Let It Go!

I am always learning- every single day. Some days it may be the littlest thing that I have learned, but it’s still learning. I find inspiration everywhere. I also love to create. And through learning I am able to be creative. Through inspiration I gather ideas, they go through the blender that is inside my brain and eventually these ideas and inspirations somehow come out of me, in my creativity. But at what point are these concepts, techniques I have learned, and have been inspired from, actually considered my own designs?

Well after speaking with Kathleen, the CQA Jury Coordinator for the NJS coming up in Toronto,  on the phone the other day- her opinion was, a design can never be considered an original design if someone had that design first. It doesn’t matter the design was inspired by something; it is still considered a derivative of that original work. Which means no matter how much blending goes on in my brain- no ideas would be my own original designs.

Have I lost you here? Because I ended that phone call scratching my head, then crying, then getting very angry. How can anyone’s designs be original and their own? Unless we were born knowing everything and walk around with blinders on, and earplugs in- never to be influenced by anything, our inspiration had to come from somewhere.

I started thinking of every creative thing I could and examples of how past artists inspire future artists. My thoughts were endless. There is no shortage of creativity in this world and millions of opportunities for learning. Just think of fine art artists and musicians- look at how past paintings or songs influence artists of this generation.

I spend WAY too long looking at quilts, fascinated by what people are creating, seeking out the next opportunity to learn, being challenged with my own quilting, which is the reason why I am still taking classes and workshops whenever something interests me. I will never stop learning!

So back to my phone conversation. Grab a cup of tea (0r maybe something even stronger), sit down for a while, this is going to be a long blog post. But there will be photos, and inspiration, and tears, and creativity- everything, which makes me love being a quilter.

I started long arm machine quilting 15+ years ago when in our area, at the time, there was little to no training. It’s Canada for goodness sakes, try and find a long arm dealer when you need your machine fixed up here- impossible! Our only sources were books, DVDs, friends, yearly quilting conventions. I don’t even think quilting had an online presence like it does today. I wasn’t on Facebook posting photos, there was no Instagram, we did what we could to teach ourselves, and gather inspiration in little snippets where we could.

Years later I am still gathering inspiration, sometimes in the middle of the night, when I can’t sleep, I am on my iPhone, under the covers scrolling through Instagram being amazed at all the quilting around the world. I can guarantee I will be doing this exact thing in a few weeks when QuiltCon is happening, searching hash tags, photo feeds, sharing moments in time with all the other quilters who want to be excited with all the new ideas.

I was fortunate to attend the last QuiltCon, in Austin where I signed up for some lectures and workshops hoping to learn something new. I grow pretty stale very quickly in my quilting and just wanted to find that one little spark to ignite my passion again for another year. So I signed up for Krista Withers’ class called Compositional Drawing class. I had never taken a drawing class; never taken a class offered by Krista before and was so excited! What could I possibly be learning? I bought the required supplies, and I was ready! Though I was so disappointed when I was emailed my class handouts leading up to the workshop. They were quite vague, explained how to quilt a paisley shape and I immediately thought why did I sign up for a class that will be teaching me something I already knew how to do? I mean come on, I had been quilting paisleys for longer than Krista had been machine quilting! WRONG! And I apologize for thinking I wouldn’t learn anything before I even took the class. Funny thing is I never even used the paisley design in my quilt.

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Class handout from Compositional Drawing- Krista Withers

This class was a drawing class where we would learn a concept/ technique of dividing our quilt tops into areas and then quilting those areas with whatever designs we choose. We did not copy any patterns, trace any designs, or have Krista mark our samples. We were given free reign to come up with whatever design we wanted.

Here are the notes I took in class and my class sample.

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The technique was intriguing and as soon as I got home, I pieced a quilt top and started my own version of what I had learned. For me, I want to jump right into something with little to no planning. I learn by doing, not by drawing. Yes I made a few notes and sketches, but I wanted to quilt and I wanted to quilt NOW. I grabbed my blue marking pencil, some rulers and stencils and got to work. I learned a lot about this technique of quilting and when I can find the time, I have another quilt top just waiting for me to play around again. This is a design that is ever evolving. It can be reworked time and time again to include many different elements within that one idea.

Here is my sketch I made to be quilted on my quilt top.

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So here is where I start to get angry.

I took a workshop, learned something new, wanted to try this new idea I learned, worked on my design, made a quilt, entered my quilt in a juried show only to be told that my quilting designs were not my original designs and that the designs on my quilt were Krista’s designs. This got my back up a bit because while the concept and technique was Krista’s, I believe that the design is mine. I chose how to divide up my quilt top, how many horizontal lines to use, where to section off the smaller sections, how many circles to quilt etc. I learned so much in that workshop that I wanted to try it on my own and did just that. And isn’t that what everyone does after taking workshops? That is the whole point of a workshop- to learn something and then continue working on what you learned later after the workshop on your own.

