Gently stretching earlobes…and one more piece of a business model.

…and I mean, very gently, stretching earlobes!

Today I was able to find a new set of 14g spirals to put into my piercings, which would be the first earrings I’ve ever gotten at this gauge which are especially meant to be decorative.

I meant to ask about whether I should be concerned that when I went up to 14g after having the 16g in for a few weeks, I was playing with my piercing (sliding it back and forth to lubricate the ring and separate it from the skin) and heard a “pop”…Luckily, there was no oozing, no bleeding, no pain, no infection. Just a sound, and just once.

I was originally pierced at 14g (which is maybe 1.5-2mm wide?) and had gone down to nothing (22g is my finest earwire) and slowly back up to 14g, several times (maybe 4-6 times over something like a decade), so I thought maybe it was safe to accelerate things if my 16g earrings were loose and fine. I didn’t anticipate that my skin or scar itself might get moody and expand and shrink on me (which is what I think it did).

I don’t think I’ll be doing that in the future.

I’ve also experienced the feeling of a hook digging into my piercing from playing with it, as well (as though my fingernail had caught and torn the skin) — but again, no pain after that, no oozing, no bleeding, no infection.

These both happened on the left side. The latter sensation I can attribute to the possibility of a snag on a rough part of the earring (the piercer’s plier marks on the ring: these were the same rings I had been pierced with) — which is why I got new earrings. The former…? Well, I’ve heard that it’s normal for many tiny fractures and microtears to happen when gauging up, and am assuming it is that.

From advice online, I probably should have gone back down to 16g and waited out a healing period, but I didn’t. I’m hoping I’m not going to pay for that with a weak spot in my piercing forevermore (or until I get someone to punch out the surrounding tissue so it can heal correctly).

It’s also possible that my body is working out damage made over years, of trying and failing to find the actual hole in my ear, with my (sharp, largely mass-produced) earwires. I’m fairly certain that there should be some gratuitous scarring, though I can’t remember if I always had trouble finding the piercing on the right side, or the left side…but I’m thinking it was the left.

But today, I made it out to a quality body jewelry/piercing/tattoo place and purchased the tactilely (is that a word?) gorgeous surgical steel spirals I have in, now. Well, actually, M got them for me! They were $22, and I love them. There’s a beauty about them that is missing when someone makes an earring and tacks it onto a cheap, sharp, thin earwire (granted, they’re not all cheap and sharp, only the worst ones are — and I’ve found rare limited options in heavier “wires” [sometimes — as in the case of bronze — these are more likely cast units, not wires] up to 16g, but I think the general jeweling community stops, at that point).

Trying to find information on stretched piercings (and jewelry for such) online has got me thinking about targeting the large-gauge earring market, in between conventional jewelry (22g) and plugs/tunnels (let’s just say 0g/8mm, for now). I’m not sure if I mentioned this too often, before, but I have taken some Jewelry (silversmithing) classes, and I’ve been beading since I was 14 years old, so I’ve been through some minimal ropes where it comes to design, and construction. I also have a much better idea of where I stand as regards Intellectual Property than I used to (technique is no one’s property, unless it’s patented, and it usually isn’t).

I already know where to find heavy-gauge sterling and fine silver wire, and I know how to file and round the ends of wire, in addition to forging, annealing, hardening, pickling, and polishing. I also know where I can learn beginning lapidary, though I wouldn’t be quick to jump on that…powdered rock from sources unknown isn’t the safest thing to deal with, although carving is alluring.

I didn’t end up going into jewelry, because it’s hard to make a good living at being a jeweler, unless one is a Fine Jeweler and dealing with gold (allowing one to drastically raise the price of the finished product, introducing a large profit margin)…and gold extraction is known for being terrible for the environment (unless things have revolutionized within the last 10 years). This is why the group, Ethical Metalsmiths, was formed.

One of the reasons I let my piercings shrink up to wear conventional jewelry is that I had a concern that large-gauge earring options would disappear in the West during my lifetime. But if I fill that gap myself, there really isn’t anything to be concerned about — for myself, at least. And I know that there is a market. When I wear my own jewelry, clients find me. They literally see my jewelry and stop me.

