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.

I need to ease up on myself.

I guess I have actually done some studying today, although it wasn’t what I intended.

I’ve slightly changed the pronunciation of my chosen name, along with its spelling in kanji.  It, oddly enough, fits a question that came up yesterday, as regards another one of my names…I could either have it read “Spring Light”, or “East Light”.  The second reading is closer to the meaning of one of the names I’ve sought to replace with something similar.

I’m thinking that it’s best to shy away from the ultra-masculine “Kage” names, though at an earlier time in my life, I would go after those.  It just wouldn’t look good if I ever traveled to Japan and had the name of a (male) great feudal lord in my name, you know…whose name is also, coincidentally, used by a number of online roleplayers…

…and, I am, eventually, planning on legally changing my name.  But I’m not sure exactly how I’d enter my first name on forms, considering that in the method of Anglicization I’m using, there’s an apostrophe.  (The actual pronunciation has a glottal stop, meaning there’s a staccato right after the first syllable.)  I would then, in my daily life, be going by one or another shortened version of my chosen middle name.

What I’ve found interesting is that the old Japanese-English dictionary I used to use is now compatible with tablet computers; so I was actually able to write in the kanji using my old graphics pad and stylus.  (I reinstalled this recently, even though I will probably have to get rid of it when the upgraded OS comes out.)  From there, it was easy to find what I was looking for!

Of course, to do this, I’m thinking that it helps to know the stroke order (which I was able to intuit for some kanji), and the site is almost completely unnavigable without being able to read kana.  One would be able to see the forms, but not read the readings or know which pronunciation to use — kanji change their pronunciation dependent on which words they’re used within.  And without knowing kana, it’s just a mess of squiggly and angular lines.

*smiles*  So yeah, I guess I did a little good.  🙂  I even successfully read a bunch of things in kana today.  Go, me.  😉

I’ve also been reading in two of the art books I’ve borrowed.  The book on color, in particular, makes me want to paint — which is probably nothing but a good thing.  🙂  I love playing with colors!  It’s the main reason I ever got into beadwork…which I still haven’t been doing.  For some reason, today, I got back the idea to take up knitting, though that would likely be a nearly total waste of time for me.  I just have some pink laceweight yarn that would look nice in a rippled shawl.  It would take forever to knit, though — and I don’t have an easy way of threading rescue lines in with my circular needles.

(I forget what those are called — lifelines?  Basically, if you’re knitting lace, you can thread a line of unwaxed floss in through a row of work so that if you severely mess up, you can take the needles out and rip back all the stitches up to that line.  The line preserves the stitches in that row and orients them correctly to reinsert the needles — which matters, because twisted stitches show up in the finished product, and affect the tension of the finished product.  Why lace, you ask?  Because I didn’t know how hard it would be.)

Well, maybe it wouldn’t be a waste of time, if it got me doing something, other than sleeping.  I suppose there’s a gendered component to that, as well…which could be…well, some kind of reinforcement of something that I probably shouldn’t speculate on.  One of the books I’m reading, though, says to think about drawing, not making a drawing, and that kind of Zen-type working method is extremely present in knitting.  It’s just …really tedious work, or alternately, meditative.

I did get to the point today where I started to have nightmares while asleep, which shows me that I have really been sleeping too much.  Fun dreams are OK.  Scary dreams…not so much.  I don’t know why the Harley Quinn twins were hanging off of Grandma Maxine from those Hallmark cards, but I think it’s related to clips of the last Silent Hill game I saw.

Then there’s that acrylic throw blanket that I began at least two years ago, and never finished.  It’s just not a warm thing.  Pretty, yes.  Heavy, yes.  But not warm.  And it’s probably going to pill, and I can’t shave it because dimensional crochet.  I think I recorded some info on that, over on another blog.  At least two years ago.

I’m just finding myself…eliminating activities depending on whether I see them as dead-end hobbies, or not.  I don’t want to get to 35 and find out that everything I’ve been doing for the past 10 years is stuff that one would do if they were a married homekeeper with spare time and a secure income stream.  You’ve gotta kind of have a relationship for that to work, and I’m…just not that social.

