Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Quilt Wars

Viewer's Choice: Innocence by Hollis Chatelain
 of Hillsborough, North Carolina, USA

For seventy-two minutes, give or take, I watched "Stitched: the film" which is advertised as a fun-filled documentary following three quilt artists as they prepare their entries in Houston's International Quilt Festival.

It was good to see Hollis Chatelain and Caryl Bryer Fallert again, to watch them at work, and to discover Randall Cook and his buns of steel controversial quilt. Just as heartening was to see a smiling Kathy York, and Sharon Schamber and her Best of Show quilt. It seems that I don't hear of Sharon and certainly don't hear her called a Super Star as much as others, but her work speaks for itself. This is a woman who not only sees colors, but also smells them.

The film is enjoyable. The photography and editing, definitely professional and well done. It doesn't quite rise to the level of documentary in my opinion. It actually feels more like a promotion tool for the major quilt shows -- Houston and Paducah and for these three quilters. Anyone who is at all tuned into this Houston-Paducah segment of the quilting community will learn very little from this film, but may be reminded of what they're missing if they don't attend the shows, or reminded of the good times they had while there. And the film certainly gives a quilter the itch to add to her stash and try out the new tools and toys that only a quilter can love.

When we realize that there are millions of quilters, from all parts of the world, this film only speaks to maybe the 60- to 100,000 who participate in this commercially driven aspect of the community. Of course, that's quite a group! But there weren't any quilters from Japan, Norway, Germany, Israel.... No charity quilts, no guilds, no Amish, no non-profits. It is a little film focused on Houston, with a nod to Paducah, filmed and directed by professionals out of Houston. It is a feel good film, except when it tiptoed into the conflict between traditional and art quilters.

At that point I thought the film makers' bias was showing. Traditional quilters were depicted as a group of white haired grandma types who spoke with a Southern drawl and thought quilts were only for sleeping under. I suppose there are those with that opinion, but it is possible that they are just not clearly voicing their opposition.

I try to work out my own opinion. And I think as one traditional quilter said in the film, it comes down to whether one comes from a sewing/textile background or an art/multi-medium background. Although I must qualify that. I come from a sewing background and am a devoted follower of beautiful textile art regardless of what techniques are used or whether the artist is a fabric artist or a multi-media artist.

One group uses the fabric and thread as their medium. In another group, as depicted by Hollis Chatelain, for example it is paint/dyes and thread. In one group it may be handwork, in the other machine or fusing fabrics together. In one group it is construction -- straight seams, tidy intersections, neat, hidden, even stitches, etc. And in the other group whole cloth as canvas with the emphasis on painting or embellishment.

In the film, only the very narrow view of a few women who apparently represented the traditional aspect of quilting, voiced their opinions. Nothing from a group of art quilters. I guess they are right and don't need to speak?

I think there's narrow minded opinions on both sides of this argument. I've heard several art quilters deride the emphasis sewers put on straight seams, etc. I believe if a quilt is going to be constructed, it should be according to the highest standards. Does that mean there can't be a frayed seam or irregular intersections? Of course not. It means that if it frays, or has offset intersections, it had better be part of the art and not a mistake or sloppy construction.

Part of what draws me to quilts is the love that quilts embody as items of comfort and warmth. Quilts began as utilitarian objects and the makers began adding their own individual touches of beauty to them. Quilt history is as important as the quilt. To say that one approach to making a beautiful piece of textile art is acceptable and another is not seems to go against the freedom with which women have constructed quilts and clothes and useful items through the centuries. Who would tell an Amish quilter that they can't use black fabric?

Perhaps it has to do with the industrialization of heirloom quality handwork. Machine quilting is absolutely awesome and the sky is the limit on possibilities and the beauty that can be produced. But handwork should never, ever, ever, be cast aside or treated as that old fashioned musty smelling aunt that lives in the attic. It has its place. Handwork is also skill, dedication, practice, effort, sweat, tears and blood and each stitch is a physical act of love. It is being one with the cloth. No gloves between the hand and the fabric. Each stitch is designed and carried out by its maker -- one at a time.

