Sunday, August 18, 2013

If you remember me

It was an ubiquitous creative writing assignment when I was in High School:
Imagine that you have lived your life, that you are very old now, and write your own epitaph. How will you be remembered? What have you accomplished? 
I don't remember what I wrote then; it doesn't matter. The older I get, the less my accomplishments matter; the only thing I want to be remembered for these days is sharing. Sharing happiness, love, and sorrow; sharing good times and bad. Sharing exploration and discovery; learning, and creating, together.

This means more and more to me every day, and I'm writing about it now because I recently learned that there is a campaign by a few beaders to form a guild for the primary purpose of raising money to take legal action against those whom they believe are copying their work. This makes me sad. Not because I don't think beaders deserve to profit from their creativity; they certainly do. And not because I think that people should be allowed to "steal" other people's work; they shouldn't. It makes me sad because I think that creativity is a synergistic process, and I think that demonizing people for copying and going on witch hunts to expose them is already doing more harm than good. I don't even want to imagine what would happen if lawyers were involved.

It's a rare individual who can create in a vacuum; most creative breakthroughs are built on top of other people's work, on top of other people's creative breakthroughs. We see this in all fields; in science, mathematics, painting, sculpture, music...why should beading be any different? If you've been to the Louvre, you've seen art students with easels set up in front of paintings, copying the Masters' work right out in the open. They're not doing it to steal the Masters' work; they're doing it to learn. They're learning technique, they're learning about color, they're learning about brushwork. They're doing their apprenticeship, and yes - they sell those paintings in order to continue their studies, in order to perfect their own skills and in order to put in the time required to develop their own styles and launch their own creative endeavors. Or not. Some of them may end up doing nothing more than making competent reproductions. But that really doesn't matter, the point I want to make is that copying is not an evil act of a depraved individual; it's how we learn. Artists have always stood on the shoulders of the previous generations; even when they turn art on its head and break all the rules, they are still building on what others have already done.

Because I started beading long ago, before the Internet existed, I had only my grandmothers to learn from. But learn I did - and I learned by copying exactly what they did. They showed me stitches, bead by bead. They taught me thread paths, and they showed me all of the things they had learned, and all the things they had created. Over the years I discovered books and other beaders, and I learned more. I am thankful that I was born before the copyright police went viral, in a time where beading stitches, styles and methods were happily passed from person to person. Yes, we bought books. Artists were paid. Teachers were paid. But we shared our knowledge, and we shared our love of beads.

I want to end this as I began. If you remember me, please remember that I shared.


cw whitedogjewelry said...

Beautifully written! Thanks for sharing your wise thoughts with us. I totally agree, and hope too, that I am remembered for giving back.

NEDbeads said...

I just heard about this today myself. It makes me sad, too - and angry. And defiant. It makes me want to make a tutorial and immediately put it out on my blog for FREE.

And you know I will remember you constantly and always and for many more things than sharing. Hugs and love to you, always.

Bead Queen said...

So nice to hear that someone else thinks like me! Imagine the world we would live in if no-one was allowed to copy anyone doing anything ;) Hmmm makes you wonder if anyone would be able to do anything at all, doesn't it?
Nice to see someone else has the guts to post about this. Well done Cynthia, you are a truly good person!

Carol xxx

Beverly Herman said...

Thank you for putting those thoughts into words. I agree. I will remember.

Laurey G said...

Thank you for being the very articulate voice of reason. I watched this week's intrigue with great dismay. You have said what I feel better than I can.
I will remember that you shared. I will remember that you are incredibly kind.<3

Bianca Velder said...

Wonderfully written and so true. I learned from others, I hope throughout the years I have shared to repeat that notion of being of service to others.

I am really sad that beaders would want to go to that length. What they forget is that revenge, as that is what it probably is, brings you to the same level as a perceived perpetrator. This rampant selfish individualism, instead of understanding that community is everything.

That is hubris and arrogance, as there is a base assumption that these creative ideas they have, are original and unique. They may be, they may not be. And like you, I do not want to be remembered for hubris and arrogance, but humility and a goodness, the goodness of sharing and loving.