The best I can hope for from the beadwork avenue is publishing my own patterns, and/or kits, and/or teaching classes on how to make beaded jewelry.  I never did show any of you my work, eh?  Let’s see….

Design, (c) S. Fujisaka, 2013.
Something I made before I got discouraged…

BA-HA!  So that graphics program does help!

This is a pattern I made by screwing around with beads and cord.  I’m not sure if anyone else has stumbled across it, though I’m sure someone has, and I just haven’t found them yet.  Or, they aren’t online.

The thing about this is that…with my art skills and my writing skills, I should be able to make patterns and sell them.  (I should also be able to help others make patterns, as well.  DESKTOP PUBLISHING, BABY.  And those patterns could be copyrighted, as versus a product made from those patterns…)  Actually hand-producing these things doesn’t make sense in my country, because of the high cost of labor and relatively low cost of materials.

Sure, you’ll need some things like Alligator Tape to protect your hands if they’re soft…and, well, a macrame board, pins, beads, cord, skill…but it’s really not hard to do — for me, at least.  But then, I’ve been beadweaving since I was about 14.  I moved out into macrame because of the question of copyright law; it’s much easier to create an original design with knots, for me, than it is with bead-weaving (though I’ve done some of that, too — the new Czech two-hole and four-hole beads are really expanding design possibilities, at least for beadweavers [the holes only allow one pass with the cord I’ve used for knotting], and the field with these is still young).

The main issue with selling kits like this is the entire copyright dynamic, which probably then bleeds into quality control and branding — depending on whether it were possible to copyright handcrafts at all…whether it is or not, I have no idea.  I should probably just write the U.S. Copyright office, or visit them online, or something.  I’m just kind of scared that they’ll tell me I’m doing something unethical (which is, again, the reason I dropped beadweaving).

But now that I think of the startup costs, and the time spent in design and parts acquisition, not to mention resolving errors, this is probably not as inexpensive as it seems.  The trouble is that I’d currently be underselling myself at $30.  $40 is more reasonable — then I’d be breaking even with labor and materials.  The thing is, like with any other handmade good I’m thinking of, the majority of the price is labor.  I could up the ante by using more expensive/fancy beads (e.g. Apollo finish — which is what, a year old now?  Two?), but whether that will be appreciated or not, is not something I know, from here.  Especially as I don’t even know the longevity or durability of many “fancy” colors and finishes, like Apollo.  However — it would be worth it to ask, and I’d get experience in some form of Business by cold-calling or writing Toho, for example, and asking them for some kind of brochures about durability, UV resistance, green manufacturing, etc.

What I do know is that it’s possible for me to make really, really beautiful — and original (to me, at least) — stuff.  And I have enough materials to do this now, without dealing with buying new stock (at this point, a lot of my stuff is vintage, given where I bought it).

But anyway…that’s something I was doing before I became discouraged about the entire questions of legality and tax codes and economic globalization and brand image and marketing.  But — I have, really, dreamed about working for a niche magazine publication which deals with beadwork.  It could be really cool.  I could also begin to teach classes…that could be really cool, too, especially given that macrame has the advantage of avoiding pricked fingers (unlike beadweaving, when done with most needles).  And, I probably have enough skill and experience to work for a bead store…though maybe not the right temperament.

I should probably re-join my Bead Society and try and actually make it out to the meetings, this time…it’s not an entire waste of daylight.  Unlike, hibernation…

Distillation — no exact destination, but the direction is apparent.

No studying done today, but I have some developments on the idea of the track (or tracks) I might take forward as regards career directions, and what I need to do.

Regardless of what I do, I’m going to have to start looking at job postings again, sooner or later.  And I’m going to have to update my resume and get used to writing cover letters and interviewing again.  I also have done relatively nothing on the front of drafting a writing portfolio, which is necessary if I want to get a job in writing.

