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Ethics of Learning & Teaching

I am hoping that this subject will generate some discussion, as I
would like to hear the views of others on the ethics of passing on

My own attitude is that whatever I learn, I share. I do a lot of
writing and teaching, and that gives me an “excuse” to go on
learning new things even if they don’t necessarily find their way
into much of my work.

That said, I don’t copy or encourage others to copy another’s style
or specific work. It’s OK to make a single piece or so for your own
education, especially in a workshop, but the ideas need to be
"assimilated" before they can be really used. By that I mean,
augmented, altered, adjusted, or refocused so the results reflect
your own style, not that of the teacher. I certainly hope my
students will not reproduce for market the projects they learn from
me, though I cannot prevent it.

I have been criticized a couple of times for teaching elements of
technique that others use and teach, though I have not passed things
on “directly”, that is, without the above assimilation process, and
in neither case had I actually learned the technique I was teaching
from the person complaining.

So the question I’m asking for comment on: As long as the results
don’t look like the work of some individual, i.e. there is no direct
copying taking place, can anyone expect to restrict the free flow of
ideas and techniques? And, is there a difference between teaching in
the classroom and in print, ethically speaking?

Thanks for thoughts and perspective,

Noel, I would assume that once you teach a technique, the persons
learning it would be free to use that technique—certainly in an
original way. Otherwise, what is the point of teaching a technique if
it is not to be used—again in an original way. I am surprised you
have been criticized for sharing what you have learned.

I teach various techniques and the greatest pleasure I have is when
a student makes use of that technique. That is the best thanks I can
get. It is an absolute joy to see the various creative things that
they produce using that technique.

Without free exchanges of ideas throughout the history of mankind,
we would all be living in caves, and digging for grubs and worms in
order to exist.

Alma Rands.

if technique, etc is not taught to the next generation of budding and
enthusiastic jewelers then all such shall be lost. we have a duty to
pass on our good things and the things to avoid. without the
knowledge of the past, we have no future.


I would assume that once you teach a technique, the
persons learning it would be free to use that
technique---certainly in an original way. 

I guess the question I was getting at was not is anyone free to use
a technique but are they free to teach it to others?


I would like to think that any crafts person who teaches should be
free to pass on any techniques they know, even if the techniques
relate to what may be called unique designs.

I see no problem in copying the techniques of manufacture or
elements that others use and teach, we all learn from others and can
find improvements using new techniques. Can you imagine the change
and benefits when goldsmiths and jewellers started using electricity!

My only worry is about the current teachers of my trade. At some
colleges over here in the UK, we seem to have a lot of jewellery
teachers who have never worked in a workshop environment, they have
gone from being a student to being a qualified teacher without
leaving the college environment. A few years ago I thought of
becoming a part time teacher at a local college where they had a
jewellery workshop, I thought it would be good to pass on some of my
knowledge and experience, as I have been working in this trade, non
stop, for 47 years now and I think I may have something to pass on.
I was told that if I wanted to teach, then I would have to go to
college myself and gain some qualifications. I told them that I did
not have the time or inclination to attend college, so they asked if
I would perhaps do a masterclass for them at the college. I said
that I would and was told that I would have to visit the head of the
art and craft department and give details of what I would
demonstrate. When I visited the college and met the head of the
department, he showed me to a bench an asked me to give him an idea
of what I would be demonstrating.

I had shown him a selection of photos of my previous work and he had
asked me to demostrate my manufacturing techniques in the making of
plique a-jour butterfies.He said that his students would be
interested in this type of project as they would make nice pendants
or brooches. When I started explaining my manufacting technique in
simple stages the teacher kept saying “we can’t do that”, and asking
if there was another way of achieving the same effect. He said that
any techniques or working methods that were shown to students had to
conform to a set of so called “health and safety” rules. For example
when I showed him how I used a piercing saw, all he was interested
in was whether his students would damage their hands while saw
piercing. I showed him the black specks in my left hand where over
the years I have stabbed myself with broken saw blades while saw
piercing, this terrified him and he told me that he would have a
meeting with the college staff and they might want to choose another
piece for me to demonstrate making. He told me that they would let me
know of any decisions after their meeting.