This hasn’t happened with large-gauge earrings (it’s a rather obvious assumption that I can’t blacksmith and that spring-loaded rings are likely specially made), but I know that when I wear what I do have, others with large-gauge piercings, notice — and are especially kind to me! (Well, I’m thinking of one recent person in particular, but I know a lot of people with expanded piercings.)

I’m writing this post because I can see a potential future in this, even though it will take work — a lot of work. But I’ve found a market gap, which is something I didn’t see, before. And crafting earrings is something I knew I would have to do if I did go into jeweling, because there is a much shorter time-frame for execution and thus a lower labor cost than for something like a necklace, bracelet, anklet, etc.

There’s also a lower materials cost, before we get into things like matched cut gems (though…transparent sparklies aren’t really my main aesthetic, anymore…well…fire opals excluded, let’s say!…but those are kind of niche, in themselves).

Those two things together mean that I can sell at a lower cost. That would assist me in reaching my target market (Millennials/Gen X/Gen Y), who in turn will likely be willing to pay more for something they know they can’t find, normally. All of this together means that I have a better chance of a profit margin that is healthy enough to stay alive on…and maybe the possibility of making jewelry that I’m really into (earrings and not)!

If, that is, I can find my market, which likely means targeting tattoo and piercing parlors to sell my work. It will also likely mean remaining urban. And getting down with people I might like…jewelers, lapidarists, customers.

Yes, there is a community aspect of this, though it’s loose. (It’s always good when it’s loose!)

I wonder if I should do some market research? And maybe, if I make some prototypes and/or designs, consult with the place where I bought my jewelry, today?


Playing with color mixing

Last night’s project did inspire me to see what kind of a color gamut I’d be able to produce with gouache (opaque watercolor). I also took note of the fact that colors mixed using the same pigments tend to harmonize.

With that in mind, and also knowing that I didn’t know my gouache well enough to tell how each color related to the next, tonight I just sat down and started painting out and mixing colors (without attempting to do anything like the lightfastness chart I completed last night for my transparent watercolors).

prismatic (rainbow) color mixing chart
I seem to have missed an intense red-violet and yellow-green. Right now I’m wondering what kind of muted colors and chromatic greys I can get out of this prismatic range.

It’s probably immediately apparent that I seem to be interested in cool colors more than warm ones. The above chart was made using seven colors, all Holbein with the exception of Permanent Rose and Intense Blue, which are Winsor & Newton brand:

  1. Permanent Rose
  2. Primary Magenta
  3. Ultramarine Light
  4. Intense Blue
  5. Peacock Blue
  6. Lemon Yellow
  7. Permanent White

Pretty much all the colors in the image are mixed rather heavily with Permanent White, so that the colors can actually be recognized. Both of the brands of paint I used here don’t have white as a filler in the gouache itself (neither does M. Graham & Co.). This is a sign of quality. It also means that the paint often needs to be mixed with white for both opacity, and for the color to be visible: I can see that if I use these often, I will likely need white in a larger quantity.

However, I don’t need it yet.

Peacock Blue is the only paint here which contains more than one pigment in its tube (there is some Phthalo Green mixed in there along with Phthalo Blue), and is also the only paint containing a pigment which isn’t essentially a primary color.

I used three blues, here, because I wanted to see what they would do. Intense Blue is a Phthalo color, while Ultramarine Light is…what it looks like. I wanted to see if I could make clear violets out of it, and the answer is apparently yes.

The Ultramarine I had experience with, prior, was Ultramarine Deep — it makes violets so dark (close to black) that I haven’t made the time to properly dilute them to see their actual character. Ultramarine can come with a green or violet bias. It looked like Ultramarine Deep was a violet-bias paint while Ultramarine Light was a green-bias paint, but the latter still works well for violets (apparently!). It just needs a nice violet-leaning reddish color like Permanent Rose or Primary Magenta.

I tried to mix colors which I thought would be adjacent to each other on the color wheel — so, for instance, I didn’t try mixing violets with Phthalo Blue as a component. Not yet.

Something that did surprise me is that Permanent Rose (top left corner) plus Lemon Yellow make a color extremely similar to Flame Red, even though both Permanent Rose and Lemon Yellow are on the cool side of the color gamut for both red and yellow. Flame Red, however, is a warm, intense red-orange. The mixture I’m referencing is in the lower left corner of the image above, and closer in color to Winsor & Newton’s Flame Red than Holbein’s Flame Red.

