It has been way too long since I’ve posted here.
I (still) feel kind of guilty writing this post, as I know I have other, much more pressing, things to do — like clean the bathroom, vacuum and dust the bedroom, change the bedsheets. It’s the beginning of the new year, and I know I need to do some New Year’s cleaning…I just don’t want to, right now. That’s actually not what this post is about, however.
I have some housekeeping to do as regards this blog and site, and within my life, generally. Embarking on a career shift (in my case, from Librarianship to Writing and/or Editing) isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially when you have to build up your portfolio from scratch.
It’s difficult to think about how to reorganize SpectralBeads without actually writing out what I want it to contain. I’m trying to think about it, now.
I began SpectralBeads essentially as soon as the domain name came to me. I intended it to be a site catering to crafters who worked with beads on an intermediate-to-advanced level…I didn’t want to waste time reiterating the same first pages of every beading book I own. Having gotten more experience in posting, however…readers respond better when I actually explain what I mean, instead of my assuming they already know the basics. In that sense, it would likely be of more use to more people if I took an outright instructional or reference bent. Not necessarily a “Beading 201” bent.
Design as vs. pattern
I have essentially been working with beads since I was 12 years old, and have noticed a lack of publications aimed toward the demographic of people who already are familiar with basic beadweaving stitches, and would like resources related to creating their own designs, rather than following others’ patterns. Patterns are not lacking; but, for one thing, the legalities surrounding using those patterns either for personal or — particularly — commercial use, historically have often not been made clearly understandable.
In recent years, pattern authors themselves have more often clarified what their own terms are for the use of their work in regard to personal recreational use or commercial gain. This is useful, especially given that (maybe I shouldn’t say, “in the early days”) about 25 years ago, around the time I started seriously getting into the craft, a lot of really basic patterns were published with unclear legal terms (for example, by never defining the term, “pattern”). This is even though the “patterns” often taught nothing more than a minor variation on a standard technique. You wouldn’t learn what the standard techniques were, however, until about 10 years into the game — after you saw them coming up over and over again. More recent books now often will name, “Techniques Used,” or something to that effect, which lets you know what the designer’s contribution is, and what the basic foundation for the work, is.
I am not a lawyer or attorney, and hence am not qualified to give legal advice. What I’m about to tell you is my layman’s impression derived from research into Intellectual Property Law. I’m led to believe that a production method (or “technique”) itself can’t be copyrighted: that would fall under the heading of a “patent,” and patents aren’t granted by the government (U.S., in this case) unless the technique is both novel and difficult to attain on one’s own. What I know can be copyrighted is the physical pattern, itself: that is, the paper copy, drawings, text, or digital file (e.g. .PDF) that transmits the information.
Due to the fact that I have no video skills and have never considered podcasting for any reason, I didn’t research information on .MP4 files (as on YouTube, if I recall correctly) or other forms of video or audio.
The process of designing with beads is…pretty much, different than following a pattern. There’s a lot more energy involved in, structurally, getting the thing to work; that is, fitting things together so that they look like they were meant to be together. (If it buckles or bows, is it meant to buckle or bow?) Often, for me, it has started with just sitting down and playing with beads — and threads, cords, and needles. Beads plus thread and needles have a kind of logic to them that isn’t so easy to see when someone else has thought it out already, beforehand. I’ve found it’s hard to think out a design without playing my way through it, first.
It’s also easy to forget what you did if you don’t write or draw it out, fairly soon after making something.
With multi-hole beads prevalent in the marketplace, it would seem to be a really good time to be designing; there are parts we have access to now which we didn’t have, prior to the early 2000’s. The major problem — in my case — is overwhelm, and not knowing where to start (I believe this is the problem of, “too many options”). Circularly enough, working with the patterns of others (or using basic techniques in novel ways) can demonstrate how it is possible for these components to work together.
