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Do you hide your work?

Here’s something I’ve been wondering about…

There’s the not uncommon sentiment among people who make jewelry,
that one should keep one’s designs close to one’s vest, and
especially not ever, ever, publish images of one’s work online.

I understand this to a certain degree, but, then how do you sell your
work online? How do you have articles written about you and your
work? How do people find you?

I’ve noticed some people have a very out there, online presence,
while others, I assume, sell completely off-line and maintain a
complete media black out when it comes to the internet.

What do you do? Are you online or off, and why?


I almost never put any of my work online for many reasons-one being
I belong to a design group and in our charter we have all agreed not
to put our work online for non-compete and non-disclosure reasons as
a group, although some individuals maintain separate sites, brands,
e-commerce venues and enterprises on which they are free to post
whatever they like. If and when I do publish to the net it is mainly
clients designs or workpieces i am collaborating on in a shared
whiteboard with a colleague or individual or to enter pieces in
various competitions, shows etc…

In the past (around 1993) I was party to a particularly drawn out
and complex litigious “battle” with a Chinese factory that had gotten
my design specs from a cached file in a non secured 3D design
software application (essentially a slide show and technical notes I
had created for a private sales catalogue intended for buyer(s)at a
merchandise mart and for use in an on-line exhibit-) It turned out
that the company produced en masse over 40 pieces that were my
original work (they were selling gold and silver plated commercially
mass produced “costume” jewelry copies of my work/designs and all
totalled had up to the point that they were stopped- sold over 10,
000 of each item). I only found out because one of the buyers had
"already seen that design" and placed a rather large order from
them…so I had some recourse and an amount of loss to show when the
matter went all the way to litigation- which in dealing in
international law, particularly with Chinese litigants is almost
impossible to collect damages. They had fortunately for me, sold the
work through a British firm and the UK being “friendly” in terms of
legal matters was far easier than having to try and deal directly
with any Chinese “court system”. I won after a three year nightmare
and in the form of a settlement as opposed to a full trial; that was
lesson enough for me. Now when I create websites, etc. for selling
via the www i have visitors register and the whole thing is password
protected and on an https connection…It is the only way I have found
effective to sell online and protect original work that I don’t want
copied without permission. If I enter anything I do so through the
post rather than submitting anything on-line whenever possible. Some
may think it paranoid, I think it a wise way to do business online,
which is not my preferred method in the first place! I far rather a
storefront with a sign somewhere that spells out no photographing
allowed in the store. If a client wants to consider a purchase
further I send them off with a colour printout and as much
as is useful to them - that too is clearly stated in the
store, in fact I find it an excellent selling tool because in the
presentation packet I send them off with there are other items and a
catalogue of sorts included that help spark other sales or that they
can pass on when appropriate…So i don’t hide my work per se, but I
dont think it is the right way for me to use the www for selling…I
am perhaps overly cautious and guarded though- admitedly…not that my
work is all that special but if I spend the time to design and
fabricate it, set it with hand selected stones, etc, and customise
things for specific clients or buyers I want to be the one that
profits from it ultimately…



Before I started selling online my sales were few and far between. I
did several annual festivals and had my work in a few small
boutiques but it was feast or famine. I took a break for about 10
years to raise my son and started creating jewelry again about 2 1/2
years ago. I put my work up on Etsy and suddenly my sales took off. I
not only have had a rather successful 2 years selling thru the Etsy
venue but it has also enabled me to get my work in a few stores
locally and across the country. One of the stores I sell my work to
wholesale has continued to place large orders with me each month
since she “found” me on Etsy.

So I suppose that if it weren’t for the Internet I wouldn’t be as
successful as I am at selling what I make. With that said, there have
been several sellers that have shown up on Etsy with very "similar"
work as mine, but who is to say they didn’t have those designs long
before they came to Etsy? One will never know.

I look forward to hearing what others have to say about this subject.


Hi Elaine,

I personally prefer to put my work out there. I believe that if the
ideas are truly yours you will always be one step ahead of the copy
cats and recognized as such.


Hi Elaine,

I built my website on my own and it probably looks it. The reason I
built it was I keep getting request to see my work. It became
cumbersome to e-mail my pictures of my work to all of those that
wanted to see them. So, I decided it would be easier to build a
website and have my website address printed on my business card. That
way I can direct friends and family or anyone else interested to my
site and they can enjoy my simple works. I have not put any effort
into selling things off of my website. I have a few of my earlier
pieces that haven’t sold outright and a few pieces that I made
primarily for my non-sale Etsy store.

I keep as busy as I care to in supplying a wholesaler that is the
primary purchaser of my pieces. I hope to keep my jewelry work an
enjoyable hobby that will help pay for my biggest hobby, FISHING.
So, I am kind of hiding, but it is out there. I am a 4 year newbie
and I hope I have not grossly copied anyone else’s work. I didn’t
really mean to. I never know where I have seen items that have given
me ideas. I am sure I have no super secret processes or designs that
have not already been out there.