I’ve just got to find something I’m passionate enough about to pursue with academic rigor, regardless of a grade.  🙂  And…it probably shouldn’t be on gender identity, though for the right target market, that could be good.  Thing is, my life doesn’t revolve around gender identity and presentation in the same way as it did in my 20’s, which probably means I’m settling down.  After all, once you get to the point of realizing what your gender is, you can move on to discovering other aspects of being human, yes?

It should also likely relate to the field in which I’d wish to be hired.

In about a week, my scriptwriting class starts, so I will get a chance to see if I can weave stories without messing up my mind and life.  It is possible, after all, that those things just co-occurred, but didn’t have a strong causal relation (“correlation does not equal causation”).  If that goes well, then maybe it will give me some idea of what I can do as regards writing fiction — although, really, I’m not sure that’s a great way to pay the bills.  If it doesn’t go well, then I can pretty much stop worrying about making one or more literary or graphic novels.  I’m hoping that I’ll be given some kind of prompt to work with, but if I don’t, I’ll work on the bardo (space between lives) story I mentioned before.

For a business, though…I did take a business writing course, but without a reason to write, I’d have to make up some kind of scenario to respond to…which will probably be a bit…well, both difficult and also not worth much, because I’d be talking back and forth to myself in a situation I made up.  A cover letter to sell myself to an organization I’d like to work for might be a good one, though, and could be an edge in before anything else requested.  I had thought of using this blog as a record of my writing ability, but I’m not certain at this point that this is a good idea, given that I’ve talked about some not-positive aspects of life, here.

Also, there’s the wonky formatting thing that has stopped me from going back to edit postings, though largely the mistakes are just errors like forgetting to delete a word (though in all cases I’ve seen, it’s obvious that this is what has happened).  I’ve had the issue with the editor erasing some or all of my paragraph breaks when I’ve gone back and tried to edit/update something unrelated…so I became wary of trying to change things at all.

So…I have a year, yes, left until I can get my Art AA.  Right now I am kind of wondering if it is worth it, how I will fare after graduation, if it’s okay for me to be here if I am not strongly inclined to do it on my own anyway, if my heart is really in it or if I just like the feedback (no — I like seeing the thing grow and develop, I’m just scared to engage, and really scared to take it all the way.  That is, I like the outcome of the process, and the process scares me).

There is the option of going digital, though…there are so many digital art classes I could take that it’s kind of…bewildering?  Plus, there’s a kind of sleekness to art which is entirely done digitally that I find I don’t like.  The digital format, and I don’t say this to hurt anyone, but I’ve seen that it can cover carelessness or lack of skill.  The other option is to do things by hand — where errors are visible and the possibility of them ever-present — and then transfer them over to digital (raster or vector) format, which requires multiple skill sets, which is the reason we have a digital printmaking track.

There are four directions I could go in after completing the Art AA in a year.

  1. Graphic Arts/Graphic Design — a long program, followed by an apprenticeship.  I’ve been told that the AA alone is not enough to get a job in the field.
  2. Multimedia Arts — training could be short or long, it just depends on when I get hired — and I probably will get hired.  I might be able to enter a publishing company in Graphic Design with either this, or the above, given I learn InDesign or QuarkXPress.  I could also self-publish this way, or work in web design.
  3. Business — getting back into and deeper into Excel and Access, and using my creativity in a more abstract manner (to grow a business and affect the world, though I don’t want to supervise people, and am not a “people person,” plus Clerical work, as I’d be aiming for, is a pink-collar group with a glass ceiling.  I’d only do this as a second job to back up a primary creative calling).
  4. Book Illustration — though I’m not entirely certain now that I’m well-built for this.  I should know more in a year.  Plus, Multimedia Arts would also help with this.

I think it just depends on what direction I want to go — or what I really want to be doing, after I graduate.  Business would pay the bills and allow me the extra cash to pursue my beading, though…I just got back into this last night, and it’s just a hobby.  It’s very enjoyable, and people do like my work.  But I can’t make money at this full-time; I’d constantly be struggling to make ends meet, and possibly getting into lawsuits over copyright.

