Every quilt I have made in the past 12 months is shrouded in secrecy. I completed 17 new pieces for the book and you will get to see all of them in October 2017—in the book—if things go according to plan. Until I make something new, I have nothing to show you. NOTHING.
I haven’t had any new work to share for months. For years.
Maybe I should change the name of this blog to Smoke and Mirrors?
Piled upon the paucity of quilts available for sharing is the fact that I am having feelings of scarcity which usually results in hoarding.
What do I mean? I have so little that I better just keep it to myself.
Why should we share? Does sharing matter? Is sharing part of quilt culture? Is there an anti-sharing undercurrent in the quilt world right? Or to put it another way, how FREE should our sharing be? Can we put a price on it? Should we?
After pondering this a bit, I have come to a personal conclusion. But first, a few other random thoughts.
We have all heard the saying “Sharing is Caring” Most of us think of this as being about teaching kids to share their toys and cookies.
But the saying is actually trademarked by the Salvation Army . For them it is about giving some of what you’ve got to someone who doesn’t have enough. I can get behind that idea in my politics and in my stitching.
I share my work, because I have dedicated myself to quilt making and the advancement of this medium in the larger world. By sharing what I have learned via the quilts I have made, I am contributing to the greater good of my community. I believe in this.
But there are people out there—check yourself—who have treated me like a strip mine—hauling away the ore of my essence without a tidbit of gratitude. My big thing here is that we all learn from each other. Don’t pretend you don’t, and honor those who have shared their knowledge with you. That’s it really, I don’t like feeling used. No one does.
Sharing matters because it advances our art form in a way that is directly in line with the maker philosophy. Quilt making has a long tradition of being passed from maker to maker in an informal manner. We learn by asking each other questions, by experimentation and sharing, by being generous with our ideas and techniques. We understand that we were standing on other quilt makers’ backs.
Not long ago there was a big kerfuffle in the Modern Quilt world. The higher-ups issued a complicated decree which basically said this. If you have created a quilt that was derived from a teacher’s pattern, book, or workshop you must get their permission to enter it into QuiltCon. This was alarming and confusing. The quilt making tradition is heavily based on the use of patterns and work learned from others. It is normal and expected that if you were to enter such a quilt in a competition, you would publicly share where your source materials came from, but you would not have to ask permission to show the quilt. Who really knows the original maker of the hexagon quilt block? My guess is Barbara Brackman knows and most likely the true creator is no longer with us. It is not some modern potentate, I can tell you that.
Why ask permission? The only answer I can think of is that the teacher who re-invented __________ (fill in the blank here—negative space, paper piecing, or improv work) now thinks that they have ownership of that quilting concept which more likely than not has been around for decades, and all they have done is put a little bit of spit shine on it.
I don’t like that. I get it though. It is about monetizing and ownership and territory. And it is about fear—fear that someone will steal from you and benefit from that taking. It is about branding and labeling and marketing.
And some how, a part of me has absorbed this way of thinking. It is the book I suppose. Authors are encouraged to keep the information in the book under wraps until it is published. It is all tied up in what my friend Jonny Gray calls the TADA moment. Which is a great thing. It is an unveiling, it is the curtain going up, it is the edge of a fishnet stocking. It is what we put our money on the bar for.
But what is going on in my studio now is NOT about the TADA moment. So why am I reluctant to share?
Years ago, I wrote a blog post about using mantras in teaching and in life.
One of my long time mantras is BE FEARLESS.
I have been battling with this since I got back into the studio this winter. Should I share what I am working on? What if people take it from me? What if I am giving it away for free? What if that makes me a sucker?
And now I think I have gotten to big for my britches. Before the book, I would say WHATEVER. Take it. It would be nice if gave me credit for what you have learned from me, but you can have it either way. In fact, I know deep down inside of me that in the act of giving you a technique, or knowledge, or idea that that very technique, or knowledge, or idea is transformed. It is no longer about me. It is now about your interpretation of the technique, knowledge, or idea.
That is our tradition.
I believe in the free dissemination of our art form. And yes, I have written a book, and I hope you will buy it when it comes out. In the meantime, I am going to take photos of my studio and design walls in action, and I am going to share them.
Excuse the mess. It just means I am building about ten quilts at once. And now that I have completed this session of navel gazing, I can’t wait to share them.