The following week I visited the college workshop anonymously on a
college open day. Some students were in the jewellery workshop
demonstrating their skills. I watched a student hammering a small
bowl shape on a steel stake held in a vice, the student was wearing
plastic eye defenders, large ear defenders and a protective glove on
the left hand holding the workpiece. I asked her why she needed this
protection and was told that it was the rules of the college

I later wrote to the college, gave my appologies and rejected their
invitation to give a masterclass. I told them that I see no sense in
me giving a masterclass if I am not able to show an honest
demonstration of my manufacturing techniques.

My trade is a hand trade and as such there will be accidents,
hopefully never serious but sometimes there will be blood. If I ever
do any teaching I think it will be via print, perhaps I will start
writing a “How to” set of books, with a start to finish,set of photos
and text explaining the methods and techniques of manufacture by
hand, then it’s up to the reader to worry about safety issues.

One last comment, I was also sad to hear of the passing of Oppi
Untracht. His three books have pride of place in my library and have
been a source of to me over the years. In fact when I was
planning to publish my own book, the first publisher I contacted was
Robert Hale, who is the publisher of two of Oppi’s books,namely “
Metal Techniques for Craftsmen” and “Jewelry, concepts and

If all goes well robert Hale will be publishing my book later this
year,a book of photos and text which shows most of my unique pieces
of work, made over the past forty years.

Peace and good health to all
James Miller FIPG

I have trained a few jewelers and I always encouraged copying other
people work. Copying is the most valuable tool we have to train
ourselves and others. Truly original work must be respected and not
reproduced commercially, but nobody should object to copying for
educational purposes, and I believe that no real designer would.

There are cases when some “designers” kind of stumbled on some
combination of decorative elements and they keep peddling them like
there is no tomorrow. One designer comes to mind ( no names will be
mentioned ) whose “great artistic vision” culminated in attaching
twisted wire to whatever seem convenient, and this “contribution” is
protected by an army of lawyers, like nobody before thought about
using twisted wire. Copying of that type of work should be avoided at
all cost.

I think that it is an unhealthy phobia of trying to avoid copying.
First of all, we are copying others work wether we know it or not. It
is a hubris to the N’s degree to think that you are the only one who
ever thought of particular combination of decorative elements.
true copying is very difficult. Go on an try to copy exactly some
other work. It is not easy.

I remember reading in one book on design following recommendation:

“Do not borrow other people ideas! Steal them outright and make the
ideas your own. It is in the act of appropriating ideas and adopting
them to your own style, the true originality is born”

Happy pilfering.

Leonid Surpin

Hi Noel

Well, ethics ain’t what it used to be.

Seriously though, if what you do rests easily with you; and you don’t
wake in the middle of the night wondering, it’s good.

As it so happens I’ve spent the past week writing a critique of a
workshop. I want it be constructive and not petulant. Constructive as
in: Here’s what could be done to improve this workshop. I’m still
working on it and at the same time whether it would be appropriate to
post it to Orchid.

Back to your question: I agree with you if I understand correctly. If
one assimilates knowledge, it may reappear in a different form
without imitation. And, as has been said on this forum: there’s
probably nothing knew under the sun.

Good metalsmiths don’t borrow; they steal, to paraphrase T.S. Eliot.

And the workshop and print are both public forums.


as I would like to hear the views of others on the ethics of
passing on ideas. 

Noel, I don’t think it’s as complicated as your post makes it seem.
Jewely making (from my perspective I’d say goldsmithing) just isn’t
that complicated. I’ve said it before - you could even call it a
crusade for me. Some people are workshop junkies - there’s not a
thing wrong with that, and some workshops teach a whole technique
that’s new to them. But jewelry (any craft, for that matter) isn’t
made by rote, it’s made by applying fundamentals.

