Is originality dead?

May 29, 2010

I know this is a hackneyed argument, bandied about frequently in various craft communities when someone, somewhere, feels upset that their ideas have been copied (and haven’t we all felt like that?), but it was bothering me for quite a while. I had to take a break from reading quilt blogs because I was suffering from some strange form of quilt exhaustion, which I later realized was probably just internet exhaustion! All of the quilts I saw began to bleed together, and I started questioning some of the tried-and-true methods and styles that I love. I was especially bothered by the “wonky” log cabin, for some reason. I couldn’t help feeling like there was a disconnect between the influences (like Gee’s Bend) and the way it is recreated by quilters (myself included).

Let me explain (and try not to criminalize the wonky LC in the process): I wondered if it was inherently wrong to recreate the styles typically born from poverty (like the improv quilts made from scraps by women in isolated communities) using expensive fabrics and intentionally lopsided cutting. No, I decided, it was probably the opposite.

But still, I felt like I kept seeing the same things over and over…same fabrics, same styles, same everything. There are some fabrics I love (30s repro fabrics) that I felt I “couldn’t” use because they weren’t modern enough, and that bothered me. Nobody ever said this to me…it was entirely a product of my imagination, and thus ridiculous.

But then we had our May NEMQG meeting, and afterward I saw two amazing quilts that were so beautiful and original that they turned my thinking around. They made me realize that originality certainly wasn’t dead, even in frequently used styles. The first was a  gorgeous log cabin made with modern fabrics by Rhea of Alewives Fabrics (and the equally gorgeous photo was taken by Caro of splityarn and can be found with the other photos from the meeting here):

The second was made by Yahaira, a quilter and knitter with a very unique aesthetic.  Both of these quilts used traditional shapes  (and in Yahaira’s case, traditional fabrics…hurray for repro prints!) in a stunning and original way.

The other quilt I encountered that expressed a remarkably strong point of view was Amanda’s:

Seriously, ya’ll. I LOVE this quilt. The craftsmanship is incredible, and it’s completely different from everything I’ve seen before. I’ve seen a LOT of house quilts, and this one blows me away.

So I realized that my worries were, essentially, ridiculous…and also that my feelings were a symptom of blog,  online fabric store, etc. overload. I have an unmanageable number of blogs in my reader, and I get concerned when I have so many left unread and un-commented on (I hate doing that). I felt so overwhelmed I could barely look at my own blog, which means I have several things finished that I haven’t even photographed, let alone told you all about!I promise all of you that I will be better about leaving more thoughtful comments on your blogs.

I’ve also decided that I’m going to quietly take part in the Process Pledge going around in blogland and try to be more conscious about posting while I work, and not just when I’m finished. Tomorrow, I’ll write about one of the quilts I’m making, a completely improvised design. Here’s a sneak peak:

I hope you’re all having a wonderful weekend!


3 Responses to “Is originality dead?”

  1. you are so incredibly kind! thank you so very very very much!

    and I just posted something similar about quilting and why quilt and what makes a quilt so “modern”. It seems like there is a lot to talk about and not a lot of set in stone ideas and rules!

  2. Laurie Says:

    I totally get what you are saying in this post. We talked about this a while ago and it made me think about the whole blog culture and how it has influenced me – good and bad. It is kind of funny how reading blogs and seeing people’s projects has impacted everything from fabric purchases to what I choose to blog about on my own site.

  3. yahaira Says:

    Im obviously way behind! I didn’t see this post before emailing you haha thank you for including me! and I know exactly what you mean by internet exhaustion. I suffered from it for a while there. I see the same quilts or the same fabrics over and over again. how do you make something original when we all buy the same fabrics? I guess that’s the challenge right? (if that’s what you seek in your crafting)

    and where do we get these silly rules from? I think all of us have some rule that came out of nowhere. of course we can use repro fabrics! and it can look modern and fresh.

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