Truth Tea With Sugar, No Lemon

That title pretty much says it all, but I wanted to take a moment to clarify my position on Truth Tea. I originally spoke about the niceties of quilt blog land when I asked what happens If You Can’t Say Anything Nice? It resonated loudly with a lot of you. There were very polarising opinions about the feedback that should be thrown about in not only quilt blog land, but through social media in general. Quite robust discussion–I must say–and without being intentionally condescending, I’m proud of us for having such an open dialogue about it!
My new wannabe best friend, Brooke, at april | two | eighty recently released a blog post called, To Be Honest. In it she details some self-imposed misconceptions and insecurities that quilters have, some quilters’ self-empowerment anthems, her own version of Truth Tea, and then a kick-ass, pastel quilt. Seriously, you should read her blog post! Why I bring this up, is because I want to make sure no one is confused about my intentions of Truth Tea. Like Brooke, I want you to say “Whatever…” to anything or anyone who makes you “…feel less than amazing.” Truth Tea should lift your spirits, give you energy, and make you want to be the best creator you can be.
This is exactly the crux of Truth Tea: being able to say what is on your mind without fear of recourse for having a considered and valid opinion. Truth tea is not about being an online bully, and projecting your opinions about the creations onto the creator. Once upon a time I called some of the scrap vomit quilts I was seeing all over blogland, “fugly.” It was a flippant, jocular remark. I still think a lot of them are fugly, but I could have chosen a word less loaded with colloquial insult. At no point was this an implication of the makers, but of my own taste buds. As Brooke says in her To Be Honest post:

“what it all comes down to is this, plain and simple: be you, be proud of it. if you’re an artist, make what you feel like making. if you don’t have enough time, feel good about what you do have time for. don’t be ashamed of your work or your favorite things, and don’t be ashamed if you feel like you’re not fitting the mold – make your own!” 

And that goes for anything I say, too. Your voice is just as powerful as mine. I’m no more special than you, and we are all full of stars.
Like so many of you said in the original post’s comments: know your audience, and respect the time and place you want to give some Truth Tea. For instance, if a person is blogging about their limited skill sets with zipper installations :::waves::: add some sugar to that tea, and hold the lemon! Ask permission before giving specific feedback, and you’ll find it is so much more well received. Start with the positive, and work your way to the opportunities. Eliminate the words con and negative from the entire discussion.
But all of you know this, because you’re always so nice! So that leads me to the other side of the discussion. Truth Tea gets really watered down if you throw out superlatives like they’re last season’s Manolo Blahniks. I’m so guilty of this, too, though, because really, I DO LOVE SO MANY THINGS. I see bright colours, or shiny bits, and rainbows, and I just want to eat them all up, and give their creators the biggest hugs for bringing such beauty (that I appreciate), into the world. Alas, here’s the impasse: when the time comes, how do you elevate that which is truly special past what you have already raised to the roof?! Currently, I don’t know either, and perhaps it just a result of the current cultural phenom of “Likes” and conveying emotion in 140 characters or less.
I will leave you with this story: Grandma Sparkles has an older brother (my Uncle Junior) who I will always remember as the happy recipient of her sweet, homemade pies. I’m talkin’ chocolate, lemon, pecan, cherry, apple, coconut, blackberry, pumpkin, you name it, and Grandma Sparkles can make a fabulous pie out of it. Anyway, after the pie was eagerly consumed, the question would always be asked to Uncle Junior, “Did you like the pie? On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate it?” To which he would, without fail, always respond, “Eh, I’d give it about a seven or eight, the pecan might get a nine.” Now, once you’ve had Grandma Sparkles’s pies, you know they’re worthy of at least a twelve on a bad day. So I would ask, “But they’re soooo good, Uncle Junior, why only a seven or an eight?” And he would say to me, “If I gave her a ten, she’d have no reason to try to improve!”
That’s just some food for thought. Now, can you refill my glass of Truth Tea to go with that pie, please?

15 Responses

  1. Farm Quilter says:

    Hmmm…I too get distracted by pretty, sparkly things, but when I tell someone I love their ______, in that moment I do love it and it is spectacular…but 5 minutes later, can I describe it, probably not! If I'm really attracted to a quilt or specific quilting, I'll save a picture of it on my computer which I may or may not ever look at again! Does this mean I need to limit my blog following??? My memory isn't going to improve, that's for sure!!! There is so much eye candy out there that after a while a while it all starts to blur! However, I can still see your D quilt!!!

  2. Auntie Pami says:

    Sweet tea. I did live in Texas after all. Some of the scrap vomit quilts were not to my taste. But they were fun. Scraps got, who cares really? I have a lot of quilts. A lot. They were therapy for me. Yeah, they're not pretty, but I don't care. They are warm. I'll have to post them one day.

  3. pennydog says:

    I have finished a quilt recently which I don't think is quite right, yet people steer away from helping me put my finger on what it is and instead choose not to comment (not many for what I normally get on a finish) or tell me it's great anyway. Sometimes constructive criticism is really helpful!

