Posts Tagged ‘paper and stitch’

05/24/10

I started writing Craft Venture a little more than a year ago, when I was working at a more than fulltime day job (financial/business management) while running my tiny business evenings and weekends.  A year later, I am now purely self employed and my business has developed to the point that I need more time than exists in order to continue growth and development, particularly as I prepare for a couple of big shows this Summer, immediately followed by my very busy season (Fall, the holidays and Winter).

I absolutely love writing Craft Venture, but have made the very hard decision to step down from the column in order to spend more time on my business and upcoming deadlines.  I’m very happy to have reached another new level with my business (isn’t that all of our goals, to continue to develop and grow?), but am sad to say “goodbye” to all of you!

Well, let’s not say goodbye; after all, we’ll see one another in the blogosphere, on venues like Etsy, and exhibitions like papernstitch!  Today will be my last post on a topic that is very important to me: originality.

Two topics sure to ignite passionate discussion in the world of art and craft are originality and copying.  What a perfect topic for my last Craft Venture post on papernstitch!

I’ve thought quite a bit about what I’m calling “the culture of copying” in the handmade community.  I’m not alone, as 198 (as of this writing) comments on this very topic will attest, on a recent decor8 post on this very topic!

There are so many facets and levels to defining what constitutes “copying.”  Are we talking about actual copyright infringement?  Trademark violation?  Exact materials and colors that a competitor used?  Tracing?  Jumping to join the latest popular trend in art or craft?

According to Wikipedia (not exactly the final word in definition), copying is “the duplication of information or an artifact based only on an instance of that information or artifact, and not using the process that originally generated it”.

There are many who oppose the idea of originality in art and craft.  “There are no original ideas!”  I’m certainly not the first person to knit accessories.  A hand knit scarf is not an original concept.  However, I am able to approach my designs, styling, photography, copywriting, etc.  with my own unique voice and vision.  I do strive to be original.

There are those who claim originality in their particular form of art or craft, while their designs are clearly copies of other work.  Meaning that they have relied on another artist or artisan’s unique voice and vision.  Many think this is perfectly fine, since there are no original ideas and knockoffs are an accepted part of the fashion and design industry.  Others see this as plagiarism.  Still others see this as an inevitable part of business.

I neither have blinding insights nor answers.  As much as I strive toward originality in design as well as style and photography, I’m sure I’ve been influenced on more than one occasion by other work!

I am taken aback when I learn that a colleague bases their work on patterns or designs from others … but should I be?

We are all part of the handmade community, which I often idealistically believe is above messy things like copying.  Ironically, the community’s DIY knowledge sharing culture may have resulted in the “culture of copying.”

That long hoped for phone call from Martha Stewart’s producers means you’ll get the honor of appearing on her very popular series in order to show gazillions of viewers exactly how you make your creation (and no, I wouldn’t turn down that invitation either!).

Any number of very popular craft and design blogs will share with you exactly how to make your own version of big name designer’s to indie crafter’s original design.

I think we do this to ourselves.  Our culture of sharing, in the spirit of handmade, has been turned into something quite different: a culture of copying – even plagiarizing.

I love to learn new techniques and ideas working from others’ patterns, tutorials and designs.  However – and this is key to me – I don’t offer these items for sell.  I may knit a sweater or baby blanket from someone else’s pattern for gifts or my personal use, but not to sell.  I work swatches and sections from Vogue Knitting or favorite knitting designer patterns, in order to learn a technique.  If I were to offer these for sell (which I would not!), I would do so with the clear understanding that the original design is not mine.  Doing so avoids plagiarizing (although it doesn’t avoid copying or copyright infringement).

Is it even possible to create original works in a culture of copying and influence by others?  Sure, I think so (and I had the same art history education as other art and design majors!).  We can be and are inspired by other works, but most of us manage to both copying and plagiarism.

In a culture of copying, how do you avoid …  copying?  I think self awareness – an honest review of your source and inspiration – is a step in the right direction.  Copying ideas, text and photography style is easily remedied:  don’t!  Come up with your own ideas,words and style.  Doing so isn’t easy – it’s hard work that is crucial to your branding.  Part of branding is being recognizable as you and not your competitor!

The culture of copying can become the culture of originality, but not without effort.  Changing a culture isn’t easily achieved and requires changes in the culture itself.  Our culture – that of artists, designers and artisans – is huge!  However, we can affect change in our microcultures.  Talk about copying, influence, originality, inspiration and plagiarism amongst your friends and colleaugues.  On your blogs.  In your teams and groups and associations and clubs.  If you want a culture in which copying and plagiarism isn’t acceptable, you have to create that culture by changing the current culture.  Start small!

Recognize the place that influence, inspiration, education and sharing have in our respective forms of art, design and craft.  As well as in your particular work.  Shifting your own perception via self awareness is the single most important contribution you can make to creating a culture of originality.

