Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How not to display quilts -- the sequel

Well, I didn't see that one coming!  Who knew that complaining about quilts draped, wrapped, wadded up and photographed underneath babies would be seen by a bazillion web surfers as an insult to them and to everything we hold dear?

Yesterday I wrote about my unhappiness at going into a museum and finding quilts on display, not on the wall so we could see all of them, but in strange shapes and formats.  And then I commented that the Generation Q blog did a similar thing with a photo of a quilt that I found quite appealing -- or at least I liked the part I could see, even though at least half of it was folded under or draped out of view.

Jacquie Gering, who made the quilt, was unhappy to read my post, and as a result, many of her readers shared their feelings by commenting on it.  I have removed the photo of her quilt from my blog, although I would be happy to have you visit the Generation Q blog and see half of her lovely quilt.

To set the record straight, I'd like to share the emails that Jacquie and I exchanged last night.


Dear Jacquie --

What a wonderful crowd of faithful friends you have!

I am sorry that you and they misunderstood my feelings toward your quilt. Actually I liked it a great deal, what I was able to see of it. And I wished I could have seen more of it.

Which I thought was my point -- that the photo did a disservice to your quilt. We rarely see paintings depicted in the media with two-thirds cropped or folded out of view, and probably we wouldn't be much impressed with them if we did see them this way. I think people would be far more inspired if they could see your whole piece.

But you are offended at my showing your quilt, which I regret. Would you like me to take the photo down? Would you like me to clarify that I really like your quilt? Would you like me to apologize? And if so, specifically for what?




Thank you for getting in touch with me. This issue for me isn't about anyone liking my quilt, it is using my work without permission. I also didn't appreciate my photo being associated with a post that demeans modern quilting and which states an opinion with such a negative tone. I would appreciate if you would take the picture down. I understand that my readers have not been kind with their comments. I'm sorry for that. That was not my intent. I was hurt and angry when I read your post.

As for an apology, that is up to you.



Jacquie, I will be happy to apologize for some things.

I'm sorry that I did not ask you for permission to use the photo. I took it from the Generation Q blog, using the same rationale of fair use that most critics and reporters avail themselves of.  The concept behind that rationale is that when work has been published, it's kind of fair game for others to comment on. I think this is well within the bounds of both legal and ethical practice, but it would have been better had I asked you.

I'm sorry that you read my post to be demeaning of modern quilting. You probably have not read many of my earlier posts on this subject, in which I discuss, first, my wondering what exactly Modern Quilting is, and then, my conclusion that it's a fine thing. I believe that you and many of your readers took offense at the word "so-called." I used this word not to derogate the movement, but to identify it, as many of my readers in the past have expressed confusion and bemusement as to how, if at all, it's different from what we have been doing for many years.

I'm especially sorry that you took my remarks about your quilt to be negative. I like your quilt, and I think it should give viewers a lot of good ideas. But I think viewers would find it more inspiring if they could see more of it. I'm sure you have your reasons for photographing the quilt this way, but I'm one person who wishes I could have seen the whole thing.

I am not going to apologize for believing, and saying, that I think it's disrespectful to quilts and to the people who make them -- such as yourself -- to display beautiful work in offhand and trivial views. I was mostly upset to see the quilts in a museum draped so haphazardly in piles or wrapped around strangely shaped objects. If quilts are going to be depicted and sold as home décor, then of course the standard can be lower, and if people want to take pictures of their quilts with their babies, of course they're welcome to do so. But I wish that quilts could be regarded more highly, if not everywhere, at least in the circles that I care about. And that's not going to happen if quilters don't give and demand more respect for their work.



  1. Umm ok she did not want you using photos of her quilt, but you feel it is ok to paste a private email between the two of you. You just showed that you do not have class. You should have said sorry and taken your post down. You make me sad for you.

  2. Dear Kathy,

    This whole episode is very sad. I think your point is an important one and should be made. Maybe without damming anyone or anything, but hey!, we are all humans and make mistakes. No need for lots of people to get so nasty or insulting.If you feel strongly about it you should be allowed to say so.

    I loved the quilt that was displayed and through your post I found a new blog to follow. So not all is bad. I also loved the picture, but see your point.

    Look for a poem called "Poema em Linha Reta" by Fernando Pessoa. I am sure you willfind a translation and also will find its words conforting.

    Keep it up!


  3. Must agree in general with your omments on this and your previous post. I did not read all of the comments, I must admit: those I did read, in many cases, seemed to miss the point of what you were saying. The ones I really can't understand are the ones that said it was too boring to see the whole quilt - to demean your own work like that seems incomprehensible, and to do that to others unforgivable. All that work just tro provide a background or a bit of details in an interior photograph? Can't understand it - or why there's been such a furore.

