Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Diversity in Quilting

Recently, I've been thinking about diversity. Mainly diversity as it relates to quilting and the quilting community. It started when I was asked to speak at Wellington Quilters' Guild, about myself and my quilts, and also about being a young quilter and how guilds can attract the next generation of quilters (like me, I guess was the implication). Then a couple of conversations with upcoming Thursday Inspiration interviewees have made me think harder about diversity in the quilting community.

Where I get to is that I think diversity is important. I LOVE the online quilting community. It's full of people who are enthusiastic, kind, generous, supportive, and obsessed with quilting in the same way that I am.  We are all bound by a common interest and that is truly fantastic. But I don't know that we do diversity particularly well. My experience suggests that the offline quilting community is even less diverse.

So, I want to talk about a few things. One - why do I think diversity is a good thing? Two - why do I think the quilting community, online and offline, could do better? And three - how do we encourage diversity?

To start off, I want to briefly explain what I mean by diversity.  I'm not just talking about the really obvious things like gender, race, sexual orientation and age (but obviously they are important).  I'm also talking about people from a variety of different cultural, educational and socio-economic backgrounds.  Different ways of thinking about things are relevant too.

Why is diversity important?

People with different backgrounds have different perspectives, and they bring those perspectives to everything they do, including quilting.  Amongst quilters, those different perspectives lead to people making lots of different quilts.

If everyone made the same kind of quilts (a) that would be really boring, and (b) it would be extremely difficult to imagine that you could make a different kind of quilt.  When you get to see lots of different things, it gives you ideas, and more importantly, the idea that you can do something thats not the same as everything that went before.

You won't like all the quilts.  I don't.  That's good.  I've learned the most about what I like and what I want my quilts to be like by looking at quilts I don't like and analysing what exactly it is I don't like about them.  You might feel a strong reaction (negative or positive) to certain quilts.  That's good too. Take some time, think about your reaction. Analyse it, and use it to make decisions about the kinds of quilts you want to make.

Being inclusive isn't just the right thing to do - it's also linked with better outcomes. Studies show that diversity in the corporate context improves financial performance.  Diversity is also linked with enhanced creativity and better problem solving skills.  Don't those sound like things that would be really helpful in the quilting context?

Ultimately, here's what I think it comes down to.  I think letting everyone who wants to participate in quilting and be part of the quilting community is the right thing to do.  I also think having lots of different quilters in our community will make us all better quilters.

Why do I think we can do better?

This is the part where I feel nervous, because I don't want to be overly critical of a community that, overall, I love.  BUT, even my limited experiences as someone who doesn't totally fit the mould of what people expect a quilter to be suggest that we could do better.

In New Zealand, most quilters are white, female, and of a certain age.  I'm white, and female, but my age always gets a comment.  When going to new-to-me quilting shops, I'm often treated like I must be lost, and I certainly don't feel welcomed as a potential customer.  At quilt guild meetings, on more than one occasion, I've had people ask me whether I'm a quilter (no, I'm just hanging out at this quilt guild meeting because...what????).  This kind of treatment has dropped off as I've aged (it's been nearly 8 years since I first started buying fabric) and once people get to know me and realise that I'm actually a quilter, they are much friendlier.  There's still this barrier which makes entry into the quilting community more of a challenge than it should be though.  I have friends in my age bracket who have received the same treatment so I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.

I'm fully aware that I am in a highly privileged position, and the way I diverge from the "average quilter" (i.e., my age) is pretty harmless.  I also think that being different is sometimes an advantage - because I stand out, I'm noticeable and people remember me.  But if it was difficult for me, in my privileged position, to feel like a welcome member of the quilting community, how hard must it be for people who are or feel even less like "the average quilter"?

In general, I think the online quilting community is very supportive and welcoming and maybe a bit more accepting of diversity or at least people doing things in different ways.  The thing that I think we could do better in the online community is accepting that it's ok to have a view that isn't the same is everyone else's.  I feel like there is an attitude of "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all", and this can suppress debate and discussion about things we should be talking about, and can make it difficult for people who have a different view on things to participate and express their views.

How do we encourage diversity?

