How to Bead Like Nobody's Watching

Oct 14, 2013

My version of right-angle weave with Twin beads. Looks an awful lot like...
Kassie Inman's Patchwork pattern for Twin beads.
A few weeks ago, I came up with what I thought was a pretty unique version of right-angle weave using Twin two-holed seed beads. I posted a picture of it on my Facebook page, and a little while later, another very talented beader, Kassie Shaw Inman, commented that she had created something that looked strikingly similar, and showed me a photograph of it. We traded information with each other about how our designs were made, and we walked away with a better understanding of how our designs were constructed, and maybe even a little bit of inspiration for new designs.

I think it can be easy to feel intimidated when you're learning how to bead, and especially when you start designing your own seed bead patterns. Nobody wants to be accused of "stealing" somebody's original jewelry design, myself included. It's distressing to be on the receiving end of such an accusation, especially if the accusations are unwarranted. Because, yes, I have seen it happen where two beaders have come up with nearly identical designs from opposite corners of the country or even the planet. I have also seen relationships ruined because of misunderstandings between designers, and that just makes me sad.

How you interact with your fellow beaders should leave you feeling good and positive, in my humble opinion. I'd like to suggest three ways to save your own sanity and create a positive outcome when it comes to the highly charged issue of copyright and intellectual property:

Keep your cool. If you believe that someone has used one of your designs without your permission or knowledge, approach them kindly. It's better to be polite when making your initial inquiry, privately, then to go in with anger in any kind of public forum. Approaching the situation with a clear and level head may not be the easiest thing to do, but in the long run, everyone benefits from this.

Save your energy. Either the person who is using your design will do the right thing and remove it or acknowledge you, or they won't. Is it really worth a lot of your precious time, energy, and maybe even your hard-earned cash, to force this person to adhere to a code of ethics? Personally, I would rather save my time and energy for things like, well, beading. (And yoga, but that's for another blog!)

Bead like no one's watching. Keep calm and bead on, bead like no one's watching -- however you want to phrase it, keep your head up, and keep your needles stitching. Someone who is going to copy your designs and pass them off as their own is really only going to hurt themselves in the long run. As long as you keep beading and learning how to bead using new techniques and materials, your designs will continue to evolve. Because your own designs come straight from the heart, there's no way to copy that!

Remember this, most of all: no one can make you feel bad without your permission. Put your beady light out there, let it shine bright, and bask in the good vibes you get from spending time with your beads and your friends carry your forward in bliss.

Need an excuse to just play with your beads? Check out Finishing Touches for Beadwork with Melinda Barta, and learn how to bead 35 different embellishment techniques for your beaded jewelry designs. Once you learn the basics of fringe, surface embellishment, and edgings, have fun exploring and experimenting to make each technique your own. Get your copy of Finishing Touches for Beadwork and re-discover your passion for beads! (Can't wait to get started? You can also get Finishing Touches for Beadwork as an instant download!)

What are your thoughts on handling a situation where a design may have been copied without the permission or knowledge of the originator? How would you handle it? We'd love you to share your thoughts here on the Beading Daily blog!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer

P.S. You can find more of Kassie's fabulous beading patterns and designs on her website, The Beading Butterfly.


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Comments

KateS@69 wrote
on Oct 14, 2013 7:55 AM

There are a limited number of stitches out there.  They are our foundation and the copyright isn't owned by anyone. Everything builds on what we already have learned.  We begin with technique and go on from there.It is absurd to assume that no one else could possibly have thought along the same lines.  That said, it is how we put these things together that makes our pieces unique.  There is a tremendous difference between slavishly copying another's work and accidentally composing something similar.  In our bead group we can all do the same basic pattern and no one's work looks alike.  I am always thrilled to see how different our work truly is.  I find many times that patterns are being presented as new when I learned how to do them years before from Russian bead books.  Derivative?  Yes.  Skullduggery?  No.  See first sentence.  - 20 year beader and a pretty good one

Pat Fulcher wrote
on Oct 14, 2013 8:33 AM

OK, great advice for keeping your cool when dealing with a possible design theft.  I made a necklace recently and this morning when I went to my computer and looked at a pattern sent to me by "beadsmagic" there was my necklace.   I'm not upset by this in any way because we must realize that more than one person might come up with the same design.  Happy beading!!!!

