Monday, March 30, 2015

The Freedom to Create

Hello World
I have an interesting topic to discuss. It is the freedom to create.
The story begins when one of my designs was selected for publication by McCall's magazine. No fault of their own, it was dropped because there was a very similar quilt already out in the world.
At first I was sad and embarrassed. I didn't want my contact to think I had stole someone's idea, but she comforted me by saying it happens. And it happens more often with modern design. She suggested that I blog about it. But, I began to ponder.
I remember specifically when I thought of this design. I was out with my husband and daughter. We were headed to the Denver Botanic Gardens to see the Chihuly Exhibit the fall of 2014. I was seeking inspiration for color and quilt design. Unbeknownst to me, on our drive there I passed this intersection. See the arrow traffic sign and the crosswalk lines.
Quickly, I remember this quilt I did many, many moons ago. I enjoyed the construction of this quilt because it was strips of 2 1/2" wide and it used nearly the entire length of the strip. It was fast, cheap, and easy.
I thought to myself, why not design a modern quilt that uses 2 1/2" strips. Make it an easy design for a beginner to complete, but still desirable for the proficient quilter to complete in one Sunday afternoon.
Soon there after, I sketched this design.
I submitted the design to a couple of magazines and McCall's picked it up. I had about 2 weeks to complete it and dedicated my time in getting it done by the deadline. I had my husband drop it off, since McCall's is in town. Once my husband texted me to say it was deliver, I had instant relief and satisfaction that I had another quilt ready for publication.
A few weeks go by. A phone call came. It was McCall's. The quilt was dropped, because of this design; Stripes and Herringbone by Sarah Thomas. Evidently, this design was showcased at Quilt Market in 2013. I didn't go to Quilt Market in 2013. My first and only was Spring Quilt Market 2014.
I understand why McCall's dropped my quilt. I do. I understand business and risk tolerance. Goodness, I'm the Director of Internal Audit in my day job. I get it. Didn't think it would happen to me, though. However, I'm learning about the sensitivity of copyright within the quilting industry. I have no ill feelings, other than feeling this has tarnished me. How do you know of sure that someone believes you that you didn't copy it?
The two designs are very similar. But really, when we break it down, it is quite easy to think of yourself. When I design, I design in odds. When I design modern, I design in the rule of thirds. That's why I put my arrows on the bottom third of the quilt. I added 3 pink strips to the bottom and 11 on top. Both in odds. I had originally designed for 7 pink strips on top, but once it was constructed, the quilt didn't seem balanced to me and thus, I add 2 more pink strips. Still it didn't seem balance, so I added another 2. If you look closely, the top strips to the right are a little wonky, because they were added when the quilt top was nearly complete.
The arrows worked out where I wanted them to come to a sharp point. Putting math and design to graph paper. There's really one option when you're trying to use up most of the length of a strip.
To make matters even worse. The pattern is free on the Robert Kaufman website. Please don't take any offense, but I didn't go into the quilt business to not make money. This is time away from my family. This is late nights. Last minute deadlines. Constant networking, coordinating and scheduling. And emails galore. And my second job, that's if you aren't counting wife and mom. I do love what I'm doing, but at the same time, it needs to pay.
As I waited for the return of my quilt, I started to swirl the idea of ownership and copyright. Really, are we in a world where we need to include a step in our creative process to scan the web just to see if someone else had thought of it before you did? Is this where we are at today? It makes me sad and honestly, takes some of my mojo away. I don't like the idea that if someone thought of the idea before I did. (Note, I did not talk to the designer of the Stripes and Herringbone Pattern.)
I have other designs that have been picked up by magazines, but haven't received the go-ahead to start working on them, but yet, I feel a rush, a panic, to get going on it. To beat everyone else who may think of the design later, that I thought of it first and I want my dibs on it. That's twisted. Creating shouldn't have to feel that way.
Yes, I know. It's a two-way street. There is a line. I shouldn't have to shy away from selling my pattern of Crosswalk, because it was my original idea, but I am.
Further, how far does copyright go? Is this the first time strips were every used in a quilt? No. Does the person who designed the floral quilt above get credit?  (Sorry, but I have no clue who designed it. All I remember is buying a kit from Fabric Expressions Quilt Shop in Littleton, CO.) What about the arrows? I highly doubt this was the first time arrows were used in a quilt. Adding strips and arrows together, is this the first time? Both are so common. Look around. Arrows are everywhere, it's today's trend.

Or what about this? Do I need to contact the City of Denver, figure out who actually painted those lines, and who posted that sign, because art, well, art isn't always planned. Should the city worker be credited too? Too far? But how do I know when is when?
I think about all those Chevron quilts out there. The chevron quilt block is on public domain. But what about the person who started the craze on chevron. Does that person get credit? I believe chevron reinvented itself through home décor design and then crossover to the craft industry and fashion. But did all thepeople who have used chevron in quilt design, credit the person who invented the chevron block? We know how it starts, but where does it end? Then, it comes to time? As we create, don't we want to maximize our time to create, rather spending our time researching, determining, crediting the world, for what we felt from the beginning was our original design?
I could go on and on. Someone advise me when I started my business to keep a record of my creative process. I thought she was a bit paranoid, because what I designed would be unique. Why would I have to worry about an idea that came from inside of me? I'm starting to understand what she meant. All because I have thought of that idea, doesn't mean that someone hasn't thought of that idea too and further may call dibs on it.
Meanwhile, I did decide to offer the pattern for FREE.

Crosswalk Quilt Pattern
Picking up the pieces,

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting discussion. Your McCall's contact was right on when she said that design duplicates happen much more in the modern quilting world. (I can think of two examples right now.) Please don't be embarrassed or beat yourself up about this; I hope that blogging about it made you feel better.


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