I believe last weeks’s blog post, Some Thoughts on Sharing, received more comments than any other blog post I have written. Oh yes. Those where I give away things have gotten more comments, but this post was about ideas, not freebies, and you commented. Thank you. Thank you.
I encourage you to go back and look at what everyone said. The comments were so good and so varied that I thought I might respond to them here in a new post.
Before I became a quilter, I was a writer. I have an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master’s in creative non-fiction. I used to beat myself up about having wasted all those years studying writing and then ditching it all to be a quilter. How foolish! Now, I know it was my right path. I use those writing skills to create this blog, to apply for art opportunities, and to craft lectures. But sometimes, I get overly creative with my words. I take liberties with my language. I exaggerate the situation to make it more dramatic. In reality, I have not been strip mined. I hope you all understand that.
Many of you apologized for not being grateful, and that made me a bit sad. Those of you who read my words and follow my work and try out the techniques I have shared are my favorite students! You are part of me really. The part that keeps me going when I have doubt. The part that helps me celebrate my successes and cheers me on when I fall down. In a way, we are in this together. We are all working to be better people and better quilters. Thank you taking this ride with me.
Under the Sun
Some of you suggested that there is nothing new under the sun. I have been thinking about this all week, and here is my take on it. I believe there are TWO new things, and they are actually quite substantial.
1. This first is YOU. Your interpretation of an idea is NEW. You are an original being, and therefore, your interpretation of something can be unique.
2. This place and time in history is new and original. So while it may be a decades old idea–the lone star for example–your take could be fresh. The fabrics, the stitch work, the machinery and how we use them is of our time and therefore has the potential for originality.
Voice & Culture
A long time ago, I wrote a blog post called Voice and Culture. It is one of my favorite posts. Our culture encourages conformity—if we act as a herd we are so much easier to manage—but art requires bravery—a willingness to stand out from the crowd.
Take the two things listed Under the Sun and be brave—that’s being an artist.
Teach = Share
If we teach, we must understand that what we share will be passed on to others who may or may not have paid to be our students. I think we have to accept this fact. We can watermark and copyright and make loud proclamations, but there will always be someone who thinks it is okay to photocopy our handouts and disseminate them for free.
Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery
When I was a Bluebird (think Girl Scout), members of my group would copy my artwork. This drove me bananas. I would become truly frustrated by the fact that I spent loads of time thinking about being original. Meanwhile, my teammates would chew gum, braid each other’s hair, and chatter, focusing only long enough at the end of the meeting to copy my work and take it home to their parents as something they created. This was maddening for an eight-year-old Maria.
But decades later, I am over it.
I am fine with people copying my work. Would I like to find out that a company in China is selling mass-produced versions of my quilts, well no. But if a student needs to copy first before making original work, that is okay by me. Many people learn this way.
I am bothered when someone copies something and then tells the world it is an original work. Still, how do you separate this out? For example, say I saw a Frank Stella piece, and then years later, I made what could essentially be considered a pieced and quilted version of his work. I think my work is original, but is it really?
Sometimes, we do not consciously know that we’ve copied or stolen or borrowed.
And sometimes we do. And if we do, then we owe it to everyone to give proper credit.
I hope you have enjoyed my celebration of the circle in artwork. Isn’t it amazing how such a simple shape can create such powerful and original work?