patblu wrote
on Oct 14, 2013 8:36 AM

I agree KateS. I also have been beading for over 20 years, and there are many great things you see that may inspire you, but I can't even bead following a pattern I charted myself without making changes. Color choices, end product desired, execution, and the like define everyone's beadwork differently. I understand how Pinterest can make it seem like everyone will copy your work, wanting to and actually being able to and then doing it are not all the same. Jennifer your stitch may be similar to Kassies but I bet you weren't making a patchwork piece in different colors. Many people making things with the same pieces will always mean things are similar. I always want to be different, but some people want to have things the same. There's not much you can do, people will copy things if they want to, all you can do is keep your work evolving.

callyrose wrote
on Oct 14, 2013 8:51 AM

ok, so now will you tell us how to do the RAW with twins or super duos? pretty please?

roselyn2 wrote
on Oct 14, 2013 9:08 AM

I read with interest todays comment on pattern copying. I agree with KateS who rightly notes there are a very limited number of stitches to build from and that how we put these stitches together defines our creative process and finished piece. Sometimes, great beading minds come up with the same or very similar ideas. I find the same thing occurs in scientific research-in a very short period of time, people who do not even know each other exists research the same phenomenon in a very similar way. In bead work this occurs all the time. For example, several years ago I was at the Milwaukee B&B show and a woman in the book section was pushing new a book on the peyote, what I call the short circular stick beads and how wonderful and unique the designs were. I agreed with her but also informed her I had been making (though with a different stitch) and selling these particular little stick beads for several years. They weren't anything new. For me personally, making something from a pattern is boring and tedious. I do, however, have a large selection of bead books. Why? They are inspiration and it is interesting to see what others are doing with these limited stitches.  So I share my designs inspirations and pattern configurations with people who ask me? Yes, and in detail. Though I am sure some have probably copied my designs it doesn't both me as I know my particular configuration of color and texture is unique, and a lot of work. If someone is so hung up on others copying or producing work similar to their own designs then maybe they need to  keep their work hidden in a cabinet!  So bead on and bead happy my friends. True creativity is not something that can be easily translated into a pattern and then copied by those lacking in either unique creativity. Just some thoughts. . . a very long time bead weaver

DeniseB@4 wrote
on Oct 14, 2013 9:11 AM

I also agree with Kate S.  Beading has been going on for CENTURIES - how can we be so arrogant as to think we've created something never seen before?  If all these great artists don't want people imitating their designs, they shouldn't accept money or prestige by being published.  I won't pay for artists' designs that are for sale with a disclaimer that the pattern has been copyrighted.  I won't financially support their delusions.

tjclap wrote
on Oct 14, 2013 9:17 AM

So when will these patterns be available! I never design my own stuff, but will always write the designer on my sales tag.

on Oct 14, 2013 9:27 AM

Jennifer, I understand what you are saying but I am confused. Somewhere in the beginning of bead weaving, someone came up with basic right angle weave, another with peyote, etc. Then someone else came along and added a little embellishment, or a few more beads, whatever. I go to a fellow beader's house and she teaches me a new basic stitch and I make a bracelet with and sell it, is that wrong?  Where does the line get drawn? Aren't we all, in essence, copying from whoever it was that developed those stitches in the first place? If I watch the videos on you tube or go take a class and make that project, does that mean I can't ethically sell it? I have seen a lot of right angle weave bracelets online just like the one I learned in my class so someone was the first to make it, does anyone know who that was, to give credit to? If a person changes up size or color, does that give them the bragging rights? Please clarify. Thank you

MaryleneF wrote
on Oct 14, 2013 9:33 AM

I once contacted the editor of a major beading magazine to tell them that the same necklace & pattern had already appeared in another major magazine designed by someone else.  When that happens there is not much that can be done.  The second necklaces was featured perhaps about a year or so later and I think the editors should have been more aware  that there was already another necklace & pattern already featured in a competitive magazine.

on Oct 14, 2013 9:35 AM

I think the lines are blurring when it comes to supposedly copying someone else's pattern. Because bead weaving (both on and off loom) deals with geometric shapes, it is almost impossible to create a design that someone else won't come up with on their own. I do chain maille, and I have discovered that many people who claim to have come up with an original pattern have really used a pattern that is readily available to all and just given it their own name. If you truly think your design is original, then get it copyrighted.

juanman wrote
on Oct 14, 2013 1:35 PM

I think this is beautiful -can I buy the pattern from you? 😊

GinniB wrote
on Oct 14, 2013 1:39 PM

I  am concerned that your advice in the "keep your cool" section of today's message may be misinterpreted.  If you mean do this (calmly and privately) not that (blast away online) the preposition "than" should be used in this paragraph.  If you mean do this followed by that, the word "then" is appropriate.

