Saturday, December 25, 2010

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

I want to think and talk,  for a couple posts, about plaigarism and copyright in the beading world.  I recently read, in Beadwork Magazine, an article by Marlene Blessing, the editorial director, which includes the following:

"A BEADERS CODE OF ETHICS
- It is unethical to copy an artist's work without that artist's permission.
- It is unethical to copy any work that has appeared in a magazine, book or website and represent it in any venue as an original design.
- It is unethical to teach a beading project that has appeared in a magazine, book or website without that artist's and publisher's permission.
- It is unethical to teach a beading project learned in another teacher's class."

Since I have named my source and quoted directly, I sincerely hope that my using these words here is not illegal in any way.  But I have to wonder, why is this information not front and center in the magazine? Why is it not on the page that tells me it is illegal to copy any part of the magazine in print so fine I need my magnifiers to read it?  Maybe it should be obvious to all concerned?

I'm going to tell you a story about how easy it is, especially as a new beader, to run afoul of these ethics.  And in another post, I am going to show you how I believe I did so myself.  In this post, you get a chance to vote on whether or not I did in the case presented here.  I don't think so, but your thinking may be different from my own.  It all involves judgement.

I started beading in August of 2007. Almost immediately I stumbled upon a call for entry for a local bead art juried exhibit called "Beads of Whimsy."  I decided, why not give that a try?  Two entries could be submitted, so I decided I would create two pieces.  In retrospect, that was both a bold and a foolish move for a spanking new beader.

The first piece began in a Right Angle Weave Workshop class.  The class was two sessions, and we could make a necklace or a bracelet, creating the RAW base in the first class and then embellishing with bicones in the second.  I got home after the first session, which was my first introduction to RAW, ripped out what I had done in class and decided I would use the technique and basic necklace shape taught to create a piece based on one I had seen in a book, and admired. I think most beaders begin because they love something they have seen and want to make something similar. 

So there are my code violations.  First, I tried to make something like an award winning necklace I admired, and second,  my work began in a class.  Although not specifically spelled out in the "Code," original work probably only rarely begins in a class.  But in my defense, my finished piece is not remotely recognizable as a project from the class, which included bicones (or stone chips) and no fringe.  I can't show you that though, because I'd have to copy the class material, which is protected by copyright.  You would have to take my word on it.  Or since a class was involved, I am condemned.  Your judgement is called for.

My "DaVinci Code Book Club Necklace"
As my homework, I created the base for the necklace and in the second class session, I made a start on fringing the piece, and then worked on it for weeks.  I have always loved gradation as a design element, so I thought I would gradually blend my colors.  As I worked on the piece, I listened to The DaVinci Code on CD.  The black and white became symbolic in my mind of the men and women in the ritual ceremonies in the book, and the apple focal, which I had made for me by lampwork artist Marcia Parker, was the perfect touch.

 I think publishing a photo of the piece that was my inspiration here would be illegal, as I would have to scan it, and that act alone would constitute copyright infringement, but I was able to find a photo of it on the net (please click on this link) with a thank you to our friends at Fire Mountain Gems, who sponsor the Bead and Button Magazine Bead Dreams competition.  This work won a second place award for finished jewelry in 2004.  Copying this piece would have been in violation of the "Code of Ethics" for sure.

But did I know that?  Now of course, at this point in my beading career, I had not read the fine print in the magazines and books I was looking at.  And I also had not read copyright law.  I had been costume designer for competitive ballroom dancers for twenty years, and in the fashion world, design trends come and go very quickly in the form of knock-offs.  A professional dancer appears on the circuit with a great gown, and everyone wants to look just like her!  I had personally designed a gown that was copied so frequently in the course of a few months that all 6 finalists for the national championships of the American Smooth style one year were wearing a knock-off of my design.  The next year, it was all over Europe as well. And I have copied as much as I have been copied.  But for me, it is business as usual.  I am not saying it's right or wrong.  It just is.

Test this for yourself.  Watch a big awards show, the Ocars, the Tonys, Golden Globes; you pick.  Observe how the ladies are dressed, especially the ones who look really fantastic.  Then visit Macy's or Bloomies or even JC Penney in a couple weeks, and I guarantee knockoffs of the best looks with be on the racks for you to purchase for your prom.

So the idea that I might have done anything wrong here, especially given that my outcome is both structurally and visually different than the work that inspired it, did not even occur to me.  But if you look closely, the basic design elements are the same.

In retrospect, I believe this piece is my own. I don't think it is a result the teacher of the class would ever have expected, and I do not think it is a copy of my initial source of inspiration, even a "derivative" one, for those of you who know copyright law. But as I said earlier, this all involves judgement.  I show you both here, and invite you to vote in the poll.  Is it a copy?  Is it an original work?  Should I be crediting the artist who made the original necklace with the design or inspiration?  Should I have asked for her permission to sell the necklace on Etsy in my shop?  It is for sale.  I didn't ask for permission.  Am I ethical?  What do YOU think?