I mean if we were to take a workshop and then never be able to work on it again, without being told our work at home was not original, then what the point of ever taking a workshop? What is the point of ever wanting to learn anything new? And if we were all making the exact same version of what we learned from an instructor, then the world would be full of the one exact same quilt. Because I am telling you- we all had to start somewhere. We were all taught how to quilt at some point in our lives. Even the self-taught quilters, found ideas and inspiration somewhere because none of them were born knowing how to sew a 9-patch block, as simple and easy as that block is.

I know that Kathleen, the lady that phoned me, has strong opinions on copyright in the quilting industry. She has written articles on copyright, but for her to tell me that my design was not original was her opinion- and her opinion alone. Which got me doing a little research. Because while I knew my design was my own, I felt that I needed to prove it, and to be honest; she made me feel like I was somehow in the wrong. Every time I have entered my quilt I have given credit to Krista Withers saying I learned this technique in her workshop. I even gave her credits in the comments on some of my photos on Instagram. I have never once claimed I invented this technique of quilting- NEVER. But for Kathleen, being inspired by something is not acceptable, to give credit to Krista’s workshop is not acceptable. She stuck by her opinion that my design was not my own original design. But I do believe that the design I quilted on my quilt is my own original design and that design was inspired by a technique I learned from Krista.

So through research I found this article titled Deciphering the Myth Surrounding Original, Derivative & Copied work by Anna Hergert, which was published in The Canadian Quilter CQA magazine Spring 2013 edition. (CQA is the same organization that Kathleen belongs to- so you can see the differing opinions among it’s own judges)

“However, here is the good news—once the workshop participant returns to her own sewing space or studio and further develops the concept learned in the classroom, this subsequent work is considered original. In addition, it is important to point out that embroidery and quilting stitches are not copyrighted. Simple and compound stitches of any combination have been executed by our ancestors through the ages and as such they are in the public domain!”

This article states that if you took a workshop and learned something in that workshop- once you leave the workshop, go home and then further develop the concept learned, the subsequent work is considered original. UUUUMMMMM- that’s what I did.  And the fact that this whole original design issue has to do with my machine quilting stitches, which are clearly stated as in the public domain.

Do I even have to go any further with this blog post because there is my point right there.  Why has Kathleen, who is the single and only person to see all the quilt entries before they go on to the quilt show jury committee even bothered to call me and create an issue when clearly there is no need. (and this fact that ONE person is the only person who sees all the entries, before the quilts then go on to the jury committee is a whole other topic that gets me going!)

And why have I let it bother me for the whole week?  I need to start twirling around dancing singing the song from Frozen- Let It GO!

But I guess for me, it’s the principal of the whole entering a quilt into a juried show thing.  Shows like these have so many rules and regulations so that they give off the illusion of being professional.  How professional is it really when one person is the ONLY person to see all the online quilt entries, then makes decisions based on her opinion alone, as to which quilts actually go through and be seen by the 3 person jury committee?  Based on the entry forms and photos, the “Jury Coordinator” forms her opinion on if all the photos are the correct size, if all the credit is given, if your design is original, if your quilt is in the proper category etc. Any entries that she has concern with, then she follows up. And those entries that are deemed satisfactory by this one person are then passed along to the next step where they then have the opportunity to be juried in.  So, there are entries that have never even made it on to the jury process to be given a fair chance.  Who knew jurying was a two step process? Not me until this week! Who knew one person’s opinion on what was an original design or not would be a great topic for a blog post? Not me until this week!

Thankfully after many phone calls, I was informed my quilt would be able to stay in the Modern Quilts category and be considered an original design.  Which is all I really wanted in the first place, why I entered my quilt in the CQA- NJS and in the Modern category.  Now it’s fate is in the hands of the jury, to determine if they would like to have it in the quilt show. (EDIT: the Jury did in fact like my quilt enough for them to jury it into the show- unfortunately it was sold at QuiltCon so I had to withdraw my entry, which got me banned by CQA to enter a quilt again for 2 years.  Like after this nonsense they think I will ever enter again?)

Here are some screen shots from my IG as well as from Krista’s IG.  You can see while our quilts are quilted with the same elements- lines, pebbles, circles etc. they are also different by where the elements are placed, how the quilt top has been divided and sectioned off etc.

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This is a photo from Krista’s IG

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I have some photos now and can actually post on my blog again so here is a photo of my quilt.

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And here is a photo of it hanging at QuiltCon in February- yes that’s a SOLD sticker!  (while I was so upset it sold without me knowing I had it listed for sale, months later I am ok with it.  And knowing it was purchased by an art gallery owner in L.A. makes me realize that I love my quilt, and others love my quilt- who the hell cares what the CQA judge thinks)

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(above photos from Renee of @quiltsnfeathers)

And @emilymeilner posted these lovely words about my quilt on Instagram

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Let me know what you think-   melonpatch.quilts @ yahoo . ca

(you will have to email me directly, I had to shut down the comments on my blog as the spam was out of control)