  4. Oh dear. I didn't have time to comment yesterday, but I did think to ask whether you had written to the museum on your strong views.

    Probably a side point now that you have been railroaded by the other person's friends.
    Sandy in the UK

  5. You are a strange person, take a break, enjoy life and feel better about yourself

  6. I do think a lot of people were harsh yesterday, probably from feeling freshly riled up, and reacted too quickly and too strongly. However, like someone above said, why would you make the same mistake again and publish private emails?!! Unless you had Jacquie's permission. I am glad to see what you wrote to her though, but for the most part I'm not buying it.

    You said in one breath that you were sorry for not asking her permission to use her photo, then in the next, that you had every right to under "fair use"! Which one is it?

    The bit that sounds like you are making up an excuse after the fact, is your explanation for saying "so-called". You know, and we all know that you said it and it is what it is. You just can't explain away that one.

    I hope a thing or two has been learned here - both for you, and for us commentors.

  7. I think your understanding of fair use is a bit faulty -- the fact that something has been published does not entitle another person to reproduce it. Reproduction without permission is precisely what copyright protects against. Respecting ownership of a quilter's images of her work is another way of showing respect for quilts themselves. I'm glad you took the picture down.

  8. While you have addressed the issue of copyright/fair use, you haven't responded to any of the thoughtful and reasonable explanations for photographing and even displaying quilts in ways other than in full. A photographer pointed out that it is very difficult to take an interesting picture of such a large and often square subject, and that quilts often create keystone distortion. I've seen many quilts that have been photographed in full that were much harder to appreciate because of the distortion. I've also been disappointed by the lack of visual interest in the photograph itself because the only thing that could fit in the frame was the quilt.

    Others have noted that quilts are large and space is often at a premium at shows and in museums, and that for more informal or community-minded events, inclusion may be a higher priority than displaying each quilt in its enormity. And finally, several people pointed out that many of us view quilting as craft, rather than art, and define it in terms of a merging of skill, beauty, and, as Alice Walker puts it, "everyday use." That understanding of quilts and quilting means that many of us enjoy seeing quilts in their native environment, so to speak.

    You are still entitled to your own view that you prefer to see quilts in full, but to say that anything less than that demeans the quilt and the quilter indicates that you have neither read nor considered the many good reasons a quilt might be displayed otherwise. This indicates to me that you are either not interested in considering and acknowledging the perspectives of others, that you dismiss them simply because some of the comments lack civility, or that you have not actually read the many comments left to your post. Having raised this topic, you have a responsibility to respond to it in a way that demonstrates you are listening to others. At least, that would be the civil thing to do.

  9. A MODERN QUILTER in TNOctober 18, 2011 at 9:55 AM

    This is absolutely a half-hearted attempt at an apology to people that you obviously care nothing about. You are sorry that your post came off as "demeaning of modern quilting". You should look up the definition of "so-called". The term in and of itself has a negative or false connotation. You effectively negated the validity of those of us who consider ourselves "modern quilters" and assumed to understand what we are attempting to make with our skills. Who are you to judge whether we're making art or just "nice things for our homes"? I consider my quilts to be useful art. Some hang on the walls, some decorate our beds, and others are used to snuggle my precious children when they need extra love.

    Of course, this is your blog and you are entitled to your opinion. I don't expect you to like quilts slumped over a chair just because I do. However, I also do not appreciate you telling me and others to "rot in hell" because you assume that we don't respect quilts in the same way that you do.

  10. I think most troll like commenters have missed your point! If you keep displaying quilts as "Home decor" that is ALL they will ever be. As a previous person said, I might as well be looking at a Pottery Barn catalog.

  11. I'm confused, aren't quilts ment to be used & enjoyed in the house? There are very few homes that I have walked into where all of their beautiful quilts were hung on the wall for everyone to see. I guess coming from an art background I look at quilts often as a sculpture, meant to be felt, worn, snuggled, used, and loved. That's what gives it character & makes it so cozy with time. I thought the point of quilting was not to tuck these beautiful creations into a trunk or hang them with a "Do not touch sign", but to be appreciated & in turn that is what gives a quilt it's true beauty. I also love the fact that so many people are making quilts these days. Beautiful quilts that hopefully be passed down & loved for generations to come no matter how they were displayed in a photograph. Even though I disagree with what you have said I applaud you for voicing your opinion. Aren't we blessed to live in a country where we have the freedom to do so? Hope you have a great week.