What this means in the context of your topic is that teaching
somebody how to make “a setting” isn’t very useful and maybe you are
passing on somebody else’s idea - yours, anyway. Teaching somebody
the fundamentals of setting engineering is useful, and then they can
go make any setting, any time. That’s true knowlege.

There’s actually a short list of methods to learn - torch, hammer,
saw, pliers, punches - more than that but not much. Then there’s a
comparatively short list of fundamental techniques - ring bending,
solder setups and the like. I would maintain that the biggest issue
most people have trouble with and often never overcome is the
ability to think and work in three dimensions - that takes time, and
I’ve heard it said only about 10% of the population can visualize in
three dimensions. That doesn’t mean bending sheet metal, it means
sculpture, BTW.,

I don’t see that any of that would violate anybody’s ethics - a
basket setting is common, dapped earrings are common, bent wire is
common, most catches are common, conceptually. If you are saying,
“don’t dap it that way, dap it MY way”, you’re not much of a
teacher, anyway, whoever you are. All of the above is a short list,
but it’s still about 10 years to get any good at it, and there’s
plenty of learning and teaching there.

Now, when you are talking about design, that’s different. Saying
that a saw is used to saw is one thing - saying, "Look how this
person sawed their work in just this way to get that unique effect."
is different. To learn from it is good, to take something away from
it is good. To actually copy it is certainly unethical (not that I’m
mister law-and-order…), but more importantly it misses the point
of it all - jewelry is made by fundamentals, not by rote. A mental
catalog of pieces is something we all aquire over time, but one who
thinks it is “how jewelry is made” is, again, missing the point. To
use that catalog as inspiration is human, to think that everybody is
essentially copying everybody else, and to teach in that spirit is
truly misguided. I don’t know that you, Noel, do or don’t work that
way - just my thoughts…

I’d say that if one, as a teacher, can take something out of a piece

  • “Look at how those rivets are set - make your own rivets and use
    them in an original piece.” that is a natural learning process. To
    say, “Let’s make this knock-off as an exercise.” is not just
    unethical, it’s also unoriginal and uninspired teaching…however,
    I’d say that you can’t help but make knock offs of all sorts of
    things - basic settings, box clasps, basic pearl caps (even jump
    rings) and much more that are just the basic parts we make every
    day, and we all have to learn our chops, there. I’d just say there’s
    a line where it’s original work, though, and that’s just pinching


I understand completely what you are saying. However, I have taught
procedures in resin inlay and photo-etching which students have
learned and one who is now doing very similar work to mine. She is
actually doing a very nice business in this style and even though our
styles look similar, I am happy that she is working and selling. And
somebody taught me, and they were taught by somebody else who read it
in Oppi Untracht’s book.

As an artist, I get to change my methodology, learn, create a voice
of my own, and if that person can only copy and not innovate, then it
will always look like a project piece. As an artist, this is not
limited to just jewelry fabrication, but to my marketing techniques,
photography, cooking, tool design. My passion is in everything I do
as I am a passionate person and try to live in the moment.

When I juried for the NYC Couture show, I saw five selections of
work from one jewelry artist (what does that mean exactly) and in
each one, I could tell from what workshop it came from.

To be truly unique, distinct and to stand out, takes patience,
perseverance and more patience. Your own voice will always win out.
Sure, I can learn how to do granulation from Ronda Coryell, and push
my little granules so they stack up like nice neat symmetrical rows
of pure golden beauty. But what makes them distinct from everyone
else who has learned the same technique?

To develop a voice, or your “art”, I can now take the "technical"
knowledge and begin making my own variations. However, without
repeating the basics and fundamentals of my teacher, without copying
her style of working or that of another, as I began to understand the
combination of chemistry, physics and panic (if you have ever done
granulation, you will know what I mean), I had to do work on projects
that was like hers or somebody else. If I copy the Etruscan piece of
jewelry in my art history book, will the ghost of the jeweler past
come to haunt me?

