14 October, 2013

Brave New Quilts (Weekend Reads)

Brave New Quilts is the latest and last book by Kathreen Ricketson. Inspired by Twentieth Century Art movements it speaks to inspiration and translating that inspiration to a quilt.

Kathreen died earlier this year. I woke up to the news one morning during Quilt Market. I'd woken early to actually answer some emails for her, only to get the news. Many others had the same story. And we all walked around in shock. And we were just fellow quilters and writers, colleagues and friends from online, not her family reeling from the tragedy.

Now, her book is out and travelling the world without her. A final legacy to her work.

Kathreen and I were working on our books at the same time, clearly with very similar deadlines. We would exchange tweets and emails about our status on the work. We knew what the other was going through. So, even though our books are quite different from a content perspective, they parallel each other in the timeline of my mind. That leads me to what I want to talk about today on this last stop on her Legacy Tour.

For all the book reviews, Amazon reviews, and social media comments it is important to remember two things. One, there are people behind these books. And two, these books are a creative enterprise as much as a quilt is, they are a work of art too.

The author of any book pretty much gets all the credit, or critique. But they are team efforts (unless self published). But for any and all credit and critiques you have to remember that these are real people. They have feelings, thick or thin skin, and real emotions. It seems easy to think of the book as an independent entity, free from its creator. That makes it easier to dismiss or criticize. I get that, it is a part of human nature to complain. But it is important to remember that these books do not exist without the people behind it.

That leads me to the second point: these books are a creative expression of the author and designers. When someone is writing a book they aren't just thinking, "Hey, I'm going to make a bunch of quilts and someone else will take pictures and we'll put them all together in a book and then people will read it." No, we think about themes, and details like illustration style, layout, styling of each quilt photo. We agonize over fabric selection more than you ever have, we tinker and run out of ink on red pens, we obsess over a block that won't lay flat. For the authors and designers, the quilts and their patterns are only just a part of the book, not the be all and end all.

Every author has a different reason for writing a book. Some want to translate their teaching to the written page, some want to share inspiration, some are looking to collate patterns, some love to write. All of them are coming to the book as a form of creative expression. Writing the book is as much that as designing and making a quilt.

Now I'm not saying that we authors are immune to critique and I, personally, welcome comments and constructive criticism. But when you make any comments on a book - good or bad - remember that there are people behind it and we put a lot of personality and creativity into that book. (Keep all this in mind as well if you are contemplating writing a book.)

That's why, when I read Brave New Quilts, I think of Kathreen. I think of her frantically sewing to make deadlines, photo shoot styling flying through her head as the stitches go in. I think of her cleaning and organizing just so for the shot to be exactly as she wants. I think of her spending an hour on a single paragraph to make sure her intentions and directions are as clear as they can be. I think of her anxiously anticipating the Pages for review to see how the designer put together everything.

Perhaps I am projecting my own experience onto Kathreen's, I will admit that. But we did speak of the process together. And now that I see her book I have a bigger picture of her own process. More importantly, I have a picture of Kathreen, a glimpse of her inspiration and translation, and of her creativity that goes beyond 12 quilts and beyond the emails and tweets we shared. I'm glad to have this bit of her in the world. A legacy to her creativity indeed.

To read more about the book and other takes on it, make sure you visit the other stops on the Legacy Tour for Brave New Quilts.

Stash Books
Heather Jones
Kristin Link
Maya Donenfeld
Alexandra Smith
Sonya Philip
Ellen Luckett Baker
Andrea Jenkins
Shannon Cook
Mimi Kirchner


Fabric Fanatic said...

thanks so much for your thoughtful essay about the artist's process and about this quilter who left us too early. I had read about her, but she was not someone I was even marginally familiar with. I was sad for her family, but you have introduced her to me and i'm sure others as well and now I feel like I've had a glimpse of the woman and artist she was.

Suzanne said...

Though I have read many reviews of Kathreen's book, yours particularly makes me want to pick it up. You bridged the gap between the pages and Kathreen herself. Though I did not have the good fortune to know her as you did, I was a follower of her blog and joyfully read her posts. I still think of her.

Leanne said...

I love my copy of this book. I did not know her on line but I sure wish I had had the chance. Your review is lovely, thank you.

Rossie said...

Has this book been the object of unfair criticism? Everything I've seen about it has been a remembrance of Kathreen / not detailed/ not critical. I feel like your post is responding to something I don't know about.

I am curious about this book and hope to get a look inside it soon!

Paula said...

I had no idea that the author of this wonderful book (that I just bought on Amazon a few weeks ago) passed away. I am so sad....her inspiration and designs in this book are truly awesome. Thank you for your thoughtful post.89