  4. charlotte says:

    Another thoughtful post. I just read Brook's post and loved it and her pretty cool quilt. Thank you Molli!

  5. One Wee Bird says:

    I totally agree with marching to your own beat and singing your own song… at the top of my lungs ……but sometimes it makes my brain hurt thinking about making sure I do just that. So I try to be, and like your undies always wear them along with a smile, just for yourself xxxx

  6. Debra says:

    Your Uncle Junior was a wise man indeed.

  7. Vera says:

    The reason why I always come back is that you are so versatile. There are so many sides of you and it's great so see which one you are going to flash. I don't always like all of them but that is perfectly fine. XX

  8. Salley says:

    You obviously ain't just a pretty face . . . you get us thinking . .

  9. Leo says:

    Hmm seems google decided to eat my first comment – maybe they do some secret filtering … or the Chines are takign over .. anyway ..

    First of all what is beautiful – is a matter of taste and you can't argue about taste. Then there is always the distinction betwee a beautiful quilt and a beautifully done quilt and a nice fabrics quilt …

    Also – noone can always produce only beautiful things – and we all would learn so much more ffrom the mistakes (we and others make) than from the huge amount of "by popular conses" deemed perfect quilts …

    I can't say there is one quilt I'm really happy about – I know all the short comings each one of them has, I know where I took a wrong turn etc….

    I don't know where all the issues with critique come from – I never got a bad response to my quite frank critiques … I don't even get the most obvious one – which would be simply not to respond.

    Another things is the whole self-promotion going on (yes also here … ) and the use of blogs more as a marketing platform than anythign else … but I'm getting distracted there.

    As a leaving note … Commenting too positively without an explanation is almost more of an insult than a really heartfelt "what on earth were you thinking when you chose the pink adn the orange for the quilt?"

  10. Pat says:

    Yep, I'm guilty of over using superlatives, but what the heck! I, too, love sparkly, shiny, bright, and happy. I guess the Bell Curve has a place outside of the classroom. 😀

  11. Regina says:

    I teach quilting…there I said it. Now does that make me more able to judge beauty or talent than the next person? Of course not, because Leo's second paragraph is certainly true. But if I see obvious issues in technique I will try to comment privately for instruction and constructive criticism. I haven't got all the answers and neither has anyone else. But quilters are a community of artists and most of us welcome help with our techniques. So if you have a comment, make it constructive. If you don't like something, just say it's not to your taste and leave it at that! Love you, Molli!

  12. Katy Cameron says:

    Aww, man, I want to be related to Grandma Sparkles and get all those pies! Your Uncle Junior was obviously onto something though, not least because she'd keep giving him pies in an effort to prove she'd improved ;o)

    Something you said about the diluted truth tea brought to mind a girl I was at school with. As a slight background, in the UK we do national exams at 16 and 18 which are used as benchmarks for jobs or, if you're that way inclined, entry into uni and college courses (college being inferior to uni as they can only grant diplomas, not degrees, and usually have lower entry requirements and courses in more vocational subjects) Between 16 and 18 we study a small number of subjects compared to pre-16, usually only 3-4, with the idea that they will lead into the degree/college course that we desire.

    One of my classes was Art. I was theoretically a science and computer geek, but I'd loved doing 'design' at the age 16 exams and did very well at it (it was the hands on making stuff as opposed to painting.drawing stuff course), however my school only offered Art at the age 18 exams, so I was encouraged into that instead. In my class was a girl who was absolutely amazing at doing pen and ink cartoon and caricature drawings. She had praise heaped upon her by our rather over-awed teachers, but no-one would ever suggest that she might want to expand beyond her very limited sphere, even though it might have helped to improve her as an artist. With that very limited, but excellent portfolio she was accepted into the best art school in the UK straight out of school – this was practically unheard of, as you generally had to do a foundation year at college first to, funnily enough, embrace a whole range of artistic endeavours to find your speciality. She dropped out less than a year into the course because all of a sudden people had started to properly critique her and suggest improvements to her work. As far as I can tell she hasn't worked in art since.

    I suppose there are several takeaways here – 1. You are never too good at something that someone can't offer suggestions for improvement, and 2. If you build someone up to believe they're brilliant and then encourage them into an arena with competition, they may end up coming to earth with a very large thump if someone then bursts that bubble, even with constructive criticism.

    Of course saying all that, I'm rather guilty of the whole 'how fab' thing at times, although I did help Kerry (comment #4) ;o)

  13. Your Truth Tea posts always get me thinking… I do my best to give honest feedback when directly asked, but I find myself more and more giving encouragement when I feel like that's what the blogger is looking for with a self-deprecating commentary. I like the supportive and encouraging aspect of the on-line quilt world and I fully embrace the idea of "Make what makes you happy"….even if it's not à la mode. And that's my truth! 🙂

  14. I really enjoyed this post! I really try to be very honest in giving my opinion without hurting. If something is so-so I try to find something positive to say without lying.
    I am so glad I found your blog, I am looking forward to reading more about you and your quilts!

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