(Seriously, what qualifies as intellectual property in the field of handcrafts?  I have made my own patterns, and I know that I wouldn’t want anyone to rip anything idiosyncratic that I designed off from me, but there are other things — basic patterns like peyote stitch or, to get more complicated, St. Petersburg Chain or tri-chain — which fall more or less in the grey area between public domain and personal innovation…of course, you could say peyote stitch was ripped off too [from indigenous communities]…I’m just not sure where the line is between safe and not-safe, or if it’s all not-safe and people just do it anyway.  A reason why I migrated to macrame, but the problem is still there.  Does anyone own the knots?  [Though I suppose that is like saying “does anyone own the words?”])

I just recognized this place I’m in now.  It’s a place of having insufficient information to make a decision.  This is the kind of thing I used to deal with which I would spin stories around in an attempt to rid myself of the uncertainty.  But, there is one thing I have learned here which might save me some grief and some missteps:  I can’t force myself to know what I don’t know.

The fear I’ve had, in looking at jobs now, is that I might be offered a job and then have to choose between taking the job and staying in school.  I can probably finish the degree at a later time, but it will be with different faculty, and some classes might not exist anymore.  In a worst-case scenario, the program(s) will be disbanded before I can get my degree(s), or my skills will become obsolete before I can be hired.

What I can see is that I want to work in some way in the Publishing industry, whether that’s as a graphic designer, an illustrator, or an author.  I probably don’t want to be an editor, because even though I can edit, I don’t like to tell people things they don’t want to hear.  I understand job growth within Publishing is very likely shrinking due to the Internet, but as I said in an earlier post, that doesn’t mean that digital is always superior.

Hey, at least I came to some kind of conclusion tonight…

This begins with trying to organize my supplies, and ends with a brainstorm on my future career.

Yesterday I ended up being called in to work to cover for someone, so I really didn’t get that sweet “5 days off in a row” thing.  I spent most of today recovering in bed.  I have been doing work in that You Majored in What? book, which got me back to thinking about whether I should be looking realistically at being a jeweler (or “handcrafter”, possibly, I think it’s splitting hairs, but I tend to work in non-precious materials)…

I’ve wanted to start an MS Access database on what beads I have, in which colors/shapes/sizes/materials, and where I’ve left them…along with my cords and threads, too, though the needles can probably just all go in an envelope.  😉

I actually have a need to do this, because presently my beads and threads (not to mention my tools) are all scattered into project boxes and drawers in color-coordinated brainstorm sets, so I don’t know what I have.  Unfortunately, I took my Access classes a very long time ago, and so I don’t clearly recall how that program works.

One of the things I was doing the other day was looking at shelving units, because…I’m just feeling disorganized.

At first, the goal of this was to get all of my beading and jewelry books off of my altar table — presently, if one of them gets pushed over, it will push a box off of the edge of the table (one of my bookends) because there are so many heavy books standing there.  What’s in the box is delicate (particularly the crystals like my Aragonite and Fluorite, which aren’t really precious stones and nor are they made to stay in one piece), and so I really don’t want this to happen.  The books, in turn, are the books that I’d actually want to refer back to if I did go into beadwork and/or silversmithing, which is why they’ve been separated out.  Of course most of these are what I call “recipe books,” but you don’t really learn how to make your own dinners until you first can follow the directions of someone who knows how to cook.

Clearing off the altar table would mean that I could use it for other things — like beadwork.  For me, looking at the collection of titles on my table kind of recaps my actual interests, at least prior to actually doing the work…wirework, knotting, weaving, embroidery.  (I got into silversmithing for a couple of semesters and have a couple of books on it, but along with the elitism showed towards beaders, the class itself was hazardous [in some ways, unnecessarily so].)  It’s actually better for me to do beadwork closer to the floor and on top of a carpet — this way, tiny dishes of spilled beads don’t scatter and bounce and roll away in a 15 foot radius.  Like they do on linoleum.

