Inspiration. . . and a Giveaway!


Nancy Crow Crosses Info

In the book I just finished reading, Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon, he writes that “Nothing is original.”  He quotes Jonathan Lethem who notes that “when people call something ‘original,’ nine out of ten times they just don’t know the references or the original sources involved.”  And in our quilt world, I see this all the time manifest in the copyright squabbles, the this-is-my-original-pattern-syndrome and it’s only a variation of a log cabin, the insistence by some in the modern quilt movement that they dreamed it all up — this modernist stuff, without any regard for where the idea first surfaced. . . and then resurfaced.  When I see this stunning quilt by Nancy Crow, made when many young quilters’ parents had not even started dating, I think, as did Kleon when he quoted the Bible, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

But Kleon goes on to say that this idea fills him with hope, rather than despair:  “As the French writer Andre Gide put it, ‘Everything that needs to be said has already been said.  But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”  Kleon encourages us to note where our influences come from.  I say, if you don’t know about some of the earlier quilters, try heading to the International Quilt Study Center and Museum and browse for a while.  Take a look at these early masters and be inspired.


To inspire you, I’m giving away a copy of Austin Kleon’s book, a small little treasure, perfect for some end-of-summer reading.  To win a copy, leave me a comment below and include a source of inspiration, whether it be another quilter, a photograph, an image, nature or something else–something or someone that provokes or triggers your spark of creativity.  Rather than just saying “nature,”  or “Michael James,” try to be specific, such as “the moment the sun drops to the horizon” or “Michael James’ ‘Aurora’ in his early work”  so that we can learn from each other.

I’ll announce the winner on my next post, and send you a gift card from Amazon so you can order it yourself; for this reason, it will work for international as well as domestic. Have fun, everyone!  This post will close on Saturday morning.


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24 thoughts on “Inspiration. . . and a Giveaway!

  1. I am inspired by little children.They are so unselfconscious and real. If they want something they cry or just take it, they live in the moment. They are not worried about what people think of them. Sometimes I think am I making this quilt for myself or for others….

  2. Hi, Elizabeth,
    I had a mentor once who never said he ‘stole an idea’ from someone or some place; he always said he ‘honorably adopted’ the idea from the artist.


  3. I own the book (thus I can be skipped for the giveaway). I agree muches. My favorite art is that of collaboration where people aren’t trying to be “original”, but rather build on each other’s ideas and talents. I love to watch stuff mutate and become something new with simple changes and adjustments. Even better, when someone starts with something I’ve created and moves it forward with their own vision. Is there a higher compliment than that? 🙂

  4. I love that…..seeing no one was listening, it needs to be said again. Yes, nothing is new, it’s just done with new fabric : )
    I think the young quilters are so lucky to be starting with all this great fabric and the wonderful designers etc.

  5. Fabulous quilt, brilliant ideas. Recently I’ve been exploring Navajo designs for inspiration. Copying them would be inadequate, because their composition: materials, colors, designs, techniques, combine to make the whole. But my intent is to respectfully incorporate some of those elements in my own creation.

  6. A wonderfully thought provoking post!!!! You did put into words many thoughts I’ve had regarding the “I own the pattern/idea” syndrome! There really isn’t anything ‘new’….at its core the ‘seed’ remains & the packaging changes/adapts to the latest fads/tastes. What inspires me?? EVERYTHING! At the moment I’m looking up at a pottery container that holds a diverse assortment (redundant?) of spoons located next to my gas range. I am inspired!! Design is all around if only one has “eyes to see and ears to hear”!!! I would love that book!!! Thank you very much!!!

  7. Not to denigrate Jen Kingwell or any current “in” designer, but I find it interesting that Mary Mashuta had had various versions of the Steam Punk pattern in a book–from the early 1990s? (can’t locate the book at this moment…). And I doubt if Mary was the originator of that block. One of my favorite sources of inspiration is drawing done by my grandchildren. Charlotte made a charming drawing of the two of us nearly two years ago–my goal is to make a fabric version. This book has been on my list for quite awhile. Thanks for reminding me of it!

  8. Mary Mashuta’s book was “Cotton Candy Quilts”, but that pattern was published as “Air-Ship Propeller” by the Kansas City Star in 1933. The title of that page in the Star is “The Airship Belongs to Modern Quilts”, which made me smile.

    I’m inspired by pictures of vintage quilts, and I also have a lifetime of fabric to use up, so my inspiration is often directed by what’s near the surface in my stash. I’m also inspired by quotes like “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” (Mark Twain)

  9. The source of inspiration still puzzles me! I see ideas in nature, architecture, art, pattern, IG. It’s translating it to my ‘work’ that I struggle with! I’d love to see what this book says about it!