Why isn't there more diversity in the quilting community (or any community, really)?  The simplest answer - it's easy to hang out with people who are similar to you.  It's comfortable.  You probably all have similar values, and the same cultural contexts.  I get that.  It's part of the reason that encouraging diversity is so hard.  It's not like there are overt rules which say "you can't participate in quilting unless you are...".

So here are some things I've thought of that we can do, in a practical way, to ensure that everyone feels included in our quilting community:

- if you're a member of a guild, and you see a new person at a meeting, even if it's not "your job", take the initiative to greet them, show them around, and introduce them to people.  Ask them some neutral questions, like "what kind of quilts do you like to make?" or "what are you working on at the moment?".

- if you're in a situation where people are disparaging a certain category of people, and you don't agree with that they're saying, challenge it.  I think a lot of the time people don't really think about the implications of what they are saying.  A good example is when we talk about the general uselessness of the men in our lives (guilty!).  It seems harmless, but imagine how unwelcome a male quilter would feel in that scenario.  I know I always enjoy when people talk about how terrible millennials (holla!) are in front of me.

- if you have a quilting shop, try and make everyone feel welcome.  Don't ignore the newbies in favour of long chats with the regulars.  Don't assume that man is just tagging along with his wife - he might be a quilter himself.  That child or teenager might be a budding quilter.  Ask some questions!

- if you see someone making quilts which are totally not your style, make an effort to engage with them and ask them some questions, in a respectful way, about what they're doing and why.  You might be surprised and at the very least I bet you'll learn something.

- online, I would love to see people voicing their opinions, even when they're not positive, a bit more.  Of course, I think this should be done constructively and respectfully, and in the full knowledge that you're probably talking about the work of a real person who has feelings just like you do. I think that will make it easier for other people to express their own views as well.

Mainly, I think encouraging diversity in the quilting community is about breaking down the barriers that prevent or discourage people from joining.  I think the key is to recognise that it is more difficult for some people to feel welcome in the quilting community, and to examine our own behaviour to see what we can do to make them feel welcome and included.

I'm a bit nervous putting this post out there, but ultimately I think allowing everyone who wants to be part of the quilting community to join in is crucial to the future of quilting, and is so important that it's worth any negative reaction I receive.  Even if you disagree with me, I'd love to read your comments, as long as they are expressed in a respectful and constructive way.

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42 comments:

Rachel Booth said...

Thank you for this post! I am a young(ish) quilter, and have never felt welcome at local guilds. When I go to a new quilt shop or a show, I, too, have often felt unwelcome because if my age!

wonderlandbyalyce said...

I appreciate your thoughts on this. I wonder how we could be more proactively inclusive of some of the groups that you mentioned. You've definitely given me something to think about.

Kathy @ Kwilty Pleasures said...

Well said...and appreciated from an "older" kwilter who has been around the quilt block many times with traditional guilds and modern groups. Seen a lot! Heard a lot! Diversity does matter.

Mr. Briggs said...

Adrianne, thank you for your open thoughts about diversity. This seems to be a topic on many minds lately as I've read a few different posts along this line of thought. Perhaps the best part of your post is that you not only point out the problem, but offer potential solutions. I would also like to here more honest opinions regarding our work. I sometimes feel that the online community that I have become a part of and have grown fond of can sometimes be quick to pat each other on the back rather than offer honest critique. The best way to grow is to be challenged sometimes, offered a different point of view, and then praising what is right.

"Mainly, I think encouraging diversity in the quilting community is about breaking down the barriers that prevent or discourage people from joining." I would add that we need to encourage more honest communication among members that will create diversity of thought. Thanks again.

Leanne said...

I agree with much of what you have said. Frankly, as an oldish quilter, I have been made to feel exactly the same way as you in most every quilt shop I have entered, quilt shops are nothing like knitting shops, although some are changing. The in person stores seem to have grown up in a community of less inclusion.

I do disagree with you entirely about the negative comments on the internet. Having watched how quickly a little negativity turned into out and out flame wars in the quilting community in minutes, I am very much of the view that the distance and anonymity, the lack of the ability to detect humour or irony or nuance and the diversity of the ability of folks to express themselves in writing, the lack of experience that some folks have in tempering their negative views, all means that when writing and reading online, it is extremely hard for fair and respectful debate to happen. So I shall return quickly to my be nice or be quiet approach, ok?