The worst that can really happen from a bead spill over a carpet is that some of the beads get lost in the carpet, then break from being shot up into the vacuum by the vacuum cleaner’s beater bar, and then shoot through the vacuum bag like little BBs that are razor-sharp on one edge, and dust starts to fly everywhere.  It’s happened before.  The nice thing, though, is that they usually don’t do this, and haven’t done this in years, so maybe it was just a particular vacuum cleaner that had that problem.

It’s really much worse to lose a needle or pin in a carpet, though those can usually be retrieved with a strong magnet, if they haven’t worked their way into the carpet’s foundation.

So anyhow, I’ve been looking at storage solutions — initially for books, but then I started trying to figure out what else I could move, if I moved the books to the bookshelves and moved the stuff I’m not interested in, out of here.  Particularly, a lot of the occult stuff can go (like the tarot cards and books I still don’t know or really give a hoot how to use), but maybe I’d keep the knitting, crochet, and sewing books in here for topicality.

I think I kind of have a problem in that I keep looking at ways to earn money or spend time which would be OK if I were married to someone who was financially supporting me, and I had a lot of spare time on my hands.  But…that’s not entirely the case.  I’m being supported by family, yes, but the question arises of what I’d do if I never married or had a long-term partner.  This has come up before, but maybe it takes more than one partner to declare oneself asexual, yes?  (At the same time, I don’t want to marry someone just for money, because it would be nothing but hell.)

Anyhow, I realized earlier tonight while trying to take stock that even if I did separate out my art and beading materials from each other, I still have way too much beading stuff to move the whole of it to anyplace near the altar table.  The room is just not big enough.  What remains, that I could move, are the 2-D art supplies and finished artwork (I thought I could make more money at art than at beading — psh), but most of those things are packed away in some kind of order.  What is in disarray are all the freakin’ project beginnings that are scattered everywhere, which I left myself some time to think on and then forgot about.

I know that even if one is a silversmith, it’s often hard to make ends meet just by making jewelry.  It would still be difficult as a craft jeweler, at least so if one didn’t go the publishing route to make a pattern book, or work for a niche magazine.

I do have one pair of earrings that I made via my own method, though I am not certain I would even remember how to make them, again!  What I know is that they’re in a drawer waiting for the threads to be cut off of them — I never did so, because I used FireLine for the thread, and FireLine is notorious for not holding knots well.  At least the sculptural part is not carrying a heavy load, though.  What I can and should do is either clip the threads very close, or cauterize the ends with my thread burner.  I’ve just been too scared to do it.

But anyway, I’d probably need a second job just for financial stability.  If I did go this route, I should complete the Business degree at my college (I’m well into it), so that I have a chance of doing this right.  When I brought the possibility of making a living at jewelry up tonight at dinner, D said that he had a coworker who had a web presence and used actual jewels, and didn’t sell much.  This was kind of a letdown.

Later I asked him if she had gone through any marketing or promotional efforts other than just having a webpage, and all he could say was that her webpage was connected to Facebook and promoted to her Friends.  So, maybe, because of my Business background, I actually have more tools at my disposal which will enable me to be more successful than said person.  It’s also possible that I’ll be able to leverage the Business and Writing training for a position within a larger business, and then do my own small business stuff on the side.

If I do this though — I’d want to get back into math, and re-learn how to use Access, for example, and further my Excel and PowerPoint training.  I already have some Communications ability from having had to present in that one Comm class just recently…so I know how to do public speaking decently, now (or, at least, better than a lot of people, though my last presentation in Comm had the problem of “too many slides”).

My goal is to end up doing something for a job which I’d want to do anyway, so it won’t feel so much like “a job.”  I know that 2-D art still feels like “a job,” but playing with beads does not.  And if I ran my own small business, I can use what I learn there for a position within a larger organization.  They can’t all be bad…

Notations on ‘zine possibilities and book design

I was just talking with my sister-in-law about possibilities for publishing ‘zines, as in making a ‘zine for Special Projects in Fall.  I’m pretty sure that I’m aiming for an art book or illustrated book, and as regards one of my concepts, she recommended I watch Max Headroom, particularly where it comes to the “Blanks.”

