Monday, July 14, 2014

Yours, Mine or Ours? Questions about Creativity and Ownership, and Giving Credit Where Credit is Due.

My husband and I were having a conversation yesterday revolving around creativity, originality, and ownership of such. The conversation began because I was feeling frustrated from seeing quilters ripping off other quilters and not giving credit where credit is due as well as seeing the seemingly same 12 quilts being done over and over and marketed as original designs. (In my defense it was a full moon, and full moons tend to make me a bit more on edge, (crabby) about things. Maybe some of my ancestors came over from Transylvania, who knows.)

My husband was sympathetic, but also, (and wisely) reintroduced the notion that nothing that we come up with is really original. He referred back to a TED Talk given by Kirby Ferguson, based on Ferguson's 4-part Everything is a Remix series. The premise is that nothing in the creative world is really, truly original. Everything is a remix of what has come before us. And maybe it's time that we really started to admit this to ourselves and others and just give credit where credit is due, and keep building upon the creative works that have come before us, creating a better world for all, without getting ourselves all worked up about ownership.

All of this sent me on another long reflection of where I really stand on this, or more importantly, where do I want to stand on this... as in what type of world do I want to help create and be a part of?

I want to live in a world where creativity is encouraged to thrive. Constantly screaming, "Hey, that's my idea, hands off!" limits creativite expression the ability to grow, expand and evolve.

I want to live in a world where people can make a good living off of their work while at the same time helping others to tap into their own creativity and also thrive. Now this is a much tougher issue, and we can get into all sorts of gray areas...

Since most of us reading this blog are quilters, or sewers/crafters in one way or another, let us take for example a quilt pattern that is for sale. That pattern took time to be designed, written, illustrated, and marketed. If someone buys that pattern, then makes 50 copies to distribute to their guild members, (instead of encouraging their guild members to buy the pattern for themselves) that is hurting the livelihood of the pattern designer. That is why patterns can and in my opinion, should be protected under copyright law. Outside of being allowed to give away or resell the original pattern one time, (you bought it, you used it, you have no further use for it. So you pass it on to a friend, or sell it say at a garage sale... that is allowed) ... other then that, you can't reproduce the pattern for sale or to give away under copyright laws.

However, the person buying the pattern should be able to make the quilt and do as they wish with it afterwards, shouldn't they? After all the quilt that they just made is theirs, isn't it? (Sort of like giving a gift... once you give it, it is the receiver's gift to do with it as they wish). And so, that would include selling the quilt for profit. (Technically from my limited understanding of copyright law, it is only the pattern that is protected, not any items made from it.)

But many patterns say you can't sell any items made from said pattern.  Is this really allowed? Should it be? Shouldn't it be? It's a real debate, and one I can see both sides of. In fact I have put those terms on some of my patterns that I sell, and left them off on some others... it really is a tricky catch 22 in many ways.

(For the record, this whole discussion with my husband, as well as the ensuring rabbit hole it thus led me down, has made me clarify my terms, which now are that, the copyright is on the pattern, illustrations,writing, photos... none of those things may be copied or reproduced for sale or group use. Items made from the pattern, (which would fall under licensing rights) may be sold. However that would be on a small-scale basis... what one person, (the buyer of the pattern) was able to make and sell. Factory or mass produced items from the pattern are prohibited.)

In the best of worlds, everyone would be ethical in giving credit back where credit is due, and also would work hard to add and build upon what inspires them, for this is what will promote a better world for all of us. (Think of it in terms of creative evolution which will lead us, according to Mr. Ferguson, to "social evolution").

Again, in Kirby Ferguson's own words:

"We are not self-made. We are dependent on one another. Admitting this to ourselves isn't an embrace of mediocrity and derivativeness, it's a liberation from our misconceptions."

I think that giving credit where credit is due, is much more likely to happen once we start taking those above words to heart. And maybe it will help stop people from feeling like it's not ok to be influenced and inspired by others. We can't help but be inspired.