Handwork is a form of meditation. You can't get any closer to the cloth than while hand stitching. For me it isn't whether it hangs on the wall or covers me at night in my bed -- it doesn't matter if it is a double wedding ring or abstract or a Susan Shie original.

There's room in the quilting community for artists from every background and those doing handwork, recreating traditional patterns, using their love of color -- are just as valuable and should not be snubbed. They shouldn't need to be defensive or exclusionary. Perhaps artists with art backgrounds should remember that art has no boundaries. Elly Sienkiewicz creates works of art with each stitch she takes on her Baltimore quilts. Baltimore quilts are just as much an art style to quilts as Impressionism or Minimalism is to the art world. Ironically the winners of the top awards at the Houston show depicted in the film were mostly traditional quilts, and as Mr. Cook rather unkindly pointed out 'with butterflies.'

Fabric or textile art should feature the fabric. Quilts, a term which speaks more to construction -- a sandwich with a top, bottom and middle layers, held together with stitches, speaks more to construction. As long as all three layers and the quilting are there -- its a quilt. All serving their purpose, preening and beautiful.

After all of that, I think my conclusion is that a quilt is a fabric sandwich stitched with love. What's on top, on the bottom or inbetween, whether a dagwood or a patty melt, it is a quilt.

If you want to view the film, there's a narrow window to view it for free: http://www.ctpubblog.com/

Friday, September 23, 2011

Think before You Quote – Even in Comments

Posted on September 11, 2011 by Pat Irwin (permission granted to repost).

If you create content – or even post comments in blogs – and include quotes from someone else – be ware.

Although this particular company may well be on its last legs, there may be others out there.

It’s an ugly 18-month saga that, fortunately, seems to be coming to a close.

The players:

Righthaven LLC, a Las Vegas-based firm founded in March of 2010, solely for the purpose of suing blogs and websites that re-post any newspaper content without permission from their media clients.

Stephens Media, which owns 70 papers in nine states, including the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

MediaNews Group, the second-largest US newspaper chain, publisher of the Denver Post and 50 other papers.

Hapless bloggers and website owners, as well as those who comment on them.

Act I:

Righthaven LLC is formed in March of 2010, with help from a $500,000 investment from Stephens Media, their first client. The idea is simple; if newspapers can’t make enough money up front through advertisers and subscribers, monetize the content on the backend through litigation, going after those who unlawfully use their copyrighted material.

Newspaper chains will sell their copyrights to Righthaven for the express purpose of suing over the content, but according to the contract, newspapers retain all rights to control, license and print the material, while Righthaven can only use it to sue. The agreement also states that any proceeds from settlements or legal judgments are split 50-50 between Righthaven and the newspaper company. What could go wrong?

Act II:

Righthaven immediately goes about the business of trolling the web for copyright infringements, serving up lawsuits to as many as 300 offenders over the next year, mostly in Nevada and Colorado. They go after bloggers and websites, even if visitors posted the material in comments or discussion boards. The size of the infraction also is irrelevant, with no distinction made between small portions or entire articles.

Defendants are sued for tens-of-thousands of dollars, some as much as $150,000, the largest damages allowed. At least 100 of the accused settle out-of-court for undisclosed sums, fearing expensive legal battles.

Act III:

Righthaven’s profit model and business begin to unravel by April of this year. Defendants start to fight back, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation begins investigating, exposing large legal flaws in the company’s contractual agreements and lawsuits.

By June, two federal judges in Nevada have ruled Righthaven has no standing to bring a lawsuit, because the newspapers still retain copyright ownership. The rulings, based on copyright law, state that, “a copyright owner cannot assign a bare right to sue.” Most of Righthaven’s cases are dismissed, and in July the company is sanctioned by the court and fined $5,000.


This week the new chief executive of MediaNews Group, John Paton, said he was severing ties with Righthaven saying, “It was a dumb idea.” Going further he said, “The issues about copyright are real, but the idea that you would hire someone on an-essentially-success fee to run around and sue people at will, who may or may not have infringed as a way of protecting yourself…does not reflect how news is created and disseminated in the modern world.”