May seem ultra picky.  But, the choice of one word completely changes the meaning of your advice.

nzkazza wrote
on Oct 14, 2013 7:17 PM

While I would be a little upset at someone copying one of my designs, I think that imitation is the highest form of flattery.  There are more beaders than beads so the chances that someone will have the same idea as me (or you!) are pretty  high. I've seen a lot of works in Etsy and similar sites that are selling designs that I've seen published so one just never knows I guess.

Kassieinman wrote
on Oct 14, 2013 7:51 PM

Kassie here. First off, thanks to Jennifer for the shout out! :)

I also want to add that it was pretty obvious from the start that Jennifer and I had two completely different pieces; they just looked alike. The thread paths and stitching methods are completely different. Not to mention, I know Jennifer well enough to know she would never ever copy someone else!

If I really did think someone had copied something of mine, I agree that it is best to deal with the situation privately. I would hate to accuse someone and then find out that I was mistaken.

I think that it happens more often than we know that people come up with similar designs independently. It happened last year to Marcia DeCoster and she blogged about the experience. I also own a pattern that was originally put out in 2006. A couple of years ago, I saw another designer post her own discovery of the same technique. I am positive that the new design was not a copy of the one I bought.

All this is not to say that people don't copy. I know it happens far too often. But if you don't jump to conclusions, you might just learn something new, like I did!

on Oct 15, 2013 2:49 AM

A few points:

1) I've come up with 3 methods of using twins in RAW, two of them look rather similar to what Jennifer and Kassie were doing. More, if you count tubular versions as being different from flat. Generally, I know 4 different thread paths for RAW, but I don't feel a different thread path is a different stitch, just like turbo Peyote is still Peyote.

2) I've occasionally come up with designs that I later found out others have found before me. In that case, I still treat the design as mine, but I do mention that others have found it as well. Including their names, if available.

3) I have come up with a new stitch (Diamond Weave), and in nearly 10 years since its discovery I've not come across any stitch like it, having asked some of the gurus in the field. Obviously, I'm in a vanishing minority and have the chance of a snowflake in hell to protect it.

4) I have nearly finished a booklet on this stitch including numerous variations, used in a number of design examples.

5) One of the best variations in that book appeared - after I had shown a photo of it - in an extremely similar version on the blog of a very popular designer as a freebee. She firmly assured it was her own. Her own threadpath, as she used a variation of RAW, yes, but the look??? Well, I lost a lot of energy to that incident, including drive to publish the book. She had taken one of the drawcards.

There is theft, and it does a lot of damage, not only financially, to the people working on new designs and stitches. Keeping one's cool sounds a lot easier than it is if you are a victim.

Gspeers wrote
on Oct 15, 2013 4:37 PM

I think consistency is key in getting the message out as to what is copyrighted and how designers wish beaders to act. Some say the written pattern is copyrighted and you cannot teach or sell that pattern. But you can make jewellery using the pattern and sell it, preferably giving credit to the designer. Not all designers are on the same page on this. I have also witnessed some instances of self-proclaimed copyright policing... Where someone other than the designer calls a beader out on infringing on copyright of a designer. I'm not comfortable with this approach. I prefer that we continue to move toward a common understanding of the rules and let our own consciences be our guide in how we behave. Less competition and suspicion and more collaboration to take this art form to new levels!

susanheidt wrote
on Oct 16, 2013 4:25 PM

I love coin pearls and had been making a strung necklace with coin pearls, matching potato pearls and lots of sterling silver spacers for many years. I made it for my family members as well as donated versions to three different charities for auction items. I considered this my unique and special design. I was floored to see the exact design in an advertisement in a well-known beading magazine a few years ago. I had never purchased anything from the advertised company, never checked it out online and, in fact, never even heard of the company. But it turned a design I loved to make into a dilemma. Reading your blog, it brought back my concerns and I realize I have not made the design since I saw its twin in the magazine.  I think that I will add it back into my repertoire. There are only so many designs under the sun…

NoLogIn wrote
on Oct 17, 2013 9:14 PM

I'm not sure this directly correlates but if I bought a clothing pattern and I chose the fabric and trims, I would never considered it "copying".  If I made a dress from a purchased pattern, I'd have no hesitation about selling it.  I probably wouldn't even think to mention the brand or designer of the pattern.  If anyone asked, I'd say I used a pattern, and that it wasn't my own design, but my choice of fabric, embellishments, and my sewing skill would be the selling points.

So why is beading, or polymer clay, different?  If someone publishes a project or sells a tutorial, why can't I adapt it with my colors and call it my own?  I'd be happy to give credit to the original designer for the design of the pattern, but knock-offs are available in the fashion world for everything.   I don't think it's unethical that the dress in my local department store resembles a designer piece from the runway.  