Of course, there is always the possibility that there will always be folks who just blatantly rip off other peoples creative ideas without putting any effort into building it and morphing it and evolving it into the next creative stage. I am not talking about someone who just wants to re-create someone else's design for pleasure. Or for experience. Both are fine pursuits and doing so has been a teaching tool for all of time. I am talking specifically about those that wish to prosper financially or be rewarded in some external way. These people have no vested interest in true creativity or self-growth or growth of this world as a whole. Basically one could liken them to bottom feeders. How to deal legally with the likes of them may keep the whole copyright, licensing and patent laws a very confusing and complicated legal area.

Going back to quilt designs and quilters though... what about quilt designs that are clearly derived from old standard blocks, but marketed as original designs? How is that fair? Who does one credit? Shouldn't we credit all the unnamed quilters that came before us, giving us their vision, and inspiration? I think we should embrace our quilting ancestors and sing their praises from the roof tops. Modern really ain't so modern, but that is a whole other topic. (But since I brought it up, I really am getting increasingly confused as to what defines a "Modern Quilt" as it seems to me to be getting narrower and narrower, but that just may be my normal state of confusion, and I am now digressing into a whole other topic.)

Back to the original topic... Mr. Ferguson states in Part Three of the Remix series that the basic elements of creativity are "Copy, Transform and Combine". Those three elements are what brings us our inventions, art, literature, music, movies, etc. We take various ideas that have come before, transforming them with our own creative input. Then we combine these various ideas in new ways, all in order to arrive at something something new.

All of that however still brings up yet another question... how original must something be to take it from clearly being a copy of another's work, a derivative piece of another's work, or something that may have been influenced by other(s) work, but is also clearly something created with fresh eyes and vision. And ultimately who decides that?

I have no answers, and it seems to me that the legal laws that try and define that are so thick with layers that they are hard to enforce on any constant or fair basis. This brings us to what Mr. Ferguson refers to as "System Failure" in Part Four of Everything is a Remix series. No doubt about it, we need to find a solution and it's a vitally important conversation, and one that we need to keep having.

In closing...

I want to give credit where credit is due...

So, for the record and in case you missed me saying it before or if I was ever neglect in saying it at all...

I originally became interested in quilting, (approximately 21 years ago) after reading the book
The Quilters: Woman and Domestic Art, an Oral History, by Patricia J. Cooper and Norma Bradley Allen. I read it and re-read it. Their stories still resonate with me.

In my beginning quilting days I was first influenced by antique Amish and Mennonite quilts. And then soon influenced by Nancy Crow, Terrie Hancock Mangat, Jane Burch Cochran, and Wendy Huhn, Jane Sassaman, Mary Lou Weidman, Roberta Horton, Susan Shie, Diana Swim Wessel and Jane Dunnewold. (Seeing their work was my first realizations of what a quilt could be and gave me the permission to explore and experiment as I learned.)

Viewing the quilt The Sower, by Denise Burge, up close and personal, blew my socks off. To this day I think it is one of the best I have ever seen. Although I can't think of anything that I have ever made that was directly influenced by it, it no doubt had a powerful impact on me and thus may one day directly or indirectly influence something that I will produce. Regardless, it has never left my heart.

An important learning experience and most definite influence in working in an improvisational manner, as well as with solids, came from reading Gwen Marston's fabulous book Liberated Quiltmaking back when it first came out in the mid '90's.

Reading Liberated Quiltmaking set me back on a still evolving path to re-visit those antique Amish and Mennonite quilts, but this time really focusing on ones that were improvised as opposed to precision pieced. Those quilts also re-enforced a desire to work with solids.

And from there I was led to explore any utilitarian and improvised quilt that I came across, including but not limited to the works from the Gee's Bend quilters. (Seeing the Gee's Bend quilts in person was akin to a religious experience for me.)

The stories from The Quilters, as well as those from the old Gee's Bend quilter's and the Amish and Mennonite quilts have all directly influenced me in how I look at my rural surroundings and allow myself to glean inspiration from it, just as they were all influenced by their rural surroundings. Through them, I have learned to look at my own surroundings with a more creative and absorbing eye.

I have also been strongly influenced by images I have seen of antique boro cloth, (mostly originating from Sri Threads) and anything dealing with pojagi and kantha quilting.