Given that…I am wondering if I got Peacock Blue because it was close to cyan, or just because it was pretty…the fact that red can be mixed from magenta + yellow is something I had heard about but not experienced, until now. (I’m talking about the CMYK system of color mixing, where red is not seen as a true primary color because you can get red from magenta + yellow, but you can’t derive magenta from anything we presently know of.)

Alright, I’ve talked enough tonight. I’m kind of itching to get back to my planning journal — I’ve been making notes about the content of future posts without the necessity of actually publishing them, yet. The fact that I had discovered that Web Production could be a full-time job is part of what I mentioned last night…essentially it’s like being an editor, but online.

That would be a really interesting outlet, I think! It involves the generation and development of ideas, content, and — likely, if my instruction in Marketing serves — the questions of relevance to the organization’s goals and user base. This would be in contrast to making the website functional (Web Development), or making it aesthetically pleasing and communicate in a user-friendly manner (Web Design).

I generally shy away from being in charge of things, but I could see myself working in a Web Production capacity, especially if I were passionate about the project…

Fairly wiped out, today.

Starting ~9:30 AM:

I wish I could say that things were better:  I started off today with a headache and nausea. I’m not sure if this is related to being up last night, actually starting a Bullet Journal layout after midnight…it well may be, but right now I wonder if I should go to work. I haven’t eaten anything except a ginger ale…(well, that’s a drink, but). One of the Librarians had a stomach sickness last time I went in, though, so it’s possible I might have picked something up (even if it wasn’t from them). I also might have food poisoning, or a migraine.

At least I now have an idea of what to write, for one half of my homework. This is in relation to UX efficiency. I would try to implement a button which would ask, “Was this helpful?” on catalog result pages. The problem is trying to gauge the duration of a session and trying to ask this question at the exit point of each session, as well as trying to gauge what a user’s information need actually is, as versus what they search for. It would seem that this information would best be gathered with a survey, and that it isn’t a simple one-click measure, however. I’m not sure how best to implement it.

In brighter news, I have three new babies (tiny baby succulents), though I’m not sure how long they will last (I watered one with my hand after drying it on a paper towel, and so I’m hoping I am not going to get mildew in that pot). I got three little soy sauce dishes from Daiso (the Japanese dollar store), and the pots fit right in there!

I’m trying to give them as much light as I can, meaning that the first light of dawn woke me up, earlier. And I realized just how fragile they are, after bumping one of them and having a leaf snap off! >_<;; (At least, the plant seems healthy…)

Writing resumed at 7:45 PM:

I did take photos of these this morning, but have been too wiped out to optimize them for the web, so as of right now, there are photos…but not ones which are ready to show. At this point, I’m fairly certain that what is going on is food poisoning…I have been having trouble regulating my temperature, alternately sweating and feeling cold, with a slight fever. The good thing is that the nausea has faded. I am not sure why I’m the only one who got sick, unless this has to do with the melon I ate, yesterday…

There are three-to-four books I’ve either read deeply into or have looked through, within the last semester, which show how much I could learn and implement about how I run things with my blog and web presence:

  • The non-designer’s design book:  Design and typographic principles for the visual novice (4th ed.) by Williams, R. (2015)
  • Letting go of the words:  Writing web content that works (2nd ed.) by Redish, J. (2014)
  • Graphic design school:  The principles and practice of graphic design (5th ed.) by Dabner, D., Stewart, S. and Zempol, E. (2014)
  • Don’t make me think, revisited:  A common sense approach to web and mobile usability by Krug, S. (2014)

I’m still kind of tired/wiped out, so I’m hoping it’s OK that I didn’t list the publishers or write this up as a style guide would recommend.

It’s also actually fairly amazing, how much my skill at picking out books online, has advanced. I find myself doing things like checking out review sites, multiple library catalogs, bridging through subject headings, reading samples, and taking criticisms of books which seem interesting, into account; in addition to taking into account the other books purchased by a given book’s audience.

And, I’ve been paying attention to how a book sells itself, what audience it is marketing itself to, and why. That is, I don’t necessarily want a self-help book aiming itself toward the market of people desperate to escape writer’s block, because it likely isn’t going to address what I want addressed, and it may be designed to prey on its audience’s vulnerabilities.

