This is an excerpt from my life about a year ago,
Setting- a busy November day at the height of the Holiday Season, my flea market, The Mermaid’s Mercantile was in full swing, I was across the street attempting to have a private conversation with one of my vendors.
The conversation went something like this,
Me- How could you do that? Don’t you understand how hard I try to make things for my shop that no one else has? I was up until 2 am making that little… and YOU were in the shop when I sold it, and then you run home copy it and sell it across the street in your shop for less money? I thought we were friends?!
Her- You’re not my friend, everybody copies everybody, it was just one thing and It doesn’t look exactly like yours, fine I’ll remove my merchandise from your store!
The conversation escalates quickly, shouting begins, I start to notice that other vendors and customers are looking in our direction from across the street.
Yikes! That little whisper in my head told me very clearly to wait until I was not so emotional, and that starting this conversation at the beginning of my event was not a good idea. Yep should have listened and waited but it’s too late now, she was mad and she followed me back across the street, continuing to shout in the midst of customers and fellow vendors, on one of my busiest days of the year.
This is a sensitive subject I know, it seems most people don’t want to discuss it on a social platform, and for good reason, but it is one subject that I have been thinking about and asking God about for the last 20 years. I do not want this to be a rant about unfairness, I hope to encourage you so please bear with me.
I was in my twenties when I first began making and selling my handmade crafts, I was so excited! I sold a line of earrings to several of the Nordstrom stores in Southern Ca. and not long after that I had an idea to put sand and tiny shells in a clear glass ornament and tie a gold bow at the top. This was so cute and simple, I could not believe that no one else had come up with it! I searched every store and catalog and went to every beachy seashell shop. Pinterest didn’t exist yet, and there were no ornaments to be found like the ones I had made. This was the early 90’s , Michael’s was not yet selling the clear glass ornaments, I really had to hunt them down.
I started making a bunch of these ornaments and called them Beachballs, I also dolled up starfish , sandollars and other shells in gold paint and glitter, I even paid to have an attorney file a copyright for me. I signed up for craft fairs and sold out. At this time my idea was very unique and I heard over and over again, “seashells on a christmas tree? ”
Coastal Living had not even put its first issue out yet, I had to explain to my customers that this was Christmas, California style.
Twenty years have gone by and I ended up selling thousands of ornaments to hundreds of gift shops across the country and my cute beach balls have been copied like crazy.
I have been blessed with many other novel ideas and sadly many other confrontations. I could write an entire book about this subject, and all of the injustice, not just to me but to many of my creative friends.
One very talented woman I know sent samples of her work to a’ friend’ who said, she was going to take them to a publisher. Well she did indeed take them to a publisher and they were published but this person claimed that it was her work! I’m sorry but of all the stories I have heard whispered around the craft fair tents, this one takes the cake!
So when things like this happen, I always ask God about it, my prayer goes something like this, “God??? why don’t you blast them? Why do you let them get away with this? This is MY idea! and it’s not fair! These idea stealers are taking all the joy away from creating things! What do you have to say about this God? What is the lesson here God? What? what ? WHAT? How am I supposed to behave when this Sh*t happens? (yes I do use the word sh*t sometimes in prayer and I think God is ok with it).
Heavy sigh… what I am about to say is what I have found to work best for me, I understand that each one of us has to find our own way and what works for me will not be the answer for everyone. I do believe in honoring copyrights and respecting your fellow artists and crafters, I absolutely do not think that it’s OK to copy someone else’s work unless they have given you permission to do so. I also realize that the world of creativity has changed a lot with the popularity of Pinterest , DIY bloggers and so many other forms of social media.
After the first time my work was copied, I proceeded to spend the next 20 years guarding my ideas and putting walls up, I opened my retail store in 1998 and would often work on projects behind the counter .. I would create these pretty little things with a scowl on my face, glueing and muttering, under my breath… ‘you think you’re gonna copy me? yeah well I’m gonna make this thing so detailed that no one in their right mind would ever want to copy it, go ahead see if you can… copy this sister!
My customers would see me creating and of course be curious and ask all kinds of questions, from what kind of glue do you use to make that, to where do you buy your supplies? Most of the time I would try to evade the questions, I even had a sign in my shop that said, No Photos Please.
Well I am relieved to say that a lot has changed , thankfully God is patient with me, I’m still some what of a nut job but I have a better attitude. Here are a few good reasons why I shifted from guarding my ideas like a hawk to sharing them across every form of social media I can find.
#1 , My passion is coming up with a new idea and perfecting it, after that the excitement is gone, having to duplicate the same thing over and over again was very tedious, it took over my life and I began to feel like a one man factory. I made and sold 3000 of these seashell letters after they were featured in Coastal Living. Even though I was so grateful the last few I made brought tears to my eyes.
#2 It is very challenging to make a profit from things that are handmade, beautiful things take time to make and it’s hard to compete against a world full of manufactured things. Some people are great at running hand-made business, I am not one of them, but I do love art and purchase almost exclusively handmade goods. Here a few photos of some of the beautiful handmade work of my friends.
and this is my favorite apron from Holly Loves Art.
I heard a story about a musician who had a near death experience, he described his visit to Heaven, an Angel took him to a choir of heavenly souls singing praises to God. The musician said to the Angel, “Wow they are singing one of MY songs!” The angel replies, ” no, they are singing one of the songs that WE let you hear.”
This musicians testimony stopped me in my tracks, I had another convo with God that went something like this,
Ok God, if MY ideas have really been YOUR ideas all along, then I am not going to worry about it, I am going to use the gifts you gave me and share them, It is up to you to bless my efforts or not, so I’m just going to create my own little show on YouTube and share all of the things that I have been hiding away…. and so it began, I started my DIY YouTube channel 10 months ago and out of all the things I have tried , (there have been many) this is without a doubt the most enjoyable ever! click her to see My YouTube channel.
My heart did a 360, and I let go.
You are probably thinking, ok good for you, but that’s a lot of work, how do you make a living from doing that? Well YouTube has a revenue sharing program, and many new doors have opened for me because of my YouTube vids. watch ABC’s special, The YouTube generation.
Video is a powerful tool, it has helped increase traffic to my blog and my online shop but above all it brings me joy, and to read in the comments that you all are feeling the joy with me, is the what drives me.
If you are considering making some videos too, I would encourage you to try, it’s a way to connect on a more personal level.
Years ago I read an article in which consumers were surveyed, they were asked to rank what motivated them to buy one product over another, the #1 motivating factor for buying something was not price, or location but relationship. People want to purchase something from someone they consider a friend. I think the best thing that has come from blogging and the internet is that you can interact, and people like you and me can create their own platform, and we can support each other, build relationships, collaborate, and mentor each other too.
Focusing on sharing the best of what I have to offer is my answer. I never want to return to my old mindset, through sharing friendships are made, doors open and with hard work, the bills do get paid.
There’s still a ton of work hours, one video takes about a week to film edit and produce. It’s not a get rich quick solution either, I am juggling my finances and other responsibilities like most of us are, however I must say that this new way of looking at creativity is quite the contrast. I went from, praying that nobody will copy me, to hoping that I come up with an idea so awesome that it goes viral and people from Solana Beach to New Guinea will be picking up their glue guns and making something that came from my glitter filled brain.
What do you think? I know it’s a hot button topic and I do want to hear your thoughts, even if you vehemently disagree, so go ahead, please comment below.