Kristy said...

I do think it is healthy to have a polite, honest; yet open discussion about these topics. Some shops I visit are fabulous, and I think the tide is slowly turning where people are much more welcoming. Yet, you will always have your people who do not like and cannot understand change.

When I first started giving presentations at guilds, some people were a little stand-off-ish, and would even say ridiculous things; but as the years have gone by and the modern aesthetic has found a place in magazines, in books, at quilt market...the reaction to my presentations are a lot different.

I think it will always be a fine line we walk when it comes to commenting, applauding each other, giving feedback...because like Leanne said in a comment earlier, it is hard to detect "humour, irony or nuance". And honestly, some people just need positive reinforcement, while others crave thoughtful critique.

Thanks for bringing this up.

Jessica said...

This is interesting to me as a *very* young quilter (mid twenties- started 4 years ago during college) and as the president of my guild, people seem to think it very unusual. With age, it's this idea that quilting is "just something your grandmother does" that I think needs to change in the minds of the general public. We have a variety of ages in our guild and it has never been an issue from within. I do like interacting online especially because there isn't so much debate or feeling-hurting. I think people should be more forthcoming about giving advice or explaining what they think might look better and why, but otherwise, I have to say I like that most of us try to avoid crazy conflicts!

Heather said...

I ended up joining a modern quilt guild even though I don't follow a modern aesthetic in my own quilts, specifically because I wanted a group of people closer to my own age. I agree with you about the ageism we see a bit. I also think there is a bit of consumerism that goes on in the online community that may exclude some. There is a lot of focus on stash building, buying up the latest fabric lines, and generally spending lots of money that may turn some away. I do agree with you about the need for more frank dialogue in the online quilting community. Not necessarily critiques of others' quilts, especially if not specially welcomed, but I do wish for more open critiques of new books, fabric lines, gadgets, and so on. Everything I see is positively gushing, and I'd like a little more honesty. Thanks for your thoughtful post!

Helen said...

Great post Adrianne, a lot to think about.

It isn't only younger quilters that can get a hard time in quilt shops. I'm mostly an art quilter, so when I do venture in to a quilt shop I'm often looking for fabric, threads, etc that I can paint, dye, colour in other obscure ways. I've learned not to 'own' up to what I'm looking for and why unless I know the person and they know what I do. I have left quilt shops feeling like I've just stepped off another planet and feeling like I'm 2inches high (I'm short enough!)

Yet when I go into an art shop for products (that are designed to be applied to paper and not usually fabric) they are great, interested in what I want to achieve and have also researched on the spot for me - when I've asked a question that is out of their experience.

Keep the inspiring posts coming.

Jenelle said...

I love that you are addressing this. I think diversity is one of the strengths of the modern quilt movement, and it seems like more inclusiveness is the direction we're moving it, at least from my perch in the world. I have to say that I agree whole-heartedly with Leanne about positive versus less-positive comments though. I come from a fine arts background and really embrace constructive criticism, but I would much rather receive a kindly worded email with some helpful thoughts and ideas than a brief comment that everyone can read and then comment on too. I think it allows for an honest exchange between two artists versus the opportunity for misunderstanding, but that might be my personal preference.

Elmosmate said...

That is a lot of words! I think when I started quilting being under the wing of the TOWRAGS (Totally Organised Women Attending Group Sex opps Stitching.) I didn't see or notice any exclusion or "attitude". I have unfortunately noticed it since.
Thanks for writing this and getting people talking. It is great that we all do different things, like different patterns, sew to our own song. I enjoy getting feedback on what I am working on and hearing what people think about what I am doing. It is so hard though, whether it be in person or in type, to word things in a way that doesn't offend people. I do get a bit tired of all the positivity! That doesn’t mean I want bad thing said about my quilts though. Happy to hear if you don’t like the colour combo or that my seams could do with being straight! Few random thoughts thrown in over my afternoon coffee break.

Duluth Girl said...

This is a fantastic post. Thank you for your courage to say what many want to say, myself included. Another aspect of diversity to consider is when quilters want to try something out of their comfort zone. We need to be supportive and give them room to experiment.