I also have called ahead to brick & mortar bookstores to ask if they have the book I want in stock, which probably saved me about three hours (not to mention wasted gas) earlier this week.

I don’t think I could say that I have much of a Web 2.0 presence right now, but it’s very apparent how I could do small tweaks to increase my SEO, for example (if I wanted to). I’m hoping things will get better next semester, as well; I should be introduced to HTML and CSS, then. I hate stressing about grades, too:  it seems so insignificant…but it isn’t, if I want to stay in the program!

I have realized, though, that part of what I’m being introduced to is called, “Design Thinking,” and it’s the same sort of thing I think I would be dealing with if I got a MBA in Design Strategy elsewhere. Except…it’s in Libraries, which has a different ideological slant to it.  I also just heard about Stanford’s “d school,” as well…which, at least, seems very interesting.

I think I’m going to post this and get back to bed…

Getting it together

Last night, I was talking with some people about how things are, or were, going.  I realized that my resistance to doing my homework is likely largely related to the fact that I had been betting on being able to work as a Cataloger, but my Cataloging class is very 19th-century, and my Metadata class, very early-21st-century.  What I am learning from these two classes is along the lines of not knowing what I was getting into…and not particularly knowing where I’m going.  I have also reached some kind of point of what feels like disillusionment with cataloging…at first I was excited, then, not so much.

The upshot is that I still have ample time to switch gears, and the two or more times when I have questioned my path through my MLIS, I’ve done work to plot out alternate courses.  What I am thinking of right now is gaining Information Science skills, but not necessarily going on to work in the Library field, after graduation.  In this case…I can take classes focusing around working with coding and computers, and hope to be able to apply them in applications after Library School which are not necessarily focused around the institution of libraries.

I also mentioned last night that I am looking for additional work experience, but am afraid to leave my job while I’m in the middle of the Master’s program…because it will likely take up at least 20 hours a week of my time, and would require learning a new set of skills at the same time as I would be trying to focus on my classes.  I’ve realized that writing, art, and to some degree, jewelry, are all contract-based (if one is lucky) or freelance positions.  This is what I found after a while of looking through career books.  The publishing field has also been said to be shrinking, due to influence from the ‘net.  (Not to mention that libraries have had to drastically reframe their goals to remain viable, in a post-Web world.)  What I didn’t realize until I talked it out last night, though, is that I can likely start out in freelancing while I’m still working at the Library and working on my Master’s.  The hours of a freelancer are flexible, after all.

One other thing I realized is that the multiple tracks I have out in front of me are things that overlap to a strong degree, though I didn’t realize it earlier.  Right now I’m taking two out of the three uniquely Cataloging-oriented courses which I have access to.  That isn’t bad, especially when a lot of what I had planned to take for Cataloging does also apply to Digital Services, which in turn is just a technology-oriented position dealing with Virtual Libraries, and the like:  which is really what I want to be doing.  Well, that, or helping with the back end data management of a group which deals with art or jewelry.  Then I asked myself what could help me get into a job like that, and I realized:  in absence of a Computer Science degree…this.

I still haven’t re-tried my hand at fiction, and don’t really know if I will be able to keep myself healthy while doing it.  But this blog has enabled me to keep some of my skills at writing nonfiction, and I’ve read that’s where most of the writing jobs are, anyway.

Alright, I’ve got to go, for now…

Crafty business…(half punning)

Well, there are a number of things going on here…I’m trying to decide which to divulge, at the moment.  The trouble with concentration is still going on, though I’m taking it relatively easier on myself than I had been.  Meaning that I got some more work done on that bracelet I mentioned a couple of posts back, though I haven’t taken any photos of it yet; you’re just going to have to trust my word that I worked on it.  🙂

Probably the biggest surprise with that is the amount of impact the picot beads are having.  I mean, right now the color scheme is teal, deep copper-red and a tiny bit of violet.  The moss green beads aren’t really very visible any more because they’re sandwiched between the teal and copper.  These two colors come forward in contrast to the dark green iris beads, which comparatively recede (their colors aren’t as saturated).  I hadn’t intended for the picot edging to be as dominant as it is (it adds a significant amount of width to the bracelet — meaning in this case, two mid-size stripes along the edges), but as I said to M earlier, I’ve realized that I can do this pattern in a whole bunch of different colors.

