Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Inspiration vs Pilferation

(Yes, pilferation is a word. Because I just used it and you know exactly what I mean.)

Hello, Blog,

Nice to see you again! So I don't think anyone reads this—which would make sense because I haven't written anything to read for forever. But I find myself turning to the blog to give myself an opportunity to talk about the creative stuff I'm working on. I seem to have so many ideas. And I love designing them. But then, except for my mom, I'm the only one who knows about it. Aaaaaaand, I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who actually cares about it.

But maybe, if I stick my neck out and connect publically at least occasionally, I'll get some advice from other creative people. Like you.

Today my thoughts are about the lines between inspiration and outright pilfering. In writing, this is easy. You use the same words someone else used and it's plagiarism. In art—especially needlework, copyright is a little more confusing. At least to me.

Obviously you can't sell other people's patterns. And you can't use their pattern to make something you want to sell commercially unless the artist allows for this.

But I'm an "almost homemade" kind of gal when it comes to sewing. Other people's patterns inspire me. I see something wonderful and I want to do it my own way. Or make other versions.

I find myself wondering:

1- What are the copyright rules for blogging? Can I show their designs in the process of showing my how I'm changing the original, as long as I'm properly citing their work and where I got it? I've seen other blogs that show the work of the blogger (though the design was purchased from elsewhere). So I'm guessing that's okay.

2- When does a design become so much your own that you can sell it on Etsy?

For example, there is an adorable Russian doll series—matryoshka dolls—designed by Robin Clark. It was published in the August 1998 edition of "Cross Stitch & Needlework" (which is now defunct). And I thought it would be cute to take these three Russian girls in decreasing size and use the pattern to design a creche set of Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus. What I have taken exactly from Ms. Clark's original are the adorable faces, and some of the patterns on the clothes, the braid for the back of Mary, and the bell-like shape of the dolls themselves.

The baby Jesus—except the layout of the face—is my own.

Now, I would love to offer up my version on Etsy, paying Ms. Clark her rightful due for each sale, and a link to her original Russian doll set for her to sell as well. That seems like it would be really fun. But it also might not be kosher. I guess it depends on the original artist. But some of my inspiration pieces were published so long ago, I'm not sure how to proceed.

Admittedly, I've only done an initial (frustrating) search to find Ms. Clark, but, as I said, the magazine is out of business, so I can't go to them. But what is standard practice? What can I show here?

I'm not a fool. I'm outside simple "inspiration" territory. I'm taking parts of other designers' work whole cloth (if you'll forgive the pun). But I would also like to share my work while not taking credit for the parts I've taken from other designers.

Are there any bloggers out there that have similar experiences? Know the rules down pat? Have suggestions? (And why do I hear these questions in my head as if they are echoing into a giant empty void?)

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