Aside from the questionable ethical nature of Righthaven’s business, it also was based on a flawed understanding of copyright law. Righthaven based their model on so-called patent-troll companies, who buy up patents only so they can sue others and turn a profit. The key, however, is that they purchase the patent and own it. Righthaven owned nothing, since the newspapers still reserved all rights of usage.

Righthaven has not filed a lawsuit in over two months, and has not won a single case. Discredited and with only one client, it looks to be on its way out. Bloggers who settled with the company are considering options for getting their money back, now that they know the suits were baseless.

The takeaway – which should not be interpreted as legal advice:

Protect yourself. If you have a blog or website, there is a simple, relatively cheap way to inoculate yourself from infringement committed by those, who comment or post on your site. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects you from civil copyright liability for user content, and you can easily register a DMCA agent. Visit www.copyright.gov, download the appropriate form and send it with a $105 check to Copyright RRP, Box 71537, Washington, DC 20024.

Fair use practices allow you to reproduce and use a copyrighted work for nonprofit or educational purposes. It’s usually acceptable to use a copyrighted work in teaching, research, or for criticism and commentary. For the most part, non-commercial use that does not affect the potential market for or value of the work is considered legal.

Most media outlets and people who create content don’t object to someone quoting short passages from articles, stories or speeches, especially in the context of discussion or criticism. However, attributing credit and providing a link to the original source are welcome courtesies that can show good intention and save you some trouble.

I received this information from Wooden Horse, a database that sends out a free newsletter for writers, etc. to keep them up on the latest U.S. magazine information. Since so many of us have blogs, guest bloggers, etc. this might be timely for all of us to read and act upon.

Thank you Lynda Thompson. She furnished this link to Righthaven's victims.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ignorance Message Quilts

You can be sincere and still be stupid.  --Charles F. Kettering

It all began with the radio this morning. My husband loves oldies music and has found one radio station in all of the world that plays it the way he likes it. So we awaken to this station every morning. The problem is that there is this DJ who fashions himself an expert on politics. He is not. HE IS NOT!

Today, this disk spinner decided to take on President Obama's proposal for taxes on the wealthy and corporations. Now, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the President, you can appreciate at least -- at the VERY least -- getting the facts straight. But our beloved little fascist DJ had no clue what he was talking about. But he said his say fast. He voiced it loud and with much hysteria and emotion. Therefore some ninny is going to think, because of the ardent delivery, he must be right.

It is impossible to defeat an ignorant man in argument. --William G. McAdoo
Such ignorance and misuse of public airways makes me livid. We all encounter such skewed facts and half truths and innuendo on a daily basis. Doesn't it make your hair stand on end?

So what better way to convey my feelings than in cloth? An Ignorance quilt seemed the proper vehicle. One I could hang in my office and stare at whenever I heard one more skewing, spinning, misusing, misrepresenting facts or out and out lying. Maybe one I could continue to add to with my trusty Sharpie as I find more and more examples or rebuttals.

Before we work on artificial intelligence why don't we do something about natural stupidity?  --Steve Polyak

But what is the symbol for ignorance? I thought of the Universal circle with the line across it for 'Do Not' or 'No' as in no right turn, no children, no smoking.... But what to put in the middle as the symbol of ignorance. Although that symbol is a bit cliche and overused....

Who better to turn to for help with this cloth dilemma than my fellow Subversive Stitchers!?

You can swim all day in the Sea of Knowledge and still come out completely dry.  Most people do.  --Norman Juster

So I ask for your input -- help me make an ignorance quilt. Or maybe make one of your own and send me a photo -- we can post them here and have a celebration of sorts or commiseration on the fact that it seems to reproduce so quickly.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Little Projects Carry Big Impact

Several pillows I have made plus the
blue ribbon embroidery pillow that I dream of making, Note
the angel pillow in the foreground. It is the prototype using
 Linda Goodmon Emery's design. 

It seemed that my family, even extended family, was complete before I was born. I came late, born four years after my cousins; seven years after my brother. An after thought always trying to catch up. One of those change-of-life surprises that was too little to do whatever the other kids were doing.

Two female cousins, Deb and Mary,  both four years older than me, had fun playing house with me when I was a baby and endured me trailing after them for the next decade or so.