Ken Moore

Hi Elaine:

I used to seriously gimmick the images on my site, just to make it
really hard to rip them off, but then I had an epiphany: the amount
of work it was taking me to make them ‘copy proof’ was seriously
slowing down my ability to get things up, and people who wanted them
could still rip them off, they just had to work harder for it. So,
the best I could do (at no small investment of time) was to make
them work for it.

Frankly, I’d rather make new work. Website images will never be high
enough quality to print as anything bigger than a postage stamp,
except on the web, so where’s the risk? Fine, somebody has a picture
of your work. And? This threatens you how? (That’s the generic ‘you’,
not you personally Elaine.) Does the risk outweigh the benefit of the
free advertising? Methinks not.

I say this as someone who’s gotten out of the production game: I
teach, and do one-offs, so I don’t have a line to protect. But even
when I did my thought was that if I couldn’t be ‘me’ better than
someone pretending to be ‘me’, the problem wasn’t theirs. I’ve also
climbed so far up the technology tree that I’m difficult to follow.
Anybody who’s good enough to make knockoffs of my stuff is good
enough not to need to.

If your line is so generic that all a pirate needs to reproduce it is
a photo, perhaps this should serve as an inducement to expanding your
skills and designs. You’ll never be secure until your skills (both
technical and design) are better than what a pirate can buy for
$10/day in Bombay. (Translation: don’t compete for the bottom.
Either you’ll lose, or you won’t enjoy it if you win.)

Brian Meek.

Elaine - I, as you can see from my signature below, have mine online
:wink: My feeling is that if someone wants to steal it they will find a
way to do it anyway. I only make one-of-a-kind, so if anyone should
see multiples of one of my designs they know they aren’t really
mine! I also feel that if you have a true “voice” to your work it is
probably not going to really convey to copies. I have trouble seeing
how someone would copy, say, Sam Patania’s coral necklace he recently
blogged about, or Pat Pruitt’s lovely pearl necklace he also recently
blogged about.

These two have very clear “voices”, and I don’t think you could
mistake a ripoff for the real thing.

Also, once you have sold a piece, you have no control over what the
buyer does with it. We have this problem constantly in my "other"
life (moving equipment and supplies), with the Chinese mainly ripping
off US textiles. But they don’t come close on matching the actual
quality of the piece. They can make a cheaper piece - but it is,
genuinely, a cheaper piece! We have to carry some imported items to
service this price market, but to meet our quality standards we
actually control the production of an entire Chinese plant, so that
they manufacture to our specifications. Which still doesn’t meet the
quality of what we manufacture here in the US! See the following link
if you are interested:

People with a discount store mentality won’t care - they buy price
not quality. But then they are not your genuine potential market
anyway, are they?

Beth Wicker
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio

Elaine- We have a web site that was designed by our jewelry student
Kari Fuge.

We love having our web site because we do one of a kind high end
custom work. We don’t maintain an inventory. So when folks would
say, “Oh, you’re a jeweler? Where can I see your stuff?”

We got tired of saying, “Well you can’t see it because it’s sold
before we even make it.” So now we say,“Go to our site.”. We can
also feature work by our students. It’s a wonderful sales aid

I have never had a fear of someone stealing my designs. Even if I
copyright a design, all somebody has to do is tweak it a millimeter
or so. It’s a part of life. Kinda like showing up at a party in a new
dress to find another gal wearing the same thing.

You have to put yourself out there despite the risks.

Jo Haemer

ps: Plus I think that people who think that their designs are soooo
precious and important are kinda full of themselves.

Elaine, I thought about this when I was looking for subcontractors
and two thoughts came to my mind

  1. My designs would be copied and be all over the globe.

  2. My designs would NOT be copied and would NOT be all over the

Either way, I had to admit, my designs are not that important to the
world. If someone can take my designs and make more money with them
than I do then what am I doing wrong?

One thing I have always thought was I would put my deigns and the
way I make them out there and hope to be the first, then I am
driving the craft and I am the original. That would be researchable.

Sam Patania, Tucson

Few questions comes to mind:

What is work?
Can you actually hide it?
Can you actually display it?
Can the work be actually copied?

I contend that “work” in a sense “made by craftsman” contains parts
which cannot be copied, very difficult to define, only a few can
really see and understand, and therefore is impossible to display to
everybody’s satisfaction.

An attempt to copy a handmade article can only produce pour
imitation. I seriously doubt that segment of the market who would
accept such an imitation, is the segment of the market that craftsman
is interested in.

Leonid Surpin

If your work is worthy of scrutiny by the online world, by all means
show it. If someone wants to make copies, they need to match or
exceed your skills in order to trump what you have done. My site gets
hits from some very suspect areas of the world where copyright laws
hold no bearing, but I’m not losing any sleep over this…if they
want to copy what I’ve done, they had better do their homework.