  10. I LOVE that re-quote of Gide – I’ll be taking that to my next modern quilt guild meeting. As for what inspires me? I just sorted out all my small (<.3m (~12") or <FQ) bits of fabric and now I have about 15 ideas for new projects, just from folding and putting stuff away. So that will keep me going for a while…. Thanks!

  11. Hello friends – This has been interesting to ponder. First, I had to recall moments of inspiration and that was eye – opening to figure out the pattern. Then to distinguish inspiration from coveting or any of the ugly forms of I Want That. For me, the source is not a thing seen, but the coincidence /collision of being alone, having something in the back of my mind that I’m working on, and sudden, active attention to something new. A common example: I’m driving around doing errands, there’s something I have to teach my ESL students, and then I hear something perfect on the car radio – a lyric of a song, a quote, an apt illustration. Click. Inspiration. Something new & needed is created. And then comes the actual work to make it happen 😊

  12. I get inspired by looking though quilt history books. I love the unconventional color schemes, the make do attitude.

  13. I find inspiration in architectural forms and nature -especially flowers. After a garden tour, I want to quilt. You’re so right about modern day quilts. It saddens me to see a quilt praise, and nary a mention of the one who really designed it. I think this comes from not reading about or looking at quilts of the past. Your suggestion is a sound one.

  14. Amen!!

    I’m inspired tremendously by the women in my guild, and by other quilters online and in books. However, I tend to get a fair amount of inspiration from pop culture, and weird interplays of words or concepts rattling in my brain. I’ve used Churchill’s quote “If you are going through hell, keep going!” several times over the years and think somehow, it will become a quilt…. Very cool giveaway, by the way. Thanks for the chance!

  15. I find inspiration in SO many places ! Mostly in nature though,especially this time of heart in the garden. All those wonderful colors of the cone flowers, Black-eyed Susans, egg plants, tomatoes, and of course sunflowers! Thank you for the giveaway chance!

  16. I find inspiration from the view of the countryside from my front porch. The colors of the flowers, the planted fields, the harvest, the rolling hills, etc. It all inspires me!

  17. This could be one of your best giveaways yet! My inspirations? Primarily the words and stories of people, orally, in books, in exposition. I’ve always liked puzzles, and the ways that people answer a challenge — whatever it may be — I think reflects the influences they have had, and passes those on to me, albeit second hand. My first piecing effort was in college (early 70s), cutting old jeans into shapes and piecing them together however they fit. I had no idea of “quilts” as I’d not been exposed to how they were made and what they looked like, yet I had an idea of what “quilt” meant that I tried to bring into being. I still have that piece of work, and it still inspires me at times. Sometimes it’s the challenge of a technique, whether I saw it somewhere, dreamed it up, or whatever. Sometimes I’m just not capable described it in words. I’d love this book for that reason alone.

  18. Interesting post with lots of good comments. A few months back I went through lots of old quilting magazines that I had been hanging on to before donating them to my guild and library. What I saw over and over were quilts from 10+ years ago that have now been done with more modern fabrics and called new and innovative now. New fabrics are always going to make an older design look new but that doesn’t mean the whole idea is brand new. And in another 10 years someone will do the same design with fabrics of the time and call it new all over again. With so much work out there, it’s very hard to keep up let alone be aware of older work. Guess we should all just do what inspires us, be it the fabric, another quilt or a completely unrelated source. And give credit where credit i due. As a pattern designer, I do try to come up with new ideas or at least new ways of using a design. What I’d be upset about is someone doing the exact same thing and calling it theirs without so much as a mention to where the inspiration came from. Being inspired by something and making it your own is one thing. That’s what I want people to do with my patterns and why I include extra ideas in in pattern. Copying is something else and not creative at all.

  19. I’ve probably missed the give a way deadline as Saturday has come and gone but thought I would leave a comment anyway.
    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how many quilters today, particularly those with an online presence, are producing designs which they claim to be their own but are actually designs that have been around for years. I recently discovered the International Quilt Study Centre and Museum web site and like you I’m fascinated by the inspiration that can be found there. I recently decided to go back to a book called Down the Rotary Road by Judy Hopkins, published 1993 as inspiration. I thought it would be fun to pick a design from the book which uses fabrics which do not fit with my 2014 tastes and make the quilt from today’s fabrics. Having said that today’s designers are merely redoing designs that have been around for years, the quilts in Down The Rotary Road from 20 years ago are also made from versions of traditional blocks using fabrics which were In fashion at the time, I just wish that today’s ‘designers’ would recognise that their patterns are actually based on traditional blocks.
    I was planning on doing a post on this subject. Would it be Ok to reference your post?

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