I have debated writing this article (with myself) for several months now. I’ve quietly read from the sidelines several heated conversations and many points of difference through the comments. And just to assure you all that I have a bit of skin in the game, I have also had a recent copycat lift my work to claim as their own. This is why I’ve taken so long to put pen to paper as I needed to distance myself from my own situation to see if I might find some perspective. At least from a legal standpoint.
So you might wonder about my title for this article. The word integrity is what comes up most in these debates because frankly, and sadly, that is really all us original artists can claim. Unless you’ve gone through the process of copyrighting your work with the USPTO (US Patent & Trademark Office). A rather lengthy process I can assure you. I actually have trademarked several things for my professional job. You work with specially trained trademark lawyers who counsel you on rights to ‘own’ products, services and names within a category and the ability for that copyright to win in a court of law (with limited risk of infringement – it is all about having a manageable level risk for lawyers). You will file paperwork to the USPTO for their review, and you wait. And wait, for their approval to your submission. How many artists go through this process? I feel pretty confident in saying none of us.
I did find a write up from Beadwork by Paula S. Morgan called “Ethics and Copyright for Beaders.” Paula identifies a simplified process of registering your work with USCO (US Copyright Office) with a form and payment of $20. While this seems much more attainable for the independent artisan (vs. hiring a trademark lawyer), it still adds up to an expense to copyright each design in your shop.
While going through one of the above ‘proper’ processes to obtain copyright is unlikely for most of us, there is another route to take called the DMCA (Digital Millennial Copyright Act). Anyone heard of this one? This ruling came about in 1998 with the rise of the internet. It originally was meant to protect against piracy of production or dissemination of technology, devices or services across the internet. But it has also become a way to protect copyright for original work such as video content, music, or frankly the independent artist’s work.
Let me explain. The DMCA was hugely popularized by YouTube (or shall I say it’s parent company Google). When a user would upload content they did not have a right to, the DCMA could be used as the legal ‘stick’ to get it pulled down immediately. Here is an example; let’s say that I loved the most recent episode of Saturday Night Live on NBC and I proceed to record and upload it to YouTube. NBC notices that I have uploaded their original content and contacts YouTube and enforces the DMCA, and YouTube immediately pulls it down. Yes, this happens often. In fact, this is a regular mode of operation for YouTube. They claim that there is too much uploaded content for them to possibly police. And so it is the responsibility of the content ‘owner’ to find it and enforce a DMCA removal.
You might wonder what that has to do with any of us. Again, let me explain. Not only have I been the one infringed upon, I have also been someone who has infringed. Not by malice, just not realizing that my actions had done so. I am attempting to see this argument from both sides, and so I am being honest with you all. Last year I painted a picture of an iconic bridge in my hometown. Since I no longer live there I googled the bridge, and got several images to use as inspiration. I included my ‘mood board’ along with content URL source on my blog post. But this was still not enough. One of my pictures was noticed by the local photographer who took the picture, and they contacted Blogger (also owned by Google). Blogger sided with the photographer (the original artist) and pulled my blog down. Extreme? I cannot begin to explain the mixed emotions I had when this happened. Why would anyone go to such extreme measures when all they would need to do is contact me and I would have pulled it down voluntarily.
Ever wonder why a pin you’ve put up on Pinterest gets pulled down and you simply get a notice that ‘your pin has been removed’? This is again the DMCA. This process has become the default process for the independent artist to swiftly protect what they believe to be their copyrighted material, legally. But notice there is no review, no lawyers, no say from the so called offending party. It is a one sided process in favor of the ‘claimed’ content owner.
Now that leads me to my point. Yes, I have buried the lead in my story. My point would be using ethics, integrity and just some plain ole good manners and common sense. Most of us (not all) simply want the recognition for the original design. I have seen many people give credit to a book author, a fellow designer, a magazine, or your inspiration (Pinterest, a photographer, a well-known artist). When someone gives credit to their inspiration they are attempting to do the right ethical thing.
