I accomplished a great deal yesterday, and I am pleased I came so far. It was an incredibly busy day and I had lots of interaction with customers and friends and I got a lot of work done. For the next several days I will be working on a painting pattern. While I showed the pieces being painted on one surface, a company that I sell through (the Artist’s Club) requested that I use one of their surfaces for the design. So I am in the process of adapting it to that and also I had created my own pieces to use with it.
I am afraid that because of the time it will take for me to really get this done, things here on the blog may not be very exciting. I may take the next few days to bring to your attention some other things that are going on in the industry and with some of my incredibly artistic and talented friends.
As you know, not only do I create scroll saw patterns, but I also design painting patterns. Recently, some of my friends who are designers of painting patterns have had some bad experiences regarding their work being uploaded and distributed freely on the internet. Many times entire instruction books have been copied and shared this way and it has really hurt the designer tremendously. Those of you who read every day can see all the work that goes into creating instructional patterns for people. Good designers take time and care to make their patterns and instructions they best they possibly can, and they put their heart and soul into their work. And even if we do love what we do, it IS “work” because it is the only means of support for many of us. Without the income generated from people purchasing our patterns, we simply wouldn’t be able to spend the necessary time to create the caliber of instructions that we create. And in the long run, not only do the crafters and customers suffer, but the whole industry suffers because as good designers drop out to find another means to make a living, what is left are cheap and shoddy patterns. I have seen many of my favorite designs – both in the painting world and in the woodworking world – disappear from the industry because they simply were not able to earn even a minimal living selling their patterns.
The internet is a double-edged sword for designers. While it offers a wonderful venue for us to reach out to people that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach, it also leaves us vulnerable to those who may not be honest and wish to capitalize on our hard work with little effort on their own.
Unlike those who sell tangible, finished items, we are selling not only our drawings and line work for our designs, but our lessons we use to teach our customers how to make the designs themselves. In essence, we are selling concepts along with our drawings, and that makes it very difficult to police.
My partner Keith has been worried from the time I met him because I frequently take pictures head on of my finished work to show on both the site and now here on my blog and on Facebook and the like. We have heard stories of people who just trace the designs off the screen of their computer, and are able to cut them that way. I have heard of people right here that have boasted about doing that type of thing and it does trouble me a great deal. But what would the answer be?
We have tried to put lower resolution pictures only online. We have tried to skew the pictures, or only show part of the designs at a time. We have tried to make people aware that if they do steal our work in this way, they are only hurting themselves in the long run, because as designers drop out of the industry there will be less and less quality designs to choose from. Yet some people still want to get around paying for what they take.
Even if the above methods were successful in stopping thievery altogether, it would only take one proud customer to post a head-on shot of their work with our patterns to make it available to everyone. I truly don’t feel that is the answer.
I think that we have to rely on educating people as to how detrimental stealing these designs are, and let them know that they are only hurting the industry as a whole when they share patterns and follow the above practices. Most patterns we offer are between $5 – $10. I think that this is an average price in both the painting and woodworking industry. Books run around $15 – $20 projects, but they are usually filled with at least 15 – 20 projects, making the instructions average out to only about $1 per pattern. Magazines are much cheaper and the cost per pattern is far less.
Why then would people choose to do so much damage to the designers and the industry that they love for such a small price? Many are even making projects to sell or use as gifts. Why would they think that the means to make these items should be “free”? It is beyond me.
They may think that “only once” won’t do much damage. But if each person thought like that, the loss in revenue to the designers, publishers and artists would rise exponentially very quickly. And the truth is that once someone has adopted the attitude that they aren’t hurting anyone, they tend to keep their blinders on and continue the practice.
I think that we as fellow artists and crafters need to make sharing and stealing patterns “socially unacceptable.” There are many times I see call outs on forums for a certain pattern. The designer may or may not be mentioned, but there are times when someone posts the “I’ll personal message you!” response from another member. More likely than not, it is at that time that the person offers to “share” the pattern with the requester. We have all seen that happen.
If we want our favorite designers to survive, we need to stand our ground and say “no, thank you” to those who are offering up others’ work so freely. We not only need to refuse the offer, but we need to make it clear that what they are doing is WRONG and not only hurts the designer, but hurts the industry as a whole. Besides – Many designers offer “free” sample patterns of some of their best designs for you to use. If you can’t afford it now, why not take a free design until you can save up for the ones you really like?
If someone offered you some stolen jewelry, would you accept it? How is this any different?
People complain that there aren’t enough quality patterns available to them. They complain that the industry that they love so much (either scroll sawing or tole painting) is on the decline, and they honestly don’t understand why that is the case. Perhaps it is that way because many of the good designers found that they could no longer make their living doing what they love because of these practices. While it may not be the entire blame, it certainly is responsible for a large part of it.
It is up to YOU ladies and gentlemen. Each and every incidence of sharing DOES count. We need to retrain ourselves that the practice of sharing what we have no right to share is NOT acceptable and should not be tolerated for our own good and the greater good of the industry of the hobbies we love so much. It may “only be a pattern” to you, but to the designer, it is their life’s work and they have put their heart and soul into it. We need to respect that and support the designers whose work we love to create.
I’ll end here, but I hope I gave you something to think about. I really don’t like to preach to people, as we are all adults and we all know what is right or wrong, but seeing some of my favorite designers get plagiarized has made me see that there is a need to say something to remind people of how they can help. My heart goes out to those who have had their work exploited and I wanted to point out the obvious to you, my readers, so that you can get word out to your friends who are in your clubs and share your craft with you so that we ALL will have lots of choices of wonderful patterns from talented people who design. Help spread the word and be the example. That way we can all win.
Feel free to share this post with anyone you think will be interested. Every step, no matter how small toward supporting your favorite designers will be greatly appreciated. And it will insure you that you will continue to have many choices of high quality designs and fun projects to choose from.
Have a great Thursday!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"