Kari V. said...

Great to bring up this topic. I think a lot of the lack of diversity stems from the fact that quilting is a fairly expensive hobby and you have to have a decent amount of free time. That addresses some of the lack of socio-economic diversity. But clearly there are many other issues at play. In quilting and in life, putting yourself in another's shoes is hard but necessary. Feeling judged never feels good. This is a good reminder for me to be open-minded and accepting towards others.

Cille said...

Good post... I feel the online community is definately more diverse than my local community in many ways, though personally I've been lucky enough to join a group of quilters, who have made me feel very welcome even if I'm younger than them and my quilts are very different in style.

Comments with constructive critism will always be difficult - I think quilters generally to go great length to avoid confrontations so we all tend to be nice. Short, written comment can sometimes be misunderstood, so just to be safe we tend to just skip commenting if we don't have anything nice to say. However, the disadvantage of that is that even when someone openly ask for advice/critism they often do not get that. Maybe we should all encourage more open and constructive feedback on the projects we make ourself as well as give open feedback to others... Respectfully if course.

Gina said...

THis is why I prefer the online community to a 'real' group. No one comments on your age. I must admit though age or sex doesn't seem to bother the local quilt shops. My hubby goes in them to buy for me and they are just as accomodating to him as anyone else. To be honest more so as he always gets a cup of tea in one. I've only had the one really bad experience in a quilt group but that was enough to put me off them totally. When I joined they somehow got the impression that I was a beginner, and that was fine. When I brought a quilt for the show and tell and they realised that I was quite proficient their attitude changed completely. It was if I wasn't allowed to be more skilled than them as I was younger.I left not long after that

Jo Jo said...

I think if you ask the question and invite criticism in about a project, then that's great, but I'm kind of with Leanne with the 'say nothing' approach if you don't like something if someone hasn't asked for an honest opinion from the viewer. Maybe it's something we should all do more. I do ask the question from those that I trust when I'm stuck or something's not going quite right. I'm not that likely to put it on IG for all to have their two pennyworth's on. That said, I think being more open is a good thing, it's just that there are ways and means of giving good critique without being taken the wrong way or offending someone. It's very hard to that online as subtlety or sense of humour can be missed entirely. Great post though and thoughtfully written :) PS) I'm a 'fairly' young quilter, but haven't really encountered any negative reactions, but then I don't get out much - lol ;)

Wonky Patchwork said...

Really interesting post, I frequently feel the lack of diversity out there, both online and in the real world. I've come to the conclusion that it is out there, in both worlds, but it's just completely outnumbered by the sheer volume of lovely quilters doing similar, lovely things with similar, lovely fabric, so it's hard to find. I love the general online quilting community but more and more I feel like I don't really fit in it, and it doesn't quite match up with my interests and values. I think it maybe doesn't help that Quilting Bloggers tend to be very obsessed with quilting (surprse, surprise!) and so their blogs are very exclusively quilting based and we don't always get to know the person behind the blog so much.

Liz said...

Oh look, you made me out down my stitch to comment, I agree re diversity, but more in a general, we should always be pleasant to other people kind of a way. As for "truth tea" I sit on the fence. My rules are no inane gushing, truthful product reviews, pick something nice to say or say nothing at all. However if specific questions are asked, then I think it's fine to answer. Overall I think if people bother to make something they don't really want others to be critical. They love it themselves.

Megan said...

Nice thoughtful post Adrianne. Diversity is considered very important in Education - both in terms of the better outcomes it brings, and in terms of including diversity in meaningful ways. I love looking at different quilts, even if I don't love the quilt there is usually something to admire. I'm with Liz regarding truth tea and gushy comments. I think one of the difficulties is that people tend to post pictures of finished quilts, in which case it seems mean and a bit pointless to critique. If people ask for feedback mid-process it is more likely to be useful and seen as helpful rather than critical.

jeifner said...

As with another commenter, I come from a fine art background. We are taught how to critic others work. Critic meaning talk about the successes and failures of the piece. It's not meant to be all negative. Perhaps that's one thing we lack as a community, the vocabulary and system to talk about our, and others work, with an open honest true critic. (Leaving personal comments out.) I don't do this unless it is asked for.