David Keeling

You cannot sell it if you do not show it. You can get ripped off
from print images or sales of the physical piece. You are probably
more vulnerable at a commercial trade show, where your competitors
are right there and can see others reaction to the piece. I have had
several of my designs stolen and could probably find them being
offered in pewter on Ebay today if I cared to look. For several years
I have been the number one or two Google search for "Celtic Crosses"
The several copycats that have stolen my designs do not do me nearly
as much harm as the benefit I get from being very easy to find that

Hi Elaine,

I have had a website up now for about 15 years. I’ve never had a
problem. Since I make mostly one-offs using unusual cabs, they are
impossible to duplicate. I do make a ring with a vine design soldered
onto the band but I figure those are so labor intensive, if anyone
wants to try it they welcome to the design.

At this time in my life, having a web site is the easiest way for me
to sell my product.


Dear Brian -

Translation: don't compete for the bottom. Either you'll lose, or
you won't enjoy it if you win. 

You have just summed up my life for the last 50 years! Thank you for
the concise statement, Kelley - One Who Seeks to be the Biggest Fish
in the Smallest Pond, [calculated for percent return on effort
expended; but hey, let’s have some fun here along the way!]

Interesting topic. Quite some time ago, Jeanne Rhodes-Moen sent me a
photo from a Peruvian Blue Opal Site. she told me that it looked
very much like Amy O’Connell’s work, and at 10% of the original

Bottom line, not only is it Amy’s work, it is also her photo, taken
right from her Web Site. We alerted Amy at that time. the Peruvia
Blue Opal site "disappeared: for a while. It is once again up and
yes still includes Amy’s work and photos as well as Sue Andreasens

Jeanne just sent me comments on this today, and has alerted the Web
Host, (I think) about this outright fraud. So, yes it does happen,
and in this case blatantly.


I guess the thing with posting your work is a double edged
sword…Can someone copy your work? Yes, they can, but it also
depends on how hard it is to copy…there was a woman where I lived
in Norway who made very simple amber in silver rings, but she drilled
the amber and put silver wire through it and polished it flush in the
stone. A friend of mine made a copy of one…for herself, not to
sell…but it was not a complex design. The designs that that site
stole from Amy and Suz (Suz’s was removed from their site after she
contacted them), were not that difficult to copy(replicable with
standard shaped stones etc)…I post my pieces online, but my work,
being meticulous filigree might be more difficult or at least time
consuming for someone to copy, so they might not bother, especially
if they want to sell it at 1/10 the price!

The flip-side is that if you want to get your work sold, and you
don’t have a regular storefront, you’ll never sell it if it doesn’t
get seen! So some of us, who have more of a workshop than a store,
rely on the web to get our work seen, especially with today’s
economy. A friend of mine was telling me that the galleries she has
dealt with are often no longer taking work by ‘new’ unproven
artists…they want sure sellers, and I can’t say I blame them with
today’s unstable economy and people cutting back on luxury
buying…so again, what’s left but to get your work seen by people.


You cannot sell it if you do not show it. You can get ripped off
from print images or sales of the physical piece. 

There’s a local store/chain that considers one of my designs their
"signature piece". It was in the newspaper for a couple of years. I
care, but not enough to get legal about it. I sell it myself, quite
often, because it’s mine (and I can prove it). I’m a little
flattered about the success of it, more than anything. If someone
huge and corporate took it, I might do something - then it would be
worthwhile. I.E. I could make some money on it.

Quite often here on Orchid there’s a posting about copyrights and IP
and “how can I protect my design?” and the real answer is, you can’t
without spending way too much time on it. And frankly there are very
few designs, my own included, that are really worth stealing on any
large scale, anyway. If Tiffany outright stole my design, I’d
probably do something (i.e. I could make some money on it). But if
anybody here or elsewhere wants to knock off my work, I could care
less. It’s like music - amateurs play other people’s songs, pros
write their own.

Hi Elaine

I agree with Sam

Either way, I had to admit, my designs are not that important to the
world. If someone can take my designs and make more money with them
than I do then what am I doing wrong?

Along with that I usually use stones that are unique and those
cannot be replicated even if the design is. That is why I prefer one
of’s as even if duplicated, they are not the same.

Karen Bahr - Karen’s Artworx
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

...... Bottom line, not only is it Amy's work, it is also her
photo, taken right from her Web Site.....

If someone does hijack the pictures from your site, what do they do
when someone orders the piece? Obviously they don’t have it in their
possession - do they make a quick knock-off? and if it uses a unique
stone how do they get away with that?

Just wondering, many times my naivety shows. It is good to know that
you spotted it and let Amy know. One more reason to be very glad we
have Orchid.


I have photos of my work on and
Slideshare says up front that any photos displayed are open to
public view and can be downloaded by anyone. Flickr says that that
the copyright of the photo belongs to the person who uploaded the
photo unless one signs a commons agreement that allows non-profit
use of the photo. On Flickr one may also selectively choose who can
see the photo.

I realize that I am now talking about rights to the photo, not just
the design of the object. From the stats on both sites plus the
stats from my web site I can see viewings and downloads and realize
that some people are trying to understand how an object was made and
other people are taking the photo in itself.

Am I going to chase anybody down? Of couse not. I need the exposure.
Plus design moves on and I get bored with conquered objectives and
am constantly developing new products.

I am not “an island unto myself”. I look at other people’s work,
read journals, buy books on techniques, participate in forums and
learn from others.