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Friday, August 30, 2013


     That got your attention, didn't it?  While we all love a freebie, I used that title to call attention to a trend that is causing all of us beadwork designers a collective headache.  No this isn't another post about the legalities of copyright law because--like you--if I have to read one more argument about copyright law (with incorrect information put forth by both sides) I will run screaming from the room.  Sometimes, though, the question is not what is legal but what is ethical?
     Now, I know that most beaders are generous and ethical people who would never think of stealing from their favorite designers anymore than they would think of walking out of a store with merchandise they hadn't paid for.  Sadly, not everyone adheres to such high standards. We designers are facing a growing trend of owners of local bead shops taking a published pattern, maybe changing the design in a superficial way, and offering it as a class at their shop without permission of said designer.  Sometimes, the owners don't even change the original name of the design!  One of my personal experiences?  Last year, I got an email from a beader who essentially said that she wanted permission to teach one of my designs that had been published in Bead and Button, but it really didn't matter if I gave her permission because she was going to teach the class anyway.
     We all know that sometimes designers come up with similar patterns at the same time.  In those cases, it isn't a question of copyright infringement; it is more a case of great minds think alike.  Sadly, that is not the situation in a number of classes that have lately come to the attention of designers.
     In those cases, the bead store owner was caught teaching a designer's pattern without permission.  When confronted with the evidence, the excuse is always something like " I saw the finished piece on a customer and asked if I could teach it," or "I changed the design by 20% so it is mine," or yada yada yada.  The point is that the shop owner knew that it was wrong and had to come up with some excuse to justify her bad behavior.  One shop owner, when caught by two designers at the same time, actually had a form letter ready to send out to designers whose patterns she had stolen. A form letter?  How many times has she been caught stealing? 
     As you know, designers put in a lot of work to design a project, illustrate it, and write instructions for a pattern.  Very few of us make much money from our beadwork designs and people who teach our patterns without permission steal some of that small income.  It gets to the point where you wonder why you bother.  Knowing that they can't be everywhere, many designers are happy to license a class to a qualified teacher.
     My friend Sabine Lippert, who is the latest designer to have a pattern stolen, got tired of chasing the bad apples in the beading business and has inspired us to take positive steps.  She has designed a logo for ethical shop owners to display in their stores to let customers know that their store supports designers and does not steal from them.  You can see it at the top of the page.
     As a consumer, you can help your favorite designer (as well as protect yourself) by looking for the logo in the coming months and asking if a shop owner has a license to teach the class she is offering.  After all, if she will profit from another's hard work without permission, how can you be sure that she isn't skirting ethics in the merchandise she is offering?
     If you want to read more about the new logo, you can visit Sabine's website at try-to-bead.  For a shop owner's view of this troubling behavior, you can visit Beki Haley's blog at Dreambeadr.  We designers love the passionate members who make up the beading community and hope that we can get back to the fun part of creating and teaching.  Help us make that happen.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


A formal portrait of Merle taken on their first extended cruise.  I borrowed this from Michael's blog of their trip.
     Last night I attended a lovely memorial for Merle Berelowitz organized by her family and close friend Suzanne Golden.  The crowd was composed of Merle's family, Merle's beading friends, and her husband Michael's friends from the medical community. 
     I didn't a take a lot of photos because it wasn't that kind of a gathering but I had to share some of Merle's work that was placed around the gathering place for those who hadn't see much of her beadwork.
A felt and bead necklace.

     Merle's family and Suzanne Golden, her BFF, said a few words about Merle.  The two that I remember best were Suzanne's and Michael's eulogies.  Suzanne gave us a very touching  (and funny) look at her friendship with Merle, including a typical day of interactions.  As we know, Merle was someone who was early to bed and early to rise--Suzanne, not so much.  Despite that, Merle would call Suzanne at the early hour of 10:00 am to share something with her.  From then, it would be phone calls and Facebook communications through the day and evening as each one though of something to tell the other.
     Suzanne told us that she had to drag Merle onto Facebook because Merle thought it wasn't for her but once Merle got the hang of social media, she was off and running.  In fact, Suzanne was amazed to hear from the number of people in far-flung places who had been touched by Merle.  She joked that she was shocked to find out that Merle had  been cheating on her.
One of the best part of Suzanne's eulogy was the travel section when she talked about the group of friends who went to Bead and Button.  Merle, experienced traveler that she was, packed lightly enough to carry her bags onto the plane and was  horrified at the amount of luggage that everyone else brought with them.  There was much more but it doesn't make the jump into a blog post--you really had to be there.

Merle's husband, Michael, said a few words after Suzanne.  He told us that he met Merle when she was a beautiful, 17-year-old in South Africa.  He remembered how they had moved to the United States for Michael's medical career, far from family back in South Africa.  Through the years, he saw Merle blossom into an artist, along with her other roles of wife, mother, and grandmother. 

Some of Merle's painted acrylic flowers accompanied by a photo of the young Merle.

A necklace with more painted flowers and a bead embroidery cuff.

A very colorful necklace of Merle's painted flowers.

Some of our friends from the Bead Society of Greater New York.
Sorry Suzanne, but Merle cheated on you with me as well. 
Here are the leftover, little fabric people that Merle gave me after she finished decorating a Panamanian hat with fiber figures that she also bought in Panama.  The butterfly in the middle was given out last night in memory of Merle.
To end the evening on a high-note, I took a photo of Suzanne Golden wearing the skull necklace that Merle bought for her in Milan.

It was a  lovely evening as we shared our memories of Merle, watched slide of old photos of her and her family, and admired her beadwork.  We will all miss the light that she brought into our lives. 


Thursday, August 1, 2013


     Real life has intruded on my beading and blogging time as we look for contractors to replace our ancient furnace --seriously, it belongs in a museum--and backyard fence. 
     So I was tickled last week to find out that Beki Haley, talented beadwork designer and co-owner of Out on a Whim bead store, had included my name in a word puzzle involving authors of beadwork books for her newsletter subscribers. 
     The contest is actually open to everyone so here is the link to the puzzle  When you find all of the names, the remaining letters will spell out a sentence.  Email the sentence to the address listed in the instructions before August 15 and be entered in a drawing to win 1 of 2 $50 gift certificates from Whimbeads.
     I finished the puzzle, although it was a bit of a challenge for me because I don't do them very often.  My mom found my name with a minute so I felt inspired to play.  I also signed up for the newsletter.
     More inspiring was looking at the home page of, where Beki has put photos of some of their new beads  Those black and purple Rulla beads are calling my name.  First I have to finish the commissioned black and white snake necklace.