This is a controversial topic!  What are your thoughts?  Is copying just the price of doing business?  Is plagiarism acceptable?  Do original ideas exist?

If there is a “culture of copying,” is shifting to a culture of originality possible?  If so, where can we start?  Where can you start?

Again, it has been my honor being a part of papernstitch this last year and I will truly miss you all!  A huge and heart felt thank you to Brittni for this opportunity and experience, and to all of you for reading the column!  I look forward to reading and learning from your comments!

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Top Image c/o Lucia. . . entitled It’s Arguable Whether I Had Any in the First Place

05/03/10

Happy May and welcome to Craft Venture!  I’m Brenda from Phydeaux Designs, talking with you about how to hire super star employees for your small business.  Last week, we went over how to write an effective and engaging job posting. Today, let’s talk about what to do with the resumes you’ll receive!

The very first thing I told you was to hire only self motivated people with the proven ability to learn.  You might have wondered how the heck you were going to be able to tell if someone is self motivated.  And I’ll bet that some you assumed you would simply ask folks if they’re self motivated.

Well … people usually believe the best of themselves.  Very few will tell you they’re not self motivated, even if you they know that they’re not.  You might even hire one of those folks, exhausting yourself (and losing precious time) by trying to keep them motivated every day.  So how do you make sure you’re hiring a super star?

Three things:  (a) put the onus of responsibility on the applicant for proving their qualifications, (b) let the applicants do all the work during the process, and (c) make sure that every step of the application and hiring process tests your applicants’ abilities and skills.

You’ll accomplish these three things by thoroughly screening applicants and interviewing only the finalists.  You’ll find the process a little foreign, sometimes even uncomfortable, but you should have one or two very strong finalists to choose from.

04/26/10

I’m glad you’re back this week- welcome to Craft Venture!  I’m Brenda from Phydeaux Designs, walking you through hiring super star employees for your small business.  Last week, we talked about possible spots to post your job openings. Today, let’s talk about the actual posting of your job opening!

If you’ve been reading Craft Venture from the start, you know my philosophy about writing:  make it engaging!  Job postings are no different.  In fact, what is a job posting other than a description for something you’re selling; in this case, the job you are filling?

If you work in the corporate world, you are restricted from being too creative with your postings.  However, you are your own boss!  As long as you’re not breaking local, state or Federal regulations or labor codes, be creative!

But … let’s talk about the legalities for a second.

You already know not to recruit for specific ages, genders, ethnicities, religions, etc.  So your job posting cannot include language about any of those. I won’t go into great detail here. Just please check your state’s labor or employment department to avoid inadvertently breaking  any laws!  As well as the Federal Department of Labor (or your country’s equivalent!)!  You can also talk with your local Small Business Association or Chamber of Commerce.

Now for the fun stuff:  the posting!

04/19/10

Happy Monday!  Welcome to Craft Venture!  I’m Brenda from Phydeaux Designs, helping you learn to hire super star employees!  Last week, we finished writing our job descriptions.  This week, I’ll point you to some possible spots to post your job openings. Because I know this is the burning question on many of your minds, I’m going a little bit out of order (today really ought to be about overall recruitment planning)!

I think the #1 thing that people about to hire want to know is …  where to look.  Where do you post your job opening to get the most bang for your buck?

The answer is simple:  where your future employee looks for jobs.

When I was a teenager and in my early 20′s, I looked for jobs in my local paper’s classifieds.  That was where nearly everyone spent time looking for jobs at the time.  However, very few people look to the printed newspaper for jobs now.  Times and technology have changed!

You can spend a whole lot of money advertising online, potentially with dismal results.  Speaking from experience, spending quite a  bit of money with a huge pile of disappointing resumes as a result will make you very sad.

Although you cannot recruit for a specific age,  race, gender, ethnicity, etc. (more on that down the road), college job boards can be a great source for resumes.  Particularly when I need a very part time position, very very entry level, and I can be very flexible with the work schedule.  In fact, community colleges are a fantastic resource – just check with your local college’s career center!

04/05/10

I hope you all  had wonderful Easter weekends!  Welcome to Craft Venture!  I’m Brenda from Phydeaux Designs – continuing to help you learn how to make great hiring decisions!  Last week, we talked about the true costs of an employee (hint:  it’s not just salary!).  This week, we’ll finish what we started  last week:  defining and creating a “reality-based job.”

Why go through all the bother of creating a defined job for the position you need? Because the work you do now will save you time and pain down the road, trust me!  Your job description serves many purposes, including creating your plan for recruitment, training and even basis for evaluation.  After all, if you haven’t defined what you hired your employee to do, how do you know if he or she is doing it well … or at all?

The good news is that your job description can be as simple as a few sentences or an outline.  And an outline is easy to create.  Let’s look at my job details template from last week (which you can download for your own use!).