As for the artist, once you post your piece aren’t you simply trying to grow awareness of your work? Once you’ve shared it, isn’t it out there for people to view, comment, give praise and potentially share? In many cases I have read comments where the original artist says, if only they had contacted me and given me credit as the original inspiration. Isn’t that just polite? Again, the word integrity comes up.
Well, wait … yes, and no. Certainly not, if that means that your work is getting ripped off (in your opinion), and the copycat is commercially profiting from your work.
Antiquity Travelers Leather and Pearl bracelet
Let me tell you my second story. And you be the judge of what was legal, vs. simply ethical. I created what I believe is an original design. I was using a large, bar fabric crimp to hold several pieces of deerskin leather together. While it looks like a solid piece of leather, it actually is strips that I can then bead stringing into, or attach charms to the ends. I created this design 2 years ago where it was first published in Jewelry Stringing Spring 2013. And recently a second time in Interweave’s Best of Leather Jewelry. And I continued to use derivatives of this design in other ways, such as leather strips and pearl charms with a bar connector in earrings, which I published on my blog 18 months ago. I recently (2 months ago) saw another designer use this exact technique. Not only did she use it but she published it; in a book. And she is now creating kits and teaching this technique. Pretty bold, right?
Antiquity Travelers Leather and Pearls Earrings
So I ask you. Do I legally have any rights here? I bought all the materials at a bead store, so there were no original molds used, custom tools or special dying techniques. Do I contact her and ask her stop commercially profiting from my original design? Legally, I have no rights. I did not copyright this design. I could try to claim it as my original design because I was the first to publish it. So here is one more legal twist to throw out; it is called ‘squatters rights.’ I could go to court and prove that I designed this first before she did, and that she used my designs for profit. I can claim that she saw mine as I have the comments on both my article and my later earring design on my blog posts. But honestly, that is a lot of effort and time I simply do not have. I have a day job. Not to mention the cost of a lawyer for a case I might, but very likely would not win.
No, this comes down to integrity. Beadland is small, and news travels fast for those of us who break the code of ethics against another artist. We are a small group of independent artisans just trying to figure out how to grow our own businesses. Many artists have each other’s back, and many would ruthlessly hunt down someone trying to pull a fast one on another artisan in our midst. Not that this is the solution. (Please see our follow up at the bottom of this article)
There is a post of “Beaders’ Ethics” on the Bead&Button site that pretty clearly lists several of the violations I’ve mentioned in my example. What exactly would, or could have made my situation better? If only she had asked me, and given me credit for the original design. Yes, some simple common sense and integrity is what I’m asking.
One last note. If your designs are showing up in other people’s work, it could be that other artists are finding it intriguing and want to try their hand at emulating your style. It could be seen as a compliment. However, what do you do when they start to not only copy you, but start selling work that looks like your’s? I suppose we all have different places where we draw the line in the sand. For me, that is commercially profiting from someone else’s designs. Another great article on this topic is from Mary J. Tafoya of Fire Mountain Gems called “Ethics in Beadland,” which ran in the Oct/Nov issue of Beadwork Magazine. This is an excellent article which includes a worldwide survey Mary did with beaders and their interpretations of what they believe to be ethical when it comes to independent artisan jewelry designs. The answer to the question is not always easy, but seems to always come down to a matter of integrity.
What is your interpretation of beading ethics. How do you keep yourself in check and continue to “do the right thing?” I think this is food for thought for each of us as we learn from our beading community and share our newest endeavors.
It comes back to our Creative Bead Chat first rule.
Treat others as you would like to be treated.
This article covers the topic of copyright, but many of you have brought up some disturbing behavior that comes with this discussion: bullying and ‘mob mentality.’ While this behavior does occur across beadland, we at CBC do not tolerate it. We realize that there is more to say & are exploring a follow up article to address this further issue. We appreciate all the comments and welcome you to post links to other articles that correlate to this topic. We plan to add a link section to those articles. Thanks!
Cynthia Machata & Melinda Orr
I recently reviewed Michelle Mach’s new book, Unusual Findings, in the latest issue of Bead Chat Magazine. I did really enjoy the designs and challenge to my own, sometimes conventional opinions about how findings ‘should’ be used.
