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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.  And that's what we did!

I'm Elizabeth Townsend Gard, and I'm a Professor of Law at Tulane University Law School.  I am currently both Lepage Faculty Fellow at the A.B. Freeman School of business, focused on entrepreneurship, and also the Greenbaum Fellow at the Newcomb Institute, studying narratives in fiber, both at Tulane University.  Here's my quilting story.

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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 master's and a doctorate in Modern European history, focusing on gender, biography, and cultural 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 immersive research (do jump in, and experience) primarily through a research podcast and a Facebook group. It turned into so much more.  We've written books.  We're a Quilting Army. We sell  Grace longarms. We're creating Copyright Camp. We've been to Quilt Market. And who knows what is next?  And "we".   Immersive research turned into collaboration and community.  It's awesome.


Before Just Wanna Quilt, I 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, artwork, 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)


We also looked at the role of law in creativity in a number arenas -- art, video games, sound recording.  We were starting to see patterns.  But I wanted to go deeper.  I wanted to understand the pain and joy of creation to better understand how copyright worked (or didn't work). 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 had no idea what I was getting myself into, and two years in, my life has been transformed in every possible manner. 


Then, two things happened.  


First, Hillary lost the election.  I started crocheting pink hats for the Pussyhat Project, 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 kit.  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 she 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 fanfiction copyright research 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, when the Dean asked me what my next project would be, I responded: 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 project through the podcast and Facebook group.  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 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.


Two Years In

Now, two years in, the project has grown in amazing ways. I've interviewed over 300 people--famous, regular quilters, industry leaders, entrepreneurs, and even recipients of quilts. We have over 3200 members of the Quilting Army.  We have published books.  We've been featured in Quiltfolk magazine.  I have taught at both QuiltCon and Houston Quilt Market, along with local guilds.  We have started a Shop, a Long Army program (to teach long arming and sell Grace long arms), and so much more.  But the core message is still the same: understanding the role of law in creativity while immersing myself in the quilting world.  I've been a brand ambassador for Michael Miller Fabrics.  We have research sponsors.  I've been asked to be on panels about podcasting.  I've won awards.  My sewing space has taken over the top half of the house.  I had no idea this would all happen.  We also now have two kittens that help quilt.  And we have so many new plans for 2020-2021. And I still try to quilt every night.  I've quilted from start to finish about 70 quilts. I've added two longarms  (Grace) to the space, which before Covid-19, had become a clubhouse where people came and played.  We have so many thing we have done and still want to do.  Amazing. 

And with Covid-19, we pivoted, as we made masks for our community, family, and friends.  We interviewed over 75 people related to sewing, science, and what was happening in our world.  This has turned into the Homemade Mask (Virtual) Summit in June 2020.  Again, an amazing journey. 

Finally, we will officially launch Copyright Camp in July 2020 -- three years from our start in 2017.  In conjunction, I'm writing a piece aimed at the copyright legal community to explain how my thinking about copyright has evolved through Just Wanna Quilt.

This journey has not been alone.  Come meet the Team and the Quilting Army.

A Quilting Room of One's Own

Virgina 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.  This way year one.  This is was before Quiltfolk came to the house to photograph the space.  Cute, under control.  

In 2017 I wrote: 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.



Now, in 2019, I have basically taken up half of the upstairs of the duplex -- kitchen, dining room and living room.  We have two Grace long arms.  Still the Jukis.  We've added a Brother embroidery machine, a Accuquilt cutting system, and a lot more fabric.  And the books have come out.  


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And a few of the quilts...

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