Researching Caran D’Ache aquarelles:

I’ve just been looking around online at Caran D’Ache watercolor pencils. Apparently, there are now two kinds:  the Museum variety, and the Supracolors.

Museums look as though they are transparent, while the Supracolors have higher opacity (hinted at by the terms “covering power” at the Caran D’Ache site). It seems I’m a bit late to the game, here, as the WetCanvas link I’ve given above marks these as new for 2013…but I’m not an early adopter, so there you go. 🙂 Accordingly, I’ve read that Supracolors can be used light-over-dark if the lower layer is dry or has dried. I’ve also seen photos to this effect.

This…kind of gives me something to think about. I’m used to colored pencils not being terribly opaque (unfortunately), but then, I’m also used to Faber-Castell Polychromos, Blick, and Prismacolor brands (the last of which is a collection which runs back prior to 2000, as I think I’ve mentioned before). What I forgot to add is that I’ve been adding to that collection over the years; the font differences on the sides of the pencils tell me which ones are ancient and which are not. 😉

I’m…actually, still really interested in the Supracolors. The Museum pencils are fairly expensive, at ~$4 per pencil, while the Supracolors are a bit less (at around ~$3 per pencil in open stock). I would be buying my pencils, as well, to complement my watercolors — not to replace them.

When I tried the Supracolor I did, the pigment dispersion was very, very fine, as I had only used a little of the lead to see what color I would actually be getting (which was a bright violet-red, very different in appearance from dry pigment). And I didn’t have any black lines drawn on my test paper to see if the pigment would block out an underdrawing.

My major concern is wiping out those lines, which is why I even gave the Museum pencils consideration (I could get 12 for around $30…they may be what I’m looking for; I just hate to shell out that much money for that little product…although all signs say they’re high-quality). But what are in practicality, gouache pencils, do seem very interesting. And I have Derwent Inktense and watercolor pencils already. I don’t want to duplicate them (which is why I again started to re-swatch them, in addition to not recalling what they would do).

Despite having been out sick — I do think I’ll use my sickleave. (I’m not often sick, even when others are.) I’m hoping to do some sort of celebration of having completed Summer Session — on my mind is the 30-pencil set of Supracolors (which would be ~$2/pencil), which…wait…that would be twice the cost of the Museum pencils alone. It could be nice to get the Museum pencils and then a few open-stock Supracolors (particularly, light tones and greens), for the same price or less. (I’m intending to spend ~$60 at most, for these.)

Although — now that I look at it — how I’m going to use the pencils really caps all of this. I see a review which states that the Museums are not suitable for tight work, because of their softness — and I wanted to get them to tighten up the watercolor. Maybe I should get just a few colors in each style, and see how they’re usable. I already know that the colors in either style will be good.

What I had envisioned doing was laying down an initial layer of watercolor paint or acrylic ink to eliminate the white background, then going over it with aquarelle — like the Supracolors or Derwents — to add sharper details and fades (gouache could also serve, here), and then going over that with regular colored pencil, for texture.

Of course, though, this is all in my head, right now. I’m sure things will come up that I can’t predict, which will send me down one or another path, as regards workflow. You know what that means? That means I shouldn’t go to the art store yet, because I don’t yet know what I need. To find out what I need, I need to work on some drawings! In the process, I can see what hues I’m missing in my current collection. It may be that I don’t even have to buy a set. It may be that I don’t have to buy any new aquarelles at all.

One certain thing, though: I need to get a back-up pack of Derwent Graphik Line Painters (in case my “Snow” decides it can’t stand holding its paint anymore — it’s seriously messed up, as it was the first Japan-nibbed pen I ever tried to use, and I was not gentle enough with it).

I think I’m finally getting the hang of this art store thing. I mean — I’m actually doing research, as versus going in there and buying way more than I need, or items whose properties, I’m unsure of. Now — now, I’m wondering about taking a course on Web Searching…it hadn’t been on my mind, before, but it could prove very useful…and possibly, necessary…

Thoughts on re-entering fiction practice

Today has not been too eventful.  I opened up my tablet tonight to find a couple of small deposits of story ideas from late last year.  Also — I picked up lamination supplies (for bookmarks — this will enable me to use paints and at the same time protect the bookmark users from exposure to those paints) and a clipboard which should work for half-sheets of paper.