Now I am doing something very different with granulation. My
interest in biology, math and quantum physics have merged with my
artwork and the drawings in my sketchbook are surreal.

Students garner more confidence if they have a starting point and
are encouraged to take the basics and fly. If not, then there work is
only a photocopy of what you teach and in the long run, this cannot
hold up.

Sharing knowledge is noble service and should be given freely
without ego. If in sharing that knowledge, or teaching a concept,
another artists method or vision works better to drive the point home
so they can learn and move on, then I see nothing wrong with it.

What happens when you go to a museum? You sit and copy by drawing or
photograph somebody else’s creation. Is that bad, is it wrong? No. I
did it all the time in art school and it became the FOUNDATION of
finding my own voice. I’m now just beginning to understand that
voice. I like photography, but I have a lot to learn in editing and
filtering the ambient noise to make a kick ass photograph. But, if
you look at my photos, they are distinctly me. Jewelry, I’m still
working on, but I’m getting there.

Look at Metalwerx where you took a class. So many students came up
to me wanting to know how to start a school. Fine I said, I’ll take
you through it. I’ll share my knowledge. But starting a school and
running a school is a very different beast. Copying another persons
work for education and creating their own line of jewelry draws from
the same experience. Now little schools have popped up all over the
place. Was I worried that this was happening? No. In the end, the
student will decide what is best for them. My job in running
Metalwerx was to keep the INSTRUCTORS as happy as possible. The draw
of the amazing talent of the instructor base is what built the
school. The innovation of marketing, community studio space, online
Insider is what fills the classroom and still does. In October,
Metalwerx will be 10 years old! Even though I am not running it any
longer and off to doing other projects, no school will be just like
Metalwerx. Either will anybody else’s jewelry.

My feeling is, people are always going to complain about something.
Let them complain! No need for you to take on their baggage about an
experience. Teach and let it go. It’s their problem, not yours.
Teach from your heart, teach from truth and the petty problems that
others have is theirs to deal with. Step out of the way and take on
the next student who will listen and be grateful for the experiences
you are so willing to share.

It’s a big sofa and there is plenty of room for everyone.

Karen Christians
Waltham, MA

I guess the question I was getting at was not is anyone free to use
a technique but are they free to teach it to others? 

Noel’s question can be addressed on a few levels. Is the teacher
truly an innovator or merely an imitator, are they a professional or
an amateur?

Is it based on just teaching a project/making a product, where
completing the object is the priority of the class, or is it
directed towards imparting knowledge, teaching technique and process
as a fundamental foundation?

Teaching anything at a professional level, especially applied
technique and refined hand skills, theoretically requires a depth of
understanding of the process on the part of the teacher and proven
fluency with the tools and materials being employed.

I say theoretically because there are individuals teaching who
obviously have insufficient expertise or qualifications in what they
are teaching to be able teach it correctly or accurately, but that in
an of itself doesn’t stop them from teaching. I have many students in
my workshops who say “so and so taught me this” and the result is
that often we have to spend a lot of time and energy correcting what
they learned in the past before we can go forward.

Some people go to workshops looking for something new to add to the
menu of what they teach. Often they follow up by teaching something
which they have only seen or read about but do not themselves have
any true fluency in or mastery of. Picking up odds and ends and a
smattering of this and that and a few tricks and tips here and there
and passing that on doesn’t equal being a qualified teacher. Parrots
can do this same thing with language and it doesn’t make them skilled

What this leads to is dilute and incomplete instruction due to the
teacher’s superficial and inadequate understanding of the subject. In
a worst case scenario this person ends up teaching someone else’s
material, ineffectively, without any personal qualification of their
own. Then it is just like a cheap knock off in jewelry, a poorly made
substitute for the genuine article, which upon closer examination
reveals its inferiority.

Minus the authority of fluency any instruction will certainly be of
lesser value, but unfortunately, the student may not always have the
ability to discern what quality the instruction is or how experienced
the teacher is.

