Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Creative Musings - The Confession

If you'd like to cue Usher at this point you can, because I've got a confession.
It all started in 2007 when I began this little beading journey. I was addicted to Flickr. I couldn't get enough of what beady goodness people were posting and the things that people were creating, and so I clicked and clicked and clicked....and copied. Yeah, I said copied.

If it looked simple like it came from basic peyote or herringbone, it wasn't long before I had tried my hand and whipped up an exact design that I was extremely proud of but had had no creative hand in designing.

by Jewelry Tales

I've been thinking a lot about the beginnings of my journey lately, mostly in thanks to this post from Jess and Marlene Blessing's article on copyright in the current issue of Beadwork. And may I say, it has come full circle.
Two weeks ago I received an Etsy convo from a person asking me oddly specific questions about one of my bracelets that I currently sell as a tutorial. She wanted to know how to construct my bracelet without actually purchasing the tutorial. Trust me, I know exactly what she was thinking, I spent the first 2-3 months of this journey thinking the exact same thing and asking the exact same question as I tried to recreate the masterpieces I saw before me.

Jeweled Orb Pendant
by Silver Perch Designs

She veiled it all by saying with each convo, "I'm thinking about purchasing the pattern." (trust me...not the case) After about three back-and-forth convos of me giving extremely vague non-answers and her asking extremely specific nosey questions, I finally laid it down...."It's in the tutorial. Buy the tutorial!"
What happened?
I never heard from her again.

by Smadar's Treasure

Now, my guess is that she figured it out and is now walking around somewhere wearing a bracelet that looks exactly like my Fire and Ice Cuff (maybe a little wonky because she didn't have all the directions). I know because I've been there.
And as mad as it made me to have these convos with her and to walk away dissapointed that someone was copying me, I cannot judge her, and I cannot point my finger (there are four pointing back at me).
But, it reminds me every day how important it is that we as designers and creators respect those that have come before us and shown us the potential in a tiny little bead.

by Bead Origami

And so, on the point of originality, I will not re-hash what has already been said (visit this post by Jess). The call to "be original" to "create your own design" and "follow your own inspiration" is in every blog post and article about copyright, but I know that what I needed when I began beading was not the call to be original, but someone to tell me how to find what makes me original, to tell me how to add to a conversation already full of a million voices.
My First Tutorial

So, I will tell you what I did to find my path to my own creativity and originality.  It changed the way that I create and I have never looked back since.
1. Find your colors. Are you bright and primary? Soft and pastel? Dark and brooding? Or deep and intense? I don't create much in orange because it does not inspire me, no matter how "in" Pantone says that it is.
2. Find your style. Are you sleek and modern? Frilly and romantic? Traditional and elegant? I won't create anything that I won't wear, because it just wouldn't be me.
3. Find your shape. Do you like ovals, circles, squares, triangles? If you look at most of my work, the soft curves of circles and ovals take center stage, I don't know why, they just do. I can pull out a diamond or two, but for some reason, don't like triangles. I would suggest taking your favorite beading magazing, marking the pages of the projects you like the most, and then look at the themes common to all these projects. Why do you like the ones that you like?
4. Find your stitch. For a beadweaver, this is the most important. If you begin to learn how to do your stitch inside and out, then you can begin to play with it in different forms (think Marcia DeCoster and right angle weave). Would you believe that every tutorial in my shop is my own variation on the beginnings of circular peyote? No joke.

I hope this helps, and I hope that it sparks creativity in you. These are things that I wish someone would have told me in the beginning. I have long since destroyed the copies that I made and instead focused my energy on creating something new. I hope that you'll remember that and be inspired to do the same. 

Finally, I'd like to thank, from the bottom of my heart, each and every one of you who has purchased a tutorial from me and supported my creativity with your hard-earned dollars. I hope you learn something about yourself as you work through one of my projects and I hope that it inspires you because it encourages me to keep on creating for you.

Oh, and because it's Wednesday....I created a treasury with the colors of the Sudan for this week's Margie and Me challenge.