I have a binder for half sheets (5.5″x 8.5″), which I was forward-thinking enough to fill with graph paper:  this means that it is super-easy in which to practice Japanese writing.  (Please excuse my attempt to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition.)  What I wasn’t aware of was the fact that the ring mechanism would produce a lump under my writing area.  The clipboard should help with this — in addition to helping me plan a Bullet Journal layout.

I haven’t been brash enough to start planning the latter in my actual nice imported dotted-grid journal.  It will likely take a while for me to plan out what I actually want in there, and utilizing throwaway sheets to plan the layout is probably going to be more useful than not.

The good thing is that I already have multicolored fineliners and bullet-point felt markers, in addition to my Tombows.  How long the color in that ink will last is another question (though I do have Staedtler and Stabilo pens), but…the colors should help in organization.  I’ve got several things to think about, now, all of which demand time:

  • exercise
  • schoolwork
  • art/self-care
  • work
  • blogging

And, somewhere on the back burner:

  • nihongo study
  • healthy food preparation
  • driving practice
  • job research
  • organizing the Bullet Journal 😉

Over the last week, I’ve realized that I really do need to keep up my (English) writing habit either here, or somewhere else.  Because I’ve been reading nihongo (Japanese language) and not writing so much in English, just very recently, I’ve been experiencing the phenomenon of having a thought and not being sure how to express that thought in words.  This was something that only had recently happened to me in trying to translate my thoughts into nihongo — only now, both of the languages are being impacted.

In particular, Japanese and English syntax (word order) are nowhere near the same…so I’ve been trying to write in English and the words are coming out in an order that doesn’t make sense.  I’ve found that trying to get the content of my thoughts out in notes (not sentences) helps, here.  I think that not being stuck with a linear format (as I am, relatively, on a keyboard) also helps.

And…it’s kind of odd, but I’ve been feeling a draw back towards working in Creative Writing.  I know this thought comes up from time to time, and I also know that doing art spurs on doing the writing.  Loosening my own restrictions on my creativity is probably the only way things are going to get done, as “Little Squares” is teaching me.  I now have a vision of where to take that painting next, but it took a good two days to figure it out.  (Normally, when I’m working something like that, I can visualize where to put the next mark…when this got hazy or unknown, I stopped.)

And…I am having some good thoughts on where to take my current pet fiction project.  As usual, it’s a psychological story…and it’s turning into a paranormal/science fiction one as well.  I haven’t really learned too much about sci-fi, beyond being certain that this is soft sci-fi (focusing on the characters) and not hard sci-fi (focusing on technology).  I just wish they had given “Age of Science Fiction” when I was in undergrad work…I did do some research on it on my own, back then:  apparently Frankenstein was likely the earliest science-fiction story.  At least, in English.

There is the “worldbuilding” thing in relation to science fiction and fantasy which I learned about when I was younger, but really, that was a relative turnoff:  I wanted to write a story, not construct a world.  I just don’t want to get into issues with the fictional government, military (and how do you do that when there are aliens, eh?), or get into an X-Men-type place where genocide is unavoidable because of the unchanging quality of the surrounding culture (which seems to be stuck in the 1950’s).

Although if I did something like Ghost In The Shell where Section 9 was essentially independent and the government quixotic, corrupt and unreliable, it probably wouldn’t be too bad.  (Sorry about the GITS reference, for those who haven’t seen any of its iterations.  The recent live-action movie was just one example of the retelling of this, and to my mind, not anywhere near the best.)  Then there was Neon Genesis Evangelion, which also dealt with military, but ultimately wasn’t about the workings of the government — or about the aliens (which were, at least in the anime, never really explained).  Then there was Avatar, which was pretty much about the military-industrial complex; something I want to avoid.

I’m not sure at this point whether to work this entirely in prose, in prose with illustrations, or in a graphic format — though I’m thinking that the story itself will tell me this, eventually.  I do have some unread Gaiman here from the library, which would probably help widen my range of psychological possibilities.  (For someone who likes to write, I don’t read many stories.)

Anyhow…I wish I had written down more notes last year, but I think I’ve got enough to work with — especially if I look through my image archives.  I started writing this entry thinking that if I were to work on fiction at all, I’d need to warm up, seeing how difficult it has been for me to get my words out in English, in recent days.  Right now…I’m thinking that it may be worth it to use my tablet to write this stuff and just periodically back it up.