  12. The point of a photograph of a fine art object is to make a record of the object in its entirety, not to make "an interesting photograph."
    An interesting photograph is a separate and independent category of art.

    Reproduction rights for photographs of fine arts objects usually dictate that the photograph, and thereby the object, is shown in full and not altered in away (cropped, flopped, color, sharpness, etc.).

    If a photographer does not have the skill or equipment to make a clear and accurate photograph of an object in its entirety, and if such an image is needed, then it behooves the artist to find a photographer who can.

    If an object is to be photographed in a setting that does not require being shown in its entirety, respect demands that the same standards of quality apply to the making of that photograph as are evidenced in fine arts work.

    Some quilts are made as fine arts objects, others are not. It is important to apprehend the difference and also, as a matter of respect, to be courteous to others whose intentions may be different than your own.

  13. I thought the original post was so timely and pertinent - and I love that your writing has the conviction of your opinion, rather than a PC walk down the impossible line of trying not to upset everyone. Bravo!

    I'm currently working on some pattern designs and have been stronlgy advised to make the covers "lifestyle" photos rather than straight ahead shots. I get that it might appeal to a different set of eyes (the "moderns" - and god help me for daring to label them), but I also feel strongly that the FUNCTION of a pattern is to communicate a lot about what the buyer is hoping to create - and I'm with you on thinking that showing all that information beats the heck out of artfully placing it over a chair.

    As for Jacquie's quilt - I agree that I wish I could have seen more of it in the picture. Cropping it through the design of the shot somehow alters the intent of the design for me... I design on a wall and look at the overall piece while I work. And the aesthetic balance of the overall work matters - be it mine or anyone elses. I doubt anyone designs a piece thinking "let me get this bit in the center right and ignore the edges because no one will see them anyway..."

  14. I must be missing something (which is possible since I am a relatively new quilter). But when did "modern quilters" become equated with quilts which are not art? The history of the quilt was as a FUNCTIONAL item, often stitched from old clothing, old sheets, or whatever fabric the quilter could get her hands on. Often a community of women sat around and completed a quilt together. Quilts were not hung on walls, they were used and then passed down. To hear "traditional" quilters calling out "modern" quilters for using their quilts (rather than displaying them "respectfully" on the wall) makes no sense to me. If anything, I would say that the modern movement is what has elevated the quilt beyond a functional piece into the realm of art.

  15. If I may...
    Much of this discussion is focused on, without naming it, the distinctions made between fine art and decorative or appplied arts. For much of the history of quilting, quilts were a decorative/applied art -- that is, an object made with some utility in mind. Even in this tradition, however, some quilts were made not primarily as objects of utility but as an opportunity for virtuosity. The beautifully and elaborately appliqued Baltimore album quilts, for example, often were made more for display (and to take ribbons at shows) than for use. These may have been displayed on a bed, perhaps in a guest room or on special occasions, but they were not truly intended as sleep-under-it-every-night, wash-and-wash-again bed quilts.

    In the late 20th century, artists -- people trained in fine arts and defining themselves as artists -- began using fiber and fabric as a fine art medium. Instead of paint or ink, they used fabric to accomplish their works. These works were not and are not intended as objects of utility.

    This is not intended to state or imply that objects made with utility in mind are not artful, nor that the people who create them lack artistry or sincerity. Beautiful and dynamic bed quilts abound. It is to say, however that the intentions of the makers are different. Not better or worse, just different.

    Personally, I think that the greater world of quilting would benefit if art quilters called their works something other than "quilts" -- but that's a whole other can o' beans.

  16. Full disclosure:
    I should have said "if art quilters called our works ..." since I am primarily an art quilter who learned the fundamentals of craft by making bed quilts.

  17. Instead of writing that drawn out email to Jacquie, you could have made it easy for yourself and just said, "OK, I'm sorry...but really I'm not", because that's how it reads.

    Go look on her blog on the right hand side and you will see where she copyrights her work and specifically says not to use her photos without her permission.

    You should have located the original source (her) of the photo before using it, and nothing you can say about fair use excuses that.

  18. Oh, how I wish I had your e-mail address. I'd love to send you a photo of a quilt that is currently being used as a vacuum cleaner cosy. I can not find a concealed place in my small house to put my upright vacuum so I had to tuck it in the dining room corner. It looked terrible there so I draped a quilt over it. Now it just looks odd.