I'd love to hear some responses.  I've been struggling with the "when is it copying and what can I sell" issue for years.  I've never thought about it from the point of view of fashion before.  Let me know if you see my point or if I'm completely off-base with my comparison!

memorybeads wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 5:02 AM

It is nice to think of what we create as "our own" however nothing is further from the truth.  We all stand on the vast amount of intellectual activity that has gone before us, whether it is science, art, music, language or philosophy.  Credit is a wonderfully satisfying thing, but typically credit should be spread around to be fair. Designing patterns for stained glass for many years I often find my designs out there in cyberspace, used as is, or slightly different, but all contributions to the collective "mind" we share with our billions of brothers and sisters belong to everyone. Understanding that we are all contributing to that vast database should be sufficiently rewarding for all of us.  A death grip on any intellectual property benefits no one..

kitteh12 wrote
on Oct 21, 2013 11:25 AM

Your patterns do look similar. In your version the Twin beads are the "star" of the pattern. In Kassie's version the seed beads are the "star". But both are absolutely gorgeous! I've bought twins, but i'm a little intimidated by them. I haven't tried to make or use them in anything yet.

SharonA wrote
on Oct 21, 2013 2:10 PM

I fell in love with twins the first time I saw them, and super duos added a lot of fuel to the fire. While I've only been beading for a few years, I have been quilting for over 30 years; this issue has been very high profile for over a decade.

I came up with a loomed pattern using twins, Czech mates and peanut beads, and my LBS owner encouraged me to submit my pattern to the magazines.  I tried but never heard back. I've been working on ways to use the twins in standard beading patterns and stitches  - herringbone is a snap, but RAW has given me fits. Recently I was playing around with this challenge yet again, and stumbled onto a way to do it!  YES, I thought, success. Imagine my surprise when I opened the Beading Daily weekend review and spotted not one but two different pieces that resembled mine.

My question is this: peyote, herringbone, right angle, brick and/or square stitch have been around for a long time. I don't consider my piece of RAW with super duos and size 11 seed beads to be "mine".  However, if I design a bracelet using the pattern that I came up with, is that mine? What if the technique looks very similar to those in this article, but the colors or embellishments are different?

This appears to be a very blurred line...

SharonA wrote
on Oct 21, 2013 2:10 PM

I fell in love with twins the first time I saw them, and super duos added a lot of fuel to the fire. While I've only been beading for a few years, I have been quilting for over 30 years; this issue has been very high profile for over a decade.

I came up with a loomed pattern using twins, Czech mates and peanut beads, and my LBS owner encouraged me to submit my pattern to the magazines.  I tried but never heard back. I've been working on ways to use the twins in standard beading patterns and stitches  - herringbone is a snap, but RAW has given me fits. Recently I was playing around with this challenge yet again, and stumbled onto a way to do it!  YES, I thought, success. Imagine my surprise when I opened the Beading Daily weekend review and spotted not one but two different pieces that resembled mine.

My question is this: peyote, herringbone, right angle, brick and/or square stitch have been around for a long time. I don't consider my piece of RAW with super duos and size 11 seed beads to be "mine".  However, if I design a bracelet using the pattern that I came up with, is that mine? What if the technique looks very similar to those in this article, but the colors or embellishments are different?

This appears to be a very blurred line...

momcat560 wrote
on Oct 21, 2013 9:50 PM

I agree with my now-passed mother's philosophy that there is nothing new under the sun.  It is unrealistic to believe that, given the number of beaders out there, we will always come up with something that is totally "unique."   Great creative minds think alike ;).  And it is next to impossible to police this.  If I make a piece exactly like one I have the pattern for, then I would certainly give credit to the original artist (but I can't even remember the last time that happened - lol).  But, as already noted, what happens if I change the type of beads, the color palette, etc.?  Even when I buy and use designer kits, the chances of my doing it exactly per the instructions are pretty remote.  But I would always give credit to the person who designed the kit.

I think of it this way: Published recipes cannot be copyrighted.  Why?  Because people change the ingredients used all of the time and it would be impractical to try and police that.  The cookbook publishing industry just doesn't do it; I learned this when I went to a seminar on publishing a cookbook.

KateS - I love your comparison of derivative vs. skullduggery.  Right on!

memorybeads - You are so right on the money!!  I hope that we are a community that can learn and grow together - forever and ever!!

momcat560 wrote
on Oct 21, 2013 9:53 PM

Oh, and yes, can we please have the patterns for these?  Please, please, PLEASE, with a cherry on top?  :D