So What is Original?

In the land of Etsy originality is a coveted if not abstract quality to have. Catch phrases like OOAK (one of a kind) and "I took the handmade pledge" are stated often with pride. At our last team meeting we pondered the idea of originality and the dread problem of copyright infringement. (*Note: This post is only covering issues about handmade items)

Here is what Etsy has to say about copyrights: "Your content and your use of Etsy shall not: Infringe upon any third-party's copyright, patent, trademark, trade secret or other proprietary or intellectual property rights or rights of publicity or privacy (see also, Etsy's Copyright and Intellectual Property Policy)"

So what does this mean? Where do we draw the line? In my philosophy there is nothing truly original anymore, but out and out misuse is obvious. Below are some questionable examples from Etsy. Although they are in fact handmade, and many times well made, they are skirting that line of infringement:

The picture above is from Craftsquatch. He has been featured on Etsy and several other online publications. His work is handmade with love. His icons are...well...completely stolen...and nowhere in his profile does it say with permission. These icons were made by a designer somewhere who is not getting paid for their use on Craftsquatch's pillows. Mmmm...

The next item is from Simplybitten. In her store banner and descriptions, she makes it known that her work is inspired by Twilight. A smart idea, as inspiration can't really be owned. She does use copyrighted characters names, but uses them in her own designs as fan art and gives props to Stephanie Meyer with each item. Her Got Twilight? decal, however, could be infringing on two different enterprises....

So how can you be safe? Here are some simple guidelines:
  1. Give credit where credit is due.
  2. Take inspiration, but not exact patterns, logos or photos. Make a 25% change to the item/image to keep yourself in the clear.
  3. Don't assume that something is such a huge phenomenon that it is automatically public property.
  4. If you knit/crochet and sew from a pattern say so. Be careful though! Many patterns from magazines have a disclaimer that they are for personal use and not for you to sell with or without credit.
  5. Research like items out there in Etsy-land and see how you can tweak them to make them more distinctly yours.
P.S. I would love to keep this dialogue going, so comment your ideas and knowledge. I am also not saying that I don't break the rules sometimes....unintentionally.
P.P.S My Our Lady of Vogue wall piece...


Craftivism for Haiti

I have never been to Haiti, but I have a special place for Haiti in my heart. During my time in art school I took a Folk Art History course where I saw images of Haitian Vodou art for the first time. The gorgeous altars dedicated to various orisha, the sequin encrusted flags moving in the wind and the lovingly wrapped medicine objects I saw in those slides influenced my future work deeply. This summer I was able to see examples in person, in Washington DC at the Museum of African Art. It was a truly magical experience. To see work from the poorest country in the west so rich with spiritual devotion and power, surpassed visits to the Louvre and the Met.

Through January 31th 25% of my sales on Etsy will go to aid relief in Haiti. On the ROC Etsy Street Team blog I have posted ways that the Etsy community can help, here. Please keep Haiti in your thoughts in their time of need.


Tea Cup Candles

Happy Monday everyone! Let's have a little upcycling fun. I'm a sucker for thrift stores, flea markets and estate sales and one of the things I love to hunt for are cups. From souvenir shot glasses to silly mugs I've gathered a wide collection, so now what to do...

Option #1: The Tea Cup Candle

Materials you'll need:
  • a variety of tea cups, mugs, martini glasses, whatever...
  • microwaveable soywax
  • a large microwavable plastic mixing bowl, preferably with a spout
  • a variety of candle wicks with metal bases
  • a small pin or needle
  • scented oils and food coloring (optional)
  1. Clean and dry all of your cups. Who knows where, or who they used to live with.
  2. Check the heights of your wicks to the cups. You'll want to use a wick that peaks slightly above the lip line of your cup.
  3. Glue the metal base of the wick to the bottom of the cup. I use E-6000 glue for a solid hold.
  4. Empty soywax into the mixing bowl and heat for 2 minutes or until completely melted.
  5. Pour the melted soywax into your cup slowly, leaving about 1/4 " of space from the lip.
  6. Place a flat support, this could be a butter knife or a chopstick, over the top of the cup to support the wax from bending or slanting to one side.
  7. Use a needle to poke a few small holes into the wax while it cools re-hardens. This allows bubbles to escape and keep the surface of the wax smooth.
  8. (Optional) While the soywax is still melted in the mixing bowl, add a couple drops of scented oil and food coloring and mix.

These candles make awesome gifts, especially for Valentines Day when you want a little sumpthin'-sumpthin' lighting. There are as many styles to choose from as you are willing to rummage for. I've found great 1960's, mod coffee mugs for $.50 and fine bone china cups for up to $7.00.

** I recommend using soywax in this tutorial although paraffin is also okay. They pro's of soy are that it is vegan, burns slower and cleaner than paraffin and burns completely. It's super easy to clean it out of the cups with some soap and water when your done so they can go to other uses.**


Learn Something New This Year!

Happy first Monday of 2010! My courses for the Weaving and Fiber Arts Center are finalized, but I am still searching for a few more students so they can run. If you're interested in learning a new technique for your personal work or your Etsy shop check out classes being offered by myself and others here.

I put up this display case with my bio, course descriptions, and examples at Village Gate, 302 North Goodman StreetRochester, NY 14607, right across from the entrance to Salena's Mexican Restaurant. Check it out and tell a friend!