Thursday, July 19, 2012

No Olympics Here- Ravelry and the USOC

I'm sorry to say that this post is long overdue, but I've been a bit distracted lately with the SYTYC competition.

I was as excited as anyone about the upcoming olympics. In fact I had a whole bunch of craft projects and edible treats dedicated to the games. But I've decided that I'm not posting any of them.

A lot of you probably heard about what happened about a month ago between Ravelry and the US Olympic Committee (USOC). The USOC's poorly worded (at best) cease-and-desist letter regarding the knitting event on Ravelry (the Ravelympics) and the sale of olympic themed patterns on the site, made headlines all over the world.

Not only am I a member of Ravelry and a dedicated fiber artist, but I also have a background working in intellectual property (IP). I'm interested in any situation where IP and crafting intersect, but because I love to work with fiber I followed this with great than usual interest.

Before I get into that though, let me just say that this is not going to be a total bashing of the USOC and their C&D letter. The letter was no doubt very insulting and obviously left a bad taste in my mouth but the fact that they sent a C&D letter in and of itself doesn't really bother me.

And I'll tell you why...

First: The USOC has the trademark rights to the olympic rings logo and the "olympics" name as it relates to their brand. It's their legal obligation to defend that trademark against anyone who may be infringing on it. And I know the argument a lot of crafter's have... I'm only a small crafter selling a pattern I made to celebrate the games. It's not like I'm going to effect them or take any business away from them they are huge!

Unfortunately once you start to sell something commercially it doesn't matter how big or small you are- if you are infringing on a trademark the owners of the trademark are legally obligated to protect it or they risk loosing it. You're right, you're not effecting their bottom line but if they let someone small continue to use a trademarked item illegally then someone big can come along (who will effect their bottom line) and make an argument that they can use it too.

Second: If you are selling something commercially, it's your responsibility to understand the laws regarding  trademarks and copyrights. It doesn't matter how big or small your business is, for your own legal protection you should understand the basics.

But here's where this whole situation goes off the rails for me: The insulting tone of the C&D letter. The USOC later issued a statement/appology saying that it was standard boilerplate copy. Well.... not so accurate in my opinion. It's true- they had to reference the specific acts they felt were infringing on them and explain how it was negatively impacting their trademark. But in my opinion they definitely did not have to do so in such a belittling and insulting way. To me, that stepped way over the line. And for that I have lost all respect for the USOC and will not be giving my support to them in any way. Which includes watching the games, supporting advertisers, and posting projects here.

None of the the projects I had planned were for commercial use or going to infringe on their trademark rights in anyway, so I'm not shying away because of those reasons. I simply can't give my support to an organization that so horribly and completely disregards another group's passions while declaring their's so superiror. I know those athletes work hard and dedicate their lives to their sport but the elite among fiber artists dedicate their lives to perfecting their craft. And it's not the USOC's place to pass judgement about which of these pursuits is more worthy.

If you want more information about intellectual property and crafting issues, you check out my previous post on this topic- here.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Photo Flower Pots

My journey in the SYTYC competition continues! This week's them is Ombre- I hope you'll pop over to check out the projects and vote for your favorite! Voting closes on Thursday, July 16th. 

This was my project for last week's theme (Summer Bounty) in the SYTYC competition. I used pictures that to me, represented the bounties of summer. A tractor at my farm share, bee collecting pollen from wild flowers, and strawberries ready to be picked. I love the way the pots look grouped together- it kind of tells a story. Not to mention that adding your own photos is the ultimate way to personalize something!

The trick of this project is to seal everything correctly so the photos survive the plants being watered. Oh, and getting the photos to look like they're straight, despite being on the curved and tapered surface of the pot. But no worries... I'll show you how to get around all that.