Out of all the formulae that I’ve gone through for possibly making a ‘zine, the most compelling is printing out pages and attaching them together with brads along one side.  This means I’ll have to put in a gutter, but it also means that the bleed area will actually look right, after it’s trimmed.

In reality, only the outer cover really needs to be larger than the page sizes, and that’s to protect the reader’s hands from papercuts.  In this case I can go anywhere from a ‘zine which is slightly less than 5.5″x8.5″ (if I did do four pages to a sheet) up to slightly less than 7″x8.5″, if I used Legal-sized paper.  Above this, and I could do up to an 8.5″x11″ art booklet with special paper for the cover (which would be 11″x17″, also a standard size, but which probably costs more).  I’m thinking that using brads is a more doable and flexible idea than going with staples, although depending on the size of the pages, I might have to use up to 5 brads to hold things steady when the pages are opened.

…and yes, I did just think of making the front cover smaller than the regular pages…

This could be a really awesome project.  I’m not entirely sure what it says about me when I get so much more involved with the design component of this than the content…I wonder if I should try and design books as versus writing or illustrating them.  (I am kind of coming at this “book” thing from a lot of different angles, aren’t I?)

I’m thinking that with the advent of digital media, the strength of print books as versus e-books is going to be related to their lack of being built to a grid, so to speak.  I only really took one or two Graphic Arts classes, but there seems to be some type of standardization that needs to be adhered to in order for e-books to be functional (let alone cross-platform), at this point.  Even then, they are currently in some respects inferior to print books, particularly where graphics are concerned.  Even with the best resolution, one’s viewing area is restricted by one’s screen size.  The screen can’t fold out to get bigger, even if its resolution is sharper than print.

I think the expense of design for books with graphics and graphic elements is such that people (at least on my platform) don’t want to specially design formats for e-books.  Or rather, there are either a lack of e-book designers, or people don’t want to pay e-book designers, in order to get a beautiful product.  I’m not certain about this because I have heard from more than one person that the company behind my e-reader is only concerned about money; so maybe on a different reader which uses different encoding, there are people putting in the effort to make a more top-notch product that will sell on the basis of quality alone.  It might exist, and I just don’t know about it because I didn’t get a third-party reader which can accept books from small independent bookstores and the like (yes, they do exist!).

There could be a really big and awesome jump made when e-books make the jump to being fully integrated multimedia (sound, animation, hypertext, interactivity, etc.), but we’re not at that point yet — at least, not so far as I know.  What I do heavily suspect is that we can bridge this off of the technology being developed in the video game industry, for instance with some of the touch screen and voice capabilities developed for the Nintendo DS Lite, or the internet connectivity developed for the DSi or XBox 360 (IIRC; I don’t have an XBox, and the price point is really steep).

If we are to make that jump, hopefully it will be using some type of software which is more stable than Flash.  Stability (and security) are probably going to be an issue until the technology matures.  Given the presence of a more watertight option than Flash that can still do everything Flash can, without slowdown or bugs or frequent incapacitating updates, I’m pretty sure we’d all make the jump.  I’m not sure if this exists with Macs now or not, though I’m pretty sure that I did hear that Steve Jobs hated Flash.

The issue with me as things stand now about Macs, is the price point and not wanting to give up the freedom to use Linux or other alternative operating systems, though of course I don’t use that freedom at present.  😉  I just don’t want to waste time and college credits learning Flash, especially as I don’t know if Flash skills will translate to whatever eventually replaces it.

Maybe I should cast myself as a multimedia/e-book designer?  I do like to plan things, a lot…not to mention there would probably be interest in a startup like the one I’m thinking of.

On multimedia books

I’ve been using an e-reader to view new books.  It’s very convenient…it also brings to mind the possibilities of reading when one can, say, hyperlink to a different point in the book.  This has got to be one of the best things about having an e-reader — in addition to having the dictionary capability (easy lookup of unknown diction has the capacity to greatly influence literacy rates for the better).

