Monthly Archives: November 2016

No More Fairy Dust

A couple weeks ago I received a message on Etsy explaining that I was infringing on a trademark by using the name “Fairy Dust” in two of my listings. I’ve been using the name for 10 years as have thousands of other crafters and sellers.

This is the message I received…

“I have been hired by Brookelynne Designs to review Etsy for infringement on their various trademark protections for the use of the words “fairy dust.” You have infringing items in your store. Prior to filing a formal report, we have chosen to provide you the opportunity to cure the infringement voluntarily.
This would mean removal of the words “fairy dust” or like sounding words such as “fairie dust,” from tags, titles and names of your items. Specifically, jewelry, pendants or pouches containing glitter and decorative glitter.
If you wish to verify our trademarks, protecting the use of “fairy dust,” or like sounding words, in any fashion by you for the following items, you may verify them at the USPTO site:
Reg. No. 3168645: Bracelets, charms, clocks, jewelry, jewelry watches, watches, wrist watches
Reg. No. 3168649: Decorative glitter
Reg No. 3574068: Toys, novelty snow globes, plastic toy figurines, plush toys
Reg. No. 1706812: Novelty pouch and/or pendant containing glitter
We do not believe your infringement has been intentional and are therefore hopeful that you will voluntarily remove the words “fairy dust” or like sounding terms from your listings, titles and tags. Basically, if you search your own listing for these words, there should be zero results.
If you would be kind enough to advise that you have done this to end the infringement, and I can verify this in your store, no formal infringement report will be made. Should you not contact me within the next three days to advise of your willingness to voluntarily cure your infringement, and actually have cured the infringement by that time, I will have to file a formal report. Etsy then simply shuts down your listing.
Our goal is not to hurt your business by shutting down listings, but to protect our trademarks from further infringement. Your cooperation would certainly be appreciated. I will add that I am not able to tell you what phrases you may use to evade the trademark, just that you may not use the words as set forth below. I thank you in advance for your cooperation.
Diana Cunningham “

I assumed that this could not be the case so I decided to see if Etsy would indeed remove my listings and today they did. It was only one design and it was only two listings so the impact for myself is very small. But the fact that this is legal, and even possible is deeply disturbing to me.

Is it fair that one company can own a common phrase and prevent anyone else from using it? The purpose of a trademark should be to protect creative property, not to help someone create a monopoly and mow over small sellers and crafters that stand in their way. Maybe a large company could challenge this trademark, but of course crafters on Etsy don’t have the resources to do that. Should everyone who makes something have to have thousands of dollars for a lawyer and legal fees?
How sad that hundreds of artists and crafters can’t use this term to describe items that are unique and made by hand, items that truly are magic and worthy of the name. All so someone can make more money on selling more soulless mass produced items. The planet is getting so cluttered with them already, so they must be getting more creative.

Is happiness found in laws and paperwork? Shouldn’t we just be free to create and make the world a better place?

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Should our ability to be thankful depend on us having things that others don’t?

I now think of gratitude differently than I used to. I used to feel like something was wrong with me because while I could always find things to be thankful for, my gratitude was just a fleeting thought in my head. Soon I’d be back to taking things for granted, or even discontent about something. But what kind of person did that make me, especially when I’ve been blessed with so much? An ungrateful one, that’s who. Other people seemed to be all about gratitude, so there must be something wrong with me. That gave me something else to be discontented about.

I think that we often assume that gratitude means being thankful for the big things in our lives. These are things like our home, our families, our jobs, our health, etc. We are taught that we should be grateful for these things because not everyone has them. But should our ability to be thankful depend on us having things that others don’t? Something doesn’t feel quite right about that. Do we have to imagine a life, whether our own or someone else’s, without the things we love and enjoy in order to appreciate them? Won’t just the natural process of growing old take most of the things we are thankful for when we are younger? How can we ever hope to age happily if this is how we practice gratitude?

I now practice gratitude by being at peace with the moment. That’s all. I enjoy everything so much more when I don’t have to trick my brain into gratitude mode by imagining life without them. Because whenever I try that my brain gets all excited that it’s time to worry. My brain loves to worry and will take any excuse I give it to worry.

By accepting that on a deeper level nothing is really my own in life, or that nothing is truly real outside of the present moment I can appreciate things more than ever before. I’ve only been awake an hour today but so far I’ve been thankful for the light pink sky at sunrise, the frost on the grass, the way my dog sounds when he snores and a lot of other more miniscule things. So this Thanksgiving, or any other day that follows, just try to notice and appreciate the tiny little miracles of the present moment. That’s true gratitude.