And last but not least, over the years I, (and thus my work, whether directly or indirectly) have been inspired and influenced by, 1950's si-fy, mid-century esthetics, atomic art, Marion Post Wolcott, Dorothea Lange, Frank Lloyd Wright, Josef Albers, James Castle, Edward Gorey, Elizabeth Layton, Georgia O'Keeffe, Lynn Whipple, Mary Engelbreit, vintage coloring book illustrations, vintage game boards, worn and weathered architecture, rusty things, and, (whew) by the quilted and textile works of Denyse Schmidt, India Flint and Janet Bolton, (the later of which really opened my eyes to the power of the individual hand stitch, placement of fabric and the magnificent possible power in the small.

I am sure that I forgotten some, or never new the names of some, and I know that I have absorbed many more bits from many more sources, but this, for now, is the most complete and concise list that my brain can come up with. To each of them, I give a long over-due and much heart felt Thank You.


Brenda said...

great essay. I agree that copyright is a tricky thing, but creativity is something else altogether. I've found inspiration in some of the places you cite. thanks for this thought-provoking post.

smazoochie said...

Preach, Sister!
My frustration with Modern, Contemporary & internet quilting in general is the refusal (too strong a word, but I can't think if a better one) to acknowledge that we stand on the shoulders of the ones who came before. It may be a generational thing, my Mother was as annoyed at me as I am by the younger ones today. Anyway, I always try to give credit for the least seed of an idea, at least when I recognize it. I've seen so much 'borrowing' without credit as it is.
Great post, I'm going to reread it.

tutto a posto said...

I agree with you. I get pretty frustrated and totally lost respect for a quilter whose work I love. She will be publishing her first book soon and asked for submissions based on her directives. My work was not chosen, and although I was naturally disappointed, I understand that everyone’s work cannot be included. With the rejection notice was a paragraph that stated that if I wished to enter the quilt into a competition I had to wait until after the 2015 publication of the book and give the author credit for the design.

This really peeved me. The instruction given was really basic and nothing that in the least resembles a pattern: create a quilt without any idea of the outcome and keep building on the design by using curved pieces, darts, and straight seams without a ruler. I really don’t think this type of direction merits any attribute to the author. The design is absolutely and entirely mine from the choice of colors, choice of using solids vs. patterned fabrics, the choice of shapes cut from the fabric, placement of cut fabric in relation to other pieced fabrics, and everything else including the choice of binding and size (the only requirement was that the quilt had to be at least 36" on each side). Actually the author's directions instructed me to design my own quilt.

I guess this all goes back to the argument of stealing people's designs and who gets credit for what. My opinion is that NOTHING IS ORIGINAL. (Read "Steal Like an Artist") I try to be as original as possible--giving credit when my work is so obviously inspired by someone else's work because a compliment of one of my "original pieces" means nothing if the design is actually a reproduction of somebody's work.

Whether one wants to admit it or not, they have been inspired by something seen somewhere else that has been captured in the recesses of their mind and found its way to the surface at some later moment. So even the paragraph above stating that the design of this quilt is entirely mine is not entirely true. It was inspired by African American quilters, Gwen Marston, Amish quilt-makers, and Ottavio Missoni (who was a brilliant knitwear designer who made narrow black and white stripes popular--yes, those stripes you see in everyone's quilts were actually a machine knitter's idea, or at least that is where I first fell in love with them in the 80's). I hate to say it, but the person I was least inspired by was the author.

The publisher and the author need to stop being so self-important when it comes to ideas and designs.

Deborah OHare said...

This is a topic that has occupied my thoughts a lot lately after a few incidents where my creative efforts were not acknowledged.
My conclusions tie in exactly with yours. I have also been toying with the idea of some sort of "movement" that bloggers get involved in where we pledge to respect others creativity and give credit where it is due. Something similar to the 'Handmade Pledge' that bloggers got involved in a few years back. Nothing major, just a blog button to show that we respect others creativity.
At a simple level this could be pointing out whose work has influenced what we are doing, or stating what pattern we have used, to acknowledging that a certain piece was created at a specific workshop.
I know most already do these things but a nudge in the right direction for those who don't might be a good thing.
Phew....I have never written such a long blog comment before :D

Deborah OHare said...