And, right, get that Bullet Journal started!

Buying, Writing, Doing: The Triad of my Present Dilemma

It’s become increasingly apparent to me that it is much easier to purchase art supplies than it is to apply them in creative ways.  It doesn’t seem that this in any way should really be a problem for me:  I did work my way through an AA program in Art (I couldn’t justify it the first time around with my BA, nor at the Master’s level…at least, currently), so I know that there is some part of me that is creative.  I also know that I’m skilled, though as I said before, when I don’t exercise those skills, they’re hidden within me.

Unless I practice, my skill and creativity won’t have the chance to show themselves, or to develop beyond the point they are at, now.  Maybe the problem I’m facing (starting out with incipient projects) is the one faced by writers of all types (which I’m well familiar with, as my BA actually was in Creative Writing):  fear of the blank page.  Or white paper.  Basically, it’s the same thing.

What I can latch onto right now are the exercises which build increasing familiarity with my media. Right now, I am very, very drawn to water-based media (inks, acrylic inks, acrylic paints, watercolors, water-based block printing).  I have a feeling that this is majorly because I don’t like to deal with toxins when they’re unnecessary, and cleaning out watercolor brushes isn’t a big deal to me, at present.

Ah — and, I used to work more in dry media (pencils, pens, colored pencils, most apparently) — until I got tired of the tiny point of contact with the paper (give me brushes) and the graininess of most of my attempts.  (Keep in mind here that my Prismacolors were purchased well before the year 2000, so I don’t have the advantage of the smoother laydown of the new formulations, in that brand.)  In contrast, inks and paints are much more…captivating for me:  they lay down solid, (usually) unbroken, and (usually) more vivid color.

Color is something that I at one time began to organically grow into (toward the end of my stay in Community College) — and then I restarted the Library & Information Science program.  At that point, my energy focused on the goal of gaining an MLIS in order to be able to be a Librarian, so that I could have a steady income stream, hopefully benefits (though I have heard that these are increasingly being cut in Librarianship proper) and work within one of my areas of interest, while also performing a social good.  In my spare time, and with the spare resources I would gain from being an Information professional (or so I’ve heard), I have planned to work on my Art, thus bolstering my psychological resilience.

Right now…it’s hard for me to formulate or say what my point is, within LIS.  It’s where I am now, and it’s what I know, but that doesn’t really count for much of anything when I realize that I’m already at the top of my pay scale and will have to change positions soon if I want to become more efficient at earning money.

What I want to be doing right now, is helping to construct Web pages.  It’s fairly evident, even just through my experience with this blog and my drive to personalize and edit its structure.  It fits in with my other two degrees in the aspect of being production-based, but not entirely so much in the fact that it’s technical.  I presently do not have the ability to customize pages and sites.  If I keep on in the LIS program, I may eventually gain the skills, however:  and a new perspective on the experience of designing for someone else.

I have a feeling, though, that this will put me about even with the youth coming out of high school in this era — technically speaking.  Technology flows on, and keeping current with it is one of the things to which I’ve resigned myself.  Design, however, is a specialty, and requires skills and knowledge that not everyone has.  And, as has become increasingly apparent, it’s not about me or my expression (as versus Art, which seems to require drilling deeply into myself to draw out something that only I can do).

Right now I’m in a class on User Experience, which is an aspect of Design — and it’s very apparent that Design encompasses much more than the utilization of art skills.  Designing is not the same thing as producing Art, unless the person you’re designing for is you.

And writing for yourself is not the same thing as writing for someone else.

I think that if I did not have the fear of repercussions for expressing anything unique, I would have an easier time with both Art and Writing.  But I’m old enough to know that expression begets consequences.  Whether those are good or bad consequences is unknown and ultimately subjective; whether praise or hatred will prevail is yet to be seen.

This could be the reason why I have seen so many take a brash stance against this psychic wall…because if you don’t stand strongly, the force of that wall could crush your light down into a black hole.

Of course, it helps to have solid grounding and conviction in something reasonable, first.