  1. Thank you so much for what you wrote. I have "been there, done that" looking at a beautiful piece, wondering if I could figure out how to do it. The encouragement I took from your comments was in looking for "me" in my work. I love trying new stitches, just to know that "I will never do that one again". I am trying hard to find my creative bone, which is why I still haven't made the leap to selling stuff, and really not to creating my own patterns. But now, I think maybe I can. Blessings, Shirley

  2. Wise words and I love the advice on how to find your own voice.

  3. I am of two minds regarding this topic. I am self taught. I have never copied a design. I have studied a design to figure out how it was done and then utilized the technique to create wholly original work. I have bought 3 or 4 books to learn techniques and a few tutorials for the same reason. I find it boring to recreate another's work. That said, however, it is a well established learning tool in fine art for student painters to attempt to copy works by the Masters (and other earlier painters). I've never done it though I have experimented with various techniques and styles of several art movements. One signs one's own name to any copied work, of course.

    On the other hand, if we look at the fashion industry, we find that clothing and show designers do NOT have copyright privileges. Apparently this field of endeavor does not meet the criteria for copyrighting. And is there copying? Yes. But because everyone wants to establish their own artistic identity it turns out that copies are never the same as the originals and, moreover, actually appears to inspire creativity in the designers.

    I believe the same is true for automobiles.

    So, where am I on this issue? I don't copy. If someone copies me (and considering the intricacy and labor of my work that's not too likely) I would just sigh and move on. Even though I DO make use of copyright privileges (just look at the bottom of my website and, now, at many of my uploaded images) because I don't really want someone else saying that my work is theirs.

    Patricia C Vener

  4. Oh Marcie you said it! I did begin that way to but....I got into blogging very early in my journey so in order to show appreciation I do not use my gift of great abstract reasoning to create. I love patterns and only covet those which I have purchased or given free by these awesome artists. I also try to make sure that they are given credit for what I do! So the other gift I have is that I can follow patterns well and then use that information to start my own path. I think that is the only way I can be true to myself and the artist I admire! Thank you for saying this and I hope that any newbies that read this understand why you have said it!

  5. Great post! I love your advice about finding your own creativity and originality. I am a great purchaser of tutorials - I happen to love taking the well traveled road because for me they are like taking classes. I don't have any access to nearby bead stores for this or to play with tubes of bead an make selections. I find tutorials that will teach me something I want to learn - be it a stitch combination or a color combo. Since I make jewelry for myself, this is no big deal. There are tutorials out there with licenses to sell or teach, but I figure that by the time I get around to selling beadwork, I will be designing my own patterns. For me, spending $7-$15 is totally worth it to learn something new. It saves me a 3-4 hr. round trip car ride and provides me with loads of entertainment.

    The work of jewelry designers is art. And there are laws which govern art copyright. Artists are working professionals and are entitled to make a living from their creation.

  6. You are not alone in how you started your journey into beadwork. Now, I try very hard to be as original as possible, though I still find inspiration from others' work in use of stitches or color combinations, etc. I really appreciate your insight on "finding" oneself. I think I've been doing some of this and not even realizing it but your steps are good advice to further the process.

  7. Great article and thanks for sharing your experience. It all depends on each individual how they see copyright.
    Don't despair when someone copied your design as they will always be following after you to see what are you coming up with, instead be honored that you have fans.
    That's how I see my work now and am a happier person!

  8. Excellent post! Thanks for sharing!!

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Thanks for a great post.

    I'm proud to say that I've never copied someone else's design and claimed it as my own.

    I do however l♥ve tutorials and will confess I own far too many! I don't sell my pieces but always acknowledge the designer and the tutorial when posting pictures of my pieces on my blog or in forums.

    I find tutorials a marvellous way to venture inside a designer's head... thinking the way they do creatively. I admire their talent - not only their design ability but being able to write a tutorial that can be followed easily.

    I've written two tutorials, which were both published in an Australian beading magazine, and I never realised what an exhausting process it is!

    I think your tips on finding your own style are excellent too. I never considered myself to have a particular style or felt my designs were distinctly ''me'' until a fellow beader (thanks Belinda) commented on a necklace of mine saying she knew it was one of my designs as soon as she saw it. I have to say this really touched my heart. I have only recently become comfortable with referring to myself a ''designer'' and took the big step of having some business cards printed with my title as ''Artist and Designer''...hmmm still not sure!