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Why I Photograph Each and Every Bead I Make

Have you ever bought something “handmade” online or through a catalog and received something that looked nothing like the photograph? I have and it almost never makes for a good shopping experience. The magic of handmade items is in the tiny details that make them unique. Those tiny differences are still there even when two pieces are very similar. Those small details really do matter and are a big part of why a piece “speaks” to us or does not.

I recognize the fact that I lose a lot of time and profit by thoroughly photographing each bead I make. I currently have thousands upon thousands of bead pictures on my computer that someday I will need to take the time to sort through. I was told that I couldn’t clog up my hard drive with photographs because I’d never be able to take so many, but I have managed to do just that. :)

However the alternative would be completely unacceptable to me. Not only would I risk disappointing my customers by having them receive something that wasn’t what they ordered, but I’d be reducing my beads to just a few cookie cutter designs. Instead I’m free to make each and every bead just how I like. My designs are free to change, evolve and improve over time, and I’m free to use rare kinds of glass that is no longer produced. I’m free to try new designs and new variations whenever I like, and sometimes they are one of a kind pieces and other times they may become series that I make for years.

I let the glass “speak” to me, in hopes that the results speak to my customers as well.

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The Criticism Addiction That Kills Creativity

Almost all of us are addicted to criticizing. Something in us enjoys criticizing others, to make us feel better about ourselves or maybe because it’s just a habit. Most of all we criticize ourselves. We have this ideal in our heads that we go about measuring everything and everyone by. We know that ideal is silly and can never exist but still it’s there.

It’s a slippery slope. First you’re innocently doing your art and you think, “Oh this little bit of tree detail isn’t right here.” Now you can either find a way to address this little issue and learn something from it. Or you fall on your butt and slide down the slippery criticism slope. This ride quickly takes you through the stages, “Nevermind, the whole thing is crap.” to finally land at the bottom which is “I am crap.”

There at the bottom of the hill, so many people quit and walk away. The brave ones climb the whole hill and start again. Be brave but next time save yourself a lot of time by learning to avoid criticism. Criticism starts when we go from seeing an area with potential for improvement and instead of going straight to improving we make it personal.

When you look at other people’s work really pay attention to the thoughts that go through your head. Do you feel like your work isn’t as good if you see something amazing? Do you feel superior if you see something that you don’t like as much? We learn more and open the door for inspiration if we see other people’s art for what it is, instead of always making it about us and our art.

Then when we look at our own art the same way, we can see more quickly what we can learn from it and how we can improve it. Instead of making judgments we can see possibility. Judgement shuts the door in creativity’s face. Curiosity welcomes creativity in.

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Art is the Act of Manifesting an Idea

What is art and what makes a person an artist? I think the answers to that question can vary as much as art itself. My own answer will completely depend on when you ask me, and I’d probably even give you different answers over the span of the same day. But this is my answer to that question for the purpose of this blog post.

An artist is someone with the bravery and ability to manifest a new idea in their head. Because only when an idea has been manifested, can the idea be shared with others.

The ideas can vary from something like “this is how a baby penguin’s likeness looks like in the form of a glass bead” to a startling, gruesome, hard to look at painting that makes a statement about society. Are they completely different ideas, that evoke completely different reactions? Yes. Some would say one is art and one isn’t, I say they are both ideas manifested by the artists, and therefore they are both art.

Some art disrupts the world. Some art can get you killed depending on the laws of the country you live in. Some art just makes the world a more beautiful place. For now, I’m content not to disrupt the world with my art because what I think the world needs the most right now is a little more beauty.

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The Path and the Butterfly

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I know from working with glass that just practicing the same skills over and over again results in great improvement. But this improvement can only be found on the level of technical skill. When I focus only on my technical skills my creativity starts to atrophy. If I focus only on following my creativity, the end product becomes more and more impractical and harder for others to appreciate and relate to. My current reality is that if I can’t make things that other people want I don’t get to make things at all.

Improving your technical skills is like walking a path and never leaving it. It gets you there, and it gets you there fast and safely but you’ll never discover anything that’s not along this path. Following your muse or being creative is like trying to catch a butterfly. Just as it settles down and you think you’ve finally got it, it flights off in some other direction or even completely out of sight.

To any creative person I give the following advice, try to give equal attention to the path and to the butterfly. Don’t be afraid to leave the path, and don’t despair at the time you “lose” chasing the butterfly. But when the butterfly goes so far off the path that you stand to lose your way, let it go for a while. It will always come back to you.

