I really love designing. Whether it is scroll saw projects, painting projects or even needlework, I like taking ideas that I have in my head and making them into reality. Sometimes people wonder how I began doing design work, but that is a difficult thing for me to answer. If the term "designing" means changing things up and 'not following the rules or instructions' for a particular project, then I suppose I have been designing most of my life. It seems I always had the ability to look at something and see it in a different way. For the most part, I have used patterns as a springboard for making something else. I adjust things to my own liking and taste and many times, the finished item doesn't resemble the original piece very much. I suppose when it got to the point that I was doing my own thing far more than following the directions given, I grew into being a 'designer'. That is as close as I could be to pinpointing things.
There is a difference however between altering a design by someone else and coming up with a design you can claim as your own. In the grey area of copyrights, one needs to be extremely careful these days. While the internet offers many sources of 'inspiration' for new projects, there is sometimes a very fine line between being 'inspired' and actually copying. I know people can look things up and argue points such as "if it is XX% different, it is allowed" or some other silly statement like that. After all, in artwork how can you accurately place a 'percentage' on an amount of change that is done to a design? I think it is pretty much impossible.
To me, if something still resembles another design very closely, than there is probably no way the new 'designer' can claim it as their own. There is no scientific calculation or reasoning when it comes to this concept, and you can imagine that the opinions of what the term "resembles" defines will be as broad and varied as the number of people chiming in. But one needs to have developed a conscience and a sense of 'right' and 'wrong' and know in their hearts whether the great and wonderful new idea they have come up with is their own, or just a copy of someone else's. I believe it is defined by ones' own moral compass.
But one thing I have noticed – those designers that claim their own designs when they are clearly creating 'knock-offs' of others' original pieces seem to come and go fairly quickly. They tap their sources and ride the waves of the temporary success they find in making something that clearly (to some) is not original, and then when that wave passes, they slide back into the ocean of others who have done the same, never to be heard of again.
Does that sound harsh? In rereading it, I think it may be. But it is a subject that as I designer I am passionate about and I have seen many of my talented friends scarred by the type of people that I just described. I, myself have also fell victim to copycats, but have neither the means of time to fight the culprit(s). I have learned that my best defense is to move on and do something else. While in some peoples' eyes that may appear that I am giving in, I have seen over and over again that these people are not only recognized by others for what they are, but also run out of steam fairly quickly and move on to something else. Patience is very much my friend in these situations. I will be very honest when I say that I do find satisfaction when they do eventually fall.
That doesn't mean that we just roll over and allow people to take our designs at will. We do everything possible to protect ourselves, from watermarking our photos to posting lower resolution pictures on our site. I find, too that my reach here through my blog also does much towards adding claim to our designs. People see the posts and know our work and word gets out quickly when someone is trying to violate our copyrights. It is a wonderful part of being in the artistic communities – both painting and woodworking – and helps keep things on the level.
We are often asked by our customers if they can alter or change our designs for their own personal use or to sell at fairs and sales. I realize that some designers frown upon this, but both Keith and I are thrilled to see what others do with our designs. Many times when we see the alterations done by others, it serves as a springboard for new designs or ideas that we develop. Most of the time, those doing the alterations are just changing things up so that our designs are better suited to their needs. I do this myself much of the time with both woodworking and painting patterns that I have bought.
As an example, the Lynne Andrews ornament set that I am painting were originally done by Lynne on porcelain surfaces. While they were beautiful, for my own needs they weren't practical. Each porcelain ornament cost about $6 plus the shipping to Canada. Since I am creating six sets, that would be 72 that I would have to purchase and ship. Not to mention that each one that I gave to those in the USA would have to be shipped back to the recipients. It would not only be costly, but also the chances of them breaking or getting damaged would be high. I doubt that even one of the five recipients would wind up with a full set – or myself for that matter, as I am sometimes a bit clumsy. I thought that doing them on wood would be a far better choice for my purposes. And it has worked out well. But every time I post photos of them, I try to remember to watermark them with LYNNE'S information, not mine. While I did alter the pattern to my own needs, I in no way wanted people to think that I was claiming the design as my own. It is the right thing to do and I believe, the right way to do things. I also did this with the Peggy Harris Cinderalla Mouse project. And Kim Christmas's cute "Meow, Meow, Boo" project that I did last week. (Are you seeing a pattern here?) I want to be a credible and honorable designer in my own rite. While I enjoy doing other artist's designs, I don't for a minute want others to think that they are my work or that I am claiming them as my own. If mistakes are made and people complement me on MY design when it is someone else's, I quickly correct them and make it known who the designer is. It is called "integrity".
With all of that said, I wanted to share with you something that was sent to me yesterday. A woodworking customer (and friend) of ours named Edward Orr sent me some photos of some wonderful alterations that he did to one of my designs. He started with my SLD531 Set of 8 Gothic Cross Ornaments pattern:
He then took the crosses and put his own spin on them and I think they came out beautiful. He cut them out in different sizes as the pattern showed:
Then he cut out just the out frames for an entirely new look:
I thought the result was fabulous! It gave a new look to the pattern that I never even would have thought of. I can think of so many wonderful ways to use these pieces – from framing to overlays to even making smaller jewelry pieces. It started an entirely different thought process in my mind and I am thinking not only about this process for additional crosses down the line, but other shapes as well.
Most important, it was really nice to see someone who used and enjoyed our patterns so much. To me, that is what designing something is all about. I love to help supply the means for other people's creativity and pleasure. It makes me feel like I am contributing something positive to this sometimes chaotic world.
I hope you enjoyed seeing this as much as I did. I also hope that it gave you some ideas as to how we designers feel. I know I am not alone in encouraging others to have fun with my designs. I realize that some designer have strict regulations as to what you can do with their patterns, and you do need to contact each one individually and respect their guidelines, but I do also think that for the most part, as long as you don't claim your alterations as your own design and give credit where credit is due (to the original designer) most designers are thrilled that you are enjoying their work in that way and are happy to be an inspiration to you. I am, anyway.
It is a bright and sunny day here in Nova Scotia. On this last day of September, I noticed quite a bit of frost this morning. I spent part of yesterday planting my many mum plants into the ground and I am happy that I did. I believe they may survive a bit longer there. I will hopefully take a photo over the weekend, as the house looks nice with the splashes of bright blooms surrounding it.
I wish you all a nice weekend ahead. I am going to do some drawing, some more house projects and some additional craft projects. Maybe I will cook as well. It will be a 'typical' weekend for me and I like that. I hope you enjoy your weekend as well.
Happy Friday to you all!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"