Right now it’s got a copper theme, but there is also a green and violet one which I want to make (the one I first intended to make in 2011, I think, which I found the sample and instructions for [I made the instructions for my future self, by the way]), and a green and gold one which I can start, at the very least…and I want to make a violet-red one, too.  After that, I can see whether I want to go into oranges and golds.  It depends on the colors that are available this season.  We just came out of (or are coming out of) a trend with matte fluorescent colors, which I’m not really sad to see go, but it may become more difficult to find brightly colored beads (as regards fashion trends in supplied bead colors).

In addition, if I’m using the tiny #1 bugles, I’ll have to use 15º Japanese or 13º Czech seed beads to match, unless I want something that is intentionally not-flat or with larger spaces between the beads.  There’s also the option of using standard-size bugles, though I’m not altogether fond of the ones I’ve seen.  They lend a very directional quality to the beadwork which isn’t my favorite, even in the piece I’m working on, now.  Nor am I a fan of seed beads (including bugles) with hexagonal cross-sections — I think they have too many hard lines, for me.  I’m thinking nebulously about using Twin beads, SuperDuos, or DiamonDuos in stacks which will slant in a particular direction, then joining these somehow and adding edging.

M also stated that she thinks that the design I’m making is unique enough that I don’t have to cite the person who inspired it…and now that I’m seeing it work up, I can clearly see both the inspiration and the clear divergence from the pieces I’ve seen made from the patterns in the book, Beaded collars.  The techniques are similar, but the techniques are also public-domain.  I’m thinking that the similarities really fall in the combination of the techniques (and not even all that clearly in some sense, as I’m using peyote stitch, not netting stitch).  I will likely also experiment with different edging and joining methods in the future, as well.

And I’m just hacking my way through connecting the two ladder-stitched strips.  If it works, that is, I’m doing it.  I had a system at one point, then I screwed it up.  Why?  I don’t know.  Maybe it was too regular and predictable?

I also don’t know how my mind is figuring out how to regularly put on the picots and space out the connecting lines (it requires weaving in and out of the bead holes with a needle and thread [for some reason, I like needlework], and I keep ending up in a place I don’t want to be with the needle — which is where the pattern of weaving started to come into play), but I’m sure that if I make enough of these, it will become clear.

What else…?  I spent a significant amount of time today helping M with her projects — particularly, teaching her how to do wrapped cord endings.  This mostly went well.  Mostly.  I kind of messed up one by leaving too much loose cord at the beginning of the wrap and then wrapping the rest of it so tight that I couldn’t tighten the loose loop.  But learning is the point, I guess…

And I do think that I have realized that while I may combine metalwork with my beadwork…the primacy of color in beadwork is something that really draws and continues to engage me.  Particularly, when things don’t turn out as predicted!  There is the drawback that anything I make can be picked apart and reproduced by someone who’s skilled enough, but as long as I’m not making a living off of it (which is a far goal for anyone:  making substantial money off of beadwork?), I probably don’t need to worry about it, so much.

The point at which to worry about it comes when I have a publisher and book of designs, and even then…what can be copyrighted is limited.  And the beadwork magazines are full of designers’ progressive iterations off of other artists’ designs.  We learn together.  I am presently under the impression that not copying others’ designs rote and selling them is more of a personal honor thing than anything — under some circumstances, clearly just copying and selling copyrighted work for money (this is not viable as a business plan, and in fact makes me wonder why someone would fully copy another person, except to learn [as is — and has been — a widespread method of learning in the Arts]); in other circumstances, work that is just not fully mature in iteration, using stepping-stones set in place by more mature designers; and in some circumstances, the designer has enough experience that they are drawing off a wide pool of skill and thus their work does not directly look like anyone else’s, because they’re in their own flow.

I’m not at the latter point yet, but I’m not at the first, either.  My biggest trouble may just be becoming overloaded with work which I need to drop (as I wouldn’t be able to — or want to — wear it all [seriously, I have a personal sense of style which my beadwork doesn’t necessarily conform to]), and that stuff could be sold and the proceeds (likely) put back into making more jewelry (or donated).  Then there’s just giving the stuff away, which I’ve also done…no guarantee that it will be appreciated that way, though.