Here's what you'll need:

  • Clay Pots of various sizes.
  • Photo's of your choice (Note: they must be printed out on a laser printer...more on that below)
  • Pot Sealer
  • Outdoor Mod Podge
  • Clear Sealer
  • Painter's Tape
  • Piece of String or yarn (long enough to go across your photo)
  • Craft Knife 
  • Cutting Mat 
  • Ruler 
  • Scissors 
  • Pencil

Photos: Since you'll be Mod Podging over the photos the very first thing you need to do for this project is get some laser printouts of the pictures you'd like to use.

If you use an inkjet printer the photos will bleed (unless you prep them first, but really it's just easier to get laser printouts). Amy from Mod Podge Rocks! has a wonderful post about Podging different types of materials, not only does she thoroughly explain the inkjet vs laser printer thing, but the post is a wonderful general reference for podging.

Anyway, since I don't have a color laser printer I took my digital files to an office supply store. It wasn't expensive, just a few dollars for 3 pages (I put two photos on each page so I would have an extra copy of each picture incase I needed a backup) and the quality of the print was much better than my home printer could have produced on regular copy paper. Yes- you read that right, use regular copy paper. You don't want to try and podge photo paper or card stock onto the pots, just use regular old copy paper for this project!

Since I didn't want to have to make two trips to the store, the only thing I used my inkjet printer for was checking the photos. I printed each picture out and taped them to the pots to get an idea of how they looked and at what size each one needed to be.

Preparing the Pots: Sealing the pots to prevent water from seeping into the clay and behind the picture is absolutely vital to this project's success. I sprayed the inside of my clean, dry planters with a product made especially to seal clay pots. (I found it right next to the pots in the craft store).

Cutting the Photos to Fool the Eye: I cut each of my photos out as I normally would, with a ruler and craft knife. Even though the edges were straight, I noticed right away when I put them on the surface of the pot they looked curved.

That's because the pot is a curved and tapered surface, to fix this distortion you actually have to cut the edges of the photo into curves and angles that will fool the eye into thinking the picture looks straight.

It can be difficult to determine the correct curves and angles... but I figured out an easy way.

Tape your picture to the pot. Starting at the top edge of the picture stretch the fingers of one hand so that they hold a piece of string or yarn taught across the photo. Let the string curve up like an arch (a convex line) until the border of the picture looks straight. It can be awkward but just play with the curve of the string until the photo's top edge looks straight. When you get the string positioned right draw a line with your pencil that follows the path of the string.

Now do the same thing for the bottom border.

For the sides to appear straight the edges need to be cut at angles. Place your string at the top corner of the photo, angle it in towards the center a little as it goes to the bottom. Adjust the angle until the photo's edge looks straight and when you're happy, mark a line with the pencil. Then repeat on the other side.

Once the angles and curves have been marked on all four sides of the picture use scissors to cut the top and bottom curves, and a craft knife and ruler to cut the angles on each side.

Now when you place the photo on the pot it'll appear to be straight... when really, the edges aren't straight at all. (Incidentally the same thing usually happens on bottle labels- if you peel them off the bottle and lay them flat you'll see they aren't really straight.)

Podging: The next step was to stick the photos the pots with Mod Podge. Since the pots will be outside and obviously coming onto contact with water I used the outdoor formula. I decoupaged the typical way-  applying Podge to the back of the photo, then sticking it to the pot, being careful to smooth out any wrinkles. Once it was dry I applied a total of four coats on top, letting each coat dry in between applications.

The only thing I had to worry about was the edges of the photos. I wanted to be sure the edges of the photo were sealed well so I'd need to podge over the edge of the photo to get a good seal. But the MP dries kind of shiny and I didn't want the entire pot to look shiny, so I taped a border around each picture with painters tape, giving me a nice clean edge.

Final Sealing: After all the Mod Podge had dried I blocked off the rest of the pot's surface with some paper and gave the photos a coat of clear sealer.

Not only does this help to protect the photos even more from water (outdoor MP is water resistant, not water proof) but it also gets rid of the tacky feeling MP can leave behind.

I had a lot of fun with this project and can definitely see adding more pots with photos to my collection!

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