    Unfortunately I think everything is made to be copied. Obviously this is not the intention of the person who made the original product but I think once your work is out in the big wide world then it will be copied. It's a sad fact of life and I think one we are going to live with forever. Does it make it right? Of course not but what can we do to prevent this other than attach copyright tags to our pieces, which unfortunately some people still don't take notice of.

    I agree with Shirley - let's be honored that someone loves our work enough to copy it... when that day comes for me I will let you know how I feel!!

    (Sorry for deleting my last post - I realised there was a lot of typos)!

  11. This is a great post because I think so many of us have been there, in many different craft areas. We see something and say "oh I could do that" without really acknowledging the creator. Your advice is well said also because it is hard to create something that is not inherent in who you are. I try to break out and use new colors but you are right they don't inspire me and I get bored and walk away, often not even finishing the project. It so important to be who you are and make that special and unique to you. That is really what will draw people to your work because your passion will be reflected in your work! Thanks for a great post! ~Nancy

  12. Wonderful post Marcie. Very thought provolking.

  13. Very interesting and thought-provoking blog post! I concur with much of what has been said in the post and the comments. I'd just like to add that I wonder if your persistent person ever asked themselves how much total time it would take them to reverse-engineer your pattern, and whether it is a worthwhile use of their time? How many times would they have to start the pattern, and rip it apart and start over when it wasn't working? What if they finish the whole design and it looks wonky? How many times would they have to remake it before they liked it? Nevermind the amount of time this person has already spent in crafting their coy convos. I can see the puzzle-solving appeal of reverse-engineering a pattern, but surely it would take 10, 15, maybe 20 hours to do so for your Fire and Ice cuff. What if they had to pay themselves for all that time? Even at minimum wage, the cost of the tutorial is a bargain by comparison.

    I suppose it comes down to how much this person values their time. I never have enough of it, so I've found that it's well worth the investment to just buy the clearly-written book or tutorial (and in your Etsy feedback, your previous customers indeed describe this tutorial as clear and well-written).

    Finally, you've assembled a fantastic selection of tutorials from some very talented artists. I'm honored to be among them.

  14. You said...

    how to add to a conversation already full of a million voices.


    and that is such a good way of putting it.

    Recently I've seen some copying accusations publicly play out and they were horrible. All by people who had been in the game long enough who SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER!

    Your talking about people starting out and finding their voice is so perfect that I really think you should send this in to the editor of a beading magazine. There's so much talk about copyright, but none about the beginning beader who is learning by copying tutorials and other beaders as a way to learn.

    I think you address this in so much more gracious a way than some of the people who I thought of as leaders in their field. You are amazing in so many ways.

  15. So well said, Marcie...this is a great post!

    Naturally, when we all start out, we learn by tutorials. We emulate the style of those artists whom we admire (often subconsciously). We take inspiration from others while we are searching for our own creative voice. Looking back at my earliest bead embroidered creations, I can see the influence of those artists I admired at the time. Not a direct copy, but in a similar style.

    The artists, such as yourself, who so generously share their knowledge by way of tutorials, allow beginners to learn not only techniques but creative process also. Allowing a little peek into the way your mind works and how you create your work, gives beginners a starting point for their own creative journey. Without sharing of knowledge, there would be no continuity of this art!

    I think the main problem with copying another artists design though, lies in the issue of selling. Copying with the intention of learning is one thing, but copying with the intention of selling is crossing the line. The designer is not only suffering from idea/design theft, but potential loss of income also.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking and beautifully worded post, Marcie :-)

  16. I'm sorry I didn't see this post earlier. Honest, real and very well written! A perspective and point of view we haven't heard from before. Wonderful post! I like how you've added to the conversation with your list to follow to help find a voice in the beading world! It can be quite a long journey to find that out and it can also change and evolve over time. I feel that I have found a voice through using certain materials. I'm drawn to different types of cording such as leather, suede, waxed linen, silk cords and ribbons. I love the textural quality. I like combining them with beads and basic jewelry-making techniques.