How to Navigate the Coincidence of Overlapping Beadwork Designs
Have you ever spent hours designing a new beading project, only to find that your “original” design already exists? Or have you noticed other designers’ projects that seem uncannily similar? Despite beadwork designers’ commitment to not copying others’ work, overlapping beadwork designs still occur — sometimes because two designers have drawn their inspiration from similar sources and sometimes by sheer coincidence. If this happens to you, we have some advice for how to navigate the awkward situation.
Overlapping Necklace Designs
We recently experienced design overlap when 2018 Beadwork Designer of the Year Melinda Barta submitted her June/July project proposal. Melinda originally sent us just a sketch, with this note: “For the center of the necklace, I’d like to do two straps of CRAW that have rounds, or something sparkly, in between them. The strap centers would have a 90-degree turn to help make a center point. . . . There would be a short bar at the end of the straps that connect to bead strands that go around the neck, and an easy clasp.”
We hadn’t seen anything like this necklace, and we enthusiastically accepted it. Melinda got to work creating her piece, and all was well.
Two months later, right after Melinda mailed her piece to us, she stumbled upon Diane Whiting’s High Society Necklace. Similar to Melinda’s necklace, Diane’s design features a row of sparkling crystals encased in a pair of CRAW straps, joined at the bottom in a V. At first glance, the two pieces look quite similar.
However, further investigation reveals several key differences. First, the CRAW straps are created differently, and from different materials. Diane uses size 11 seed beads to create her CRAW straps, with size 15 seed beads added in between the 11s on the edges. Melinda combines Demi Round seed beads with size 11 seed beads to create her CRAW straps.
Second, the CRAW straps are joined differently. Diane’s design incorporates the crystals when the first CRAW strap is created, whereas Melinda creates the two straps separately and then uses rondelles to join them. In addition, Melinda’s CRAW straps are joined at the ends with another CRAW section; Diane’s outer strap curves around the end crystals to meet the inner strap.
Third, the end strap designs are different. Melinda ends her necklace with a trio of simple strands of pressed-glass beads. Diane continues the inner strap’s CRAW design, breaking it up with crystals placed between short CRAW sections.
Finally, Diane’s necklace includes a removable pendant focal. This addition gives Diane’s piece a whole new look that doesn’t even resemble Melinda’s design.
Handling the Coincidence
Melinda of course informed Diane of the design similarities right away and assured her that she hadn’t seen Diane’s necklace previously. Diane graciously agreed that the pieces were a happy coincidence of two talented designers’ efforts. Diane also noted the differences that made the pieces unique, and she gave her blessing for us to publish Melinda’s design.
If you run into a similar situation, it’s important to handle it professionally. Go directly to the designer, or ask your intended publisher to do so on your behalf. Seek the other designer’s opinion about the design similarities and differences. Ask for the other artist’s approval to publish your piece, in case someone later thinks you might have copied the design. Likewise, if you see a design that resembles your original work, reach out to the artist directly. Don’t be tempted to “out” someone on social media for copying your design. Always discuss rather than accuse.
Another Beading Coincidence
Melinda is currently a consultant for Starman, Inc., and in that capacity works with Starman’s TrendSetters. She shared another recent beading coincidence with us.
“We had two TrendSetters working on opposite sides of the country with confidential beads create the EXACT SAME design! The beads were protected by a non-disclosure agreement at the time, so there was no way the designers could have collaborated or seen each other’s work online.”
Even stranger, the designers’ names are the same! Melissa Grakowsky Shippee created the two bracelets on the left, and Melissa Mauk Rodarte created the bracelet in the middle. They used the same materials and followed the same thread path to create their designs. Starman recognized that neither artist could have copied from the other and therefore gave them both credit for the design.
When Melissa Grakowsky Shippee heard about the coincidence, she drew on her background in science to explain the phenomenon. She said, “Spontaneous co-generation is the term we’d use for this sort of thing in science, when the same discovery would happen in multiples places by multiple people within a short span of time.”
Enjoy These Beaded Designs!
Melinda’s design ended up as her Freyja Necklace in the June/July issue of Beadwork. To make Melinda’s necklace, get your copy of June/July 2018 Beadwork.
Melissa Grakowsky Shippee and Melissa Mauk Rodarte’s design ended up as Starman’s Bubble Wand bracelet. To get the free pattern for this bracelet, visit the Starman TrendSetters Pattern Resource site.
To learn more about each of these designers and to see more of their work, visit their websites:
Melinda Barta, www.melindabarta.com
Diane Whiting, www.dianewhitingdesigns.com
Melissa Grakowsky Shippee, www.mgsdesigns.net
Melissa Mauk Rodarte, www.thefreckledpear.com
Rest assured, beadwork design overlap happens. Even with so many beautiful materials to choose from and so many talented designers in the field, it’s bound to occur every so often.
Managing Editor, Beadwork magazine
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