As you may have guessed by now, if you have been a reader any length of time, I have a lot of quilted stuff that has never been registered as a "quilt" and this bag is only one of those. I love this Japanese fabric. I don't know the technical term but the base thread is black and the colored thread is woven across. All are either solids or stripe. I made this bag to carry my quilting things when I go to group meetings. The handles can clip to the bottom and become a back pack. Not fancy but serviceable.
However, this post is not about the bag.
This morning, as is custom in Japan, I was sweeping the street in front of my gate. There were persimmon leaves from the neighbor's tree to the North and maple leaves from the neighbor's tree to the South, one bamboo leaf from my own garden and some cigarette butts and drink cans, (our house being just about that far from the cigarette and drink machines). No one would think about where those things came from, only look at the mess and think the house owner to be quite careless as the condition of the street reflects directly on the house owner.
This is an interesting aspect of life in Japan. Thinking people to be very neat and clean, I was horrified the first time I went to cherry-blossom-viewing and saw the mountains of trash left behind. Even on Mt Fuji I was appalled at all the trash dumped along the paths. My husband explains that the farther a person gets from their home, the more anonymous they become, and while they would never drop trash in front of their own home, dropping it elsewhere causes no shame at all.
While I swept the street to avoid the shame, I was thinking of another problem that is not too far removed, this years auction quilt.
You must be wondering what the connection is. The first meetings to decide the theme and design for this project did not include me. The idea was discussed and the fabric was purchased and I met at the given time to help in my usual way. The chosen design and fabrics are truly lovely.
BUT, the problem is, the plan is almost a direct copy of someone else's quilt... at least it is enough alike to recognize where the idea came from.
When I attended the Yokohama Quilt show, there in front of me I saw that same quilt. A member of the committee had seen the quilt at an earlier show and taken a picture and was working from the photo in buying the fabric and deciding the plans.
Doing a bit of research on the quilter, we discovered that she is one of the top "Senseis", a teacher who is probably making a living out of teaching quilting. If I didn't feel comfortable about the copy from the first, you can imagine how I am feeling now. There was much discussion about what to do next and I understand a letter will go to the quilter in English. Well, that is a start BUT, if the contact goes to her school and no one understands what it is about... she may not even see the message... she may not reply... Then, I am still left between a rock and a hard place.
My husband has said he would be glad to write a translation of the letter and he is very good at writing diplomatic Japanese. While, to me, imitation may be the highest form of flattery, the teacher may not feel that way. At the same show I heard how one quilter, who makes her living by her craft, felt about someone she believed was copying her designs.
As my name has been linked with the ASIJ auction quilt since the first one in 2004, I am more than a little concerned. The only quilts I have ever made copying something more than a block design are the two I drafted after seeing those of Lucy Boston, no longer alive at that time and even in my diary I give her the credit though not copies. Yes, of course, the teacher would be given credit but somehow I feel that her blessing is needed too.
I have discussed this by e-mail with some of my blogging friends and have been encouraged to post the issue. Many of us may never face this problem. I have seen famous Baltimore album quilts copied by Japanese quilters down to the last detail and the worry is not about being sued... This is a school where children are taught not too plagiarize their reports but is this any different? If I am involved in this, will my reputation be damaged? Do I have the guts to withdraw myself from the group which I happen to love? Am I worrying about nothing? Have I been in Japan so long that I am worrying about cigarette butts on the street in front of my house?
One thing my paper quilt diary never got was feed-back. Now I do believe I could use a little.