I decided to see if Michelle might be up for a few questions so that we could all learn a bit more about what inspired her book, and why findings exactly? So of course I jumped right to it asking her ‘why a book on findings?’
“I’ve always been fascinated by findings,” Michelle tells me. “As an editor I saw over and over how the wrong clasp could torpedo a strong design and a fabulous one could elevate a ho-hum one. Findings have tremendous power, but they don’t always get the same attention from designs as beads and pendants do.” That certainly spoke to me immediately. I am an admitted hoarder, and yes I do have a rather large stash of very pretty findings of which my most prized are my box slide clasps. I can’t bear to have them end up at the back of the neck … and so they sit.
Poet Laureate: shown in Unexpected Findings uses jump rings to attach two metal components and head pins to wire wrap pearls to the center of brass flowers. It also shows how you can take one finding (such as a filigree link or connector) and by bending it, you create a different finding (such as a pendant bail).
But then Michelle said something that really got me thinking. “It always surprises me when I ask designers about a finding that doesn’t quite fit the piece and they’ll say that they used it because they had it lying around. It’s admirable to want to use up materials your stash, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into a strong design.”
Ok, raise your hand. Who’s done this exact thing? I know I have, and actually my worst offense is earwires. I have a thing about making earrings. It isn’t so much designing the first earring; it is copying the second that I truly hate. I know hate is a strong word, but I like to design … not copy. And I inevitably don’t quite match it up to exactly the same wire wrap look, or length. So by the time I reach for the earwires I am truly quite done with the pattern. And thus, my snap decision of their design being close enough. For some great inspiration on earwires, Melinda Orr just did a great article on why you should consider designing your own. Perhaps I should start with creating the findings first for a change!
Silver Linings: shown in Unexpected Findings uses bead caps to form umbrella charms. I’ve attached them to the clouds with spring-ring clasps, making it possible for you to change out the umbrella charms on a whim.
Alright, so now we know why Michelle decided to write about findings, but why a whole book on the topic? Michelle writes for a broad array of magazines, why not just an article? “I’ve been publishing my designs in jewelry magazines since 2007. Many magazines have specific themes and color palettes which challenge my creativity. They also let me explore new techniques or experiment with new types of beads. In contrast, writing a book gives you a chance to take one topic and delve deeply into it. There are so many more findings on the market than there were five years ago that it seemed the perfect time to research them. Plus, I’ve learned a lot about jewelry making over the years that I wanted to share with a wider audience.”
I asked Michelle about her inspiration, and mention a quote from her book where she notes making earrings with ring shanks. Ring shanks? I confessed to her the thought would never have crossed my mind. But Michelle seems to be one of those truly inspired designers who look at the world and the possibility of how she can create from what is simply sitting there in front of her.
“I believe that inspiration is everywhere. Sometimes I’ll be inspired by a specific bead or finding; other times inspiration will come from an outside source such as vibrant pillow at a home decor store. I especially like creating jewelry based on a book I’ve recently read or a movie I’ve seen. In many areas of my life, I look at objects (burnt out light bulbs, empty thread spools) and ask, how else could I use this? So it’s only natural that I do the same thing with jewelry findings.”
Reveille: featuring copper cones as dangles first published in Stringing Winter 2007. This was one of my first publications, and I mention it in the introduction to my book, Unexpected Findings.
Ok so let’s ask the obvious question, aren’t findings a more expensive route to go when thinking about materials for designs? “For the book, I did a lot of sketching to try out different ways to use findings. I wanted to use findings that were common and easy to find, but I also wanted to keep a budget in mind. It would have been easy to make elaborate designs using findings — such as a necklace chain made entirely of pendant bails — but it’s just not practical for most designers to buy 100 bails at $5 each to make a necklace. When I was writing the book proposal, I looked at individual findings and brainstormed as many ideas for each one that I could. When I had 100 ideas, I thought that I had enough to approach a publisher.” And that is what you will find in her book is a plethora of ideas to jump start your creative juices when trying to push your own design inspiration.
In my mind at this point I am imagining Michelle’s studio to look a bit like a ‘tinkerer’s workshop’ with bits and pieces tucked away in every crevice. And so I ask her ‘true confessions, what does your bead table look like?’
