Friday, January 26, 2007

not happy

Something happened yesterday that made me profoundly unhappy and I'm still not exactly over it. I have debated whether I was going to say anything about it here and I've decided that I will.

But first : Stephen and Christina's wedding quilt is in last month's issue [ #22] of Quilter's Companion... great photo by the way whoever took it ... can't find a photo credit ... with a bunch of others from last year @ Jeff's Shed, including one by Sylvia Reeves who is also in our local little quilt group. Not bad huh? They picked eight quilts out of dozens and dozens of the winners in a State level comp and two are from our little country town :] ... Sylvia and I didn't even know they were in there until someone contacted me by email to ask a question so it was a really lovely surprise . [ if you're wondering how they could put it in without us knowing... permission and all, well, they didn't need it ... you sign a photography and publicity release with the entry form for the Show ]

Anyway, I knew that the same quilt and another one were going to be in ANOTHER mag [ my favourite aussie one ] in the Feb issue and I was full of the usual anticipation. How will they look on the page? How big will the photos be? How will the editorial be phrased? It's more than a wee bit narcissistic but any quilter who says that she doesn't enjoy a bit of public recognition is fooling herself. I didn't think it was out yet so I was thrilled to see it in the newsagent yesterday, and immediately bought a copy even though I knew full well that I'd get a complimentary one eventually. I couldn't even wait until I got home. I had to open it then and there and flip straight to the article on using japanese fabrics. Yup. There were my quilts... and then as I kept on flipping through, came across a quilt using designs from my japanese sampler class. Now I taught this class for over 10 years and in that time I virtually gave away thousands of copies of designs for japanese kamon. [ well what would you call charging people $5 for over 80 block designs?] This was long before there were ANY books on japanese crests for quilters. Kitti Pippen, Jill Liddell and Kumiko Sudo's books hadn't yet come out. I was drafting from 1" black and white pictures in a Dover book of 4260 copyright free japanese designs. In all, I guess I drafted up about 100 of them. So the chance that someone else out there picked exactly the same ones out of the over 4000 and chose to draft them to exactly the same sizes that I did is fairly remote.
Okay, I didn't recognise the maker's name but then hundreds of girls did that class and I'm sure a fair number of them passed my patterns on to their friends and their friends' friends. That's what quilters do. The blocks were all from a very early incarnation of that class... maybe '91 or '92. Anyway, I had a look at the accompanying text to see if I got credit as the designer, only to read that she "designed" the quilt herself in EQ6. This is when my stomach plummetted into my admittedly-gorgeous shoes. What? Read it again! It still said she "drew" the quilt. I wanted to read it again, as if it was suddenly going to say something different... it was like when you have a mouth ulcer and you have to keep probing it to see how much it hurts
I guess it all hinges on how one defines the sentence " I designed it myself". It was an original layout. I recognized where the blocks in the borders came from [ they certainly weren't mine] but all bar one of the ones in the body of the quilt were. Some of them might have been a coincidence but several of them I drafted for piecing where anyone else would've appliqued them. I know where my lines were. I know my proportions. Those were MY blocks... I guess what I'm having problems with is her statement that she "drew" the blocks into the computer. Copied, or traced but not "drew".
This individual did do her layout. Maybe to her, that's designing. It's not entirely her fault if the way she stated that is open to another interpretation. She maybe has no idea where the blocks came from although they all originally had name and copyright notation on them, possibly didn't think that the designer merited mentioning ... although seeing she's apparently a teacher, one would imagine she would know better. It's absolutely certainly not the fault of the editor who can only go on the information she's given.
It completely ruined my day but I'll get over it. It's not the first time. It won't be the last. If I'd done what Marc wanted and done a book 17 years ago ... well ...we won't go there.
The mag is still sitting on the table. I haven't opened it again. It will be interesting to see how long it is before I do... and I need to cos my friend Nicky Tepper has a project in there.
So now you know ... I'm not at all sure why I'm writing this and I have no intention of having a go at the Editor. She's a lovely person and would never ever intentionally do anything to upset me. I know that. So don't bother suggesting that I write to her.It's not going to happen. I just needed to get this off my chest.
Rant over.
You may now return to your regularly scheduled business.

13 comments:

Erica said...