A perfect example is a quilter who was confused (and sad) about a certain judges comment from a juried show. I knew exactly what the judge was referring to. The quilter however, only expressed confusion and did not ask anyone for input or ideas as to why the judge said that. In that situation I did not offer the answer as the quilter did not ask for one. I would have gladly, and kindly, helped if was wanted.

There is also, of course, a difference between discussing failures or faults and being just mean. It is easier to be mean over the anonymity of the Internet for some people. I feel sad for them. That's no way to live a life geared for happiness. I don't know that those few reactions should scare us away from frank discussions. Often as you sad, you can choose to be the person to verbally step in and put a halt to it.

As for inclusion in real life, there is a particular store that I dread going to because nearly every time I make a comment or try and join a discussion they look at me as if I were an alien, "Was that sounds I heard from that person-thing?". Good news is there are perfectly lovely shops I can go to instead. As for quilting groups I've only had good experiences so far :)

One last bit, as for gender inclusion, I've heard one simple thing to do is not refer to things or posts or possible groups as "Ladies!". "Quilters!" Works just as well :)

Hettie's Mum said...

Hmmn. Interesting discussion lots of valid ideas and varied experiences. I can struggle with valuing my quilt making abilities as 'good enough' especially when I'm surrounded by other quilters who seem so much more able than I. I've had a recent experience of becoming voiceless in a learning situation where I had a fair idea that the problem I was raising was a real one but then it was minimised and caused difficulties down the track. Very frustrating but a good reminder to me to trust myself even in the face of others who seem more expert and experienced.
I love the Quilty motto to value the new learner and that 'she' has as much to contribute as any one else. I also love Leah Day's encouragment that we value our work mistakes and all they are how we learn and become better at what we do.
Mostly I love seeing other people's work I rarely criticise because I enjoy their expression and their courage in making that very visable expression of a quilt. Showing our work can be an experience that creates vulnerability and I really value this even if the quilt is not my style - it is the other person's expression and a gift that has been shared with me. Thanks Adrianne for making yourself vulnerable in raising the topic of diversity and (I think) how we value and relate with one another.

cauchy09 said...

Thanks, Adrianne. I hope this is just the beginning of a conversation. So few are brave enough to open up, especially in a public forum. But incremental local changes are effective when it comes to opening up to having a more inclusive community. Thanks again!

martha bilski said...

Nice Post. I am a new reader via Cauchy09 :). I began quilting in my teens and I can identify with your quilting store experience.
I think that the online quilting community is a lot more open and inviting (less intimidating?) if only because one can be anonymous if one chooses and still participate to some degree until one becomes more at ease. Of course that presuppses access to the web etc. a whole nuther ball of thread.

Kim @ TiesThatBindQuilting said...

I think the fact that quilting is a relatively expensive and time consuming hobby limits the amount of diversity we see (at least in the socio-economic aspect). I am also a young quilter (started at 26) but thankfully I've never noticed negative reactions to the at my LQS. There are many younger people who work there though so I'm sure that helps.

Anne said...

I wrote a long response but it got eaten by the comment form. :(

So now you get a much shorter response, sorry!!

I come from a background of being a woman in computer science (I've been the only woman at conferences, at jobs, etc.) , and I've spent quite a lot of time on outreach. It's not just about welcoming the few people who do come in, although that's very important. If you truly desire diversity, you need to do outreach. If you want people of different age ranges, genders, social backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, etc., you might have to go find them, they won't necessarily find you. And even if they find you, they might assume they're not welcome and not even try to join the community.

If you're really interested in this stuff, I'd be happy to chat with you about it! I've thought about it a lot from the CS side, but I've also been working on it lately from the crafting side of things. One of the reasons I've started the maker community is to get some cross-pollination of people and ideas between tech and crafts. :)

Janet Schultz said...

You are right on with this post. I went to one of my LQS for the first time last year and was totally turned off by the shop. I walked in, no one acknowledged my presence, probably knew I was new to their shop and "not one of the in crowd". Very rude. I've never been back. I just shop online. Easier and most of the people I've dealt with are super nice. Kind of reminds me of high school behavior. The populars (clicky groups) and the invisibles (not with the "in" crowd). Kind of sad.

