The Crafting Minefield

August 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

I began my crafting journey years ago, in a small community centered around the local Steiner school.  My teacher was known for her dyeing skills and simple toys – dyed clothes, felt and rest bags (among other things!), little wooden figures dressed in beautiful felt clothes, and a huge assortment of tiny gifts for tiny people: treasure bags, crystal bags, craft kits, and on and on. And other people were known for other skills: wonderful cloth dolls, or wooden items, or hand sewn clothes.

Anyone who has followed my blog or knows even a little about Steiner inspired crafts knows the very distinctive visual elements that mark it out. Rainbow colours in soft or bright, pure colours that invite the eyes to drink them in, natural materials, wool felt and fleece and wooden toys, along with an overall sense of great quality and beauty. Within the ideas that form the Steiner philosophy, there are a million things to create, and of course even the same hand sewn pouch doll can look radically different depending upon who sews it.

When my teacher moved away from the school, I was so excited to have the opportunity to step into the crafting space (so to speak) she left behind, as dyeing and working with wool felt were (and still are) my particular passions. As a young mother who chose to stay home with her babies, crafting (and selling) was the one thing I could do to bring in a little spare cash, all in the name of helping to pay for my children’s wonderful schooling.

Over time my own style has developed, and evolved into the items I now think I am ‘known’ for – hand dyed wool felt in solid colours or rainbow painted, felt pictures (hand embroidered by me), rainbow dyed clothing items and doona covers, and more recently hobby horses.

one of my purely original designs.

one of my purely original designs.

rainbow spiral cape - an item many people make, but always  original to each maker.

rainbow spiral cape – an item many people make, but always original to each maker.

heart decoration - made original by the use of hand dyed graduated felt.

heart decoration – made original by the use of hand dyed graduated felt.

Felt crowns: not an original idea but the use of felt and decorations unique to me.

Felt crowns: not an original idea but the use of felt and decorations unique to me.

A few years ago I became aware of the issues of copyright and originality in the crafting world.  As a semi-professional crafter, I have deep respect and wonder for the amazing products I see being created around me. I now aim to produce items that are my original work -and if they are inspired by something already in existence – I put my own style and ‘stamp’ on it.

However this year I have felt disillusioned with the crafting scene. From reading in magazines about small time professional crafters having their designs taken by a major retailing chain, to what I have observed on a local level: people copying other people’s work (to then sell for their own profit), sometimes anonymously, sometimes shamelessly. I support a diverse market, and I support everyone’s right to produce items similar to mine, but sometimes I feel frustrated with the lack of clear boundaries in this area.

I am left protecting my ideas and designs until the last possible moment, knowing that once an item goes on sale, it is fair game. I once had two women talk in front of me at a market about how they were going to take my original felt picture and turn it into a craft project for their own community, and another person ask me if she could photograph an item of mine so she could copy it at home! I suppose that is a complement in a way, and I have copied someone else’s work in the past – although I buy the item in question, and as mentioned before, make it my own.

I would love to hear your ideas on this issue. Am I being too ‘precious’ to think that I should be the only one in my community doing my ‘things’? Or is this area open game for everyone?

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