Make that the "process pledge"!

Audrey said...

Very thoughtfully written, Victoria. I have early memories of dragging around a string quilt made by my great grandmother: lining the garden cart with it so the dog would be more comfortable as I pushed her around the yard. That one would now be called "improv" I guess. I have a double wedding ring made by my great aunt that looks remarkably like the work of Denyse Schmidt, who is about my age and one of my favorite artists. We soak up inspiration everywhere. Thank you for reminding us that it bears taking some time to think about being up-front about acknowledging our inspiration.

Your post has also given me a thought about something I heard at a quilt guild meeting--that modern quilters think they have invented the "new" designs. That might be a result of limited looking. My public library has an extensive collection of books on quilting and its history. I'm sure my work has been influenced by shat I have seen in those pages. But what if I had started quilting recently, and my only source of information was what I read on the quilt blogs? Maybe we should start posting comments like "Nice use of color, Charles/Tiffany. You've really brightened up that Irish Chain. I'll bet the people who hand-pieced that design a hundred years ago would have loved working with brighter colors but, alas, they had to dye their cloth with potato skins."

Audrey said...

I didn't proofread...."shat" equals "what"
That might look bad!

The Inside Stori said...

Well said

Anonymous said...

There is a quilting lawyer who did an excellent series of blog posts about quilting and copyright. The list is here.

Victoria said...

Thanks Brenda.


Thanks Smazoochie. Seems like in the beginning of the Modern Quilt "movement" the definitions were much broader and a lot of nods were given to the past. Somewhere along the way those nods of acknowledgment seem to have been dropped. Time to bring them back, I think.


Tutto a posto, how very frustrating. I can see why this was upsetting to you, and I think it speaks loudly to what much of this post talks about.


Deborah, yes, some simple acknowledgement from all of us whenever we create something that gives credit to our sources of influence and inspiration. That, combined with explaining how we built upon that influence/inspiration, (hopefully embedding it with own twists and turns) could really help in both showing our process as well as giving credit to our influences and inspiration.


Audrey, Haha! And yes I wonder about the youngest of quilters emerging. It would be a real disservice to themselves if they didn't take the time to study the past, where so much modern influence is truly derived from!


Mary, Thanks.

Susan said...

I am a sponge, and I look at everyone's work that I can. I try to give credit to artists who inspire and influence me. Sometimes I see what I'm being inspired by, but sometimes I don't know. Someone else might see it easier than I. Still, I believe we are meant to use our imaginations to combine and copy and recreate in order to continue the best ideas. It is the function of art. It's how our consciousness evolves. Copyright is a modern era concept, after all.

Even so, I remember a knitwear designer who was a featured artist at Anthropologie. Later, they sold a knit hat exactly like hers, much cheaper, produced in China, with no compensation for her, nor acknowledgement. What she did was complain immediately and loudly on Facebook, and on her own web site. Her hat design immediately disappeared from their catalog. I think she did the right thing, to stand up for her design.

Debbie said...

Excellent, thought provoking post, Victoria. These issues come up from time to time and sometimes, they go really out of the galaxy. Thank goodness your blog is a kinder, gentler blog! I do believe that creations should receive credit, even if it is just to say, "inspired by...". I am jaw dropping inspired by the work you do and also by many others. I've never published and don't ever intend to but I'm always inspired. I guess for me the bottom line is that until there are some real laws to follow we will have these discussions. I wish that I could help but I have no answers right at the moment.

I feel badly about the poster up above who was told she couldn't show her quilt until after someone's book was published. That does not seem right when she was working with parameters. It seems like it was a challenge. Cranky little old me would push the envelope...and that is another issue to come up. Some of us in the world are terrified by what pattern designers say and, at times, threaten. My response is always flight. I try not to buy fabric that says "for personal use only". Not that I am selling but because I am offended.