It is all about money, but also about competition - this need to be seen as the first, the best, the most unique. We give people titles such as rock star of the beading world, bead master and we do not realise that by doing that, we often diminish. We diminish generosity, we diminish that we indeed, dear Cynthia, do not exist or create in vacuum.

Carolyn Gebert said...

I so agree - thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Karen Firnberg said...

Thank you, Cindy. This is a well worded and timed post. I agree with you wholeheartedly.

BeadsForever said...

Thank you for a very well thought out and well written viewpoint. I wasn't aware of the group you mention before reading your blog. My head must be buried in the sand.

Julie Cowan said...

So sad to hear this...I had no idea. Thank you for your words of wisdom...I too learned many of my crafts from my grandmother and love her for sharing that with me!!! Such a shame that people have forgotten share! Thank you for reminding us!!

The Cheeky Kea said...

Yes! I totally agree. I'm in New Zealand so I don't know the current gossip and atmosphere of the beading world at large.
I've only been beading a short time, most of what I make is copied to a degree. I'm still consider myself a beginner and a don't feel like I'm knowledgeable enough to make something that has never been done before - even my original pieces feature techniques or components learned from the work and tutorials of others. I often trawl google images looking for inspiration and many of the photos I can't seem to trace back to an original designer - so does that mean I shouldn't give it a go? And if I do, does that mean I shouldn't say "Hey, look what I made!".
A while back made some peyote triangle earrings and put them in my online store. Peyote triangles are everywhere, I never dreamed that someone might actually hold creative license over them, then i bought Diane Fitzgerald's Shaped Peyote book and saw her triangles. Suddenly I'm wondering if maybe I'm not allowed to sell them, what if she owns the copyright? Is that even possible, to own a shape?
I don't know, but I'm not going to remove things from my store or gallery. I give credit and links) where it's due (if I know it) and if a tutorial says I'm not allowed to on-sell my creations, I wont be buying lessons or books from that beader.
I worry that one day someone is going to see jewellery on my page and say "I made a RAW pearl bracelet once, so you're a thief", that that will be the end my reputation. I'm glad there are others out there that think that stance is unfair.

Cyn ~ The Wingedneedle said...

BRAVO!!! And thank you! Most definitely you shall always be remembered for your kind and sharing heart!

Julie said...

Hi. You probably don't know me, but I am a fledgling designer. So far I have stuck to doing peyote and square stitch patterns, because although I would LOVE to branch out, I am absolutely terrified of someone screaming "THAT'S MY DESIGN!!! HOW DARE YOU COPY THAT!!!" I do use others patterns - and I always pay for them the way that I am supposed too. But I think it is easier for me to remember the 2 dimensional patterns over the three dimensional patterns. I may not remember thread paths and I may not remember seeing a specific design and how it was put together. I wonder how many others feel this way? I do make and sell my designs so I do have a reputation to uphold.

And I know that this is a loaded question to ask - but I am going to ask it anyways: I understand protecting copyrights, but SO many designers refuse to let there patterns be taught. How is anyone supposed to learn anything if no one (or very few) are willing to let their pieces be taught? I'm NOT saying that designers should NOT be compensated - but how are bead stores supposed to offer classes when so many people out right refuse to let a pattern be taught? Maybe that is why there are so many stores that go ahead and do it anyways. Just a thought...

On the whole it makes me sad that this group exists. Thank you for putting so eloquently the thoughts that I have had.

Inner Muse Jewelry Design said...

I love your beadwork and I love your attitude about sharing what you have learned and what you love. You have a great writing talent to go along with your beading skills. I agree with your and the others sentiments, although I feel for those who feel they have been not only copied, but had someone else claim the design as their original work. There will always be unscrupulous individuals in any business, but the vast majority really want to and strive to do right by others. I can only hope that we move forward as a community, without bringing legal action into the dialogue.

Cynthia Newcomer Daniel said...

Julie, there are many designers who do teach - and others who allow their designs to be taught by others. And many tutorials and books are available for people to learn independently (or in groups, if they all purchase their own copies). I think bead stores can find options if they look.

BklynVonne said...

As a beader, I hope all parties can come to an amicable understanding or find a less tense way to resolve their issues.