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Art Abandonment

It’s no secret that there is a lot of negativity in the world right now, and a lot of it seems to be concentrated on Facebook. For those of us looking to bring more joy and inspiration in the world… or maybe just our Facebook feed, I highly recommend this group… https://www.facebook.com/groups/ArtAbandonment/

We put ourselves into our art. What’s more beautiful than putting ourselves into something, no matter how small or trivial and leaving it in the world for a stranger to find? Depending on how you abandon your art, you can’t be sure anyone will actually find it, or that the person who finds it will appreciate it. But art abandoners know that and do it anyway.

I haven’t formally abandoned a bead yet for this group. I live by the coast here in Maine, but we do have one sandy beach here locally. When I have flawed or experimental beads I like to build a sandcastle and decorate it with them and leave them there. They may be found that very day, or they may be buried and the sand or taken out to sea and never found.

I guess what I really love about it is the act of letting go of something. Whether we let go of our negativity or give a gift to the world, the world becomes a better place.

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Get Rid of Your Color Blocks

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I’ve recently gotten into doing a lot of mindfulness work and other than achieving it’s main objective of increasing inner peace in my life it’s had a lot of smaller ripple effects. One of these is how I see color. I live in rural Maine and one of the best things about living here is that nature is everywhere, and because we have such pronounced seasons it’s always changing.

I’ve always deeply loved nature but I’d never before been present enough to notice it quite as deeply as I do now. I’ve especially noticed the extraordinary way that nature puts colors together. It’s like living in the most fantastic art show of color and lights but it’s so pure and unobtrusive that we have to still our minds to even notice. Once you do it seems downright insane to worry about something when in the midst of nature but of course I still catch myself doing it all the time. When I’m fully present with nature a few flowers in a field have the power to move me to tears.

Noticing nature’s uninhibited use of color has made me realize that I have way too many conceptualized ideas about color and what looks nice. We all know that color is a huge part of style and trends, that’s why there are even color forecasts from Pantone. Supposedly companies even project four years into the future what colors people will want for various appliances and that marketing influences us on color preferences. We’ve been taught at early ages what colors clash or look bad together. While having this knowledge of color can be incredibly helpful for graphic design and marketing, I think it also has the potential to hold our art back. It also even limits our own appreciation of the colors we see in everyday life.

So if you find yourself stuck with your art start to look at color with an open mind again. Let nature be your teacher. Is mustard yellow really ugly in itself or have we been taught that it is? Does blue really evoke the color of sadness or is that a silly cultural assumption? If blue is a sad color why does a clear blue sky make us feel so very happy?

It’s true that we intuitively know that cool colors calm and hot color invigorates on some level. The complimentary colors and science of the color wheel still applies, but realize too that the beautiful of the color wheel is that it’s infinite!

Of course you can argue that if we are in the business of making things for people to wear or things to grace people’s homes we have to be sensitive to trends. However most people looking for handmade items or art want something OTHER than what is marketed to them everywhere. Our main selling point is being authentic and unique. So I challenge you to find a color or color combination that’s daring, and that really speaks to you. Then go see what happens with it.

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The Shame of Calling Yourself an Artist or Crafter

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There is little that makes me more uncomfortable around people I just met than being asked what I do. A few people are fascinated when I tell them “Oh, I’m a glass beadmaker,” but the majority give me a reaction that tells me they just heard me say “I’m an unemployed, uneducated person who has a lot of time for crafts.”

It’s not their fault that they hear that. If I didn’t do what I do I’d think the same thing. That’s because most of our society has the following assumptions.

1. We don’t produce goods in America. Most people haven’t even met someone who works full time making something themselves. The people who do that are found in Chinese factories, or at least they have more important people telling them what to make.

2. You can’t make a living doing something creative.

3. Things made to be decorative or beautiful are worth little. Unless they have some recognized name brand stuck on them somewhere of course.

4. When you tell me what you do for work, I can infer from your job title how educated you are and how much value you are to society… in other words how much money you make.

The responses almost always make me feel uncomfortable and even bad about myself if I let them. Most people assume that because I’m married I don’t have to work so they don’t ask further questions but I can tell what they are thinking. If I’m really lucky the next part of the conversation is about Chihuly or some glass blower they saw somewhere on vacation or how glass art is made in general.

Sometimes I’m asked “Can you actually make money doing that?” I love the people who ask that, awkward though it is. I’ll usually answer with something like “Yeah, I know it’s crazy!” or “Who would have thought?”