In my next post, look for the other "Beads of Whimsy" entry, which I think DID cross the line.  Check back in a few weeks and vote again.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A New Skill Set

I have this idea for a piece, but I don't think it can structurally be beadwoven.  I think it will have to be embroidered in order to maintain its shape.  I really want to make this piece, so, time to learn bead embroidery. I have bead embroidered on lace with reasonable success, but that was soft and flat. This will have to be done on a stiff backing and then have a layer of support inside as well as a lining.  So I decided it was time to acquire a new skill set.

I chose a cabochon I really loved, so as to make sure I would give this my best effort and finish instead of giving up in frustration, which I wanted to do several times, even with the cabochon of azurite with malachite inclusions leading the way. 

I had purchased some backing from Nicole Campenella at Beadwright on Etsy, and chose a beautiful turquoise piece.  I ransacked my bead stash for likely suspects, guessed a layout, and glued on the cab.  I had some unpolished malachite seed beads and used them as part of the bezel with pretty good results.  OK, so far so good.  But I didn't like the feel of the backing in my hands.  It's wonderful backing, mind you, and is available in a multitude of colors.  But I like the feeling of woven glass beadwork in my hands.  Something to adjust to.
I felt OK about what I did as I went along, but realized there was a skill to the layout that I lack.  I read the experts, Kummli, Seraphini and Eaton, and they all said "just play with the beads" so I played along.  I discovered that it might be best to complete one  phase and tie off my thread before starting something new, so if I change my mind, I can rip without worrying about what came before and after.  I also realized that a color contrast in a bead used to secure another was a LOUD statement, and somewhat playful in effect.  Good info as well.

When it came time to finish the edge I was dumbfounded.  There HAS to be a better solution than brick stitch or picot with stitches visible on the back side!  But no, that was the consistent recommendation.  I could not do it,  I did an invisible pick stitch on the back side.  I will have to do some playing with that because I just don't think that visible stitch will ever feel good to me.

And then, time to add fringe.  Had to be through the brick stitch edging.  I like layers of fringe, but settled for one BIG layer.   Another thing to figure out!  I used an attachment directly from Jamie Cloud Eakin, which works well with the mega-fringe, and strung a neckband from the leftover beads.

I'm glad I kept going and didn't allow myself to give up.  I like the result, but see TONS of room for improvement.  I learned alot!  Experience is so different from thinking you understand, from reading about it, how something is done.   Best do it again and get a little more of that under my belt before the pearls arrive.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Serendipity For My Sister

Two years ago, my sister Cara gave me three cabochons for Christmas.  She told me that my mother loved one of them, and she loved another.  I made up the one my mom had indicated she liked, as a gift for her 87th birthday.  It's always good to know what might be wanted when trying to create a gift, even for someone you know well.

Last summer, my sister told me that what she most wanted for her December birthday and Christmas combined was the cabochon she had given me, transfomed into jewelry.  I got it out and thought to myself,  "OK, so you don't find instant inspiration here.  Just make a start, and something will occur to you."

It was dark Payne's gray and creamy white, maybe a little like dalmatian jasper, but the domed surface was pitted and I was having a hard time getting past that.  I tightened the bezel at the front and flipped it over to close the back, and EUREKA!!!  On the back side was a nearly perfect image of Mount Helena, as seen from the front yard of the house my sister and I grew up in, located in Helena, Montana.  I looked for a picture of this mountain to show you, but all the ones I found online are of the East slope, and our house is on the North slope.  Sigh.
Mount Helena - The  Flat Side of the Cabochon
The shape is just right, the tree line is almost visible, and the mountain looks like it usually looks about this time of year, with a dusting of snow.  Had my sister seen this?  I had not.  Wow.  I quietly proceeded to finish the bezel and then decided to apply some snowy branch fringe to the bottom, as though you might be viewing the mountain in winter through frost or snow covered trees and shrubs.
The domed side of the cabochon, with its pits, that I didn't love,
with the twisted 8-strand rope.
Then I had another EUREKA moment, as the fringe looked both a little like the branches I was aiming for, AND roots!  MY roots.  MY SISTER's roots.  We grew up on that mountain.  Amazing how things take on meaning and beauty.  How a duty can become a delight, if you give it a chance.

Mount Helena side up , on the cubic right angle weave  rope
I made a woven bail and strung a delicate 8 strand necklace I thought would be pretty with the pendant.  This was after a lengthy struggle with the bead crochet rope I thought I would try for the first time.  Turns out, knowing how to crochet is far from all that is required for this technique. FAIL!  I liked the 8 strand, but the scale of the bail meant that it had to be twisted to hang nicely and I was still wishing for that bead crochet rope I could not do.  So I looked at Heather Collin's brilliant and clear tutorial for cubic RAW  (Thank you 'Mam! What a fun and fast technique!) and made a second, interchangeable neck strap for the piece that I like even better than the 8 strand.  But I'll send her both, since either could be worn by itself as well.

The 8 strand rope and the CRAW rope, without the cabochon pendant.
My sister does not read my blog, so even though this is a Christmas gift, I think I am safe publishing premature pictures of it here. Don't spoil the surprise for her.  Shhhhhh, do not share with Cara until Christmas!