Let’s Arrest The Quilt Police
My youngest son turned 14 last week, and he’s been dealing with your typical teenage angst and anxiety. Fortunately, he’s my running buddy training for the big race, so we have lots of opportunities to talk. We have pretty in-depth conversation while we run, discussing: life, the universe, and everything else. One very common theme is why are some people “popular ” and how to deal with people who aren’t always kind or considerate. Also, how do you get past worrying about what other people think or might think about you? With my usual aplomb, I imparted my motherly wisdom (lol). Telling him that it gets better with time, and that everyone else is just as anxious and sure that everyone is judging them. The reality being that most teenagers are so self-absorbed they don’t have time to spend on what someone else is doing.
He wanted to know how I was so sure, not being able to believe that “mom” had ever been a teenager. I told him that mostly it came with experience and getting older. Later I got to thinking about it, and I’m not so sure that’s true. His world is totally different from the one in which I grew up. Not that we didn’t have bullies and mean girls, (high school was not my idea of a good time), but we weren’t surrounded by them 24/7. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to be a teenager in today’s world. It doesn’t just affect teenagers; it affects everyone.
When I graduated from high school and headed off to college, I thought all the drama was behind me, and it was, for the next 15-20 years. Now social media has changed all that. People say things and judge people in ways they would never do in person, and that behavior is starting to spill over into the real world. I’m sure you’re thinking, if I’m not a fan of social media, why don’t I just stop using it? Unfortunately, as I’m sure a lot of you know, it’s not that simple. My son’s schools, sports teams, scouts, etc. all use social media to disseminate information, not to mention all the reasons for myself as a small business owner to be online. I’ve been working on submitting book proposals, and all most of the publishers want to know is how many followers, likes, subscribers do I have? Never mind if my content is any good. When did we become a society where our worth was measured in “likes” on a platform famous for posting cat videos? But I digress.
This social media phenomenon has also affected quilting. There’s been a lot of great things that have happened in the quilt community because of social media but there are some not so great things as well. Most notably the “Quilt Police”. You know the kind of people I’m talking about. The ones who always have to correct, tear down, or bad mouth a quilt/quilter. These people are not new to the quilting community, but they can now be considerably more vocal, and critique a lot more people/quilts. I keep coming back to the old adage, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. I quilt for a dear, sweet, little old lady who is making t-shirt quilts for all her family members. She has arthritis, and is losing her eye sight. Needless to say, her quilts are neither flat nor square, but they are loved. No one in her family cares if her points are sharp, her seams meet, or her colors are complimentary, so, why should we?
Half the fun of quilting for me is the socialization. When I share a quilt, it’s because I love it, not because I want a critique. I get plenty of these when I enter shows. You don’t have to like my or anyone else’s quilt, but please don’t tear it down. I had a quilt in the National Quilt Museum’s 25th anniversary gala, and I remember looking online at the quilt that won. It was very avant-garde and not particularly my style, but the comments went beyond criticism to downright mean and nasty. Totally ignoring the challenge of the contest was to make a nontraditional quilt using unconventional materials. There’s nothing wrong with an art quilt provoking a spirited discourse, in fact I believe that is one of the cool things about art. How the same piece can affect different people in different ways. What I don’t understand is when we as a society started losing the ability to disagree with someone without tearing them down.
Which brings me back to the so-called quilt police. I like to think of quilting as being kind of like jazz. There is a set frame-work that needs to be adhered to (in the case of quilting a top, batting and backing held together by thread), but otherwise you have total freedom. I find that some of the coolest quilts I have ever made started with a mistake. We need to start actively encouraging new quilters and stop worrying so much about the rules. Technique can be refined with gentle guidance, but it’s really hard to rebuild confidence and passion. So, the next time you sit down to piece or quilt something don’t worry about what someone else might think, just have fun. As long as you are enjoying yourself, whatever you make is going to be fantastic, even if it’s not quite flat or square.