Saturday, January 24, 2015

The SAQA collection -- seeing it all

I wrote yesterday about the new fabric collection designed by SAQA members, and got some comments about the different colorways available.

Each design has three colorways.  I tried to put in a link so you could see all of them, but for some reason that page has the same URL as the page that only shows one colorway per design.

So if you click here you'll get the following screen, showing the designers of each of the fabrics.

And if you follow the hot pink arrow and click on the tab called "The Collection," you'll get all the colorways.

By the way, last week I wouldn't have known how to make that nifty hot pink arrow, so you see I'm really learning things from my class with Pixeladies.

Friday, January 23, 2015

New SAQA challenge -- it's quite a challenge

First, a shout-out to the Pixeladies, Kris Sazaki and Deb Cashatt, two art quilters who have made a great day job out of their computer knowledge.  They conduct online classes in Photoshop Elements and I am taking class 1, the total beginners' program.  I may write more about the classes later but for now just let me say they're great teachers.

Yesterday I tackled the lesson on how to make quiltlike designs by copying a fabric swatch, cutting "squares" out of it, and arranging them into patterns.  Sure, I could have googled "fabric designs" or gone to any one of the prominent fabric manufacturers' sites, but only minutes before I had looked at my email and found a call for entries from SAQA.

It seems that last year SAQA paired up with Andover Fabrics last year to put out a collection called Urban Textures, six different fabrics designed by six SAQA members.  Now the fabrics are in the stores, and there's a challenge to make quilts from the fabrics, which will be shown online and in the SAQA Journal.

Longtime readers of this blog may recall my ambivalence about challenges; they're a temptation I try to resist except in closely defined circumstances.  But now I needed some "fabric samples" to practice my Photoshopping, so I got them from the Andover site.

After most of the day I think I have pretty much mastered the art of making nine-patch "quilts" on my computer.  I can even make twelve-patch quilts!  But what I realized about the SAQA collection is that it's not really a collection, it's a bunch of unrelated designs.  Each of the designs is attractive by itself, and if you were to combine all three of its colorways you could probably make an interesting quilt.

I particularly like this first pattern below,  "Urban Gesture," designed by Elizabeth Brandt.  I can't tell from the website how big the designs are on the fabric, but I hope this one is REALLY BOLD.

Unfortunately, the six patterns don't play well together.

Not sure what kind of responses they will get to this challenge; I suspect those who participate will buy just one of the fabrics, perhaps in different colorways, and combine it with stuff from their stash.  I don't anticipate much mixing.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fiber art -- this proves it

I wrote several weeks ago about my new knotted cord constructions that are looking a lot like sculptures.  But I didn't realize how much until I showed one to my artist pal Keith Kleespies.  He snatched it away, zipped into the other room and brought it back in a minute.  An hour later, I found this in my mailbox:

I guess this is a validation that I need to be working bigger.

Monday, January 19, 2015

But that's MY design....

Two interesting discussions on my email lists last week about quilters who were hurt, angry and/or confused about how other people responded to their work.

Quilter A wrote that she published a pattern for a quilt design that she has made several times; it's been selling well on Craftsy.  But a local quilt shop advertised her design as its block of the month, mentioning that they got the photo from Pinterest and made their own pattern from it "based on a quilt made by Quilter A in 2002."

Quilter A contacted the shop owner, said there is indeed a pattern, and would they please have their students buy the pattern if they want to make the block.  The shop owner refused and things got ugly.

Quilter B wrote that she just got an email from somebody who saw a photo of her quilt on Pinterest and fell in love with it.  What kind of fabric did she use?  "I intend to make it and would find it helpful if I had a starting point in my quest for the fabric."

Quilter B didn't know what to do next.  "I can't decide if I should laugh? be angry? or feel honored that she likes it that much?  I am at a loss for words."  A complicating factor: the Pinterest photo has been pinned and repinned many times over the last several years, usually identified as having been made by somebody other than Quilter B.

I was struck by the two unrelated tales and realized there is a wide gulf in expectations and understanding between people who make original designs and people who generally work from other people's designs.  And there's also a gulf among the people who make original designs!  Some of those people want to monetize their designs and techniques, through patterns, workshops, books, etc.  Some are happy to share their designs and techniques, even without getting money for it.  But other people are jealous of their designs and techniques, getting upset and offended if somebody wants to make copies or attempt the same technique or even take a picture.

Now think of the other group -- people who don't make original designs.  How are they to know which kind of person they're dealing with when they see a quilt they like?  Is this a quilt they're allowed and encouraged to copy, or one they mustn't touch with a ten-foot pole?  The presence of a dollar sign and the word "pattern" or "kit" is a clue, but not always.  And some people may not even realize that a quiltmaker regards her work as original art, rather than just a nice piece of handmade decor.  They may not even realize there is a certain etiquette regarding original designs, let alone understand the nuances of that etiquette.

Of course, the unindicted co-conspirator in both these stories is Pinterest, but we might equally blame Google images.  I bet we have all found our own work pinned to somebody else's board, or popping up when we google some other artist.  Often the work is not identified (it should be a felony to post photos with the remark "oh I forgot to note who made this") or is wrongly identified.  The only absolutely certain way to maintain control over the images of your work is to never photograph it yourself or take it out in public.

Since I am one of those people who am happy to share, and am not trying to make a living from my art, I am not qualified to chime in on Quilter A's dilemma above.  But I do have strong opinions about Quilter B's.  Some of the email list folks suggested that she ignore the request, or respond with some degree of asperity.  But I think it's better to be as gracious as possible.  I suggested that Quilter B say I can't remember what fabrics I used, it's been so long, and there's no pattern, since it's an original design, but you can certainly experiment with the concept, and good luck with it!

When faced with people who apparently don't understand the rules of etiquette that you and your pals live by, I think the best approach is to give them the benefit of the doubt, respond cheerfully, BUT ALSO educate them about that etiquette.  So Quilter B can tactfully mention in passing things like "this is an original design" and "I'd appreciate it if you would mention my name as inspiration."

For quilt artists who actively post their own work on blogs or Pinterest or other social media, I think it's also a good idea to be clear about your expectations.  If you truly don't want anybody to copy or riff on your designs, then you can watermark your photos and slap copyright notices and nasty language all over the place.  (Not that it's going to stop everybody, but your lawyer might be glad for the additional evidence if you end up in court.)  But if you are willing to share, then say so prominently and frequently.  When I did corporate communication for a living, all my publications had a note at the end reading "Copyright MY COMPANY.  You are welcome to reprint short quotations or extracts from this material with credit given to MY COMPANY."

I don't have a similar note on my blog, but I have said many times in describing my designs and techniques that I am happy to have you use my ideas and suggestions.  Go ahead and make a quilt that uses my techniques or looks like my quilt (just don't enter it in a big show as your own original design), but I hope you will make it three times, because by then it will stop looking like a Kathy quilt and start looking like  your quilt.  Mention my name as your inspiration if you are so inclined; send me a picture so I can see what you did and I can be proud of you.

Here's a bunch of quilts from a workshop I just taught in Boston.  They all sort of look like "Kathy quilts" but already they have moved on to reflect their maker's personality.