M has expressed frustration that I have been acquiring supplies — particularly for painting — and have not progressed beyond, “little squares.”  (I’m not sure she understands how difficult the medium of watercolor is, however…)

My little squares, though they could be made in a more aesthetically pleasing manner, are doing something for me:  they’re familiarizing me with the medium.  I don’t feel comfortable jumping from having done nearly nothing into a place where I have no ground to stand on and don’t know how to kick or stroke.

Doing that, and working out my familiarization in a way in which I am likely to destroy my first five paintings (if not more), would be…almost traumatic, for me.  So I’m working on little squares.  Little squares, I can handle; and although the progression there is incremental, and likely to hit a roadblock when I try actually using the colors in application, at least it is something, and I’m learning from it.  Without something, I’m paralyzed because I’m being expected to perform as an intermediate or advanced student without having taken beginner classes.

Maybe M can move forward like that; but I’ve noticed that, in her own design work, she doesn’t think ahead.  She plunges forward and then hits a roadblock and doesn’t know where to go from there.  In contrast, I think things out much further, but then am criticized for my tentativeness and my expensive preparations and my lack of starting.

And actually, now that I’m looking at my notes, I can also see a pattern here:  and not just in the delicateness of my process and my work.

I probably write about art so much because it’s easier for me to write about art than it is for me to get up the courage to actually do it.  I’ve been writing nearly constantly, for all of my life.  Writing is familiar to me, and it’s easier for me to do this than it is for me to sit down with a paintbrush, no matter the chances of coming out with something beautiful as an end product (though maybe I will try and keep that in mind as a goal.  I have a chance of making something beautiful if I risk failure.  If I do not, I have no chance of doing the same).

Writing about work, though, is not at all equivalent to actually doing it.

I’ve got to make a number of lifestyle changes relatively soon.  Many of these — most, actually — are related to my mental and physical health.  I need to floss regularly.  I need to brush my teeth and wash my face well in advance of bedtime.  I need to avoid late nights (sugar cravings come on after 11 PM).  I need to drink more water and avoid excess sugar.  I need to shower more often, and to exercise (and stretch) more often and more regularly; and if I can, I ought to try to meditate regularly (doing all of this may allow me to reduce my medications…and drop down a few sizes).

Along with this — I wonder if it would be too much of a strain for me to try and wake up with the Sun, so I have all the hours of the day to do my work and my art, as versus doing art in the afternoon and taking photos in the late afternoon or evening (when it’s dark).  Or, less optimally, doing art at nighttime with less-than-natural light.

It’s something to think about.  Maybe tonight I can try going to bed early, instead of trying to wring all the good I can get out of the day, and see if I am able and willing to get up at, say, 7 AM tomorrow (as I tried to do, today).  And maybe if I have the art play as a lure to get me out of bed…I’ll actually do it.

Creative process and psychology…

I devoted six hours last night (stopping at around 2:00 AM) to devouring a book I found at the library — it’s amazing how much faster I can read writing intended for a general audience, now, after having gone through a semester of reading textbooks and journal articles!

I won’t say which book it is — yet — I have my own reasons, which you’ve probably seen before.  However…so far as my curiosity around the psychological or neural aspect of creating goes, this book was very enlightening.  No need to refer back to religion or spirituality to explain what happens in the creative process!  (Apparently, I am more comfortable in a “spontaneous” creative process which can appear spiritual, as I may have no memory of working on creative problems prior to the results springing forward out of “incubation,” into my conscious awareness.)

And what I had thought there was no material on — that is, a psychological explanation of creativity — happily enough, I’m finding I was wrong about.  (Then again, this book was copyrighted in 2010, possibly way after I had asked professionals how creativity worked and was told that psychiatry didn’t fully understand:  2010 was around the time I was first hired.  The question first arose around 2002, unless I’m mistaken and it arose before that:  I was obsessively creative for years, prior to undergrad [though I believe it started at around 14 years of age, for me].)

One of the more interesting parts of this is the possibility that perhaps as an undergrad, my illness could have been setting me up to write…that is, the obsessive writing could have been a symptom of my illness (mood disorders and psychotic disorders can light up the same parts of the brain as are active in creative process).  This would explain why it became so much more difficult to write creatively after I started taking medications targeting my psychosis (psychosis just means becoming detached from reality; it does not mean, “wanting to kill people”).

