Friday, January 09, 2009


And I'm hoping it's going to be a weekend of beadmaking! For those who have asked for pics of the beads I’m making... maybe someday. They aren't THAT exciting anyways...just tiny spacer-sorts of beads...some with knobby dots or roses, some that are just rondelles...again, nothing TOO exciting.

So today's blog... here we go... for all you non-beady sorts, might want to skip the following paragraphs it's gonna get very beady today) as for those of you the words of Bette Davis...

"Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy ride"

Today's Tiny Blah Blah Blah was going to be sponsored by my friend Stacey (although I told her it wouldn't even cost her a cup of coffee for me to say something) BUT I decided that it's one of those things that's important enough to get a whole blog posting...

The "C" word... here we go again.... the topic is Copying.

I KNOW it's a topic that gets heated in some of the bead forums and it can be a sticky topic...and you guys who read this very often know that I have some pretty clear views of how it can be a NON-TOPIC... if people would just start looking at other sources than beads for inspiration... THAT would open bead-world up to SO many more exciting creations.

BUT that's not even what this posting is about... this is about just plain old blatant Plagiarism or Pirating... taking someone's original idea and not trying to replicate it... just STEALING it and making it your own. First I'll tell my own story of this and then I'll tell Anne’s story…the one that Stacey is sponsoring for today.

My own experience with this happened in late 1997-1998 (I think I might have told this story in my blog a LONG time ago…so excuse me if I repeat myself) when I had a customer who bought my beads to use in her jewelry line. She took my mermaids, fairies and angels, which she bought wholesale from me (she bought a LOT of these beads) and put them on simple chain with a few Austrian crystals. Nothing crazy creative, BUT she always got a card from me, to include with the jewelry, a little blurb about me telling that I was the artist to give me credit for my portion of the work she was selling.

Of course she didn't HAVE to do this... we beadmakers know that a lot of jewelry is made and sold with handmade glass beads where no credit is given to the beadmaker. Not cool, but it happens. SO, I was happy that I was being given credit for the work that I was doing…especially since it really was the MAIN feature of the jewelry….these weren’t little spacer beads in a bracelet… it was MY sculpture on a chain. The beads I was KNOWN for in bead-world.

And here’s where the story gets ugly…I found out that she was telling people that SHE made the beads. This was not on a tiny bead-show scale either. She bought my beads, made necklaces from them which she sold at the D.C., Chicago and Dallas Beckman's Handcrafted Gift Show as well as the Rosen Show in Philadelphia which is one of the most prestigious handcrafted shows out there and is highly juried….along with other large-scale gift shows and retail art shows. The jewelry was sold to some of the nicest handcrafted galleries and museum stores, as well as LOTS of little gift stores around the country and TONS of individuals at art shows around the country.

SO... how did I find this out???? I had someone in Atlanta say that they’d seen my work at the Yellow Daisy Festival (a big art show here) and that the person selling it, although they KNEW it was my work, hadn’t mentioned me. Oh well… it was a busy show… stuff happens. Then I was at the Best Bead show in Tucson and someone who was looking at my beads (but didn’t know me) said they'd met my husband at the New York gift show. HUH? I said... no, I wasn't there. You must be thinking of my customer that sells work she's made with my beads... they said "no...They were very specific that their wife made the beads." Hmmmmm. I thought. This is odd, but it MUST be a misunderstanding.

THEN I had someone else come to my booth who knew me and my beads very well. She lives in Chicago and owns a business there. She had received the brochure for the Chicago Handcrafted Gift Show and said my beads were on the cover. They are??? Cool, thought I. Not cool she said... she said it doesn't even mention me. ??? I said??? She said she'd mail it to me.

She did.... and low and behold it had MY beads on the cover. We're not talking jewelry made with my beads... MY BEADS. And did they have my name on them????? NOPE. The credit was given to "Fiddlesticks" This was the business name of my customer (who by the way is still in business under that name…I checked yesterday…she has a website

So, I called the customer "no no no... You must have misunderstood" I THEN called the show-promoter to ask about the cover and inform them of the situation, asking for them to print some sort of correction. "Well, we're not going to do that... she is a vendor and we know that she makes those glass beads." "Oh yeah???? Would you like copies of all the sales invoices for the thousands she's spent on MY glass beads????" says I. They quickly changed their tune (a little.)

I got a sob story letter from the owner of Fiddlesticks telling me that she’s a single mom and this is her livelihood and that I was putting her business in jeopardy. I’m a very understanding person mind you… but this was MY livelihood as well… and my heart and soul… my ART. It truly truly truly hurt that a customer did this to me. One that I had praised for giving me credit as an artist.

In the end, I decided that the best way to handle this would be to stop selling her the beads. She couldn't make more of them, so that would take her ability to pirate my art. I also had the misguided idea that if I went and did those same gift shows I'd be able to "win my name back" and get credit with the customers for what I HAD CREATED. That was where I went wrong. The show promoters did let me in the show, but she stayed on as a premiere "front-row" vendor, while I was with the new guys in the back of the hall.