Leonie said...

Great post Adrienne - I have had some good experiences at the couple of local quilt shops, so supportive and helpful and I haven't really felt like an idiot or kid. The online community is super supportive and it's been awesome. I do believe in if you don't have something nice to say don't say anything at all - of course that doesn't apply to help or constructive criticism especially if it's asked for. I think differences are to be celebrated. What appeals to me does not appeal to everyone else and vice-versa. But I think we can/should appreciate the beauty and achievements in the differences and styles of others. That is how i approach it. We all have to start somewhere, we're all different, but we're all learning and achieving and need encouragement at times. :)

LethargicLass said...

Very thought provoking! Thanks so much for sharing and bringing this topic to light :)

Lyndy at Stitchbird said...

Really good post - I would love to see more diversity and more people challenging the current forms of quilting and how we do things. I have never joined a guild firstly because I was intimidated by them and then once I started my own fabric shop, I worried that people may think I was joining for more commercial reasons than just as myself. That is why I appreciate our smaller quilting get together group. Interestingly we have found some barriers owning a fabric shop that offers more of what I would call non-traditional quilting fabrics. A lot of quilters are quite disparaging of some of the fabrics "they would never quilt with that" (I don't take offence, that is ok it is not to there taste). Diane who works with me sometimes has people who do not necessarily trust her advice as they see her as "too young" and Steven causes all sorts of talk - a man working in a fabric shop, an Asian man in a fabric shop - we get it all. It takes all sorts and I think we all need to be open and welcoming - talk to people and find out their story - and we will all be the richer for it.

Serena @ Sewgiving said...

Don't get me started about bricks and mortar quilt shops - it's like I'm invisible sometimes or my choice of fabrics "must" be for two different quilts (nope they are for the same quilt!). But I usually find that if I pluck up the courage to ask the assistant/owner about some of the quilts hung in the store then they tend to open up a bit - which is nice.

Joanna @ Riddle and {Whimsy} said...

I've worked in retail and customer service and I've always been taught you greet and speak to everyone because you never know who is going to walk in and spend in your store. What if I was a millionaire and I wanted to buy a metre from every single bolt in the store as well as buy the most expensive sewing machine... and then you treat me like I don't belong because I'm not a regular, or not the "right" age bracket... so I'm just going to walk out and not spend with you= huge lost sale!

You're right to say that we need to speak up to challenge things. On my blog, I made a post about destash sales/prices because the pricing starting to get ridiculous. One of the comments I had received (on a FB link, not my actual post) was along the lines of "it's not your money and it doesn't affect you so why do you care". This attitude is how things become the norm, when they're not okay!

One of my points was why are we happy to overcharge each other on fabric (my example was $60 for a single yard of Tula fabric) but when we price our actual quilts, we under price them (see: $60 etsy quilts). People get upset about the cheap quilts because they can't sell their own for what they are worth, but people seem flippant about overcharging the actual fabric which to me, makes no sense. So I made a post to speak about it -- that's not a bad thing. I don't have issues with people disagreeing because that's what makes discussions fun.

I'm starting to find that having certain fabrics is becoming a kind of "status" symbol. Like you're only worth something of a quilter if you have the latest releases (eg. everyone clamouring over Cotton + Steel before pictures of the line were even released), or if you managed to have a fabric that is now considered "rare". Some fabrics are getting reprinted, yet I've seen people make comments that they used the "original" (Flea Market Fancy comes to mind). What point are people trying to make by boasting they are using the "original"?! There's a lot of "keeping up with the Joneses" going on.

Then people look down their noses at chain-store fabrics. This plays into the socio-economic factor because for some people, they want to quilt but can't afford expensive fabrics and can only buy at Spotlight etc. or maybe Spotlight is the only store near them at all that sells fabric!