“I have an old kitchen table in the basement where I do some of my work. It’s usually cluttered and I often find myself working on a tiny corner that I’ve cleared off. It’s hard to get everything put away completely because just looking at my beads and findings gives me new ideas that I want to try immediately. I also do some design work on the sofa in front of the TV. It’s comfortable, but it does mean that I’m constantly pulling jump rings out of the cushions! I try to keep that area of the house cleaner than the basement, but if I’m on a deadline, all bets are off!”
At this point, I’m really starting to get a sense that I would love to spend an afternoon beading with Michelle. With all her jump rings in her cushions, and my rainbow of dropped beads in mine I think we could mix it up pretty famously.
Michelle also gave a shout out to a charity that she donates beads to, “I periodically clear out some of my old beads and send them to the Denver Refugee Women’s Craft Initiative”
Breathe: an example of jewelry that showcases my love of words. Appeared in Creative Jewelry 2011.
My next burning question was to ask how Michelle chose her selected designers in her book. It is always a mystery to me how to ‘get connected’ and be one of those people that publishers reach out to. “I spent a lot of time online finding potential designers. I looked for ones that I thought could be innovative, work within specific guidelines (limited techniques, specific materials), meet short deadlines, write clear instructions, and take constructive criticism and make revisions to their projects if necessary. It was a pretty tall order and I was thrilled with how they all met the challenge. I wanted the designers to have a strong sense of their own style, but at the same time, I wanted a collection of projects that meshed well together. The publisher had suggestions for designers, too, so it was definitely a collaborative process to make the final list.”
When I asked Michelle if there are places she visits to recharge her inspiration; she simply said “there are too many to count!” But then went on to say, “I belong to a bunch of groups on Facebook such as B’Sue Boutiques Creative Group and Creative Bead Chat, so I always have a good flow of creative designs to admire in my feed. I’m editing a wire jewelry book right now that I find very inspiring. The designer’s doing things with wire I’ve never seen before.” She couldn’t tell us anything more about the book, only to look for it in 2015.
One last question before I finished up my interview. I took a peek at Michelle’s Etsy site to see what her pervasive style was, and not surprisingly words were an important design element. Yep, words. Clearly writing and expressing yourself through words is pretty important to Michelle. “I’ve always loved to write and considered myself a writer long before I discovered jewelry design. (I’ve had essays and other short pieces published in more than a dozen anthologies.) Words have a lot of power. I gravitate towards bead artists such as Heather Wynn, Diane Hawkey, and Erin Prais-Hintz who use words on their bead and pendant designs. Even if I don’t show words in my designs, my best ones tell some kind of story. I’m like many designers in that while I may experiment a lot, at the end of the day, I always circle back to making the kind of jewelry that I myself would wear.”
Well said Michelle, well said. Make jewelry that you, yourself would love to wear. The rest will fall into place.
It is that time of year when the bead community gathers just outside of Philadelphia to shop, to sell, to take classes and of course meet up with other like-minded bead people. The Artisans among us spend months creating components, preparing booths and laying out game plans for the biggest single weekend of the year.
But what happens once we’re all there?
Well, beyond the obvious SHOPPING, there is a whole lot of laughter and camaraderie. At least from what we saw with the Creative Bead Chat crowd. On Friday night friends head out to a nice dinner over at Legal Seafoods restaurant in the King of Prussia Mall. This year we had just shy of 30 people, many of the faces around the room are familiar ones showing up regularly on the CBC Facebook page sharing their talents.
You’ll notice Heather Powers, Anne Gardanne & Karen Totten, Diane Hawkey, Linda Younkman, Diana Ptaszynski, Lorelei Eurto and Amanda Leonhart around the room early in the evening before it got a little loud. When you get that many bead ladies (and a few guys) in a room who haven’t seen each other for quite awhile the volume just tends to turn up.
Diana always gets things riled up and this year was no different!
The next big event is late in the day on Saturday when Diana hosts her annual Artisan Bead Swap. There is always lots of eye candy getting passed around the table as everyone mixes up their beads and picks someone else’s gift.