Skill in the classroom means possessing the ability to articulate and
impart the “how’s and why’s” and finesse of the process, rather than
just saying “do it like this”. It helps immensely if the instructor
has a proven depth of familiarity and understanding of whatever it is
they are teaching. This entails evidence of their accomplishment and
recognition for their skill.

Students gain the most from teachers who have a strong supporting
body of work that exhibits their experience and substantiates their

Michael David Sturlin

1 Like
I guess the question I was getting at was not is anyone free to
use a technique but are they free to teach it to others? 

In a word, Yes. If that info was given to you in a public forum. I
would consider a class, workshop, public.

An example of what I would consider private: A person with whom I’ve
done business for years told me in her studio about a particular
technique. I would not share that without asking her permission.
Technique is to be shared.

But not everyone believes that; especially some who teach workshops.
Present company excepted.


Hi James,

I watched a student hammering a small bowl shape on a steel stake
held in a vice, the student was wearing plastic eye defenders,
large ear defenders and a protective glove on the left hand holding
the workpiece. I asked her why she needed this protection and was
told that it was the rules of the college workshop. 

I don’t know what it’s like in America, but over here in the UK, as
James has pointed out, we’ve gone absolutely barking mad with the
"health and safety" thing. It really has gone to ridiculous extremes.
It frustrated me no end when I was teaching science. Most of the fun
experiments I remember doing as a pupil myself are no longer allowed
to be carried out by today’s school children. Many of them the
teacher is no longer allowed to even demonstrate. Instead, one may be
allowed to show the children a video of someone performing a
particular experiment. There’s just no fun anymore in teaching and
learning practical subjects at school/college anymore. Every single
little procedure/demonstration/experiment that a teacher wants to
teach, must be assessed, forms filled out to prove that all aspects
of it conform to the health and safety regulations. Risk assessments
must be done, with every possible mishap being accounted for and
what you would do if such mishaps did take place. If a student has an
accident with a saw blade puncturing the skin, the accident book
MUST be filled in, with all details of what went wrong and what
precautions were taken to avoid such a thing happening and what first
aid measures were taken.

All this is yet another justification for those of us who can’t
afford classes and so learn by reading books and experimenting,
making lots of mistakes and learning how to get out of the resulting
disasters or how to avoid them next time. At least in teaching
oneself (of course with the help of the good folks on Orchid), you
are free to experiment and do not have to go to all the silly lengths
one must go to in order to teach or learn in a classroom environment.

Having bought my gas bottles yesterday, hubby is at this moment,
setting up my new torch and gas bottles. Although, having read all
the safety I was given, I’m not sure where he will be
able to put said gas bottles as they must be at least 1.5 metres away
from the house wall, and according to another bit of safety
the propane cylinder is not allowed to be housed next to
the oxygen cylinder - it must be X metres away from it - even though
they sell trolleys for storing/wheeling them, that hold both bottles
together. It’s all very confusing and frustrating to say the least.
And then I’ve been told that when using my new set-up, I’m not
allowed to use it unless I’m wearing at least a shade 3 pair of
safety goggles which are in a horrible shade of green. Does everyone
else who uses an oxy/ propane set-up use green goggles/glasses?

We’re all going mad!


I guess the question I was getting at was not is anyone free to
use a technique but are they free to teach it to others? 

I know what you mean Noel. Sometimes a teacher is kind of identified
with a technique, and then if you teach it, you may be at risk of
people saying, “You stole that from Artist X! How dare you teach
’their’ method.”

It can be a delicate area.

I second your question Noel.

My answer is that if someone teaches you something in a workshop or
class that means you can do whatever you want with it. Otherwise, why
did they teach it to you?


As it so happens I've spent the past week writing a critique of a
workshop. I want it be constructive and not petulant. Constructive
as in: Here's what could be done to improve this workshop. I'm
still working on it and at the same time whether it would be
appropriate to post it to Orchid. 

Why not send it to the teacher and/or the institution where the
workshop took place first?

Most teachers want to improve.

I read my feedback and adjust my classes accordingly.


