A new quilting podcast has launched recently. Called Just Wanna Quilt the show is described as a “research podcast” and is produced by Elizabeth Townsend Gard, a law professor at Tulane University who studies intellectual property. Townsend Gard opens each episode by saying, “We explore all kinds of things. Stories about quilting, tools, field trips, maybe some famous quilters stop by and, of course, a little bit of copyright thrown in just for fun.” She’s published 49 episodes since launching on January 31, interviewing everyone from the public relations manager at Quilts Inc., to leaders of fabric and thread companies, designers, teachers, and hobby quilters.
The long-term goal for the project is to create two bodies of work about intellectual property as it relates to quilting, although she’s not sure at this time whether they will be books or websites. The first will be intended for the hobby quilter. It will include “everything you need to know about copyright and intellectual property when it comes to quilting. Just simple. So that we can get everyone on the same page on things they don’t understand.” The other will be a more in-depth work for people in the quilting industry. “Every single person in this field is using materials and you should feel confident in what you do with them so that you don’t get in trouble, or if you get in trouble you do it deliberately,” she says.
The show is mostly unedited with beeps of recording equipment, coughs, volume variations, and verbal stops and starts of both interviewer and subject left in. Townsend Gard says the audio is left rough on purpose. “For me, I’m a scholar and I want [the show] to reflect that these are our research notes.”
“The podcast is fun because who does a podcast?” she laughs. “What kind of academic does a podcast?” Her entrepreneurship class is using the show as a kind of living laboratory. “The podcast is our canvas to sort of play,” she says. They’ve investigated how to record and publish the show, how to analyze download numbers, and how to run an online contest, among other topics.
Unlike an official podcast created by a university, such as the Harvard Business Review podcast, Just Wanna Quilt belongs to Townsend Gard. “If I go to another university I take this project with me. I happen to be at Tulane and they are funding my research, but I own the intellectual property,” she says. Still, she acknowledges that the university is having an ongoing discussion about podcasting and whether a show represents one scholar’s research or the university as a brand.
When Townsend Gard began reaching out to possible guests asking if she could interview them about copyright and quilting, she says she was met with resistance. “They’d be like, ‘No, I don’t know anything about it and if I do I’m not talking to you,’” she recalls. So she changed tactics and instead asks to talk about their quilting lives. She tries to spend the last fifteen minutes of each episode focused on intellectual property. “I’m kinda like a doctor. As they talk I can kinda know what’s going on with them. Like how aware they are of what they’re doing,” she says.
I spoke with two people who have been guests on the show and although they knew that Townsend Gard is a law professor and that the project was about copyright law, neither was completely clear as to what the interviews would eventually result in beyond the podcast.
The podcast interviews are not being transcribed. There are just brief show notes on the Just Wanna Quilt website describing what each interview is about. “It’s kinda background information for the project so transcribing is not really needed,” she says. “I don’t think we’re pulling from the interviews per se.”
Townsend Gard writes law review articles each year as part of her professorship. This year she’s considering writing about quilting including whether it’s possible to copyright polka dots and whether rulers can be patented. She says these articles will be available to the public for free as PDFs. “We’ll put them everywhere,” she says. “Academics don’t really care about distribution.”
Academic books are typically expensive in comparison to mass-market titles. Townsend Gard’s book about the video game industry, Video Games and the Law, is 98 pages and costs $45.73. Townsend Gard says she’s hoping to make the new research more affordable. One of her other projects, titled (Il)legal, focuses on outsider art such as graffiti and tattoos. She says that book will be available on Amazon for .99 or $9.99 “or whatever the lowest price is for art books and we’re going to learn about that.”
There’s no set timeline for the Just Wanna Quilt project, although Townsend Gard says she’ll start writing in May. The podcast interviews will likely continue through the summer and fall, possibly longer. “I don’t really care about an end date,” she says. “The glory of being a full professor is I don’t have to figure it all out. Nobody is judging me and I can just keep writing. That’s my obligation, to write and to teach, and as long as I’m doing that nobody cares.”