rocket tracking


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sometimes I can be a real horses patootie

On February 12, I wrote a blog post entitled "Breakfast With Pokey."  In it, I wrote about Nina Paley's blog post about Leah Day.  In it, I wrote that Nina was criticizing Leah.  Later, Jeff H. commented "Did you actually read the blog entry Nina wrote? She's PRAISING Leah Day for the accessibility she provides to people looking to learn about art quilts and art quilt techniques. And although she criticizes the "cagey" way in which OTHER artists' techniques are not widely distributed over the web, she's doing so in order to compel them to share their knowledge!"

Uh, yes.  I did read it, three times before I even wrote my "Breakfast post."  I went back and read it again.  Yes, Jeff is correct.  She does like Leah Day....however, I still take issue with other items in her blog and I realize now, that my ire which was raised in the beginning of the article overflowed and caused me to focus on the negative aspects and totally miss what she was really saying...although there are some things about what I was able to find again which makes me think I read a different edition of this blog.

I think part of me was taken aback by Nina's opening gambit.  "Having made an award-winning feature film, the next logical step in my career would naturally be...quilting." Ok, so she went on to say that it was her "inner muse" saying that she wanted to look into art quilts...but even so, this sounds a bit...egocentric...perhaps not.  Perhaps she was saying this tongue in cheek.  I don't know. 

However, her next statement made me snort...massively because it is just not accurate.  "Starting from zero knowledge, the first place I sought information was the Internet. Easier said than done: quilts are poorly represented online. Art quilters are extremely cagey about their designs and techniques; online photographs of art quilts are scarce and those that do show up tend to be postage-stamp tiny."

The internet is full of images of art quilts and blogs and websites owned and maintained by art quilters. Look at how many art quilts I've shown on this blog and mine is just a little one.  There are web rings of art quilts for heaven's sake.  "Postage-stamp tiny"? Yes, they load more quickly and are not intended to be HUGE although there are some out there which are.  In addition, I would advocate going to shows and galleries which have art quilts...surely there are some within a reasonable distance which Ms. Paley could attend.  In addition, quite a few quilters have discovered their images taken without permission from their websites and printed on things such as coffee mugs without their permission, nor with any mention of their name or a portion of the profit.

Ms. Paley also says "While other quilters cling to their designs and issue threats against copying, Leah goes in the opposite direction, sharing freely, inviting copying, and requesting (rather than demanding) links back to her site."  Hm.  Leah does do that.  However, "other quilters" do this as well...all you have to do is ask.  Also, there are plenty of websites FULL of free quilting patterns.  Do art quilters say "sure, go ahead and copy my quilt, show it, and don't mention me. "  Of  course not.  Art quilts are meant to be one of a kind.  They are meant to be original paint by numbers.  If the original art quilter wants to make a pattern and sell it, then more power to them.  But, most art quilters want people to be inspired by their work and to go on and make their OWN original work.  I also don't know who she is talking about when she says "other quilters."  Could it be Paula Nadelstern who discovered her quilt pattern had been taken by Couristan and made into carpeting in a Houston Hotel....she sued and won, and rightly so.

Art quilters DO share techniques, which is what Leah Day is sharing by the way, and techniques are not copyrightable.  The materials used to describe them, printed materials (i.e. books) and their original art work is copyright protected...but the basic technique isn't.  MANY art quilters share techniques on their blogs and in the next few days I will be posting a blog solely on quilting tutorials and technique sharing.  Heck, I do that here, not that I'm a great art quilter. 

I don't like it when people post quilts and don't identify the maker/designer.  I don't like it when there is an art quilt section at a quilt show and my original pieces are shown next to pieces made from kits, patterns and workshop samples.  I also don't like it when people take quilt pictures (or pictures at all) from people's websites and don't ask permission, don't give back-links, and don't say who took the image.  I found that some of my photos had been commandeered and showed up on another website without my permission and without giving me credit for the photos.  I also didn't like it much when an art quilter shared some wonderful photos and another art quilter took the images, Photoshopped them and put them up on his blog as his own without identifying or asking permission from the original photographer.  When I make quilts using someone else's photo, I always ask permission.  Truth be told, I'd prefer to only use my own images as stepping stones, but there are some images I'm just not going to be able to get in this lifetime (I really think that going to the Arctic or Antarctica is out of the question for me now.)

Is this being unreasonable?  I don't think so. 

Ms. Paley goes on to say "The quilting world is apparently rife with copyright bullying. Those sweet little old ladies (average age of 'dedicated quilters' is 62) issue threats against anyone who would copy 'their' designs, which consist entirely of un-copyrightable motifs like squares, circles and spirals. As long as neither the bullies nor the victims know much about copyright law, the quilting community maintains the fiction that ideas are property."   Uh, no, most of us don't.  Most of what art quilters do doesn't fall into this area anyway...and most traditional quilters know that 1. geometric designs and traditional designs are uncopyrightable, and 2.  with all the variations and patterns out there it is unlikely that there is anything new under the sun.  Since only 30% of the quilters are retired, according to Quilter's Newsletter, I hardly think that that we are "sweet little old ladies."

I also don't know where she got the idea that the "average age of 'dedicated quilters is 62."  It would have been nice if she would have given a citation.  Quilter's Newsletter did a survey which I believe was dated last year (2010) and gave the average age of a dedicated quilter as 55.  Mark Lipinski had this to say about his readers in a piece given as submission guidelines for the magazine, Quilter's Home
"There are 21.3 million quilters in the United States.  Among those, 1.11 million consider themselves dedicated quilters with an average age of 57.   Quilter’s Home taps the untapped, younger market, and  give the reader something they’ll want to read!   Our goal is to offer something exciting and different from the other quilting magazines; something excellent and eye-catching.  

Our target audience is between the ages of 30-55.  

Readers who love Quilter’s Home are contemporary, affluent, young (or young at heart), adventuresome, creative, curious and vibrant women who list home decorating, traveling, gardening, cooking and, of course, quilting as their favorite pastimes. "   (Lipinski has since left the magazine).

Notice, 57 was given as the average age of the DEDICATED quilter.  I think if you looked at the demographics for art quilters you'd find that they are younger.  Traditional quilters quite often are older, however I also find as I am now middle aged, that there are more quilters who start younger.  I was 12 when I taught myself how to quilt and was one of the young few in the sewing groups I belonged to.  However this is changing and I'm often startled to find myself among the "older" quilters at the ripe old age of 51.

Don't get me wrong, Nina is making some very lovely quilts. Look at them here.  I like them.  I don't like the general attitude she expressed about quilters on her blog and I think that they not based on reality.  

Am I a horses derriere? Yes, I can be.  I recognize that fact and am willing to take the lumps for it when I goof up.   Maybe it's because since I'm approaching 55...and 62, I'm just senile.  Ask Nina. I'm sure she'll tell you....


Sherrie Spangler said...

I have to agree with you on every point. (I followed the flap on quiltart.)

Pam Geisel - For Quilts Sake said...

You make some wonderful points.

Personally, I was surprised to find that there are A LOT of quilters who have been active on the Internet since it started, and are very tech savvy. I haven't had any trouble finding many sources who describe how to do a certain technique and one that I found recently was first posted in 1999.

Vivien Zepf said...