I’m still pondering the MQG dust-up on inspiration and derivation. I still disagree with their premise that it’s even possible to make a quilt that doesn’t derive from all the rich history of quilting that has gone before.
I do, however, agree that inspiration is everywhere. And while there is a subset of the modern quilt world who seems to feel that the only appropriate source of inspiration is the fine art world (preferably modern), in my mind, anything can inspire you. Nor am I the only one. I suggest that you visit Craftsy and view their 2013 QuiltCon lecture video series. In it, Heather Jones discusses finding inspiration in the everyday for modern quilts. Because I’m already enrolled, I can’t get you a direct url for it (it just takes me to my last bookmark), but search “QuiltCon 2013” and it should come right up.
So what does inspiration look like, in my world? Sometimes it looks like this:
And, other times it looks like this:
And, perhaps on another day, it might look like this:
How does inspiration become a quilt? Look back at my post for my Cherry Pink and Appleblossom White quilt for a little better view of that.
Anything that you see, that draws your eye, may find its way into a quilt. Maybe the colors will be the primary translation of your inspiration. Perhaps it will be the shapes. Look at the angles on the roof of that barn. I wonder how that would translate into a new block.
My advice is to take a camera everywhere you go. It doesn’t have to be fancy. (Although, if you find that you begin to enjoy photography for its own sake or want to take high-quality photos for your blog, a DSLR camera isn’t a bad investment) Have a smart phone? I bet it’s got an excellent camera built in. The more photos you take, the more inspiration you may find for your quilting. It’s also smart to pack a little sketchbook and pencil, just in case your brain has immediately translated something into a possible quilt pattern and you want to get it on paper before you forget it.
There are now, undoubtedly, a few of you asking, “why do I need a camera when I have Pinterest?” Pinterest is certainly a wealth of visual inspiration. And you should absolutely collect images that appeal to you and create mood boards. But you have to be a little careful working from other peoples’ images. Here, MQG had the right idea about watching out for creative thievery, even if I feel, personally, that they took a wrong turn with it. The long and short of it is that if you use someone else’s photo or graphic to make your quilt and the result is less “inspired by” and more “translating the image into fabric” – you may be violating copyright. For a clearer discussion and examples about when and how it’s OK to use photographs or graphics that are not your own in quilt design, I recommend this post by The Tartan Kiwi. Make a habit of taking your own photos, and you don’t have to worry. This isn’t always possible, but it’s a good habit to develop.
Remember that inspiration isn’t always visual. I recently took a workshop on surface pattern design with Bonnie Christine (more on that in a minute). While I was working on my patterns, “Peter and the Wolf” came up on my audio feed. After a lot of sketching, mis-steps, a huge learning curve, and some frustration, this came out:
Don’t judge me too harshly – this is the pattern design equivalent of a quilter’s first 4-patch. And translating it into a .jpeg file to share here pixelated it out a bit. Nor will we even talk about my failure sometimes to group my images so that the dots sometimes wandered off. Still, can you see elements of the story in the pattern?
Another of my patterns was more visually based. I took a bunch of pictures of my mother’s garden the last time I was home and then sketched and sketched and sketched from the pictures.
Again, I’m new at this. I’m sure there is lots of room for improvement. My one wish from the workshop was that I had gotten more specific, honestly critical remarks from Bonnie. Though that’s a lot to ask for a 50 person on-line workshop. And, I think Bonnie is probablyl much too sweet natured to BE critical. (I’m aware that a lot of people don’t like to hear negative things about their work. I spent 8 years in school hearing LOTS of negative things. I can take it. Vet school borders on downright abusive at times. Though I never had anyone take it quite as far as one of my husband’s profs – who once adorned a term paper with the advice, “Stop wasting your parents’ money and drop out now.” Irony – he was putting himself through school).
I do think that I’ve stretched my creative skills most lately as a result of classes like the one that resulted in these patterns on Skillshare. If you’re not familiar, Skillshare is a platform that allows artists to post video classes on the topic of their choice. It lends strongly to the visual arts, digital art, and photography. But there are some fabulous classes that involve creativity that are applicable to any art form, quilting included. There weren’t any specific quilting classes last I looked, but it’s changing all the time. To access them, you pay a subscription fee and can watch whichever and as many as you like. There is usually an offer to get 3 months of access for $0.99. If you don’t see it when you visit the site, leave me a comment and a way to contact you (entering your e-mail on the comment form is usually enough) and I’ll send you a link.
I think I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth out of Skillshare. Both Bonnie Christine of Art Gallery Fabrics (Hello, Bear!, anyone?) and Elizabeth Olwen who designs for Cloud9 Fabrics, among others, have classes there on surface pattern design. And if you’re a blogger? So much good information on photography for bloggers – you’d be amazed how much of the stuff targeted for food bloggers can translate into taking better photos of quilting things. There are also classes on making social media graphics and generally improving the visual appeal of your work.
I hope I’ve given you some resources for finding inspiration and translating it into your quilting. A little later, I’ll give you all some tips on creating those lovely color palettes from photographs. It’s not quite as easy as it looks!
Where do you find inspiration? What new creative outlets do you want to pursue?