That is, I can turn off the neural firing that caused me to write creatively, now.  Actually, it seems that its default is “off.”  Just because it isn’t on all the time, doesn’t mean that now it’s gone, or that now it has to be “hard.”  It’s just controlled, and I have to make the decision to step back and allow my creativity through if I want creating to happen.

What happened with one of my recent Creative Writing attempts, which I had been curious about, is that I allowed my Executive function (pre?frontal cortex) to step back and allow a different part of my brain to speak…explaining why it didn’t feel like “me,” but not meaning that it was not “me.”

This is actually fairly fascinating.

I have a couple more books to go through which deal with the psychological bases of the creative process…I don’t know if I’ll be able to pull a marathon reading session again this soon, though!

Deities of Creativity?

It’s been interesting.  I realized the other day that I might need to take a look at books on creativity, because I was taking a fairly negative angle towards my own.  Then I realized that I have easy access to these resources — much easier than most.  Turns out that all I have to do if I want resources on “creativity” is to look!

On the way home I realized also that if I’m going to spiritualize my creativity, maybe I might want to look up (pre-existing) Deities of creativity…which could go into Neopaganism…or into a syncretic religion.  It’s been a while since I’ve been involved with anything Pagan — I used to hang out with a bunch of Pagan Reconstructionists online, so I know a bit about the cultural aspects of it; participating without violating, etc.  And actually, that does cross over with what I was talking about before, only the view taken would be from within the home religion as versus external to it — and most people don’t classify themselves the way others might.

(If you know what I’m talking about…you are very educated!)  😀

The major drawback here is, well, social dynamics.  It can be hard to be a creative person among people who like clear divisions between categories…not all people are like this, but I have a bit more “flow” than I’ve found some others can tolerate.

I’m actually thinking that an African-diasporic religion might be…worth checking out, though the only people I know who are into that, aren’t the greatest representatives.  I’d have to do my research and see which systems, if any, are somewhat like my worldview (though given that my worldview is sourced from one of my parents’…the likelihood of hitting on something is high).  I’ve even had issues in the past with mixing up Orisha and Lwa, so…right.  And though one side of my family does hail from Louisiana, that doesn’t quite make things easier:  I know next to nothing about the place, except that Louisiana, and in particular New Orleans, is different than much of the American South — because of French influence.

I’ve actually been feeling better today.  I’ve been on an upswing since I started engaging my more masculine energy, last week, even though that was accompanied by some communication flubs.  (There is some passion there, and some aggression…which makes the concept of engaging with life easier.  I don’t know exactly why.)  For some reason, I feel more alive and attendant (by this I mean, “present”) when I’m able to express this.

And I suppose it does say something about my intuition that I would pursue being creative as a life purpose even if the Deity of Creativity was maligned…I did realize that I probably put some people in a tough position, though; where they might want to encourage me in my creativity (healing!)  but not in my conception of my creativity (prohibiting!).

It may well be, though, that I’m using an archaic concept of creativity in which it is feared because it brings change — and some people at one time, didn’t like change.  At least, writing what I did, did clarify why I had a sense of conflict over being creative.  Maybe it didn’t need to be made public (I can see where massive confusion may have come from trying to communicate it to people outside my mind), but at least I made the connection.

Earlier today, we went out for dim sum, then I came back and went outside for a while…and just got out the shower (which I’ve needed for way too long).  Granted that I have a Discussion Post due before midnight tonight, but there is no way that I’m going to be able to complete all my readings and lectures before tackling it.  And everyone in the class will be able to see that post.  I think it will be obvious that I haven’t done the reading, but the upshot is that I’ve been taking care of myself.  It was just a very nice day, and I haven’t been out in extended periods of sunlight since we got back from Hawaii.

I did take pictures, too!  But right now they’re still my babies.  I have a hard time letting people see through my eyes while having been subject to verbal attacks from people, in the past…

But yeah…flowers.  ❤  🙂  It’s very colorful outside, this time of year!  (Well, here, at least!)

I’ll try and get on my homework, now…

This is definitely a depressive episode.

I’m trying to decide whether to write, or read, right now.  It’s pretty clear to me that I am in a depression, at this point:  sleeping for 14 hours and then having to decide to get up (or bribe myself into getting up by telling myself I’ll play with my beads) isn’t normal.