My only worry is about the current teachers of my trade. At some
colleges over here in the UK, we seem to have a lot of jewellery
teachers who have never worked in a workshop environment, they
have gone from being a student to being a qualified teacher without
leaving the college environment 

Although it’s not about ethics exactly, James’ story says a lot
about the state of jewelry making in today’s world. I’ve said it
many times, and I know James would agree - making jewelry is about
craftsmanship and skill. That means that we don’t make jewelry with
our brains (per se), but with our hands, and it is trained hands
that do the work. Of course it’s not so simple that we could say,
“More school won’t make you a better jeweler”, because likely it
will. It is a truth that more time paying dues at the bench WILL
make one a better jeweler, though.

What this really means is that skill conquers all, though knowlege
is a factor in that, too. Many people seem to be looking for a magic
bullet that will make them a jeweler, without putting in the work.
Tricks, tips, preset settings, stock metal, prefab. If you dap up a
disk of silver, solder it on a base and stick a band of stock silver
on it with some oh-so-artistic texture on it all, you’ve made the 25
millionth copy of that design. When you substitute mokume or
titanium for the silver dome, well, you have instant drama - a magic
bullet. You can sell it till the sun goes down, put your kids
through college, all of which is great stuff. But does that make you
a better craftsman?

There are many of us here who could tell the same story, but
speaking for myself, I know all about torches, all about files, all
about saws, all about hammers, and all about lots of other stuff,
too. I mean that I am skilled and know it in my hands - that’s not
ego, it’s just ability. What that gives me and others like me is
freedom. I decided to take up enameling, so I did. I read a couple
of books (Oppi’s, for one) that told me the guts of it -
temperature, procedure, policy, and I started enameling. I already
know about metal and oxides and bending and heating and cleaning and
grinding and polishing, because I have a base of skills. I did the
same with mokume - I just sat down and did it - I already know how
to stick metal together, how to grind and punch and roll it. That
isn’t to say that we don’t learn from others because that never
stops. The point being that you can take an engraving class but you
won’t be an engraver till after 1000 hours or so of cutting. Taking a
class in mokume will be useful and fascinating, but after you make a
sheet of it, what do you do then?

The bottom line is that the magic bullet is right in front of your
face. File a few thousand ring castings and you’ll be expert with a
file. Saw a few miles of sawpiercing and ditto - set 10 or 15
thousand stones and you’ll start to get good at it. Plus you’ll know
all about what is a good setting and a bad one, and you’ll get up
close and personal with lots of metal and jewelry. It doesn’t really
matter what Noel or anybody teaches in a class, because that’s not
what jewelers are made of anyway. They’re made of skill that can
only be gained by experience, and there’s really no shortcuts.

I guess the question I was getting at was not is anyone free to
use a technique but are they free to teach it to others? 

Well, of course! How have folks been learning and passing things on
for generations if not?

If you put that into a general context, I think it becomes obvious,
where in a particular context it may become lost in protecting “me”.

Can you imagine if each doctor had to rediscover, on her own, how
the human body works and how to do surgery?? Obviously ridiculous.
Someone discovered this and taught it to someone else who taught it
to someone else, etc. Hopefully infinitely!

Jewelry is the same. If someone does NOT want a technique they feel
they invented passed on, they should not teach/share it in the first
place. Which, if it is a good/interesting technique would be a real
pity. On the other hand, not much is really “new”… mostly just re-
invented or rediscovered.


Beth in SC who is at the beach in NC “enjoying” Tropical Storm
Cristobal and hoping it will not take the beach away with it!

over here in the UK, as James has pointed out, we've gone
absolutely barking mad with the "health and safety" thing. It
really has gone to ridiculous extremes. 

As a regular user of asbestos, mercury, cyanide, fire and sharp
things, I just shake my head when hearing about all these sto0pid
regs & rules. My oxygen tank is chained next to my ace AND LP tanks
(with a cacophony of hoses and Y-connectors so as to be able to share
the oxygen tank between the two gasses, along with 4 torches.

