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. 

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. 


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.