Speaking of which, this project has me thinking on making beaded beads as earrings.  The thought came up before, but I didn’t jump on it then, for some reason.  I’ve known how to make beaded toggles for a while, and I’ve thought they could make good drops…and that stuff is definitely public domain!

Organizing beads…

Well, I did make it out of the house — both to the plastics store (for styrene vials), and to the dollar store, today.  That is, the Japanese dollar store, where they (still) had the little clear plastic boxes with sliding drawers.  I’ve learned to pick these things up while they’re available, as I’ve gone back there for more of an item before (that is, a box to hold watercolor tubes), to find they’re no longer stocked.

Unfortunately, this and what followed ended up taking up the rest of the evening (although I still am really glad I was able to find bobbins for my embroidery thread — which will take perle cotton, but not in a straightforward manner), so I wasn’t really able to even get another chance to study until at least 8 PM.  I’m at the computer right now, and must have started this session around 10:30 PM.  What have I been doing in the meantime?  Reorganization.  And collocation.

What the latter means in non-library terms is that I was taking a lot of time to pull together similar items and relocate them into the same place so that I don’t have to spend 30 minutes trying to figure out where I put that ½ hank of size 8º seed beads I got three years ago.

(As mentioned in prior posts, given a bead size of Xº, the higher the number of X, the smaller the size of bead.)

And I’ve figured out that the Czech seed beads really needed to be brought together in one place, in order to be seen as available to be used.  Czech seed beads are normally sold in hanks (12 strands) or half-hanks (6 strands) or by the strand, as versus loose in tubes or bags.  Although:  the newer types of Czech shaped multihole beads, I have seen sold loose in bags (and stranded, for the larger types), and the small (8g) tubes have been becoming more popular for specialty beads, like the SuperDuos.  I also used to be able to buy 6º Czech seed beads loose in large tubes (20g?) from a local bead store, though that store no longer has a physical storefront.

(The larger Czech seed beads, as versus larger Japanese seed beads, have a relatively different shape; and as I’ve said before, the sizing between Japanese and Czech beads is definitely not identical, just taken on the whole [though Japanese beads also differ in shape between brands, even when you aren’t dealing with Delica-beads-as-versus-everything-else].  However, it’s been so long since I’ve used Czech 11ºs that I’m not entirely sure which is smaller.  I think it is that Czech 11º rounds tend to be smaller and more donut-shaped than Japanese 11º rounds, though.)

Anyhow, buying beads strung on hanks (as most of the basic, small round Czech beads are sold [or were, at least:  some of my earliest bead acquisitions were bought in this manner, prior to the year 2000 — I still have most of a hank of beautiful light topaz {I’d assume the color is light topaz} silverlined beads which must be a Czech size 10º or something — they’re not a standard size, because I didn’t know what I was doing when I bought them]) means that they’re kind of hard to store, unless you have someplace to hang them.  (Even that isn’t ideal, though, unless you don’t mind the beads getting dusty — or have a cabinet with doors for them — or use them up so fast that they don’t get a film on them [which is unlikely, unless you’re seriously manufacturing].)

With the little drawer things, I can lay the half-hanks out in flat layers and then change which beads I’m looking at by opening and closing (or removing) drawers.  I was kind of surprised that some of these hanks weren’t even stored in bags; they were just lying in a drawer or in a box somewhere, for some reason I have long since ceased to remember.

Anyhow, now I have six little clear drawer sets (I didn’t think it was overkill, but), one of which is nearly full of tiny empty vials — I’m going to need that space.  I also have a couple of craft boxes cleared out because of pulling together the perle cotton with the embroidery floss, and emptying another one of oversized vials (which are now in a translucent plastic container — so that I can see them, so that I can remember I have them, and hopefully, use them).

I should get to bed, though.  My second-to-last thought here, is whether it will ultimately be worth it to unstring bits of the hanks of Czech beads, just to make them more (psychologically) available for use.  I do have the vials to hold small amounts, after all…I’ll just need to mark the lids, “C,” or something, as versus “J.”

My last thought here is that I had to realize why it was that I was doing the beading.  I’ve got to decide whether I am doing this for myself (which I ultimately am), or doing this as a business.  If I just want to bead for myself, there’s no harm in using others’ patterns and instructions and being inspired by what’s already out there (because my ultimate goal is something other than making money, and I largely don’t have to worry about copyright infringement if I’m a hobbyist).