Kristen said...

If I could hug you right now I so would. A genuine love of art also comes with the love of sharing.

Russ Nobbs said...

There is a real question if any jewelry or fashion accessory design can have a copyright. New shapes, names, innovative findings, could be protected. The designs themselves are so derivative that they are hard to protect.
In a Ted Talk Johanna Blakley studies the impact of the fashion industry's lack of copyright and imparts many lesson on how other creative industries could flourish with a similar regard for copyright.
When designs are copied it's time to move on and innovate your next design.

Sharayah said...

Well said Cynthia. My thoughts as well, you wrote so elequently and honestly. Thanks for sharing

Perri said...

Darlin Lady, I understand your point very well. It all gets a bit out of control sometimes.
I want to be remembered for sharing my knowledge, too. I work hard every day to make that happen - and don't flinch one bit. I get a lot out of that sharing - I can only hope others get something, too. :-)

But I'm not really very fond of discovering that one of my *paid* tutorials is being shared on a blog, or maybe worse, that someone lifted some of my instructions and pictures and are selling them as part of 'their' paid tutorial. It just plain hurts me, both emotionally AND financially. Then I get more than a little miffed and think "Why can't you do your own work? Nobody else seems to be unclear on that concept..."

So forgive me, but I feel the need to point out that there is a great big difference between 1. copying to learn a skill
2. imitating with the express intent of claiming the work as one's own to avoid the hard work of actually learning to design capably.

We all have a poor habit of using the word 'copy' when we are talking about two *very* different practices. That by itself creates a whole lot of misunderstandings. :-)

I think we can agree that the first is as you say - everybody does it - in fact we NEED to do it to learn. Most people are truly full of gratitude that someone shared, and acknowledge that help, all the time! No one I know is objecting to that practice - it would be a pretty silly thing to do!

Now, not many people do the second but the ones that do are truly shameless in their 'appropriation.' "I created this original piece myself." "Here's a little something that I dreamed up."
Even though they probably could make something up themselves, it is more work than they want to do. They often claim no knowledge of the original. They wait for someone else to do the work, then attempt to profit from it with no thanks or acknowledgement of any kind.

This second practice is, at the very least really hurtful - if a person does the work of creating their own design - even if they transform existing work - then it just feels plain smarmy to have it 'appropriated' by someone without a by-your-leave.
I agree that having the legal thing going on is incredibly sad. I wish these folks didn't feel harmed - because they obviously do feel that way.
And I wish that the people who act like bad apples didn't hide in the barrel with all of the really gorgeous shiny, juicy luscious makers who are conscientious and talented and only want to learn something new. :-)

Ness said...

Beautfully put, Cindy!

It's encouraging to read that so many other beaders have the same view.

Just Beady Jules said...

Cynthia, sharing is caring. And we know you do.... <3

Vanishing Pearl said...

Russ Nobbs, you stole my link! :-) I operate under the same presmise. I merely consider my work to fall under the category of the uncopyrightable fashion industry and move on to something else. I allow people to sell, teach, and rip off my tutorials if they want, while keeping what my mother always said in mind: "YOU can always come up with something new, the copycats cannot. Get over it and make something new that you're happy with."

I had seen the group in question and wanted no part of it. Since the group leader has always rubbed me the wrong way, I also elected not be part of her renewed blog project.

Tamara Allison

Cynthia Newcomer Daniel said...

Perri, it does hurt when someone steals your work and claims it as their own; I know that from experience. But I decided awhile ago not to give those people any more of my time and energy; I decided to let go and let Karma get them.

Plus, in the case of finished work, there is always the chance that they simply came up with the same thing I did, and I'd rather let a guilty person off then go after an innocent person. If I thought of it, so could someone else. I know, because I've had "design collisions" with people - luckily for me, they were people who were able to laugh about it.

We can, and will, create designs. I'd rather be me - and be stolen from - than be someone who doesn't feel that they can create, and who feel that their only recourse is to steal.

Perri said...

