Just Wanna Quilt: A Podcast


I got an email one day from Dr. Elizabeth Townsend Gard about being interviewed for her podcast, Just Wanna Quilt. I, of course, said yes! My interview will be up on the website on Tuesday, but you should go over there now and check out some of the podcasts. She’s had some amazing people on. And yes, I do listen to it at work on the Bluetooth speakers, so now most of my staff is up to date as well!

She found me from my interview on BBC. We chatted about quite a few things on the podcast, from Quilt-gate to my Zelda Quilts, and everything in between! In fact, she and I are doing a follow-up shortly, and I’m sending her some of the scarves I’ve been designing lately!

Follow the jump for more about this project…

From the Just Wanna Quilt Website:

About Me (Elizabeth Townsend Gard)

It’s simple.  Quilt every day.  Talk to people about their quilting life.

Research and write about the copyright and other IP issues related to quilting.  Build a community of quilters, scholars and law students.

Oh, and have as much fun as possible along the way.

In 2017, I became a full professor at Tulane Law School.  This means I’ve gone through ten years of hurdles, and before that, two post-doc positions, and law school.  Before that, I earned my masters and doctorate in European history. I’ve been in school for a long time. This is the first project I’ve worked on that is all about not being  judged.  And so, I’m taking a new approach, building on the work that I have done throughout my career, but also trying a new method of vulnerability and transparency.  It’s called a research podcast.

For the last ten years, I have worked on a project called the “Durationator ,” a software research system to determine the copyright status of works anywhere in the world.   It was comprehensive, complicated, proprietary, secretive, challenging, fun, and really really time-consuming.  The result was a system that we are now marketing to libraries, archives, museums, lawyers and content holders to assist with copyright issues that arise with all kinds of works – books, photographs, art work, sound recordings, audiovisual works, etc.   Over 90 students worked as research assistants, and every IP class I taught worked on some aspect of the project.  We went through incubators, had a licensing deal with Thomson Reuters, and decided to offer subscriptions directly.  I coded by hand nearly every copyright law (historical ones included) of every country and dependency in the world.  The project was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in Golan v. Holder twice!  My tenure pieces were all about duration in one way or another.  I became an expert. The project continues.  (We had a lot of press over our work with Internet Archive  in Fall 2017.  See the latest Slate article)

As I focused on copyright and how long it lasts (obviously a complicated question), I also taught many subjects — art law, trademark, advertising law, IP survey, property, copyright, international IP, etc.  And as I taught, a strange moment in copyright history was happening: user-generated content.  Before the age of the Internet, copyright was simple (sort of).  Publishers marked territory – don’t copy this work.  Put a copyright notice on it.  Followed the rules for obtaining protection.  Sued anyone who made unauthorized copies.   But the Internet changed all that.   You and me — we could make perfect copies, we could make our own videos and post them on YouTube, we could make cosplay costumes and sell them on Etsy, and we could write our own stories about our favorite characters.   Fan fiction, videos, and art were changing how we looked at copyright, and how content holders view the control of copyright – creating terms like “tolerable uses.”

So, when the Dean of the law school asked me what my next project was, he said, to think carefully and do something I really wanted to do.   I had an inkling.  I wanted to do something with quilting.  I had a feeling that there were some interesting copyright issues.  I loved to quilt.  I’m creative, basic, and really into it.

Then, two things happened.

First, Hillary lost the election.  The day of the election, I kept my kid home from school and made her watch “women’s history” in the form of Suffragette, Good Girls Revolt, and other movies.  We got my mother’s favorite foods (steak and cake), and then we watched with horror throughout the evening.  I started crocheting pink hats, and we made a 7 foot long quilted banner for the Women’s March in Washington (and one for NOLA too).   But it was when I saw the sea of pink that I realized that there were millions of us out there making pink hats — involved in a crafty and quilting world.  We were strong, and until the Women’s March, largely invisible.

Second, I made a quilt for the PILF auction at the law school.  This is the group that raises money to allow students to do non-profit and pro bono work in the summers.   I actually forgot that I had promised them a quilt.  So, I looked around my stash and found a bunch of Star Wars material, including a panel.  So, in a few hours, I had quickly pieced up and machine quilted.  It sold for auction around $300! I told Denise at Mes Amis Quilt Shop and asked, “Can you do that with Star Wars materials?”  As a law professor, I hadn’t given it a second thought – First Sale. And I I knew from my fan fiction work that Disney (the content owner) would not likely care that I donated a quilt from legally bought fabric to support pro bono law students.  But it got me thinking…

And so, my answer to the Dean:  quilting and copyright.   A full-scale project.  I wanted to immerse myself in the quilting world.  I wanted to talk to quilters.  I wanted to think through the legal issues associated with all of the spaces of quilting.   Quilting is over a $5 billion a year industry with 16 million quilters in the U.S. alone. It also is filled with history, tradition, and community.  Here is, like fandoms, an ecosystem of both commercial and non-commercial uses, where people feel a personal connection to the work that they do, and where the economic stakes are high.  The work is filled with transformative uses, first sale, public domain building blocks, new works, tolerable uses, to name just a few.

And then two other surprises happened.  First, I started to reach out to quilters, and it was amazing.  This project became about community, about working with others.   This is different from the Durationator project which was about teaching law students.  Instead, the quilting project is about learning and working with other quilters and the industry to understand the world.  The law students will still be learning.  But this project is about me learning.  And then taking my new knowledge, and applying it to my superhuman copyright knowledge.

And finally, there is Eric Goldman.  Eric is a superstar in the IP field, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law.  And he blogs.  He came to my IP seminar and was talking about his writing process.  He said that he uses his blog to work on issues that later are incorporated into larger works.  He writes 2-3 serious blogs a week.  These became part of his law review articles.  I thought that was incredibly brave.

Putting out work while still in process is not the norm.  Law review articles usually take a year to write, and that’s focused on one aspect of a large subject.  But this project is different.  This is a research blog.  It’s my journey.  It’s the community I’m hoping to build.  It’s the quilting I hope to get better at, but show my mistakes and triumph along the way.

The research blog is just that – research.  A blog for my thoughts.  A Research Guild Forum for the community (if they decide to participate) and for myself to post on topics.  Research shared.  Calls for participation from the quilting community.  A podcast to gather more stories and research. And lots of fun along the way.

The goal of the project?  Understand the quilting world and the role of IP, and copyright in particular.  Help quilters learn copyright.  Help the IP community understand another large creative ecosystem.  And quilt!  Make friends!

So, that’s a little about me.  If you have ideas or suggestions about the project feel free to email.

A Quilting Room of One’s Own

Virginia Woolf believed that women writers needed a room of their own.  It was a feminist thing.  Quilters often want to show off their “room”.  I think this is an important aspect.  We’ll keep exploring why.  For now, here is my Quilting Room of My Own.



We live in an old converted duplex, and I’ve taken over what would normally be the “Dining Room” upstairs.   I don’t have a big stash.  I’m more of a project-based quilter.  I always have a bunch of projects going.  I love FMQ, although I’m still a beginner.  I love being in the middle of the house.  (See the teen passing by in the picture!)

I have two Juki machines — an Exceed (low end model) and the 2010.  I used to sew on a Bernina and also a Brother.  I transitioned to Juki this summer.

The worst part?  The pile of quilts that taunt me to finish them…but that’s part of the joy as well.

1 Comment

  1. Sheila Symanski says:

    I just found your podcast and listened while on a long drive. I am going to Houston Quilt Festival for the second time. I didn’t get all the details about the name of the book and the author but will look for the book while I am in Houston. I loved this smart podcast, smart questions and wonderful information. Thank you!

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