There are a lot of creative options which are bypassed when following patterns. What happens when you do something other than what you’re told? Working in this way is generative play…
Anxiety and selling:
I also started this site in relation to the possibility of selling finished beadwork or patterns for my own original designs online. I no longer see the former (a large part of which is essentially production work) as a good way to spend my life; while the latter would be more of a labor of love, than anything. If I made and sold patterns, I believe the income would basically go to paying for the software I used to create the patterns in the first place, and then to recouping losses on materials. I would not expect a large financial return…and in effect, as bead shapes are cycled out of commerce or their shapes and dimensions are updated, the patterns would have life-spans, regardless.
It’s kind of like playing with plastic bricks…having different shapes of bricks does expand your design options, but you’re still dependent on the brick-maker to make the bricks, in the first place. (Though I’m thinking there will be a market for shaped and multi-hole beads, for quite a while…)
I’ve found myself in the conundrum of knowing I am skilled enough to produce finished work of salable quality…but not what to do about people wanting to buy things from me when I do not run a business. Nor do I want to run a business — at least, not where things come to beadwork. Although I didn’t realize this before investigating it, what I do — and the way in which I do it — is the definition of a hobby. A hobby which I at one time poured a lot of time and money into, and which I enjoy and am good at. If I didn’t make profit from it, I’d still do it. That’s not the definition of a business in the U.S., at this time.
Apparently, what I do if I am a hobbyist who occasionally sells (for instance, to friends and their friends), is report the income under “Other Income” on Line 8(j) of Schedule 1, then transfer that to Line 8 of Form 1040 to the IRS. If I make more than two sales (of substantial value) in a year, I would need to hold a Seller’s Permit with my State. However, what sales I make are generally not “of substantial value” (the example given in the literature is of yard sales, which would bring in thousands of dollars at a time), and are usually very occasional in nature. (Frequent small sales might mean I needed a Seller’s Permit.) I should note that State and Local sales tax laws depend on one’s State and Locality, which means: don’t bet on what I wrote above, applying to you.
I’m not a lawyer, attorney or accountant, and am not qualified to give tax advice. In the above, I’m just recording my current understanding of my own situation, for my own future reference.
Trying to “make money” at this (as versus “recoup losses”), however — particularly with an eBusiness, shipping to buyers across State lines (or internationally, for that matter), is an entirely different step. After debating with myself extensively and participating in a number of Business classes, I’m fairly sure I don’t want to do it at this time. This is specifically because of the risk involved in managing customers’ personal payment information online (unless I went with a dedicated SAAS provider): the Internet is under constant attack. This is also because of the legal hassle and risk to my own finances involved in setting up a business that I know will not fully support me as a one-person operation. In other words, selling online, as versus in-person — and over a long period of time (as versus temporarily), presents a number of financial and legal questions, and the question of what to do about growth.
The anxiety aspect, in reality, is my biggest reason not to seek compensation, online…though I’ve taken a look at Etsy, and it is comforting that they take care of international VAT fees for digital downloads. My State doesn’t charge Sales Tax for digital downloads (I’m not sure if that also exempts me from County or City taxes); and everything else (Federal taxes) would probably just be reportable on a 1040, for a hobbyist. There is no upper legal limit to the amount of money a hobbyist can make.
Again, do not rely on this as legal advice. But you can see how confronting this jumble of rules and regulations, could be discouraging to someone who just wants to make jewelry and have the option not to take it as a total financial loss, when other people occasionally ask them to make something.
Speaking of anxiety, the other reason not to sell:
I only mention this because I mentioned it before. I’m not a chemist, doctor, or toxicologist, so this is not medical advice.
Having worked with Art supplies for a good portion of my life, I have been troubled by not knowing the chemical formulations — of pretty much any — of the beads that I use; particularly where it comes to colored glass. Toxins and other physical hazards are common in an artist’s line of work. I might go so far as to say they’re difficult to totally avoid; especially when not everything has been tested. Usually with Art Supplies, any hazards are disclosed: largely, I believe, because of OSHA regulations. That’s not the case with beads.