The other vendors hated me... they thought I was someone who had stolen HER designs. I was told later by another vendor that they'd been told that story. I also heard from a former customer of hers (who became my customer) that they were told upon seeing my stuff at the show that the story was something like... I had been her employee and left and stole the designs. That was a horrible thing to hear… I really really really felt violated then. Not only was my work stolen… but I was being slandered at the same time. I was used to LOVING shows, the camaraderie with the other vendors, the FUN customers… these shows, though I gained many WONDERFUL supportive customers, for me were filled with a lot of negative emotion caused by evil stares and whispers. It was awful….and totally unwarranted.

I did very well at the shows, but it wasn’t what I’d ever set out to do… I never wanted a jewelry line. I wanted to make beads!!! I turned myself into a factory…which is sadly, what a lot of the people at the handcrafted shows really were…actual factories. I just couldn’t keep up with the orders and my sanity, so I gave up the jewelry line and went back to being “just” a beadmaker.

I never took any sort of action against her. It wasn't worth it. She was a person unable to create anything original on her own. She required using the art of others. She now uses the beads of another beadmaker. I looked on her site yesterday and she DOES give that person credit. I was glad to see that. Hopefully she's changed her ways a bit. (Says the nice person/optimist in me)

There are SO many forms of pirating art.... from blatant misrepresentation to taking original designs here and having them reproduced in China...a country who does nothing to protect artistic copyright (this has happened to LOTS of US glass beadmakers) and even pirating of designs used by instructors here at big-name bead shows …someone taking the project and going to teach it as if it was their own design.

A friend of mine, Anne Mitchell (, teaches beautiful metal-work classes at both Bead and Button and other show venues like Beadfest. Her work is published in books and magazines and just this year she was awarded 2009 Excellence in Bead Artistry award by Bead and Button. So, what's the pirating story here???

She found out in the past couple of days that one of her signature classes, Crystal Corduroy with Japanese Overlay is being taught at Beadfest Philadelphia by another instructor using the IDENTICAL pattern with a very similar name. While a lot of metal-work and chain-making classes are based on traditional techniques, making the pirating issue a little sticky, this is a project that Anne has taught OVER and OVER as well as having had published in more than one publication. (You can see the examples on Anne’s blog

It's not a case of "similar," so there really is no excuse for it. I think that the show promoter needs to do more research when booking the very least. It's not only Anne that this has happened to. If show promoters don't REALLY look into their instructors and workshop projects, by comparing them to other show catalogs...they are going to continue to see this. To me, it doesn't seem that difficult. The bead periodicals are out there…FULL of published projects…if they are a BEAD show, they should be reading BEAD periodicals…(and not just their own). And there are not THAT many big venue shows with big name instructors that these class coordinators can't grab a brochure and compare it to the classes that they are considering. Can it be THAT hard????

SO… it’s left to those of us who make beads, create projects and teach to police ourselves. I’m not talking about the “beadmaker A is making beads that look a lot like beadmaker B’s” that goes on in the forums, although that’s going to happen FOREVER. I’m talking about blatant plagiarism and pirating.

If you're looking through a catalog or online and see beads that are UBER cheap and look lampworked... some research into the origins of the beads. If you see ceramic or porcelain beads (again uber cheap) that look like lampworked beads you've seen before... DON'T BUY THEM!!! Don't support the countries who steal the creative properties of actual artists...both from the US and other countries (because there are wonderful glass artists in Europe and around the world.) You should KNOW by the price alone if it's a sketchy situation.

If they're being sold in a big-name catalog... complain!!!!

If you’re in bead-world and you KNOW you’ve seen a project published and you then see it in a class brochure being offered by a different instructor… e-mail and ASK the class registration people about it. They might have a very valid explanation, but I think if more questions were asked, they would be a little more diligent in their research.

In addition, if you’re at a craft show and there are handmade beads being incorporated into jewelry… ask about them! If it’s a REAL beadmaker, they’ll LOVE telling you all about how they’re made…and they’ll KNOW how they’re made. If they’re a wonderful jewelry artisan who is buying and using handmade beads…they’ll gladly tell you about the beads that they buy.

If you ask and get a sketchy answer…someone ACTING like they make the beads but can’t really explain how the beads are made (and those of you who read this for the most part KNOW how beads are made)… ask a little more. If you totally feel that something’s not right… e-mail the show promoter afterwards. It’s not going to do any good to do something while you’re there… things are too crazy at a show AND you want to shop!!! BUT if you truly have a bad vibe… do something about it. Handmade glass beads are still such a “new” art-form in the US that a lot of art shows are bead-clueless and don’t know the art and artists behind the beads.

Show promoters are basically real-estate agents. They sell property...booth spaces… and a lot of times they’re not as concerned who they are selling the property to. This is not ALWAYS the case, of course… some shows are VERY juried and the promoters are very educated about their vendors. Class coordinators should be VERY aware of the classes they’re scheduling though. But it looks like, for a while, it’s going to be up to us to police ourselves.

So… this one was for you, Anne!!! Sadly, with success goes such things, but you deserve better… some credit for your design at the VERY least. Hopefully you’ll get some resolve soon.

And we’ve come to the end of our “ride” for today… Have a great weekend!!!!

Today’s Tiny Blah Blah Blah is brought to you by my brother-in-law, Todd who is buying my coffee so that I’ll say in this international forum…

Florida Gators are #1!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(thanks for the coffee!!)

Tiny blah blah blah...

Coffee today – Cinnamon Dolce Latte

Music – Norah Jones and Lily Allen (a bit of a contrast there, huh???)

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