Recently I downloaded a book on colored pencil art.  It has these hyperlinks within the text, kind of netting the book together.  That couldn’t have been in the paper version.  This means that the copy I downloaded was especially made for my reader — it wasn’t simply transcribed.  Another benefit that did surprise me, though…is that the images in my e-reader are sharper than the images in the printed book.  This is as though they used hi-res photographs that were not in the paper version.

I did look inside a print version of the book I’d downloaded, soon after I downloaded it.  There must have been some kind of feathering of ink on the page or something…I do have an HD display, but still.  I wouldn’t expect the photos in the digital copy to be higher quality (better color saturation, crisper delineations, even possibly larger size, though I didn’t directly compare) than in the print one!  In comparison, the print book has muddy colors, and the colors kind of mash together and make the image relatively blurry.  I’m not sure how much the backlit display on my reader is contributing to the clearer image, though.

I also found a sample comic to view on the e-reader.  I’m not sure this is wholly preferable, because I don’t have a tablet which accommodates a full-sized comic page.  This means that the images are smaller and the text can be hard to read.  But tapping on an image will magnify it; swiping will lead to the (chronologically) next image, magnified.

All of that to say, I’m curious to see where technology is headed, where it comes to interactivity, at the very least.  A giant dissuading influence which has kept me online and not reading paper books is the interactive nature of electronic media.  Most print books don’t have this.  But it’s why, in the past, I’ve played video games or gone online rather than watching TV or movies.  I don’t like being a passive observer — which the margins of the books I have read, can attest to.

Sometimes I can be reading things I don’t agree with and have a retort every two or three sentences (or every sentence, in the worst case I can think of).  It’s really hard to put up with — I almost feel like I need line numbers and a notebook next to me so I can argue at length against the text line for line, or insert thoughts that came up because of it.

In any case, an e-reader platform makes it so that — it would seem — maybe it will cost less to create books in color.  I’m not sure, because comic books and non-literary magazines and the like do take up a lot of memory because of their graphic nature.  Plus, one has to pay the artists.  But color printing seems really relatively expensive as compared to a book which is all black and white.  (I have had the chance to see offset color printers, which leads me to that conclusion.)

And then there’s the question of whether interactive books will still be books, as versus, I don’t know, something closer to a Web site.  Maybe there would even be social media functionality in there, which is something that I would like to do if I ever got into Web Programming…then that blends over into an experience which is multimedia, interactive, and social.  In that case, reading may no longer be an isolating experience, and it may no longer be passive.

I don’t know, it just got me thinking.  Kind of like I’ve been thinking about technical applications for skill in Animation.  I’m still not sure, given the above vision, what skills I’d need to make headway on it…nor am I sure that my best idea would be to gain the skills myself, more than start up a small company (or join a small company) and hire programmers, writers, artists, user interface specialists, etc.  If I wanted to do that…well, then, I’d need someone to manage the thing, wouldn’t I?  Would it have to be me?

It shifts me back into Business (as an entrepreneur), and Web Programming, when I’m trained as a writer and have been intending on illustration as a vocation.  I really think I’d be better off approaching an established corporation with this, though.  And it’s probably not a new idea…

I should probably try and get some sleep.

Finance classes more useful in my situation than Art?

This post minorly goes over what I got out of comparing and contrasting the courses I wanted to take as versus the courses I thought I should take.  It also references the fact that some of the classes which might help me most on a day to day basis, are classes I’d rather not do.

The latter are majorly from within the Business department, and largely have to do with finance and accounting — which I’d need if I were self-employed, say as a freelance writer or graphic artist.  I think I’ve reached the point where I’m okay with not being a Jewelry Designer.  I still have not yet reached the point where I’m okay with giving up the Graphic Novel aspirations.

Nor have I reached the point where I’m okay with not writing fiction, though this…is somewhat looser, given that I’m practicing writing so often that I don’t really have to worry about losing my skill.  Neither have I actually written fiction in a very long time, though, so this…is potential I see, but not a fruiting one at this moment.

