Turkey Tracks: Red Fish Quilt In Progress and Copyright Laws

Turkey Tracks:  January 9, 2011

Red Fish Quilt In Progress and Copyright Laws


Two summers ago, I took two quilting classes from Jo Diggs, at our state-wide Pine Tree Quilting Guild (PTQG) annual show.

Jo Diggs is an amazing quilter and an effective, caring teacher.  She cuts fabric free-hand and hand appliques the shapes to make her designs.  She does landscapes, floral compositions, and underwater fish and vegetation.  She relies on fabrics she can buy.  She does not artistically manipulate (paint, stamp) fabric.  You can an idea of the kind of work she does on her web site:  www.jodiggs.com.  But, there is no substitute for seeing her work in person.  And, she will be teaching at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Show in Norfolk, VA, in February.

Before I took Jo’s class on landscapes, I had been doing landscapes.  I can clearly state that I will never be able to be the kind of artist she is.  Her visions are unique and enormously satisfying.  And I did learn more about method from her.  The fish class, though, was formative.  Prior to this class, I had no idea how to go about creating a picture of fish from inside my own head and with fabric available to me.  I did not know how to “think” a fish by combining various shapes in layers.

The small quilt top I started stayed pinned to my design wall for 18 months.  I finally picked it up and started hand-sewing just before going to Charleston for Thanksgiving.  Hmmmm, I thought.  Maybe I can do this work.  Last week, I picked up the top again, in the middle of two other quilting projects and three knitting projects, and quickly became obsessed.  Here’s what it looks like so far:

 I’m getting better at the applique as I go along.  My circles have improved immeasurably already.  The fish will all get eyes via embellishment at the second stage.  The large green fish, for instance, will get a button eye.  And, already, some of the foreground has changed.  It does have more depth when you look at it straight on… 

I haven’t a clue how to quilt it, but will figure it out. 

Meanwhile, if this quilt does turn out to be good enough to think about hanging it at the annual Pine Tree show, I will have to get Jo Digg’s permission since it was developed in a class she taught.  Pine Tree recently sent out new protocols for displaying quilts.  If you developed a quilt in a class, made it from a pattern in a magazine or book, or from a pattern you purchased, you have to get the permission of the designer to display the quilt.  I don’t think you can sell such a quilt without getting the permission of the designer either.  Exceptions involve using traditional blocks.  Amy Butler, who designs patterns and fabric, clearly states that if you buy one of her patterns, you may not sell the item to anyone without her permission. 

I’m all for a designer getting credit for his/her work.  I think having to get permission for using a pattern in a published magazine or a book is a bit silly and defeats the purpose of the said magazine or book.  One must give credit, yes, but getting permission is an overload for everyone.  I think selling products made from a published pattern should be ok, too, provided one gives credit to the designer. 

The big problem I have with how to negotiate this terrain with regard to taking classes is deciding where there is a novel, copywrited product and where there is a method to be learned.  No one else can combine fabric in the way Jo Diggs does.  She is an artist and the work she does comes from inside her head.  She can teach me “fish,” but I’ll never create them or put them into a quilt in the way she does.  I could not if I tried.  What she does is unique.  So, did I learn a method from Jo Diggs.  Or am I forever bound to call her for permission whenever I make an applique quilt using anything remotely resembling her fish method?

I don’t know.

But, I can tell you that I’m not likely to take any more classes if these interpretations prevail.  I already refuse to buy Amy Butler’s patterns or fabrics  and would encourage you not to do so as well until she mitigates her legal stance in writing on her patterns.  And, if my little fish quilt turns out ok and if I can reach Jo Diggs without too much trouble and if she gives permission, I might hang it at PTQG.  But if there is any hitch, I will not.  So it will be interesting to see how many quilts PTQG hangs this year.

Clearly this whole terrain has gone over the edge of sanity.  I will be interested to see how much of an impact it has on teachers, books, and quilt shows.


Author: louisaenright

I am passionate about whole, nutrient-dense foods, developing local markets, and strengthening communities.

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