If I want to do this as a business, though, I’d need more experience in construction and design.  Working on other people’s patterns and altering them will likely lead to an understanding of fundamentals, but at some point it will become apparent that I actually am creating new patterns, and with those I can gain some compensation.  However, compensation is not the bottom line:  being able to sustain a beading hobby, is.

Which reminds me that I should get to bed so that I can earn some money, tomorrow…

Trying to work out the logistics of copyright RE: crafting. This is not legal advice…

…rather, it is me trying to figure out, out loud, what is meant by the differentiation of “technique” and “pattern.”  (Writing helps me get my thoughts in order.)

I should note that I am not an authority on copyright law; I’m just a crafter who has been struggling with the question of what is “right” and “wrong” in regard to the ethics of making jewelry to sell, for years.

I did go to work today, and it wasn’t bad — amazingly, it seems to help me.  Even though I do still struggle with shyness, the social contact seems to benefit me, and I often feel better after I leave than I did before arriving.  At work, one of my co-workers (who had noticed my new collar) asked me if there was a reason I wasn’t selling on Etsy.  I couldn’t…quite…give her a good response!  Though I realize that a lot of it has to do with being a little wigged out over the possibility of unintentional copyright infringement.

Now that I realize more clearly, though, what goes into creating a specific design, the difference between technique and design becomes clearer.  With my last collar design, I realized what in fact was my work (that is, my design), and what I had help in doing…which was just a basic knowledge of sinnets which I had to know (or be taught) in order to construct the beaded straps which helped complete it.  However, the overall message and feel and content of the piece was not contained in that sinnet.

This is not legal advice, but just my current understanding:  Design seems to be something that I create for a specific purpose, with a specific message in mind, with specific materials.  Technique (also possibly more helpfully considered “construction technique”), includes the elements (like beadweaving stitches; parallel this to embroidery stitches [and yes, those two can cross over]) which are used to substantiate the design.  Technique cannot be copyrighted.  Design can.

Design is something difficult to put a finger on before you do it, but after you’ve done it…especially after you’ve done it for years without realizing it — and then you face the possibility of publishing it, and start wondering if someone will mimic your work with no knowledge or understanding of its underlying logic, for monetary gain…it’s perfectly clear.

Generally speaking, designs are sold for personal use:  that is, it may be OK with me if you follow my design to make yourself a collar, but it is not OK with me if you use it for commercial purposes without asking, or thinking of reimbursing, me.  With me, this is largely because I struggled to put that design together, and because a part of myself is invested in that design.  When you follow a pattern, a large part of the work is already done for you.  It would be best to consider them tutorials, though:  a step on the way to gaining the knowledge and skill you need to design your own work (which is, even when simple, immensely more satisfying).

There’s effort that’s gone to in order to choose and combine elements and materials, to fit them to each other, to choose and execute construction techniques, to build a feel and aura and message or concept behind the finished piece, to translate one’s process into words and images that others can understand.  The finished piece is, thus, the result of a set combination of decisions.  If these decisions are replicated without question (sin making the instructions; I doubt anyone would replicate that and think it was all right), the finished product is substantially similar to the original — even if its deeper significance is not grasped.

The more decisions diverge, the less like the original design the piece happens to be; however, if the design is based on an original design by someone else (say, like online Buffy fanfiction is based on Buffy the Vampire Slayer; is not Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but substantially profits from Buffy’s name recognition and branding, and still follows Buffy’s groundwork — especially if it competes with Buffy for viewers), then the best route to take before entering into an enterprise where substantial profit may be gained from its sale is to consult with the original designer (whom one might helpfully consider a partner for this one item, as they may ask for a cut of your sales in exchange for their labor, which in turn saved you labor) for permission to move ahead.

And I ask myself if it’s clear enough for me, now.  The reason why this isn’t legal advice is that it’s just what I seem to have figured out by myself in the absence of substantial trustworthy help.  Most work I’ve seen has been how to avoid having others replicate one’s own designs, not how to avoid inadvertently replicating the designs of others.  (And yes, two or more people can hold copyrights to the same design, if they originated independently.)