Hey Kristen! You were supposed to be smiling for the camera. Absolutel no texting while photo taking, if Diana saw, you would have been in BIG trouble! haha!
Around 4 in the afternoon most of us start to feel what we call the “Bead Haze.” It’s that look you get after wandering through football fields of booths full of beads, and fiber, and metals and well pretty much anything you can imagine. But by the time Diana’s swap kicks into swing, you see these ladies catch their second wind and the laughter sets in; as you can see by the multiple takes needed to get everyone organized for a group picture.
Back at the hotel where we have a block of rooms for the Creative Bead Chat group, Melinda Orr throws a causal get together with wine, snacks and another round of gift swapping. This one tends to go well into the wee hours of the night, but we’ll leave the details to tell by those who joined us.
A fun time had by all! Do you have some great photos from Bead Fest or have you blogged about it? Please add your image below or comment with your blog post and we’ll get them added!
I’ve had a few requests for a tutorial on a cuff I created last summer. I call it my Biker Cuff, and I’ve made it a couple of times now. This is actually a very easy cuff to make, which I stumbled across as I was sifting through some sewing supplies.
A while back I bought some pillow trim along with some fabric for pillows. I never got around to making those pillows, but when I pulled out the cord I thought it would be great for a bracelet. I was in the middle of doing a peyote stitch band and matched it up against the cord. I did really like the way it looked.
I had to laugh when I posted the cuff and I got comments about how talented I was to embroider the trim on this cuff. Ok .. and now the truth. I bought the trim cord at the fabric store. It comes on large flat spools; just take a trip over to Joanne’s Fabrics or your local fabric store and ask for trim. You’ll find a wall of colors to play with. I actually bought my in the remnant bin (aka the end of the spool that is hard to sell because a yard or 2 ins’t enough for a seamstress). I think I paid $1.50 a yard.
STEP 1: To begin this project start with a band. I give it an extra inch or so beyond the desired length because I’m going to turn the ends around the band. I prefer to use a bead band. I have made it in Peyote and RAW (right angle weave), but you could use any stitch you like. And for that matter, any material you want. It is all about stitching the trim along the sides of the band. Next I iron my trim as it will help ensure it is straight as I stitch the bead band into place.
STEP 2: I begin stitching the bead band into the trim. You can see that I slide the needle through the beads and then secure it to the trim. I use fireline and a beading needle for almost everything. Whatever you use, just make sure you can get it through your beads. I sew it back and forth through the trim material right up next to the cord grabbing a bead with each stitch. I sew it all the way down one side of the band, then back down the other side.
STEP 3: Flip the band over, and use a baste stitch to secure the two ends of the inside trim together. This will be on the inside of the band, so no fancy stitch is needed, just something that will hold the ends together.
STEP 4: Fold the end of the band over by a half inch and stitch it into place. I will stitch back and forth across the end a few times just to make sure that everything is secure and won’t fray. If you prefer you can add fabric glue to deal with the fraying, but still you want to secure it flat. Be sure to leave some room so you can slide your closure through the loop you’ll now have at the end of the cuff band.
STEP 5: I have used many materials for closures. Everything from hemp, to suede or leather to hammered silver. Sky’s the limit … get creative. I’ll include a few alternate versions, but let’s walk through this one with suede. I cut about 3 inches, and slipped one end through the end of the band. Since this is going to be a double button closure, I connected the suede off to one side. I will reverse that on the other side. Suede can be a little tricky to get a beading needle through, but it can be done as you see here. Take your time, and make sure the needle goes in the middle as it will split your suede if you get too close to the side. If the material is really giving you trouble I will grab bent-nose pliers to get in there and guide the needle, and pull it through. But again, go slowly as I can tell you from experience it is very easy to snap a beading needle!
STEP 6: After you’ve repeated step 5 to make the second loop (or you can make it a single loop) you’ll want to add your button. Just decide where and secure it on to the top of the band. I usually do a single knot off to the side and then slide my thread through my beads to the middle of the band where I want the button.