Oh well...I digress. Victoria, I love your work. I love how you have your process and blog about it. Wishing that I had a thimbleful of your talent.

Victoria said...

Susan, I agree with you, she did the right thing by standing up for her design.

In that case, Anthropologie, (and of course we all adore Anthropologie) were acting as the "Bottom Feeders" that I mentioned in the post. Their intent was not to nurture creativity, (theirs or hers or anyone else's) but instead their intent was simply to profit. And that I disagree with, and do feel that we need laws to protect the actual creative person whose creation is being ripped off.

Again, this is a truly complicated matter with no easy answers. But this also brings up a point about what we choose to buy, and paying attention to where it comes from. Our purchasing decisions ultimately reflect who and what we are supporting.


Debbie, you are incredibly kind. Thank you. said...

Hi Victoria!
Enjoyed reading your post and all the comments. So true, and very well written. Thank you for taking the time.

Terri said...

I don't think anyone profits much from selling a quilt made from a pattern, so I don't know why anyone would prohibit that. The real money is in patterns and books.

Kathleen said...

Great post. I'm just beginning to learn how to quilt. I used to sew my own clothes after learning in 8th grade. So I'm now getting back into sewing in a different way. And just for fun, I needed something to hold my tea bags in my purse, so I "created" a little 3-pocket tea pouch. Then I started following blogs (I don't have a blog) and lo and behold, someone was selling a "pattern" for what I made, right out of my little old head. So, which came first? :)

Victoria said...

I need to revisit my respond to Susan and her comment... I have been reflecting more on this, and while my instincts are always to support the little independent designer against the big corporation, in truth there are many gray areas around this.

First of all, I was poking around more on this subject and found out that the fashion industry has no copyright protection? (With the exception of the logos) Who knew? And in this interesting TED Talk:

the argument is made pretty convincingly that the lack of copyright protection is what keeps the industry thriving and the designers creating.

I also started to wonder how original was her design? Maybe it was extremely original, but then again, maybe not so. Maybe it was influence by a lot of other knit hats out there. I don't know.

And that is what makes all of this so difficult. I want the small independent artist protected from big corporation bottom feeders. But I also want creativity open and free. How do we manage to protect both without boxing us all in so tightly that creativity has no where to expand and thus begins to wither and die?


Terri, You are right, no one profits from one or two sold quilts, but I think the fear a lot of pattern makers might have is having their design stolen and massed produced, in the same way that Susan had takes about happening with the knit hat designer.

I also think that there is fear of someone making your quilt pattern and then either taking credit for it or being assigned credit for it, all because that person never acknowledged the actual source.


Kathy, I have had similar experiences as I bet most of us have. I have always believed that there must be some sort of creative collective consciousness out there... ideas that float around sort of like radio waves, (maybe sent from the heavens themselves) that creative people pick up, as if they were an antenna... Sounds spacey, I know, but how else to explain how certain ideas seem to be born by various folks all in the same time frame?

Susan said...

Hi, again. I went back to the story I remembered about the hat, and saw that the perpetrator store was not Anthropologie, as I first said, but Urban Outfitters. It may not have been illegal for the company to copy her design and sell it for half her retail price, but it was sleazy.

I've been thinking ideas are like water, hard to contain them. When we try to, they stagnate.

patty a. said...

I was involved in the same secret project and now regret it. I am thinking about burning my projects. What is she going to do, sue me if I post my projects even though she rejected them?

I agree with you Victoria about calling something their own new original work when it is a block that has been around for over a hundred years. Sure it was made with current fabrics and maybe a different scale, but I wouldn't consider that original work. The worst part is the number of people buying into this trend. They need to do some research and learn about the history of quiltmaking!

Victoria said...

Susan, duly noted, thank you. And yes, I agree, such practices are sleazy. There must be honesty and integrity and morals and ethics in this whole creative and protective process. If everything is a remix, (as Ferguson demonstrates) OK. But the point of the remix is to change what came before, transform what came before, and combine it with other things that came before, (that have also been changed and transformed). If this is applied, then creativity is free to build upon itself, growing, evolving and benefiting all. I like you have a hard time at someone's idea being taken by someone else, and massed produced for profit.