I did just return a slew of library books which I will be requesting again, having to do with finding a job after having majored in English.  I basically wasn’t looking at them and didn’t even know when they were due.  I do think it would be a good idea to look at those books now, though.  I should probably just get 2 or 3 at first so that I don’t overwhelm myself.

I’ve reviewed some of the tasks listed under “Technical Writing,” in the classes I might be taking, and I think that it’s probably too “technical” for me.  I also purchased about $30 in metalwork magazines which make it clear that I don’t really care to make jewelry enough to invest in being a silversmith — or so it seems from here, as I view other peoples’ designs.  The biggest issue I face on that front is how to avoid having things look “machined,” which I really don’t like (even though I can relatively easily obtain it).  Nor am I advanced enough yet to know how to avoid what I see as an “industrial” look.

Outside of metal clay and casting, in my country we’re working with metal sheet, wire, and tubing.  It is an unusual artist who can get the sheet, wire, and tubing, not to look like sheet, wire, and tubing.  🙂  And I’m not particularly in love with metalwork, even though I like to dream up things which can be created in metal.

My first and major love where it comes to jewelry is beadweaving, but …that is a very time- and labor-intensive craft which creates pieces with normally low value where it comes to parts; but high value in craft and design.  I suppose that maybe it’s like Ceramics — one takes something very low in value and through skill and artistry and process makes it into something beautiful and valuable.

I don’t think, though, that I could charge what the pieces even cost to make, without being challenged by buyers for the cost being “too high,” especially given that there is such a market for beadwork patterns now, and many newbies don’t know what skill in beadwork looks like.  There’s also the possibility that they wouldn’t even be able to recognize it, because they don’t know that it exists (given the myriad variants of “my 5-year-old could do that”).  What I could do is make patterns and write/draw them out, and sell them.  This gets around the issue of the high per-hour labor cost and makes things attractive in terms of the low barrier to entry (that is, the relatively low cost of glass beads).

I’m not sure of the viability of that though, either, given illegal file-sharing.

But anyhow, that’s not what I meant to write about.  I have listed here five classes which will clear me for four certificates.  There are five more which would be very helpful if I wanted to go into business as an artist, but this is not including Accounting or Financial Management.  I don’t really want to take the Accounting series, though it is only two or three classes (depending on which path I take).

I just see things as managing the entire cash flow (excluding marketing, or acquiring clients) from fees (knowing what to charge), through budgeting (planning/bills) and bookkeeping (records), to knowing how much I have left to spend, and when.  Then there is what to pay for with cash and what to pay for with credit, and how to keep credit from spiraling out of control.

That set of skills is eminently useful.  It is even possible that I could become better with money than my parents, who now manage my money.

It’s just when I read back over my past note saying that over half of multimedia artists in the U.S. were self-employed in 2012, it makes me think that this is something I need, even if it’s something I don’t want to have to do.

Maybe I should just keep the plan in mind and not worry about the Certificates too much?  I could well become employed in a field which utilizes my Writing skills, and not Technical Writing skills.  I just need to know what those fields are.  Business classes should help me no matter what my eventual field becomes.  There is even the possibility that Art skills won’t factor into my job at all.  And I’m only four classes away from four certificates, not even counting Figure Drawing (which is irrelevant unless I go into Animation or Graphic Novels, the latter of which is unnecessary if I write a literary or sci-fi/fantasy novel, which is more in line with what I was actually trained to do).

Maybe I should be working on a concept and script for a Graphic Novel.  That way, I can figure out whether I’ll actually even want to do the thing, and if not, I won’t have to worry about certain classes (like Drawing and Watercolor, which I at least think I want to do now), and can reorient myself in a Multimedia Art + Design direction.

Aggh.  It’s kind of hard, working on this.

Maybe I’ll take Watercolor I this Spring.  I really want to do it, and I don’t know how long I’ll be able to stay in school.  Then I can take General Accounting, since I’m giving myself the gift of Watercolor, and I can delay in Figure Drawing and take it later.  Instead, maybe I can take a Digital Media class — I have two lined up.

Of course, this all depends on when these classes are given, but the above is…just a hypothetical example.

I think I’ve written myself out…