Cynthia, I hope you know that I fully understand and respect your position.
I don't agree with demonizing people who are trying to learn. I've had experiences where a bit of inspiration was posted in groups and suddenly, several people come up with very similar pieces - it happens, of course. :-)
Most folks (99%) have really good intent - I like to believe that and act accordingly - until they make it *very* clear that they don't.
It keeps me on an even keel, a lot happier, and able to stay ahead of the idgits. :-)

But I am a little unclear about your intent with this sentence: "someone........who feel that their only recourse is to steal."

Since when is actual stealing considered an 'only recourse'? (and I think we can agree - what I outlined earlier about those few imitators who lift copy and post paid tutorials really is theft as opposed to the wonderful and gracious people we have discussed who are simply copying to learn how to do things.)
One may as well say "Hey, I wanted it but didn't want to pay what was asked for it, so my only recourse was to steal it." Whatever 'it' is - popsicles, tutorials, cars, what-have-you.

If someone hasn't had a job in 3 years, their partner is in a coma, their kids are on the street corner begging for scraps of food, and their relatives and friends are completely heartless - maybe that would apply.
But otherwise - I just don't get it. They *do* have a recourse - go get the instruction and spend the time that the person who they stole from put in - same as all the 99% of good people who don't steal.

Sure, the karma for theft is on them - and like you, I can turn the other cheek in order to stay sane and balanced most of the time. But saying they had no recourse but to steal is giving them an excuse to continue stealing.
I'm not meaning to be a troll here - I really am sincere in wanting to know how that is helpful to anyone but the thief.
I still think the fix for this is defining our terms more clearly about the difference between copying to learn (excellent!)and imitating with intent to appropriate.(not good at all!)
Anyway - a good and thoughtful post - thank you!

Lesley Brisco said...

Well said, I firmly believe that we all learn from each other, sometimes not always aware at the time, the penny may drop sometime later.

My most recent beading workshop truly taught me that I have the skills and wherewithall to ‘make from scratch’. All this was done in a truly generous and curious way, the tutor was most curious about how we would take where she gains her inspiration, the beading stitches, our own beads and colour ideas together and what would emerge. I came away feeling so exhilerated and motivated it was the best ever day in beading I’ve had so far!

It was very clear to understand that the technique elements were very different from those of design! And I see a design as a bringing together of your current techniques. The recent contemporary geometric beading books show that these techniques have been around a long time but that new ideas for colour, using other ‘things’ with your beads make it all your style and some people will pay for being able to reproduce that style quickly.

This also reminds me of another copyright battle that went on over ‘NLP’. I am lucky enough to have met the man that spent a lot of time, energy and money on ensuring it stays copyright free for the world to use.

Each to their own really, and do as you would do unto others.

Cynthia Newcomer Daniel said...

Perri, there are people who feel that way - for whatever reason, they feel entitled to things they can't afford, and so they steal them. I'm not in any way saying that is the right thing to do, I'm simply acknowledging that people like that exist. And I'm glad that I'm me and not them. :)

Perri said...

Gotcha! now I get what you were meaning - and couldn't agree more. I'm glad you are you, too. :-)

Unknown said...

n these moments I prepare some schemes but I have not even done them for sale, but when this is a reality, it would not be important for me that the people share them, since once you obtain a profit of the sale, this idea stops being already yours alone, to belong to all those who buy it. I have learned many skills of the designers.
I can take an idea of another person and combine it with mine and of that, something goes out completely different. Also sometimes we have an idea and as we go preparing it, our mind changes and we end with another completely different thing. I like people that likes sharing. Congratulations...

Cindy Holsclaw said...

Beautiful words, from such a beautiful person. Thank you so much for sharing them!

Tracey Gwilliams said...

Beautifully said Cynthia! Love n hugs x

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts...I agree with you...perhaps we need a group to promote sharing LOL

Cynthia said...

Beautifuly said. We need more of that kind of thinking and less of the thinking that "everyone is out to get me" so prevalant in this world. I do more tatting than beading but we have much the same issue. You spoke for many of us who design not just beading but tatting, knit, crochet....(add any hand art to the list you prefer.)

Liz - Moments said...

As a beginner to beading...i appreciate people that shares their talent & knowhow with me.
And a standing ovation to all the artists that post their patterns/ tutorial for free..we beginners truly appreciate i t ! :-)