Patty, so sorry to hear that you got burned as well.
And yes, all quilters will only benefit by learning about the past and respecting and crediting it.

Shayla Sharp said...

From my own research and understanding (and I am not a lawyer, so take this for what it is), the pattern is copyrighted, but that does not control what a person does with what they make from it, that would be licensing and mostly, they can sell what they want (large scale manufacturing is a whole different can of worms). I looked this up when working on some patterns of my own and ended up deciding that I would just add the "sell what you make, just credit me for design" clause, because worrying about what people were doing with their creations was a waste of my energy and time.

I agree that most "new" ideas are a form of something from the past. And while there are some obvious copycats, sometimes, I think we have had so much exposure to images and ideas, that we may not even realize where an idea came from. Even coming up with original creations, we will often find others making something so close its unnerving! I had that happen with a toy cat I made---I thought it was so cool and original only to see two different people's versions that looked very similar, and a couple that were sort of close, and then my sister walked in and saw it and said it looked like a children's book character (which I have never seen). I didn't even post a picture on my blog for months because I didn't want people thinking I'd copied anyone, but then decided who cares, I know I didn't. My point is, we are bombarded by inspiration, the odds are that someone somewhere will come up with something just like us. (Makes the world seem a whole lot smaller, doesn't it?) After all, people win lotteries and get struck by lighting and what are the odds of that?

cauchy09 said...

Thanks for writing this. This is much on my mind now as it starts to feel like I keep seeing the same thing over and over again. Free tutorials written by a blogger turn up as patterns for sale elsewhere. Makes me like people a little less.

A new quilter-blogger published and started selling a pattern for a log cabin quilt earlier this year. She came to me to insist I credit her for a basic log cabin quilt I made six years ago. Threatened to sue over my flickr photos.

The lack of understanding of copyright doesn't bother me as much as the lack of knowledge and respect for quilt and art history. Simply googling "log cabin quilt" would either calm her down or make her go ballistic about a quilter stealing her design back during the Civil War.

And don't get me started on the definition of "modern." I just keep my head down and make stuff.

Kim said...

Thought provoking.

Happy Sewing

knottygnome said...

there are many different ways to construct the same block--strip-pieced vs. scrappy for example. i don't have a problem with somebody writing and selling a pattern for traditional blocks because maybe their way of construction is completely unique. or maybe it's not. i figure that the market will decide if it's worth paying for.

Victoria said...

Shayla, my understanding is the same, it is the pattern that is protected. the writing, the photos, the illustrations, etc. That is what cannot be reproduced, and the ability to sell the item would be under licensing. I think the buyer of the pattern should have the right to make and sell the items. However, that right doesn't extend to factory or mass production.

I also agree about the absorption... we are like sponges, all of us... how can we always know 100% where an idea originates from? Sometimes my best ideas seemed to fall straight out of the Heavens into my brain. However, I do think that just as often we do have an inkling as to what may inspire us, and it would be nice to give credit to that inspiration.

I also know the feeling of making something that feels 100% original, only to see later that others came up with the same idea at the same time, or even earlier then you. It is always a shock, and makes me fearful as well. I try to research my ideas to see if they have already been done, but still have missed some along the way.

The flip side to that of course, is that if it can happen to us, it can also happen to us. In other words, how do we know that we have been ripped off, and that someone else didn't just think up the same idea as we did? I have suspected that I have been ripped off at least 1/2 a dozen times, but only twice have I been absolutely sure I was ripped off. One of those times didn't seem worth it to say anything, and the other time was actually a technique, which I learned was not enforceable under copyright protection. Still, at times, (such as what started me on this discussion with my husband in the first place) I do feel that there is a bit too much ripping off, with nothing really new, innovate and creative added.


Cauchy, Oh my goodness! To think that someone in this day and age thought that they invented the Log Cabin quilt! I agree whole heartedly, the lack of educated one's self on quilting history... it's very origins... oh, how sad.


Kim, thanks.


Knottygnome, Oh, I don't have a problem with someone writing a pattern based on a traditional block, and I agree that they may have a great new way of constructing it, which would be wonderful.

