My name is Charlotte, sometimes known as Ms Lottie, occasionally as The Slightly Mad Quilt Lady. This is my blog, where you'll find me writing a lot about my quilting and textile arts and a little about my family's life in a small seaside town in New Zealand. Haere mai!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Credit Where Credit is Due

Dragon Applique Quilt made by Charlotte Scott.  Pattern availabe for purchase at AotearoaQuiltDesign on Etsy

Amongst seasoned quilters, it is the expected norm when showing photos of quilts from a show or exhibition, to also share the makers details, and designers and quilters as well if they are different from the maker.  When professional organisations, such as SAQA (Studio Art Quilts Associated) call for photos for a catalogue, they also ask for the photographers name if it wasn't the artist.

But in the more casual arena of hobby quilters and the uninitiated non-quilting masses who visit quilt shows, it is quite common to see a whole slew of 'eye-candy' shared on social media, without the similtaneous sharing of makers and/or designers and quilters details.

Big can of worms.

As an artist, if I share my quilt in an exhibition, it's disappointing to then have it shared willy nilly across the world without people knowing who made it.  And yes, I say across the world, because with social media, we truly do have a global audience for anything we share.

But it's not just hurt feelings.  Many artists rely on teaching or lecturing or book sales to make a living.  If their work is being shared without credit, how will people know which quilters they want to ask to their guild to teach or what books they want to buy?  How can they dig deeper to find out more about an artist they admire, if they don't know who the artist is?

It's also contributing to copyright infringements.  If Jane shares a photo of a 'lovely quilt' that she saw at her local show, Mary sees it on Facebook and shares the post, Mary's friend Lily, who doesn't know Jane, sees it and shares it too.  Several shares down the road, perhaps to Instagram, then to Pinterest, Louise sees the 'lovely quilt' and decides she wants to make one too.  What she doesn't realise (because Jane never shared the details of the maker or designer) is that this is a quilt made from a commercial pattern that is offered for sale by a small-business designer.  Louise copies the design and makes her own 'lovely quilt'.  Louise would have preferred to buy a pattern (the hard work already done for her) but she didn't know who made it or designed it.  She puts the quilt in her local show.  The small-business designer misses out on a pattern sale, and when Louise's quilt is judged, the judge happens to know that this is a quilt from a pattern, which Louise has not credited and so Louise is penalised.

The great thing about all of this is that it's really easy to share details of the makers!  Digital cameras and phones are the perfect tool.  You can take a snap of the quilt, then immediately take a snap of the quilt label.  Share them both!  Even better, write the name of the maker etc in the caption of the quilt photo and then ALSO share the photo of the label.  Then no one has any excuses that they didn't know the maker's details.

Artists can protect themselves to some degree by adding a watermark across their photographs, but this will only protect those photos that they share themselves.  We need to rely on the community to also do the right thing.

But I think the show organisers need to help the community do the right thing too.  The last big show I went to did not have an photography policy advertised, or if it did, it was not obvious enough for me to have noticed.  It would be very easy to have a notice posted that says simply that photography is allowed, but that makers must be credited if photographs are shared in the public domain.

Quilts Inc, who run The International Quilt Festival in Houston, have clear photography rules in their brochure, which state:  "You must include an artist credit and note that the photos were taken at International Quilt Festival. This helps us protect the rights of quiltmakers."  That's a pretty straightforward statement that would be difficult to misinterpret, but it would also be helpful to have it prominently displayed at the entrance and in several places around the exhibitions. 

And back to the community, if we see people sharing photos of quilts without crediting the relevant artists, we need to gently educate them.  I belive that most of the uncredited sharing is due to basic ignorance of this issue, rather than disregard and malice, so be calm and pleasant in your education!

There are many more aspects to the discussion on sharing and copyright that I haven't covered, but I think this is the important tip of the iceberg.  With so many recent and upcoming quilt exhibitions, and the ever increasing reach and use of social media, it's an issue that needs more discussion.

Brenda Gael Smith, of Serendipity Patchwork and Quilting, has a much deeper knowledge of copyright than me and has kindly pointed me in the direction of a short article by Austin Kleon called 'Credit is Always Due' and also the relevant section of the NZ Copyright Act 1994 that deals with sharing work for the purposes of reporting current events, or for review.  Both are well worth a quick read.

So please, give credit when sharing other peoples work, encourage others to do the same, and don't share work if you don't know who made it.


  1. Excellent post Charlotte. It’s easy and it’s free - give credit where credit is due. Both to the maker and the designer. Taking a second photo of the quilt details should be the accepted norm now. Just remember to post both photos when you share the quilt online.

  2. An interesting read Charlotte.... the hardest thing is that photos (only) can be shared even if we have the details above/below them. sigh. And thanks for the links. Additionally, my biggest problem with pinterest is there are often no links to the actual source of a photo.

  3. Agree with you 100% - the maker should always be named when sharing an image. It's called respect for others.

  4. Well written Charlotte...even back in the time of the film camera I took a quilt photo then wrote in a note book the number, maker and any other details. When the photos were printed they were put in an album with all information transferred. These days I photograph both quilt and label. I do not share any of these photos online.

  5. Excellent post and very kindly written with good examples of how easy it is. I do exactly what you suggest - photo of the quilt, detail of the quilt, photo of the label. I mostly don't take the time to share quilts on social media, but if I do, I include the maker and name the of the quilt. I have had problems with people stealing images from my site and sharing without attribution. I followed up on every link I could find and asked people to take the photo down. It was a hassle and annoying because the person had deliberately cropped the watermark. ERGH!

  6. Well addressed Charlotte. I do agree with your point that often ignorance is the key factor when people fail to give credit. I know I have been guilty of oversights and discussions like these help us to all be more thoughtful in our actions. The difficulty in tracking down a maker or designer can be really frustrating when you come across a design you enjoy.
    One other issue to debate is what is copyrightable when creating a design using traditional blocks. The blocks are in the public domain, but the designer has put time and effort into the fabric selection, the scale and often issues such as "no waste" flying geese...acknowledging the source not only gives credit but also introduces that designer to a broader audience.

  7. Well said............there is so often no credit to the quilter, just the maker. As a professional quilter it is nice to have credit to my part in the quilt too, because we all know a quilt is not a quilt until it's quilted. I see comments like "back from the quilter".....what quilter?!

  8. Excellent post Charlotte on what is sometimes a thorny issue!


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