The clearest thing I’ve found is that judgment as to whether penalties apply for the supposed violation of copyright law is a subjective (and complex) human decision and often based on a matter of degree and (possibly) intentionality (such as one case where even a photograph was ripped from someone’s website and used to advertise an off-brand’s goods)…and so the easiest way to avoid violating copyright is to learn a number of basic techniques (and I will say it’s hard to learn these without following instructions, at first:  which then gets confusing [“is this a pattern or just a technique?”]), then with the skills learned and the principles behind why they work becoming clearer, just play around with the beads, cords, threads, wires, etc., as versus following a pattern.

Trust me, it’s much, much more satisfying to build a thing yourself, when you get to the point where you can stand on your own two feet.  But the vast majority of us have to crawl before we can stand.

“Patterns” are usually visible because they make at least one large diversion from popularly disseminated technique instructions (which are visible in a number of places — particularly online, and in print).  They are easy to see after you’ve been around the scene for about 10-15 years, because if you look in a number of beadweaving, wireweaving, bead embroidery, chainmaille, macrame, etc., books and magazines, you’ll see the same basic foundations repeated over and over again (within each craft category, of course; although at times some work, such as micromacrame and wireweaving, do cross over with each other where it comes to aesthetics).

These basic foundations, distilled out of ten or so, “recipes,” I’d say are generally safe to use (I really don’t think anyone can be said to own Brick or Peyote Stitch at this point:  although they do originate with multiple Aboriginal groups…as far as I know, they did originate in different places at different times, not necessarily with contact between those groups, and are part of the basic core of a beadweaver’s repertoire.  The sad fact is, though, that a lot of techniques were transferred long ago from people who didn’t, and don’t, have the power to demand compensation).  The, “recipes,” themselves, though, used in their entirety and without derivation, are something I’d try to keep my own hands off of, where it comes to sales.

An example of a “technique” would be RAW (Right-Angle Weave), Spiral Stitch, or Russian Spiral Stitch, as recently showed up in my Reader.  (Thank you, Sam!  And if you see this, can you tell me if you feel I’m correct or off?  [Granted, I know we’re all finding our own way, but as you do design professionally, I’m thinking you might know more than I do.])  Specific variations, such as CRAW (Cubic Right-Angle Weave), I am uncertain of the legality of using, because the variation (or this variation of it, at least) originated at one specific (recent) time in history.  However, going by the “technique is okay to copy/use” and “design is not okay to copy” rule, I would believe it would be safe to use CRAW in your own designs.  The absolute safest route, would be to write to the person who originated CRAW and ask, though the technique is so widespread now that I wouldn’t think it necessary.

Patterns are fine to play with and learn (particularly technique) from — and by, “pattern,” I mean some kind of set of instructions which differentiates itself in a major way from the techniques which are so known and widespread as to be basically public domain.  But it’s best to get permission before selling items made fully or partially based on or from patterns, for profit — especially if you end up making a lot of money off of a design which didn’t originate with you.  (Of course, some pattern designers will say it’s OK to use their designs for profit, and if they say that, it’s OK, too.)

This can creep up on you, though:  be careful, particularly if someone says, “I want you to make me one like that,” referring to something you’re wearing which you can construct from instructions, but did not design.  Being a beadworker who is trying to be ethical, you let them know you did not design the piece and let them know where they can find the instructions for it.  They don’t want to make it themselves.  They then pay you for your labor (uh oh) and wear it, and other people again want you to make them “one like that.”

I’m not a lawyer, but I believe this is where you can get into trouble, particularly if you end up making a lot of items with very little brainpower exerted in design.  But “design” (and the difference between “design” and “technique”) can be a hard thing to wrap your head around, especially if you haven’t had a lot of art training!  And really especially, if you haven’t been around long enough to know what the basic techniques are, and how to deduce them from the sea of instructions around you.

Using a half-hitch or a petal stitch (embroidery term creeping in there) or Cavandoli knotting (macrame term) is not forbidden, just because you had to learn from someone.  You don’t have to go it alone.  You do, however, have something of an obligation to at least ask the people who taught you if they would like compensation, if you sell something they designed for profit.  If you just used what they taught you but didn’t use it in the exact method of their tutorial, though — and this is not legal advice, but — I’d say you’re probably OK.

And again, this is just what I’ve puzzled out over the period of time during which I’ve been trying to figure out what is safe to sell as my own work.

Helpful commentary, not destructive commentary, is welcome.