can see why the MQG has to cover their butt. I am so glad I have not entered into the realm of the whole MQG. I just float along on the perimeter, mostly enjoying the friends I have made, you included. It's slippery slope when you get copyright involved in art/hobby/passion. I have totally ignored the MQG when posting to IG giving credit to those who have inspired me, but certainly not worrying about copying anyone. I feel copying is a form of flattery. I quilt as a fun, creative outlet, giving most of my quilts to friends. I do not create nor sell patterns and maybe that is why I don't care what the MQG says.

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  43. I had missed this post before. If you were late to the party you probably missed the first version of the MQG post that lasted less than 24 hours, it was even worse! There was a sentence along the line of if you'd ever read a book or watched TV then you'd derived your work. Nuts, positively nuts!

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  44. I've been out of the country for a couple of weeks, and so I have some catching up to do as well. Loved this post--it sounds just like you, and I like that you are letting some fresh air into the discussion. I have had run-ins with "famous" quilters regarding copyright and a lot of what is assumed is incorrect, but who wants to tangle with a lawsuit about this? That threat alone can stifle creativity, as noted in Rossie's fine comment regarding Disney on the original MQG post. Hope you had a great summer--
    Elizabeth

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  45. I totally agree Leanne and thanks so much for your general permissions :)

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