Although on walking into a craft or fabric store like Michael’s or Joann, one may be faced with a warning that the materials are not to be used by those under the age of 15…that doesn’t say what the specific threat(s), is. Some of these beads (like TOHO seed beads) are available in specialty bead stores as well as online; but that doesn’t mean they will always display this warning. For beadworkers, I believe, the age limitation is understood (though I was working with these from the age of 12; not to infer that it’s safe to do so).
The thing that caught my attention on this is the recent proliferation of coated glass beads on the market (which coatings are of varying quality). It looked like the bead makers were trying to migrate away from what appeared to be a quality product…which begged the question of why.
I am aware that I’m an anxious person by nature, and worry about things which may in fact be non-issues. My most recent research was more useful than I’m accustomed to. I found more material on what kinds of elements were of use in making green glass (the kind I had been concerned about): mostly copper, iron, chromium, and sulfur.
Essentially, the specific green I was concerned about (“Emerald Green”), from images online and reading on blogs and Wikipedia, likely relates to the use of copper in the glass, if what I’ve seen commonly elsewhere on the Web is any indication. (If copper salts are used, the other question is what elements are combined with the copper.) The glass beads’ trade name being the same as the Victorians’ arsenic-based “Emerald Green” (which was used for textiles, paint, and wallpaper, and is presently banned), may simply be because of cliché naming conventions. It’s likely that the beads I bought were “Dark Emerald,” not simply, “Emerald,” as listed on the color chart from 2019 at Preciosa’s site. (It doesn’t have all of the present-day colors.) I have also found a page relating to environmental responsibility, there — at least they’re aware of the concern their customers may have for their manufacturing processes. So does Bullseye Glass Co., apparently.
I’ve found multiple sites copying the Wikipedia article, “Glass coloring and color marking,” which has an unreferenced statement that chromium plus tin and arsenic, “yields emerald green glass.” They do not state whether the arsenic is metallic or a salt, its chemical formula, who said this, or if they specifically mean glass under the trade name, “Emerald Green.” (From Jan. 4, 2023.) Arsenic has been commonly used, for a very long time, to eliminate bubbles from molten glass (a process known as “fining”): and there’s a lot of information on it, online — if you find the right search phrasing. I’ve found some people talking about arsenic in glass with regard to Depression Glass; and active arsenic trioxide pollution (used in fining) from glassmaking was a problem up until at least 2015 in Murano. Maybe that’s where that “15 or older” rule, came from.
I’ve read — and heard, unofficially (from someone who was likely trying to calm my nerves) — that in effect the arsenic remaining in the glass bonds so tightly to it that the glass is basically safe to use. What I’ve found out through research tonight is that while there may be arsenic in my “Deep Emerald” beads as colorant — glass in general, especially the beautiful, quality, transparent glass — may contain arsenic to begin with.
I guess that’s a reality check. Nearly all the beads I use, are glass.
This essentially means that if I’m willing to deal with any possible hazard from elements which aren’t compatible with biological systems, as I’ve unknowingly dealt with it for the last 25+ years, that’s on me. If I’m uncomfortable enough to stop, that’s also on me. It’s essentially my choice as to whether I want to continue to take a risk (the magnitude of which is presently unknown), or not. It’s like trying to figure out whether to use Cobalt- or Cadmium- or Chromium-based watercolors. It’s a risk. In the case of painting, one can mitigate the vast majority of that risk (wear a glove when you wash out your brushes), but the risk never really vanishes.
And no, I don’t know whether that boils down to, “whether I love to do it enough.” I think “love” is on a separate dimension altogether (and not one that I easily recognize), but it’s the only criteria that matters to some of us.
But that’s another reason to sell patterns, if I sell anything related to beadwork, at all — at least, online.
I started this post in relation to the site. I have not yet solidified what I want it to be, if what I want it to be, is not what it is. I have clarified my own goals, however…work in Design, become an Educator, do a bit of Research…stuff that the Intermediate-to-Advanced readers can appreciate, while not leaving the Beginners (of which there are many more), behind.
Hmm. Maybe I don’t have to do an overhaul. Maybe I should just mildly shift things around, look at new, more photo-friendly Themes, and actually fill out my content instead of letting the titles sit there as placeholders…