Everyday Creativity

"Everyday creativity" is a term coined to describe the efforts of common people to express themselves through a variety of media—crafts, folk music, and today, even activities like blogging and making YouTube videos. Scholars who have explored the idea of everyday creativity—from 19th-century artist and philosopher William Morris to 21st-century media studies professor David Gauntlett—argue that creativity belongs to all humans and is not the exclusive domain of professional artists. The desire to make things is a nearly universal compulsion, they maintain, whether it's through the physical processes of knitting, woodworking, or model train building, or through less material-based activities like creating poetry, websites, or a Pinterest board .

Quiltmaking is a quintessential form of everyday creativity. Although there have been professional quiltmakers in the past and although quiltmaking today economically supports a range of professionals (teachers, shopkeepers, long-arm quilters), most quiltmakers are and have been “everyday” people (although early on, most American quiltmakers were those who had expendable income). Sometimes they make quilts for purely practical reasons, but most quiltmakers do it because it is a creative activity. The quilts in the IQM's exhibition, Wild by Design: Innovation and Artistry in American Quilts present the range of creativity in American quilt history. The people who made these quilts likely did so without economic motivations. Nor were they simply creating a bedcovering. More sublimely, they were bringing to life their vision of what a quilt could and should be.

Sociologist Marybeth Stalp has shown in her intensive research of contemporary quiltmakers that, contrary to what non-quiltmakers often think, people who make quilts are motivated primarily by the love of the process, not by the desire to have an end-product. They love every step of the process: designing or choosing a pattern, picking and buying the fabric, sewing the blocks, performing the quilting, and finishing the piece. Indeed, process sometimes trumps product—thus the many amusing stories about quiltmakers' enormous fabric “stashes” and plentiful “UFOs” (Unfinished Objects).

An important step in the process for many quiltmakers is the final one of sharing their creative works with others. Some do this through traditional quilt guild meetings or by entering their quilts in county or state fairs. Others do it through online forums. Whatever the venue, community often becomes a critical component of quiltmakers' creative lives.