Then we all graduated, married, went our separate ways and raised our kids. Sadly the next generation of cousins are all strangers to one another. And my generation had become separated until about ten years ago when the three of us discovered each other on email and began corresponding. The timing couldn't have been better. Suddenly age didn't matter and we were all empty nesters facing similar challenges.

We emailed daily and thought of ourselves as angels -- we saved each other from the trials of our lives. Just days after connecting with another cousin, Mary's older sister and sharing a bond that the years had prohibited in the past, she died. The three of us leaned heavily on each other to survive the shock and loss.

Death, relocations, illness, husbands, kids and more. When Mary was diagnosed with colon cancer we were all devastated, but tried to be supportive and encouraging via email.

Emailing, using words,  wasn't enough and one day while sewing, I decided to make us each a small angel pillow. I cut 8-1/2-inch squares from a cotton muslin fabric and drew a primitive angel shape in the middle -- just a triangle with a circle on top and a line for a halo. And of course the angel wings. I added batting and backing and stitched the outline and then some background filler. It was intended to be primitive, unpretentious, a symbol of a simpler life.

At the time I made them, I only knew the old-fashioned way to sew trapunto. So I cut a slit in the back of the angel and added some stuffing until the angel had a satisfactory plumpness. After stitching that slit shut, I sewed this square to the pillow back and made a pillow form to put inside of it. The back was made of two halves that overlapped so it would be easy to take the cover off and put it on the pillow form.

Mary took her pillow with her to the hospital.

The day of her surgery, I lit a candle. Prayed, paced, wished I wasn't hundreds of miles away. And tried to have a normal day -- laundry, cooking, cleaning and writing. Her daughter had promised to call as soon as they had something to report. The phone rang and her daughter was crying. I was crying and then she said, "No, no, I'm crying because I'm happy. No cancer. They found NO CANCER!"

That's been about seven years ago. Our angel pillows have gotten us through several major life crisis since then. Someone wiser than I noted that life is a series of crisis and events and should be expected. They are part of the journey. But nowhere is it written that we must face life alone. 

I've made a few angel pillows for friends and other family members as they face tough decisions or life events. I won't say the pillows have magical powers, but so far they have a high rate of good results. Maybe its the love with which they are made, the prayers said over each stitch, or maybe just the good wishes I send with each pillow. Of course it could be none of the above.

Free pattern for personal use.
But, I'm a firm believer that little gifts can make strong ripples in the universe of friends. Recently Mary emailed her news -- I have a pollup that must be removed. We're dusting off our angel pillows.

Life and its tests and challenges never stop, do they? Maybe, just maybe a little soft pillow will cushion the blows a little. I've been feeling the need to make some small projects and the pillows were at the top of my list. I have a few ideas I want to try -- include a sachet inside so they are scented. Maybe some lavender? Also I'd use Karen MacTavish's technique for trapunto and I'd like to practice my machine quilting.

I come from blue collar roots where everything must have a purpose and work is what is valued. So to practice my quilting or any technique, I must be making a useable object. Thus the pillows are excellent practice pieces for all kinds of techniques. A friend who is a master knitter said that knitting children's items is how she 'practiced' new techniques. They are small, take less yarn and give her a chance to practice, practice, practice. The pillows are along the same idea -- nothing goes to waste and they are a great way to use up small pieces of fabric or scraps of trims, mismatched buttons -- whatever you feel like using. Even a good way to practice your painting.
If you need a pattern for this little angel, I drew upon Linda Goodmon Emery's "A Treasury of Quilting Designs." Or here's a free angel pattern with a little heart, too.

A book recently sent to me from AQS offers alot of perfect quilting patterns for small pillows as well as other projects that are nature inspired. Quilting Designs from Nature by Lone J. Minkkinen is a delightful combination of a main element surrounded by easy to machine quilt motifs, drawn in such a way that they can be stitched without lifting the needle. And it is downloadable as well as in print.

I realize I have been not added to this blog in far too long. I hope to pick up where I left off. There are a few glitches in the downloads, etc. I guess the technology used here is out of date and won't accept new, so I'm not sure what that will mean.

Daily, I try to post comments and sites that inspire me on the Subversive Stitchers facebook page. So please drop by and chime right in! The more the merrier!