ALTERNATIVE CLOSURES: Ok, this is the fun part. How you do your closure gives your cuff a ‘punctuation’ on your style. For the purple cuff closure I use a hammered silver hook that I created myself. It is rustic, and thick as I wanted it to be a bit sturdy for the cuff. The shape is sort of like a hanger that I slipped through the end of the band and then bent the wire up around the end. For the hook I dug in my sewing box and found a spare sweater hook & eye closure (came as a spare for a sweater I bought). The sweater hook has a wire in it, so I was able to bend the shape.
You could also include a hook closure out of hammer silver. While the blue cuff doesn’t have the trim on it, I included it to show another variation on a hammered silver closure.
The Tan Biker Cuff I decided to include a crimp on the end. I confess that I did try to add the crimp to the beads themselves and busted many beads in the process. I know it can be done, but I just didn’t seem to be able to figure it out! What I did instead was to stitch a little flat suede to the end and then add the crimp. For a little embellishment I included a tiny peyote band in dark brown. As you can see … there are endless variations to this cuff for trims, colors, bead stitches and closures. Get creative, and give it a try!
You can find me on my Antiquity Traveler sites: my shop on Etsy, my blog, my Pinterest boards, my twitter feed, my Facebook page, my Polyvore sets or my flickr photostream. or leave me a message on my AW page.
This is a quick demonstration on how to do a double wire wrap. I used a large stone (African Opal) and 22 gauge wire so hopefully the steps are easy to see.
Step 1: Thread the wire through the top drill hole and leave an equal amount of wire on either side – about an inch to an inch & a half. Pinch the wire together at the top of the stone to create a little triangle with the wire, and so that it lays flat along the top of the stone.
Step 2: To create the loop, wrap both wires side-by-side around the round-nose pliers. I like to hold the pliers flat so I can make sure I make the loop tightly across the top, and so I can ensure the wires are side-by-side (not doubled up on each other).
Step 3: I use my flat pliers to pull the wire around and create the wrap. Start with one of the wires so that they are opposite each other. This will help to ensure you’re alternating the wrap evenly. Watch the wire wrap to make sure that they wrap tightly.
Step 4: Pull the opposite wire around and tuck it right up next to the other. Ensure the wire is side-by-side on the wrap so you create a flat, even wrap vs. clumping on top of one another. Again watching to make sure that it stacks right beneath the other wire and creates a smooth wrap. Continue this process for 3-4 more times (to the desired size and shape you want with your wrap). I usually use a second pair of flat nose pliers at this point. One pair to hold the loop steady (bent nose pliers will leave room to wrap without letting go), and a second for pulling the wire around. Some people actually just hold the stone as they wrap. Either is fine as long as you work tightly with the wire for an even wrap.
Note: Some people prefer to continue wrapping all the way down the stone to cover up the threading, so if that is the case then add a little extra length to the wire back in step 2. I will show a few examples at the end of various wrapping styles.
Step 5: Once you’ve finished wrapping, again keep the wires opposite each other and cut the ends. This way you can tuck each end up against the bottom of the wrap for a more level base.
Step 6: Tuck the last of the wire up to the base of the wrap and smooth/ adjust the wire for any places where it might look a little out of line.
Below I’ve included a few examples of various wraps using the same stone, but for different projects. The earrings (upper right) use the same wrapping technique shown in this tutorial. The wrap comes just down to the top of the stone.
Note the second pair of earrings (lower right) wrap down over the top of the stone and pull the wire back up across the wrap itself. This is a popular finish to a wrap. All you do is pull it up over the wrap and then just pull the wire around the first wire in the top of the wrap. Some people also like to create a little swirl and leave it at the bottom of the wrap. Get creative and try different styles.
The necklace is a wrap that covers the top of the stone, and pulls the wire up through another bead finishing yet a second wrap and loop to hang from the necklace. Once you’ve got the basics to wrapping you can try it so many different ways to create your own style.
You can find me on my Antiquity Traveler sites: my shop on Etsy, my blog, my Pinterest boards, my twitter feed, my Facebook page, my Polyvore sets or my flickr photostream. or leave me a message on my AW page