Sunday, February 17, 2013

Necktie Recycling and the Spirit of Crafting

I’m probably not supposed to talk about this. 

But…several months ago, I got an email from the Etsy Legal Team with the subject “Etsy Infringement Notice.”  Scary.  Scarier yet was how all of my handmade necktie wristlets had been deactivated from my shop.  Poof!  They were gone.  The email said that I had violated the Copyright and Intellectual Property Law.  What?! Was I some sort of criminal?  At the very least, I must be a bad person.  It turned out that someone was mad at me.  This stranger had said that I had stolen her idea--her patented idea.  I was being instructed to not, I repeat NOT, sell anymore necktie wristlets.  If I did, my shop would be burned to the ground and my family killed.  Or something like that. 

I felt a lot of emotions.  On one hand, the necktie wristlet hadn’t been my original idea.  I had seen one somewhere, sometime, and these wristlets had sprung from there.  What creativity isn’t inspired by others’?  I had, in fact, seen lots of things made from neckties in my life.  This isn’t a new idea.  People have been recycling neckties since the dawn of crafting.  I also felt mad.  Selling things made out of neckties is a leisurely hobby of mine.  I’m a professional educator.  Crafting is not my livelihood, but merely something I dabble in and enjoy.  Was this stranger really so threatened by the nine wristlets I had sold over the past 5 months that she needed to shut me down?  I didn’t understand.

In the Legal Team’s email, I was given this stranger’s name and email address.  I decided to contact this woman and reason with her. I believe in the power of communication. If you have a problem, you talk about it.  I swallowed all those feelings of anger and sent her the following:


I was really confused when I received a notification from the Etsy legal team regarding copyright infringement. After looking in your shop I see that you make a similar necktie wristlet and have been doing so for some time. I'm truly sorry that you feel I've copied your design and original idea. That was certainly not my intent at all! 

I'm a teacher in a public school in Milwaukee. Crafting and having an Etsy shop is just a hobby of mine. I've been in love with vintage neckties for a long time and I first started making purses from them several years ago. I guess my point is that I'm not out to take away business from you or steal your ideas, but just that I enjoy making purses and wristlets out of old neckties. My hope is that we can resolve this matter in a way that makes everyone feel good and that is in the spirit of crafting.

All the best,

There.  That should do it.  Except that this woman never responded.  Not so much as a peep.  Why, that’s not in the spirit of crafting!  The spirit of crafting is about sharing ideas and inspiring creativity!  It’s about appreciating that someone else out there in the world likes making things out of old ties the same way you do!  Weren’t we sorta like kindred spirits? I guess not.  My spirit was quickly turning into spite.  A part of me now wanted to take business away from this woman.

I contacted my lawyer-friend for advice.  We decided that if I changed my design and made it different enough, that it would no longer be copying.  I began to feel energized.  Nothing inspires quite like spite.  I had been thinking about improving my design anyway, and now it was time to get to work.  I would turn this stranger’s negative energy into positive, spite-filled energy.

Instead of two pockets, I added a third pocket.  I changed the design of the strap to incorporate the skinny end of the necktie, and I used the tie label to hold the D-ring in place.  Voila!  Now, that’s a necktie wristlet!

Old design.  Yuck!
New and improved!

I don’t really like lemonade (it makes me thirsty), but the old adage rings true:  When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  Or, in my case, when life gives you copyright infringement, make a better product and sell it for a few bucks more.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Best Ties in Life are Free

The “free” page on Craigslist is a fascinating and confounding place.  This section could also be aptly named “large and heavy.” Free concrete utility sink anyone?  Just come and get it out of my basement! Don’t get me wrong, the majority of what is listed as “free” on Craigslist makes perfect sense. There are couches and mattresses and sand.  There are pianos and wood chips and clean fill.  I once listed a rose bush that I wanted removed from my front yard, but couldn’t justify just ripping it out and tossing it.  Within a few hours I had someone excitedly coming to dig it up. Please, be my guest!  Things like that make sense—not right for the thrift store, but perfectly good items someone could use.  Then, there are those items listed that perplex:

3 c vacuum bags:  size c vacuum bags they are the wrong size for our vacuum if you could use them they're yours”

“Repti Calcium: Container of Reptile Calcium. Expires 03/15. Used one teaspoon.”

“Free Envelope Of Coupons (NW Milwaukee): I have a thick envelope of coupons.”

I don’t understand this.  The few times I’ve sold things on Craigslist, it’s work: responding to people, trying to decide if they’re murderers, finding a time to meet/get murdered.  The wad of cash at the end of the sale was almost not worth the effort.  Surely if I had 3 unneeded size C vacuum bags I would just throw them in the Goodwill box in the basement.  I would NOT list them for free on Craigslist.  How could that possibly be worth the effort?  There’s not even a wad of cash at the end.  And it’s not like I’m giving away baby formula or diapers or something people really need.  I’m no baby expert, but I’m pretty sure no infants will be saved with vacuum bags.  This is perplexing stuff.

Then again, maybe someone wants those vacuum bags.  Maybe it’s not so perplexing after all…

A fellow thrifter and colleague of mine occasionally peruses the “free” listings on Craigslist, and one day he appeared at my classroom door with a note that said “neckties” with a phone number scrawled beneath.  My heart skipped a beat and my knees got a little weak with excitement.

I called the necktie-stranger to inquire:  Can I have your necktie collection?  This man had lots of questions for me and seemed suspicious of my motives. He gave me the impression that others had been hounding him all day for these free ties—was it possible that they had? I told him that I, in fact, recycle old neckties into purses and wallets and after a lot of explaining and reassuring he declared that I was the chosen one who would receive his beloved neckties.  Great, I said. I asked if I could pick them up the following day.  No, it had to be tonight or else he could just give them to another interested party.  I waited for him to specify which dark alley I should go to. What if this necktie-stranger turned out to be a necktie-strangler?? 

That night I drove to a suburb with my pregnant friend for protection.  The house looked normal enough.  I rang the bell and an older woman appeared with a large box filled with neatly folded neckties—a lot of neckties.  Her husband was not at home, she told me. Her kind but distracted small talk gave the impression that she did not want to chat nor did she want to kill me.  Whew!  I offered money and she declined.  Minutes later I was skip-walking away with this huge box of over 70 cool, old ties:

I hope this necktie-stranger, whoever he is, knows that I love his ties too.  Perhaps this was his goal, to find someone with a mutual-appreciation for them.  And who among us wouldn’t want the things we truly love to go to a good home?  Maybe knowing someone else loves your things as much as you do is all the payment a person needs.