Another thing I've noticed in the community is, a bit of "sucking up" when it comes to popular/well known bloggers/designers. I could imagine, someone with a high blog following, or someone that's published a book, or has been in magazines, is going to receive less critical comments than someone who may be new to blogging, or just doesn't have a high following; even if the quality of work is the same. It's like it's easier to 'pick on' the new kid because they don't have 100s of other followers to then scare off the 'bully'. I've seen some high profile bloggers bring a "negative" comment or an "unpopular" opinion to the front of their blog by posting about not liking it, in a name and shame type fashion and I don't like that, because it's becomes like a lynch mob where all the followers are then whipped up into a frenzied state to attack someone for daring to have an opinion that is opposite of the precious "famous person". I think if you have an issue with a specific person, then take it up with them directly yourself. You don't need to post in front of 1000s of people about it.

Little Island Quilting said...

Pretty much agree with everything you said.

Michelle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ginny said...

Very interesting post and I love the discussions raised in the comments. This is how awareness starts - your experience may not have been mine and vice versa. Diversity and inclusion are very important in life in general not just quilting. I am mid-life shall we say, but live in a very conservative, and traditional area. I have been to stores and quilt guilds that are not welcoming and focus on quilting in very traditional ways/methods. And I value that work but I enjoy a more modern aesthetic. Therefore I sought out a different experience and found that on line. I do find that I follow the "if you can't say something nice don't say anything" line of thoughts/comments simply because a. I do not know most of my on-line friends in person and the nuances of constructive criticism can be easily lost in the written word (most comments are brief bites not even full sentences or thoughts sometimes). b. my tastes and likes may not be the same as someone elses -that does NOT mean I cannot appreciate their work. Many times I follow them simply because they ARE different. c. over the years of being a part of this awesome online community I have seen some flippant and mean comments that serve no purpose but to start a fire, that becomes personal. d. ego's are always involved and people may be extremely hurt or flame back. I guess I look for a more authentic experience/interaction vs. sales and marketing. And on the flip side there are many that make their living from being a quilter/maker and that is how they reach a wider audience, and in that instance - wouldn't constructive criticism be encouraged/valuable? I am sure it will not change overnight but just having the discussion is opening a door and I appreciate your willingness to do that!

Aoife said...

I'm loving reading this post, and also all the comments. It's so interesting and important a conversation. At the start I jumped straight into following the herd, I've found in the last year I've been winnowing my followings and that I'm much more interested by those who strike out in the most random directions and do things that would never occur to me and that don't necessarily match my aesthetic at all. It gives me impetus and courage to strike out in my own directions. I would love to feel more free to give, receive, and benefit from the type of critiques that Jeifner was talking about in her comment! But I fully recognise the pitfalls of losing tone and nuance over text-only communication - it's a tricky navigation. Maybe my blurb above my comment form needs to say that I love honest and open feedback.

The sexism in quilting thing, really struck a chord this week. I totally fell in a pothole of it and felt crappy about myself. My husband was in London and took it upon himself to find the Village Haberdashery which I'd dragged him to on a previous trip and buy me a couple of charm packs to bring home! I posted it on instagram but made it sound like he needed help picking out good fabric, which is not even remotely true, he loves colour and pattern and I'm sure he was in his element in the shop. But I fell into the old stereotype of dissing my husband in order to be more relatable, which is horrible and has been thoroughly apologised for. But, it happens so easily. I need to take a look at what other areas I may just be allowing crap like that to slide on by.

So thank you, thanks for saying it out loud and making us all think and talk and starting this!

Sarah said...

Love this post.

Anna said...

I totally agree with your post. But the hit about making less positive, more constructively critical comments... That part is soooo hard. I had a friend once make that sort of comment on a fairly popular blogger's post. It was respectful, just trying to add more depth to the conversation about valuing quilts and how and why traditionally things that women make often have had less value because they were made by women. And this blogger totally turned it into a huge attack fest! The blogger put her post up on the blog and refuted her argument point by point in the snarkiest way without even asking if that would be okay with her. And as a result she got a huge flood of the most hateful, disgusting emails. no one seemed to stop and consider her point of view, they just all jumped on the bandwagon and condemned her. It was awful and I was absolutely ashamed of my fellow bloggers and quilters. There were some people who did take the time to understand her point of view, but mostly they emailed her directly rather than adding to the public conversation and risk getting attacked themselves.