My problem is when they claim ownership of the block, (as in the Log Cabin block from Cauchy comment above). How can a quilter claim ownership of a block that has been around for centuries, and in the public domain forever?

Also, as for introducing a new technique, as I stated before, it is my understanding that that is not protected under copyright. The description is protected, but not the actual technique. (someone correct me if I am wrong.)

MariQuilts said...

Great topic. I was also involved in the above mentionded secret project and my quilt was also not chosen for this particular book. But I disagree with the other two commenters. We all agreed to her terms and I had a wonderful experience working with this Quilter.

I love the quilt I made and yes it is my design but I have no problem giving credit that my quilt was inspired by some of her techniques. I can wait to enter it and also can hold off posting about it until the agreed time.

While working on ths quilt I made several discoveries along the way....I have regrets whatsoever.

I am much more about process and techniques than about patterns. I find it strange that everyone wants to market everyting as their own.

Great discussion!!!

MariQuilts said...

Whoops....I meant I have NO regrets...I really need to edit better.

Victoria said...

Mari, good to hear a different perspective on the book project. I'm happy that you found it a positive experience. I believe it helps to be very clear about the terms before hand. Most of my contribution experiences have also been positive, but I do remember one where I felt I got a little burned. However, when I went back and read over the agreement, (that I had agreed to) I saw that I had inadvertently missed the very thing that had me a bit upset. It was in the agreement letter, I just hadn't read it carefully enough. Lesson learned!

It's hard for me to say if I think the person who is doing this particular book that several of you have mentioned is being fair or unreasonable, as I of course don't know, (and don't need to know) all of the details. But I do empathetically respect the feelings of those who felt they got a raw deal, and am delighted to also hear a positive view. Thanks for sharing!

SewAmy said...

Great post! I loved seeing 'George' by the way. :)

Anonymous said...

I sort of agree with Mari, that maybe owning is too important. But I haven't let many things out into the world, and I have been very angry when people have taken my ideas and passed them off as their own (especially in work-related settings).

But mostly, I want to thank you, Victoria, for the inspiration I get here, and to say I recognize about half of your list of influences from before coming here.


Victoria said...

SewAmy, Thanks!

K, Thanks so much for adding to the conversation and for your kind words!

Nifty Quilts said...

Thank you, all, for your wise and thoughtful comments. Very good reading. You've said what I've been wanting to say for some time.

I do wish more quilt-makers would study and respect the quilts and makers of days gone by. We have them to thank for their original ideas, making what they could with the materials they had. That's "improvisation" in my book, and definitely nothing new.

They also, I hope, felt pride and accomplishment in what they made, even though probably only their families saw and appreciated their quilts. So many were not signed. Many were simply loving gifts and/or utilitarian objects. In Gee's Bend, for instance, they used the worn-out quilts as "smokers." They lit them on fire to smoke out the bugs.

I don't think there was much opportunity to have a lot of commerce around home quilt-making. It was a culture of humility. These times and this culture are different. With the internet, there are more opportunities for fame and money to be made from home quilt-making. I applaud those who try to make a living this way. I'm sure it's not easy.

I don't know what the answer is for these times. The ethics haven't been decided yet. It's all too new. I like to keep in mind that my quilts are all pretty much copies of old quilts, and they could well become "smokers" someday.

Victoria said...

Hi LeeAnn, Thanks so much for joining the conversation. I agree with all that you have said. I too had learned of some, (actually I think I heard that it was a pretty high percentage) of the Gee's Bend quilts being burned for necessity. How sad upon thinking what was lost. I also think your thought on being aware that someday our quilts could wind up in an equal fate a great way of keeping us all humble!

There is so much wonderful history in quilting. A history passed on from one generation to the next... it makes me sad to think that this is being forgotten, or that quilters are trying to own outright something that was never meant to be owned. Their must be a balance of some sorts between trying to earn an income with our quilting and still respecting its, (quilting's) roots and honoring its history.

O'Quilts said...