I only use dark glasses when cutting and welding steel or soldering



I guess the question I was getting at was not is anyone free to
use a technique but are they free to teach it to others? 

I have had people ask me about the workshops I teach, and I tell
them that the knots themselves are thousands of years old, so I can’t
restrict their use, the techniques I teach them are theirs to use as
they see fit, but that my actual printouts and artwork are
copyrighted. If they want to use what they got from me to make
things, that’s fine, but they’ll either have to use my materials
un-altered, or create their own, to conduct teaching sessions
without me.

I’ve had many students, some of whom tell me they haven’t done any
more since learning from me, but were glad they had been in my
class, others of whom went on to make more of the same, and a very
few who came to me and showed me things that were new to me. I want
to shout and dance around when they do that.

You can’t follow everyone around to make sure they aren’t taking
advantage of you, of course, but if you look for that, you’ll
undoubtedly find it. I try to concentrate more on the ones who are
going to catch fire from me and shine in the field, because they’re
much more interesting and rewarding to me.


I’m writing the critique especially for the teacher hoping it will
have an effect. My reservation was whether I should post the critique
on Orchid and whether the editors would allow it.

Most teachers want to improve. 

I don’t know how a blanket statement like this can be made. It’s more
of a hope than a declarative. Egos are involved.


hi noel,

as a teacher and author of 3 different how-to jewelry books, i am
compelled to tell you that the you include in teaching a
workshop can have much different consequences than the information
you include in a printed book.

i was threatened with a lawsuit over one of the projects in my book
"The Art and Craft of Making Jewelry" because someone had a copyright
and patent on not only the simple and very old technique i was
teaching but also on the design. in the BROADEST sense. basically,
the copyright covered any way you could possibly make this item, even
if it looked completely different than the copyright & patent owner’s
design. i never even suspected that someone would try to claim this
technique as their OWN and i certainly never ever suspected they
would get a patent and a copyright on it.

the thing is, a publisher does not cover an author legally or
financially in this case. i wonder if the person who threatened me
with this lawsuit thought they were really going to lose business
because the design…umm…VAGUELY similar to the one they used was
possibly going to be made by aspiring craft artists, or if they
thought they might get the big bucks from my parent publisher, barnes
and noble. i don’t know, but when it came down to it, it was my 800
sq ft home, my jewelry tools, equipment & inventory, my 2000 honda
civic, etc that was on the line. meaning, i had not much to lose, but
if i lost it, i would lose everything. i had about $300 in the bank,
not enough to even get a lawyer’s consultation. hence, major stress.

i lost about 4 weeks of work due to dealing with this possible
litigation, and spent countless hours fretting i would lose my
livlihood. my publisher had to recall my books from the shelves &
trash them, i had to re-write the project for free, and i lost 6
months worth of royalites and still have not made them up due to
loss of momentum in selling the book due to its absence. (this is
where i step in and say that in the end, my publisher was great, and
i still love lark books very very much! what wonderful people!!!)

however, the thing that gets me the most is that i LOVE sharing my
knowledge with others. i love that i have something to share that can
help make other people happy. i will tell anyone how to make
anything. if they steal my design, i have about 1000 new designs i am
itching to make right now. i am smart enough to know not to base my
business on one design that could be knocked off. it is one of my
greatest joys in life to share the i have gathered and
that i hold so dearly. the saddest part about my experience is that
it has made me super paranoid to share with others,
because you never know what litigious person may be hiding right
around the corner to try to make some money off of you or “protect” a
design that really never belonged to them in the 1st place. i no
longer have the naive trust in others that i used to have. i guess
that is part of the ugly part of growing up and living in “the real
world”. sad, isn’t it?

i would definitely consult with a lawyer before you write any books.
i would make sure you have all your assets covered, that you are
completely in the clear before sending anything off to the printer. i
am in no way a pessimist; i have learned the hard way. i would love
it if i can help share my knowledge and spare someone else the pain
of a horrible situation such as i had to deal with.

good luck!
joanna gollberg