Staying fresh and ahead of the game

I have been wanting to start a discussion here for some time, but have been deliberating how to post about it as it seems to be a subject that isn't talked about much: Protecting your artwork from being copied or closely replicated. Unfortunately, this is happening a lot in the online art world. How close it too close?

So, Question of the day: How do you protect your art?

First, let's chat about what you can do to protect your art from being out-right stolen. This should be your first concern.


1) Watermark your images.

So many people treat the internet as an image gallery for free use. With a WATERMARK over your potentially downloadable image, you are telling people that the image is yours should not be used for personal or commercial use. You will also prevent people from stealing the image and selling it elsewhere.

2) Post your images as small as you can without losing resolution. As long as your art is not vector art, you should never be saving your images to the web in a size that could be reproduced or used by another person/party.

3) Register your image(s) with the U.S. Copyright office (if you are in the U.S of course). Here is the link to get started.It is easier then ever, and less expensive than it used to be.

4)Educate yourself on intellectual property:

5) Disable Downloads: if you can, disable your images from being downloaded on the internet. On ETSY, there isn't control over that, thus the vital importance for your image to be watermarked and protected with a copyright notification.

These steps should be taken First. But what about the fuzzy lines that surround borrowing, adapting and copying? Let's chat.


1) Doesn't copyright protect my idea and composition? No. Art and craft is so subjective, and ideas really can't be copyrighted. Here is what the US copyright office has to say:

"Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, systems, or methods of doing something. You may express your ideas in writing or drawings and claim copyright in your description, but be aware that copyright will not protect the idea itself as revealed in your written or artistic work."

2) What can I do when I see someone else coming up with creations obviously similar to mine?

I would love to here your reaction to this, but here is mine. Contact the artist if necessary telling them you are noticing some copying going on. If they still persist, contact them again if you feel you need to. But for me, this is where I stop. You are an ARTIST! You are not a huge million dollar company protecting your branded and patented products. You are just one person with a ba-jillion creative ideas constantly going through your brain. To waste your creative energy by going after a copycat is a waste of that creative energy.


You are the original creative idea, and have power to always rise above the competition. Competition is good and will most always be there. You can spend your time getting angry, or you can spend your time staying ahead of the game by keeping your art fresh, lively and cutting edge. Most likely if someone is copying you, it isn't going to be as good as yours nor will it have the LIFE of the BREATH of your creative-from-your-own-gut creation. So leave them alone, and focus on how you can make your creations new and fresh and always ahead of the market.

This leads me to another point:

Keep your own sources fresh and honest. Never let yourself copy another artist's style unless of course you are using that as a way to learn new techniques and educate yourself. Copying is a good thing for learning how to verse your hand in various art forms and styles. But your work should then take what you learn to a new level, always allowing your own voice to come through. When you choose to copy art as your primary resource, it will be FLAT and will lack the LIFE that really great images require. Don't let yourself fall into that trap! The moment you are trying to make your creations look like someone else's, your art will most likely be easy to copy itself. Remember, there was only ONE Rembrandt. He had MANY students, and to this day, experts can't tell which was a true Rembrandt and which is a student's hand on a select few paintings. But regardless, there was only one Rembrandt. Do people remember the copycat? No. They never will. Be fresh and mark your own path. Don't let yourself be a follower.

I love this quote below. It hangs in my studio always reminding me to stick to my own instincts and not be tempted to ride on the coat tails of others:

"You must give birth to your images. They are the future waiting to be born." - Rainer Maria Rilke

So, there you have it!

My experience is very limited however, and I would love to hear your take on this topic.

What have you done in these situations? What have you done to protect your artwork?

Do tell.

In the mean time, happy art making!

For more GREAT articles on this subject, read here, here , here and here


OK. I realize my posts as of late are a bit on the family side of things. Life is mostly family around these parts. But amidst the unpacking and moving and getting over winter colds...oh and makin' a baby, there has been a bit o' art. And because we are family here too...I am taking opinions. Kinda like, "High-heels or flats with the dress?" Although, it's not shoes we're trying on. Maybe both don't work, but one has to be better than the other.



(Added later)

Best of both worlds?

do share.

Raise your voice for change!


Ok. So here is the beef. Never heard of the CPSIA? Panicking over the new regulations? Read on.

I join my voice today with over 260 bloggers today to inform and bring hope about this really upsetting new law in place which ultimately affects the entire nation.


Do you remember last year's scare over wooden and painted toys from China? I remember debating whether or not to give Ian the set of wooden airplanes I bought him from Pier One. We were all scared.

In response to the overwhelming recall of toys and products containing lead (over 8 million items) the government decided to step in and stop the issue of lead getting to our children. Good, right? Keep children safe!

When congress passed the CPSIA (the Consumer Product Safety Inspection Act) in August 2008, they were intending to protect companies from selling harmful products. All products intended for children under 12 years old must go through thorough and stringent testing. The CPSIA bans lead and phthalates in children's products, mandates third party testing and certification, and requires manufacturers of all goods for children under the age of 12 to permanently label each item with a date and batch number.

For all the official legal documents and info read here.

How does this affect us?

With good intentions to protect children, the new regulations are so broad and far reaching they are doing more harm than good. Third party testing is so outrageously expensive and extensive, a KEY issue looked into when passing this law, it is threatening to put tens of thousands of companies out of business. For example:

So, you make/sell products for children:

  • Each particle of your product (clothing, books, toys, educational materials, baby products, etc.) must be tested by a third party. You sell a baby sweater? Each zipper, button, thread, fabric make and particle must be SEPARATELY tested. Even if lead has never been detected in that product. Even if the manufacturer of that product claims the contents are safe. If you make the baby sweater, you must get it tested.
  • Testing can be anywhere from $100-$500 per test, so add that up, and you have a sweater not even worthy of being sold in Nieman Marcus
  • For a rather humorous (but healthy dose of reality) of the costs imposed on small business, see over 1,000 ETSY items that have been priced to meet the demands after Feb. 10th here.