I’m thinking that maybe I need to change my vocabulary around when I say I feel “tired.”  There is actually being tired, when I really need sleep; and then there is being low-energy and lethargic and not seeing anything more interesting to do than stay in bed — but not necessarily needing sleep.  (Which reminds me that exercise, though painful, should help me get through this state.)  Though…I do wonder if I actually need the sleep, or not.

I know I need about 8-10 hours of sleep to be OK, but 14 is a bit much (it’s like I’m making up for that 4-6 hours of sleep I got a night in high school).  Right now, I’ve only been out of bed for about eight hours.  It seems that it would be OK to stay up because of that, but throwing off my sleep schedule will only make the depression worse.  It’s really better to go to bed early and wake up at 5:30 in the morning, like I did today…just not to go back to sleep for another eight hours.

Also, where it comes to judgment — sometimes I think I don’t need B vitamins and then I slip into a place like this and use up a megadose.  (I can tell if I use them all up because excess B-complex…well, it’s obvious…I won’t say what I’m thinking because I don’t want this post indexed with those words, but if you take B-complex megadoses both when you do and don’t need them, it’s obvious when the excess passes through.)

Which makes me think:  hmm.  B vitamins.  Maybe I need some of those…

I just found a bottle of B-12 sublingual (megadose), which should help for tonight.  Maybe I can get up around 10 AM tomorrow and get some B-complex and check out the art store.  I’ve been studying in my office, and as such, have been looking at the drawings I made in marker on the giant pad of sketch paper on my altar table.  Well, actually, I threw them aside to get a fresh (non-dusty) surface, and then started looking at them (when they were on the floor).

(Yeah, I kind of have papers thrown all over the place, right now…)

I can actually see some things going on there that I hadn’t noticed, before.  For one thing, there is the inference of a dragon or gryphon in the focal point of one of my images, which was entirely unconscious.  For another thing, I’m appreciating the bold colors and large strokes on the other image.  These were the two images I was talking about a while ago, which I decided not to put online because they were just for me, and I didn’t want to deal with the psychic interference of potential (positive or negative) judgment, in my process.

I recall…in the book, The artist’s way, which I started using some years ago and then left off of (it’s kind of like a creativity-nurturing program), there was an exercise called “The Morning Pages,” where someone writes for maybe half an hour to 45 minutes every day right after they wake up, and then move on with their day.  You’re not supposed to look back over these writings for a while, just do them and move on.  I’m wondering if that would work with visual art.  My folks say it should.

I mean, that could be something to get up for, right?  It also sounds like a good way to generate a lot of ideas for artworks — or even just “flex those creative muscles.”  (Yeah, I don’t like that phraseology…my brain is not a muscle…)

Right now, I’ve just finished listening to a fairly long lecture.  I’ll listen to the next one tomorrow, then try and crank out the graded homework I missed…I don’t think my brain can take another hour of needing to pay rapt attention.  But I’m getting to the point where I’ve realized just how much work I’ve got ahead of me.

I’ll need to submit a Discussion Board post by Thursday in Research Methodologies, meaning that I’ll want to have gotten the assigned readings and lectures out of the way before then.  In addition, I’ll need to have done enough initial research to have dug into a bit of a Literature Review.  I have a lot of sources already (I was searching “minority librarians” under a large database — after I found that this was the preferred term under the controlled vocabulary), but I’ll need to sort through them and read the most promising ones.

And the Cataloging homework is relatively steady.  I haven’t read Lecture 4 yet, so I don’t know if this will have me working online again — but the Cataloging Professor gives out written lectures, not audio ones, and I can easily map out what needs to be done soonest.  (I think there may be practice sheets for Week 4, too…gah.)

So I basically got two weeks behind on everything while I was trying to figure out Dewey and freaking out and getting anxious and depressed and trying to put together a fall-back position.  Was it worth it?  I’m not sure — I haven’t checked my grades, yet, but I don’t think this Professor is one to give a student an F because they were off (even slightly off) on two out of six questions.  Although a 60% is an F, in my system.

And yes, the B12 tablet is still under my tongue…how long is this thing supposed to take to dissolve???

Better yet, no one knew this was a sublingual tablet but me?  Did they just swallow the things without reading the bottle???

Okay, it’s gone.  I feel better now.  🙂

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.