But I don’t think that’s true. I really don’t think it’s crazy at all.

I think I stumbled on an opportunity that no one seeks for themselves because no one knows it’s possible. How sad is that?

Please stop thinking that creativity is just some rare stroke of genius that is only someone like Steve Jobs had. Please stop thinking that you have to have employees, or that you can’t produce a product yourself to have a successful business. Please stop thinking that you can’t work at home, doing what you love and maybe even make a very good living.

I’m here to tell you that you can! Is it easy?

No! I have put in more unpaid hours of work learning to work with glass and doing research than I would have getting a bachelor’s and then master’s degree. I had to figure out through trial and error what would not work both on the level of making my beads and then solving the problem of how to sell them. All the time there was no “finish line” in sight. I never knew if I’d ever get to say “O.k, that worked, I made it.” But in return I get to do exactly what I want with my time. I get to research what I want to research, learn the skills I want to learn. I’m free to take my work in whatever direction I want to take it. And because the whole time I was so very engaged with what I was learning, it really didn’t feel like work at all most of the time.

Here’s the secret. One of the most fun, rewarding jobs there is out there isn’t pursued by many people. No one respects crafts because no one takes them seriously. They are considered nothing more than just a hobby that people pick up and drop within the span of a month. But if you love something enough to take it seriously and put thousands upon thousands of hours into it, you’re eventually going to come up with something great enough that people can’t ignore. Sometimes great doesn’t translate to money, but often it does. And as long as we have our basic needs met is more money important or is it more important to wake up every morning inspired to start your day?

If you are a creative person, take your creativity seriously. Stop thinking of crafters as crazy people who love to use glue guns to stick ribbons and doilies on everything in sight. Make time for your creativity and honor it. Especially if you are one of those previously described crafters with a glue gun. :) You never know where it could take you.

It’s enough just to make the world a more beautiful place. No matter how small the beautiful things you make are. :)

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How to Find Your Calling

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1. Eliminate everything unnecessary in your life. This may include gossip, mindless TV or other entertainment, clutter, even junk food and other bad habits. The appeal of these things is that they distract us from doing the hard work we need to do and asking the hard questions that we need to ask ourselves.

Tip: Do this little by little but make small changes that you make stick.

2. Discover Your Authentic Self. Most of us do not realize how many of our choices are made in an effort to please others. Sometimes this may mean we make choices in order to please one particular person and sometimes it may mean pleasing our entire culture as a whole. We may find ourselves doing things that diminish our happiness or sense of fulfillment in life, just in the pursuit of being “normal” or being accepted.

Tip: This doesn’t mean you have to immediately dump your friends or people who are important to you. Certain people may drift away on their own while other relationships will deepen. Deep down no one wants a relationship with someone who has repressed who they really are in order to please. In fact those are the very relationships that often go wrong and cause us intense pain when they do. We all do this in big ways and subtle ways, and the trick is simply realizing when we are doing it so that we can examine it and change.

3. Clear your Mind. Go for a walk, or a run, preferably in nature. Do yoga. Mediate. Or just sit and spend time your dog or cat. Find any activity that really works to clear your mind. Most of them take a little bit of practice so we can go beyond thinking about how to do them, to achieving clear minds through them.

Tip: The discovery you will need to make through this is that thoughts are overrated, and you can never think your way to your life purpose. The thoughts are not who you are, but rather the still space between those thoughts is the true you. You can be told this but it sounds silly because it means nothing until you experience it yourself. Ironically when we realize this and honor it and learn to make space, the answers we seek will come. After we become ok with not knowing, we can finally know.

4. Act. By now if you have gone into steps one through three and have done them thoroughly you will probably feel fulfilled and at peace. You no longer feel the NEED to have a life purpose. This is key because we can never find our calling when we are coming from a place of lack or needing to get somewhere or make something happen. You can even stop here if you like. Maybe your life purpose is to simply do nothing. Would you be ok with that? Or you may act and do wonderful things in this world.

Tip: Many of us have lives that are dynamic and ever changing in ways we could never have predicted. Finding your life purpose is not an end all be all. Continue to be open and have a clear mind and you’ll receive the extra bonus of naturally being able to embrace change as it comes.

Disclaimer: I wish it were as easy and straightforward as I have written out here. Unfortunately it’s usually messy and involves a lot of stalling and relapsing, and wild goose chasing. But that’s just because we are human. It’s ok. :)

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