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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New Jewelry Listings and a Few Words About Copying and Stealing Ideas

The following is an excerpt from a forum I like to frequent. The discussion was about the subject of “stealing ideas”. The talk is mostly about bead-making because the forum is mostly for bead-makers. But I think jewelry makers would also find this interesting. This excerpt is going onto the SRAJD Resources page (for easy finding).

So here’s what one person has to say on the subject and I was so impressed I asked her if I could share her words with you:

Since the thread is several years old, I'd be interested to hear how people's thinking has changed about copying / inspiration as they have more years experience making beads? I find that my own feelings about the copying / inspiration subject have continued to evolve, the longer I am involved with glass.

The first year or three that I was making beads, I was uber sensitive about being careful not to copy, or even be too inspired by other people's beads. I stopped looking at beads on the internet, because I didn't want to be even subliminally tempted to copy someone else's ideas. And I sure didn't want to be accused of it publicly! (My father always said I was too sensitive to be an artist.... and he may have been right)

After I'd been making beads for a good six plus years, I realized that what I had thought of as "copying", say, seeing a rosebud bead and making a similar style rosebud - on purpose, to see if I could figure out how it was done - isn't copying, it's inspiration - an idea or visual calling me to try new things.

In the process, you bet I learned a bunch, and it was no threat to the person whose beads had inspired me - even if I had put the bead(s) up for sale. (although making beads has always been higher on my priority list than selling them!) Making a rosebud bead that looks like an actual rosebud isn't anyone's intellectual property (except perhaps Mother Nature). How it's done is a technique, but if I sat down to figure it out, how is that different than the person's whose bead inspired me in the first place? (For the record: I never did get the hang of making decent rosebuds. So all the floral artists out there can breathe a sigh of relief.)

And now, a dozen years into beadmaking, I finally feel comfortable admitting that I think the whole copying issue has taken up entirely too much of our energy, passion, and time which could have been a whole lot more productive spent behind the torch. I can only think of maybe a half dozen times when I felt that intellectual property (a completely unique bead design developed over time by one person) was truly "stolen", causing them to potentially lose income and the rights to that design.

Of course, none of those times was it my design, and I know that the suspicion that you've been copied is like a sucker punch to the gut, so I'm not trying to minimize the anguish that others have felt when they think they've been copied. It's real, just sometimes I think we spend so much energy on it, it gives the impression that it's happening much more often than it actually is.

For me, the copying issue is not about the finished product, regardless of how closely it resembles what is being called the original. It is about the intention of someone to attempt to recreate a design specifically to benefit from it - either in sales or taking credit for it. I think we lose sight of this when someone starts a thread in the bathroom hinting that someone has copied their design. People weigh in on the similarities between the original and the alleged copy, completely bypassing something that no one can say for sure: Was this an intentional act of copying someone's design in order to profit or claim ownership? That is not something that can usually be determined with any degree of certainty, and a public discussion of it is usually more harmful to the community than helpful.

In my experience, especially as a teacher of beginning beadmaking, beadmakers who are fairly new to the craft are so excited by all the new thoughts and ideas which pop into their heads as they obsess over their new found addiction that they mistake an idea (or even design) which is new to them for being something that is new in the world of glass. (If I had a dollar for every time I heard a new beadmaker say, "I've never seen this done before...." !) As many have said before - there's very little that's new under the sun. So I think the copying issue is probably a much bigger deal to those who are just starting out in beadmaking. But, I'd like to hear from others who've been in it a while, if they think that is true?

So, for those of you who've been around as long - or longer - than this thread, have your thoughts about copying changed over time? How do those of you who are relatively new feel about it? This is always an interesting discussion!!

Ann “Schermo” Baldwin (visit her website… rockin’ beads!)

Now to completely change the subject, here are a few of my new jewelry listings.

Some more stacker bracelets… these very affordable pieces are made with sterling silver and the teeniest tiniest lampwork beads I’ve ever seen.

Then I added two to my Artifact Line (jewelry inspired by ancient creations).

This next bracelet is one of those “notice me” pieces that I love to make. I just wild for bold, bright colors.


  1. The copying debate is a really tricky one. I think there is a fine line sometimes between taking inspiration, learning techniques and outright copying. When I started out I agonised about it if I found something similar to my designs somewhere, worried I'd be accused of copying though I'd come up with the idea myself.
    Now I use polymer clay and there are so many techniques that are often learned by looking at other people's work. I've learned so much that way but don't consider myself to be copying - I'm happy to pass techniques on to anyone less experienced, and wouldn't think they were copying by using those techniques to make things to sell. Copying an item of jewellery bead by bead is something different and, I believe, truly unacceptable. I have made beads according to instructions in a book but wouldn't make up the necklace/earrings/bracelet pictured if I planned to sell it.
    It's a debate that will go on and on I'm sure - one that brings out strong feelings.

  2. First, I love the new bracelets! The top one with the teeny little lampwork beads is by far my fav.

    If you look at the recent issue of a big name retail company (I won't say who) copying an artist on Etsy to sell in their retail stores, that is an example where copying is not okay and directly hurts the person whose idea was stolen. Creative theft is a problem, but not from other artists. Art is an organic industry where we ebb and flow with the change in tastes and ideas. The only way individual artisans keep up with the trends is by gaining inspiration from those whose work is most popular at the time.

    However, they should take it only as inspiration and "make it their own" by interpreting it through their own style. Also to copy someone outright and sale it is considered theft under the copyright laws. It just that artists rarely go after other artists for copying because there is little to be gained from it financially. And being known as the little artist that goes after their collegues for very little incident of copying can ruin their reputation in the art world.

    I do think that big name companies should know better, considering when you post something to Etsy or Artfire it is automatically protected under copyright laws. If they wanted to use an artisan's product in their shops they should have asked or brought them in on production. Don't steal then have some sweat shop in Asia stamp out thousands of rip-offs. And artisans should be aware that copying mass-produced things and putting it up for sale is still copying as well. If memory serves me correct, under the law at least three details must be noticeably different in order for it NOT to be considered theft of someone else's original idea.

    Sorry for the long post, but I feel very strongly about the issue of copyright and creative theft. Though I also feel that if every little instance of copying where prosecuted, the evolution of art as a whole would cease.