I really understand and feel for you, I design dolls so mostly frequent the doll groups, not the quilters, but have seen this so many times and it always causes a stir, someone will take a head of one pattern, body of another and limbs from another and call it their 'original' doll, it's so frustrating when you see it happen and you *know* where the bits came from.
Just remember that the 100's of other women who took your classes will also recognise and *know*, and that maker's reputation will drop a notch.

catsmum said...

I don't want her reputation, if she has one, to go down. I don't believe that she was trying to claim my stuff as hers. I just think that a lot of quilters forget that an actual live person did design the blocks in the first place. That they didn't just come into being poof out of thin air...
that they weren't generated by some souless agglomeration of computer circuits.

Meg said...

I was certainly guilty of photcopying patterns/articles etc years ago, didn't really think if it as stealing.
My attitude has changed dramatically since i got to know a few quilters who try to make a decent living from designing and teaching.
I'm pretty careful now to 'not' take a pattern or kit with me to gtg's and meetings, then i save someone the embarassment of a refusal to copy it.

Nola G said...

I bought the magazine yesterday, saw that quilt and my first thoughts were - Oh there's Susan Japanese lady block and the other ones she designed. Thinking she must have done your class I read through the text only to find the reference to EQ6. I know how much work you put into those blocks.

Nora said...

Oh Susan, I know how you feel.
I so admire the fact that you were onto the Japanese thing way, WAY b4 any of us!
I don't want to say anything else here - I'll email you privately later today. x

Sheepish Annie said...

I think you are handling this with a remarkable degree of class and understanding. I agree that this was probably not outright and intentional theft...but hurtful all the same. You work so hard to create something and then see it glorified under a name that is not yours. And to address it will end up hurting people rather than making you feel better.

Not fair. But it says a great deal about your character that you care enough about the art of quilting to make your statement without doing damage.

mehitabel said...

What a lousy thing to have happen! I think you are handling it in the classiest way possible--not lashing out and making a big fuss, but sharing your concern and hurt with your regular readers. After all, you did all the work to get those patterns to usable sizes and shapes, and it just stinks that you didn't get credit for that work. I'm outraged for you too! (And now I'm going to check the few Australian magazines we can get here to see if I can find the pictures!)

trek said...

It would probably have been more appropriate for the submitting person to have a note along the lines of "this pattern was inspired by the works of".

It is often difficult to say exactly where "modifying" a pattern changes over to being "writing" a pattern. But rearranging the blocks? Kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle was produced by x company and the buyer just assembled it.

Tanya Brown said...

This stinks and I don't blame you for being in the dumps over it. Darn it, that was your work! It's fine for people to enjoy it and benefit from it, but you do deserve credit.

I don't suppose you'd be comfortable with a third party dropping a note to the editor and non-confrontationally mentioning the similarities between your patterns and the published design? After all, there are quilters who genuinely appreciate knowing the histories of the designs they sew.

Okay, back to minding my own business ...

catsmum said...

thanks for the thought Tanya but nope ... no letters to the editor please.

Caitlin said...

I've been thinking about this for the last coupla days... you're right, there's practically no recourse, but that doesn't stop the twinges of pain when you see YOUR work ripped off... and as you say, she may not even know that you were the originator.

Maybe there will come the right time in your life to publish your drafted designs? You could always self publish - I recently bought a book from Dijanne Cevaal on non-stipple quilt filling patterns that has been BRILLIANT - and I would love to see some of your Japanese designs...

Dianna in Maui said...

I had a similar problem several years ago with a book. I had worked with the author, helping her obtain the quilts and information for the book. When the book was published, none of the credits were included. By then the author had moved away and I had lost contact with her, so I wrote a letter to the publisher of the book. While my first impulse was to be angry (like you, and rightfully so), I talked it over with my co-workers (at the time I was working for a book publisher myself). They said, go easy on the publisher, since MANY, MANY times they are only publishing what they are given and may not know what was left out (including important credit!). So, I wrote a five page letter indicating all of the errors, omissions, and mis-quotes. I ended up as one of the editors on the second edition, everyone got the credit they deserved, including the desginers. So, try a letter (giving them the benefit of the doubt), share the information and see what happens!

catsmum said...

the editor reads this blog ... she knows. One day someone will tell the person concerned and THEN we'll see if she has the guts to correct the situation. Anyway, I'm moving on.