I think our online community sometimes gives into the hive mind thing waaay too often. And if you have a popular, influential blog, people will be even more likely to blindly agree with whatever you say. This is definitely, definitely an area we need to work on. We should all think for ourselves and then talk about what we think instead of just going with what the hive mind says out of fear of standing out or being attacked!

Rossie said...

Awesome post!

Sarah @ Berry Barn Designs said...

A good discussion, Adrianne - loving reading through the feedback. I am the token young person in my guild (and I'm just an "old" Gen Xer!) but I have been really welcomed from the start (albeit occasionally in a "we desperately need young blood!" sort of way but mostly just welcomed ; ) On a different note, you skimmed over addressing the access piece in your suggestions for tackling the problem of diversity, but I think the socio-economic component is worth cracking into. Obviously purchasing fabric and having leisure hours to make art is very bourgeoisie and always will be, but there is such a historic precedent for quilting out of necessity by those who cannot afford to just pay someone else for their craftsmanship that is quite possibly being lost to Walmart et al. In the old days, the poor still had to create blankets and clothing and there is a rich history of scrap quilts and flour sack quilts, etc, but now the skill of sewing is being lost and I imagine that with limited time and resources, the appeal of a $30 comforter from Target with faux quilting is the most direct solution. On a related note, there are many West African refugees living in our area and when a community outreach group that works with the population asked for sewing teachers to teach the women basic garment construction so they could create traditional garb that isn't available to them here, they couldn't find a teacher! They had eager students, donated fabrics, a few sewing machines, but no one with the skill and desire to teach them to sew. As fewer and fewer people are taught the skills in childhood like they would've been in my generation and earlier, the skill is lost except to those who have the time and money to pursue it as a hobby and not a need.

Lisa said...

What strikes me is that there are already 39 interesting comments here from an interesting (if not diverse) range of quilters. Follow the links to their blogs and see. Imagine if those quilters could in some way be brought together into a group that interacted regularly. Wouldn't that be fun? Adrianne, is that a challenge you're up for?

Sarah Fredette said...

Coming from yet another (there were several mentioned above) male dominated field (manufacturing engineering) and having gone to a mostly male engineering school, diversity in anything always strikes a chord. I do think that a goal of diversity, while a great idea, is certainly easier online than off line. I just started a modern guild, and the number one comment I get is "Why aren't there more young people?" Of course, me being 27, I immediately thought they were asking why aren't children in the guild... :D But it comes down to, we live in the suburbs. Demographically, we're not going to draw younger people of different socio-economic backgrounds.

However, I completely wholeheartedly agree with the idea that we need to be more critical -- and I know how controversial that topic has been! I think the hardest hurdle to get there is removing what is said about our work from being personal. You might hate the color yellow, and thus hate one of my quilts or think its atrociously ugly. That's fine. You're not saying you hate me, you're not saying I'm atrociously ugly, you're not even saying I have no skill as a quilter. You don't like my quilt. So what? I love it, its mine, and I'm not giving it to you. But I know that is not a common thought/attitude. :D

I do agree with your points on how to encourage diversity -- especially with someone who already has shown up at a quilting meeting! They've shown up! They like quilts! Who cares if they like Jo Morton more than Tula Pink, or they hate yellow? That person is still more interested in your quilt than you significant other at home who just says "yup, its pretty." Why not take the time to embrace and welcome someone who is more than likely just as 'crazy' and fabric obsessed as you?

Lisa C said...

I read your blog entry and the first ten or so comments with interest. I'm 52 and in Dallas, TX and treated differently among my friends and acquaintances because I quilt. We are privileged to have several quilting shops within 30 miles. I am treated normally at the shops and love each of them for different reasons. However, when acquaintances find out I quilt (for three years this summer), I do receive varying reactions. Mostly surprise. Regarding local quilt guilds, I've been to a few meetings but it's just not my thing. I am happy to report that there is a young vibe entering the guilds. Here's my question/issue/thing I ponder: I took a "My First Quilt Class" to learn how to quilt (I'd sewn all my life) and to learn about fabrics, washing, etc. I am (almost) horrified to see what many bloggers/quilters use as fabric and the lack of time they are willing to invest in a good product. Thank you for the thoughtful article.