Monday, October 31, 2016

Derivative debate - Building Blocks Tuesday

Wow have I been lazy lately!  I started a project using my Improv Wreath Blocks, but I got a little more than half done and stalled out.  I've been procrastinating starting up again, even though I really need to get them going. So, I have no new blocks to show you.  Instead, I will share this block that I made for the Star of Africa bee that I was in a few years ago and hopefully inspire a bit of a discussion below.

Music themed Star of Africa Block

Irene asked for music themed blocks for her month.  I designed this block of guitars based on a bunch of things I saw on the internet, including: a custom painting by an Etsy artist, Amie Murray;  a quilt by Robbi Joy Eklow called Groovy Guitars, several student versions of that quilt, a poster of Guitar art from Amazon, an art print of the guitars of the Beatles by Danilo Agutoli, both the Fender and Gibson guitar company websites, and of course, my own fabric stash.

Why all the links?  Well, it got me thinking about the Modern Quilt Guild's requirement (original post HERE, taken down and replaced with THIS) to obtain permission from any artist that one might have derived a design from in order to enter a quilt into QuiltCon.  I had strong feelings about this "derivative" discussion when it first surfaced, but I mostly kept them to myself.  I'd like to ask your opinions now.  If instead of a block, I had made the above into a full quilt, would I need to get the permission of each of the artists that inspired me?  If you don't feel like clicking through all the links, that's OK, I'll tell you what specifically inspired me from each of the images.  Both Amie Murray and Robbi Eklow have overlapping guitars in their art.  I don't think overlapping the guitars is a particularly groundbreaking idea, but that is what caught my eye.   Composition wise, it makes for a more interesting and visually appealing image.  As for the rest of the links, I was looking for interesting guitar shapes to include in my collection of guitars.  Assume I took one shape from each of the links.  Who do I need to get permission from?  Just the painter and quilter?  The person who photographed real guitars and put them on a poster?  And let's not forget, someone designed the shapes of those guitars too. let's call them sculptors.  So would I need to track them down too?  Oh, and let's not forget that the painter and quilter were probably inspired by someone else's photographs too.  There is a possible rabbit hole of inspiration there.

In this day and age, we are bombarded with visual images.  Some of them are easy to pinpoint and remember, some are vaguer in our memories.  For example, lately I have been drawn to circular designs and I have sketched out several quilts based on circles, wedges, and other round things.   Some designs might have been inspired by things that I remembered to pin to Pinterest (meaning their origin is somehwat easier to follow).  One was an infographic on an ad I saw on the side of a bus 4 years ago - I don't remember what it was for, only the general shape of the words radiating away from the circle.  One was some wallpaper I saw in a random magazine article I was reading at the doctor's office, that looked like a sun.  The only commonality between all these things is that they started with the shape of a circle, but I might have taken the color of the wallpaper, an added spike from the bus ad, and probably a bunch of random other things from the things I've seen on the internet.  ALL of those images were ingredients in my recipes for designs.  None of my designs are exact copies, but sure, they are derivative of several other artists interpretations of a circle.  The Modern Quilt Guild's requirement seems to say that if someone could look at the bus ad that inspired me and say, "yeah, I can see where Jen came up with her idea", then it is derivative work requiring written permission in order to submit for the show.  But seriously, what if 12 people were each shown ONE of the things that inspired me and all 12 say my one quilt is derivative of that one inspiration?  I have to get 12 written permissions for one quilt, all because they have circles in common.  This seems a little ridiculous to me, not to mention stifling.  What if there are 20 infographics that resemble my block?  Maybe because you can't tell which one of the 20 I looked at for inspiration means that it isn't derivative at all??  Just a bunch of people that like circles.

Based on this derivative requirement, some have decided to leave the MQG or not to submit quilts to their show.  I am not sure what, if any action, I will take.  I was planning on submitting quilts to the next 2 shows, but now I am unsure.  I have a hard time believing that I am the first person to think of a circle the way I am today.  I also believe that most art is derivative.  Would art have evolved the way it has throughout history if we did not allow derivations along the way?  Think of the techniques that represent specific art movements -- are they really not derivative of each other?  I am not an art history major but I have a hard time pinpointing which impressionist decided to paint an outdoor scene first.  And who was the first to use those tiny brushstrokes that everyone quickly adopted for a time?

What do you think?  Do you think the derivative definition and regulations set by the MQG are too strict?  Do you think that we are limiting our growth as quilters by not allowing derivatives in shows?

Interested in reading more about the derivate debate?  Check out this post and this one too to see what other bloggers have said.

What blocks have you been working on this week?  I would love to see.  Link up your fabulous blocks.  You put a lot of hard work into them - show them off!  This free linky will stay open until the first Monday of next month, but I will repost it every Tuesday until a new month starts.

Quilter in the Closet


1) Please link up only to the page on your blog showing your wonderful blocks, not just the blog homepage.  Flickr and Instagram pictures are also OK.
2) Make sure to put your blog name as the description so people know where they are going or the name of your block!
3) Please grab my button and post it in your blog post or sidebar.
4) Visit other linky participants!

Thanks for reading,


***This post may contain affiliate links.  If you purchase something after clicking on one of my links, I may be compensated, but at no additional cost to you!


  1. So, I did click on all of your links, and I say no to seeking permission from anyone. Your piece is beautiful, by the way. ~karen

  2. This argument rumbles on and on doesn't it Jen? I think it is often impossible to know where an idea comes from, unless it is a straightforward copy. As you point out frequently an idea for a piece of art is an amalgam of several thoughts that ends up with something created that is totally unlike the original inspirations. It does seem that the Guild are being quite heavy-handed in their approach if members are leaving as a result of the requirements. In my day job several years ago I dealt with the Heads of Drama and Dance Departments who expected their students to build upon and acknowledge the earlier work of experts but to also put their own interpretation on everything they did to create their unique voice. Surely that is what the Guild should be encouraging and supporting their members to find a viable way to do rather than imposing an unrealistic requirement on them that will ultimately stifle rather than nurture creativity.


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