I am retired now, but I was a family therapist in Miami once. In the building where I had my office, there were 33 other therapists. There was room enough for everyone. My motto is the more you give,the more you get. Sharing is the way to go and if someone copies me...well that is a compliment. That is the life. It is hard to enjoy life when your fists are clenched.

Cheryl Arkison said...

So thought provoking. I'm immersed in Austin Kleon's work at the moment, so this is timely.

Creativity is not originality. That is a realization many people do not have.

Victoria said...

Yes, I think he ties right in with all of this!

Stephie said...

Hello Victoria, I'm a little late to the conversation (as usual!), but this is such an interesting subject to me. My background is fine art (I have a masters degree) and in my opinion what makes something unique is what ever it might be that you are trying to communicate (an idea, a proposition, etc). I read an amusing quote somewhere the other day (sorry can't remember the source!): "Design without content is decoration". Quite frankly, in the quilting world there is a lot of decoration, which is fine and perfectly valid, but the very nature of decoration is that it can be reproduced as is.

Stating every person/thing you've ever been influenced by is a bit of a red herring I think - I mean where do you stop, do you list every fabric designer you use as well as every quilter, every farmer that shaped the fields that you're inspired of course not, because what's interesting to a knowledgeable quilter/artist is that they can trace those influences in your body of work for themselves (it's obvious to anyone with even a little knowledge that you've an interest in Amish quilts, for e.g.). If you've just nicked someone else's idea for capital gain, you can easily see that in the body of work because there will be no thread (excuse the pun!), linking the development of the quilts. If you're looking for authenticity and uniqueness, you can't just look at one quilt, one work of art - you have to look at the artist's whole output. Some of us are further down the line than others in developing their body of work, but I still think that development will show.

As for copyright, I think you've done exactly the right thing - the pattern is copyrighted and you allow people to use it for their own personal use, if they use it to make a couple of quilts to sell at a craft fair, fine - if they intend to go into full scale production of thousands, then a. they need your permission and b. they pay you a 'royalty' for the use of your design.

Thank you so much for such a thought provoking post, I loved reading it (and all the comments too!) :) x

Victoria said...

Stephie, Thank you so very much for your wonderful contribution to this discussion. I agree... there is no way to fully disclose every influence, and to think that there is is complete folly! I personally wanted to write down a list of main influences in almost a cathartic way... honoring some of the main ones helped me remove my own ego a bit as well as showing how the dots can all be connected with my work, both past and present... that very thread of connectedness you mention. :)

Stephie said...

And what's incredibly generous about your list of "main influences" is that it gives us a wonderful opportunity to discover work by other people we may not have heard of, so thank you again - I'm definitely going to look some of them up! x

Victoria said...

Thanks, Stephie, and that is a great point... when we share our influences and inspirations we are also helping to share the works of other people. I don't want the depression era photographers such as Marion Post Wolcott and Dorothea Lange to be forgotten, and I think everyone is better off seeing the works and learning about the remarkable James Castle.

And for the record... every time I look back on my list, I can't help but to see others I should have included, such as Edward Gorey and Elizabeth Layton, and Georgia O'Keeffe, (so I am going to go back and add them in)!

One more thought... Influences and inspiration don't always show up in our actual work, yet they effect us and change us and give us something that we didn't have before, thus shaping us into who we become and as a result, shaping the works we eventually do.

Kim said...

Very well written. I made and sold bags on Folksy for a couple of years, all from my own patterns that I designed through trial and error over months, and using a lot of materials. It totally put me off selling online when I saw blatant copies of my bag designs popping up on Folksy, I absolutely wasn't flattered by what I saw as an out and out theft of my hard work by lazy crafters. I think if an idea is borrowed and expanded on, changed in some way, then that is an evolution of that idea, but when it is a direct copy without tipping a hat to the original designer, then that's just not on. I stopped selling in the end because that part of the process felt tainted. I still craft - that addiction hasn't gone!

magicmoonmusings said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and I wholeheartedly agree with you.

Not only do I adore your quilts and your 'style', you're an excellent writer and I appreciate your blog very much.

Victoria said...

Marie, thank you so much. Your kind words are very much appreciated!