  19. This is so clearly a case of jealousy as to be laughable. Think about it- us 'modern' quilters, Gen Q, whatever label you want to use- why do you give a flying rip how we photo or display our quilts? We're not coming to your prestigious shows, we're not trying to claim that we make Art Quilts. We do our own thing, make no pretensions of 'artiness' and use our quilts as we like. How is that in ANY way affecting you? The only possible comparison is right here in the blogs. Popularity of the 'modern' quilt blogs FAR and away outstrips that of the more traditional or art quilt blogs. And you know why? Because they're INTERESTING. They're accessible. They're real.

    Do us all a favor and DON'T bother 'slumming it' by browsing the modern quilt blogs. Your disdain is palpable, and it's unwelcome.

  20. Dear Kathy,
    Good Gravy!! What a tempest in a teapot! Why do women dogpile on someone who dares to express an opinion that isn't "NICE"?

    Keep up the good work,
    Linda Laird

  21. Please here me, loud and clear. I did not misunderstand what you wrote in your previous post and I am not misunderstanding your half-hearted apology. I have read every word of each. You clearly state that quilters who photograph their quilts on anything with a miniscule disruption of the entire quilt is a disrespect to the quilt, quilters, and they can rot in hell -- your quote, not mine.

    That is BEYOND terribly offensive to EVERY quilter who has EVER photographed a single quilt this way. THIS is why you are getting such a big backlash. I DO think of my quilts as art, I DO use them, and I HAVE photographed babies on them, draped over my porch, and I have never heard ONE single person EVER tell me that it has 'devalued' my quilt. Not one. If you're addressing your displeasure with a particular museum, the better forum would have been to shown your examples which you have taken yourself, notified the museum, and then blogged about how unhappy you were that you felt they did not value quilts.

    You did not say it was ONLY a museum, you clearly stated it was QUILTER'S you had an issue with. I came back today because I heard it through the grapevine that you had issued an apology... clearly that apology is half-assed because while you do say you were sorry for taking a photograph and comply with her wishes to have it removed, you damn your entire apology by going on and listing why you think you're right.

    I do value the fact that you want to speak your mind, and I value even a little of your point to desire to see entire quilts, but what I DON'T like is how you have attacked just about every quilter and apologize for none of your rudeness. Do you really think the women in the 1700's sat around and hung their quilts ONLY on their walls? of course not, in those days nearly nothing was made that wasn't practical.

    I am not a mommy-blogger, I am not a 20-something with nothing to do. I am a real person, who has put a lot of time and effort into my craft as well as love and creativeness and take GREAT offense to you telling me to rot in hell because I may want to lay a grand baby on my quilt and photograph it. I suggest you take a little time to think about what you're saying... and what you're doing to your 'art' because one thing people will remember down the line is Kathleen Loomis, the 'art quilter' who told all the other quilters to rot in hell... and they might not be so keen to offer you their hard earned money.. next time you try and sell or display something.

  22. Through all of this I found a new blog to follow...yours!
    I don't agree with your opinion but I respect it :) and the nasty comments on both sides left a very bad taste in my mouth.
    What I think is interesting is that when I looked at some of the profiles and blogs of the authors of the nasty comments they claimed to be xtian.
    Just one more reason not to be a religious hypocrit!

  23. EEK!
    These folks take too much (and themselves) too seriously.
    Write on with gusto Kathy, those of us with a thicker skins count on you.


  24. wow, now the anti religious kids are coming out to play!
    This blog gets more and more interesting by the day, maybe you should change your blog title to
    'Days of our Lives'.

    Honey, there ain't nothin' traditional about you. Not your quilting, your values, your morals, nope, nothin'.

  25. The harsh tone set on both sides leaves me a bit reluctant to weigh in, but of course, why let let good sense hold me back now?

    I think surely we have room for both views: that these are art that should be viewed as such, and that quilts are three dimensional works of art that are tactile, malleable, and can be viewed in a way that shows that without devaluing them. So who decides? I think each artist must decide for themselves. Museum quilts, and each curator, I suppose.

    I believe there is more pressure on this question in the quilt world where artists have often struggled to break into the art world frequently being called crafters instead.

    Perhaps it was the tone that there is only one right way, and that any other way to display is an act of disrespect deserving of a "rot in hell" that set so many off.

  26. geez, talk about over reactions!!
    I would like to give some voice of support to Kathy who often gives thoughtful and intelligent commentary on art and quilts in particular. Kathy, I enjoy reading every day and will continue to do so. I think the use of the pictures and emails is perfectly ok in this case. I don't know why everyone is so defensive...you didn't personally attack anyone and did not deserve the vitriol directed at you.
    I say, right on Kathy and excellent point made in the original blog! I guess people can't take a joke anymore either (rot in hell).
    Best wishes