(my favorite is the handmade felted play lunch set costing $10,080. To buy, click here.)

What does all that mean?

  • To the small business owner: Small business owners, home run businesses and crafters will need to have their products comply with these new regulations (regardless of how many products you sell) or serious fines (up to $100,000) can take effect.
  • To the student and avid reader: The national Library association is concerned because children's books currently fall under the umbrella of the CPSIA. Read the American Library Association's letter to congress here. School materials and educational materials will go up in cost due to the stringent testing.
  • To the Thrift store shopper: Currently their is no formal statement exempting thrifted items from being tested. There is some info that suggests thrifted items are exempt, but it is still not clear
  • To the consumer: Fewer options will be available. Handmade, European imported, boutiqued, unique children's products will no longer need to compete against the mass produced Matel and Fisher price products because they will no longer be legal. Read the Handmade Toy Alliance's statement here.
  • To the economy in general: With families losing incomes due to these regulations, consumers paying higher prices for children's products and businesses having to borrow more money to stay afloat, February 10th has been labeled as "National Bankruptsy day"

Statement from the Handmade Toy Alliance: If this law had been applied to the food industry, every farmers market in the country would be forced to close while Kraft and Dole prospered.

What can we do about it?

The law is already in place. The CPSC is a rather small organization and is struggling to create the infrastructure to comply with such a massive change in commerce. Because of that, formal statements with specifications of any products that may or may not be exempt have not been made. At this point, companies are still forced to comply. According to this forum, Congress has denied a second hearing, and has not shown any signs of changing the law.

However, YOUR voice NEEDS to be heard in the mean time. This issue has already made it to the front page of (Obama's site on change) but still, nothing has happened yet to suggest change. If something doesn't happen soon, HUGE changes for the worse have already been set into play.

A plan for action:

Helpful links and references:

1. The Handmade Toy Alliance The most comprehensive source for information and action is the website of the Handmade Toy Alliance. - Sign up for their newsletter: - Join their Google Group 2. Reform CPSIA An Organization of Retailers & Consumers Focused on Reforming the CPSIA


A comprehensive list of info, sample letters to use, action plans, links and official statements

2. Fashion Incubator Kathleen Fasanella has been doing a wonderful job of explaining the CPSIA in straightforward and clear ways. Highly recommended.

3. CPSIA Central

4. Buy Handmade

The handmade consortium is keeping this blog up to date with CPSIA news and press.

5. National Bankruptcy Day

6. Smart Mama Blog


1. Forbes: Scrap The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act Part I: Part II:

2. Bloomberg: Mattel, Wal-Mart Test Toys as Small Firms Struggle

3. Business Week: Misinformation and the CPSIA

3. CNN: New Law could wipe out handcrafted toy makers

Right now, American voices need to be heard. PLEASE write you reps, make calls, blog, contact your local media! I cringe to think that the handmade Christmas items I bought this year (that my children are currently playing with as I write this post) will no longer be available for purchase in the very near future.

So there is the BEEF! Apologies for this VERY long post! But being part of the handmade and small business community, I am passionate about getting these regulations altered to allow business to thrive as usual! Raise your voice and make a change!

A bit of Biz: Press Kits

OK. It has been too long since I started a dialogue about the nuts and bolts of having a creative business. Sometimes I don't really feel like I have much to share, since I learn so much everyday myself. So really, today I want to share some great blogs/write-ups on the topic of PRESS KITS AND PRESS RELEASES.

I am currently working on getting a press kit out, so this has been on my mind lately.

So here is the PR 101

What is a PRESS RELEASE? A written release of news worthy information sent to journalists or media personnel to encourage a story or a write up about the product or event. The release features the who.what.where.why and how of your company in a compelling way and should have some kind of urgency to it. ("my company teaches kids how to make their own dolls" vs. "Teach your child to make their own christmas gifts!")

**An elevator pitch will help you here!

What is a PRESS KIT? A packaged set of merchandise for members of the media for promotional use. Things to include in your Press Kit:

  • Background info on your and your company
  • Fact Sheet listing specific features, statistics, or benefits
  • Biography of you and other key executives in your company
  • Past Press Coverage
  • Photos of your products and people involved (high res photos)
  • A press release (mentioned above) detailing the current news the media kit is sent in reference to
  • Media contact information
  • A CD or DVD if it is appropriate for your company
  • relevant advertising material, such as: postcard, flyer,etc.


  • enables press coverage in a wide variety of magazines and newspapers
  • reaches diverse readerships
  • possible to get you into really big features
  • Mail them out to editors of major magazines and news personnel that match your product.
  • Most magazines need products and info 6 months in advance. Think Christmas in June.
  • Find a PR Rep with good contacts. Jeannette Mulvey of PR COOKBOOK is a fantastic source. She can get Kits together for you.
Here are some recent articles/blog posts I have read this week on the topic:

Jaime Lentzner wrote on her blog today about the very topic: PR. She has some great tips about getting your products out there in magazines and other media. It is too good to sum up. read it here:

Bell and Boo mentioned yesterday about how she is busy getting press kits out and mentions to make sure you always follow up, and make phone calls to ensure your products are getting seen.

Startup Princess is chalk full of great marketing resources for Press Releases.

  • Here is a fantastic article with inclusions you need to consider in a Press Kit.

At the last Startup Princess Retreat, I learned some new ways to get your Press Release out on the web. Here are THREE big ones:

PR WEB: get your Press Release out to the WWW. Here is more about how it works. It costs a bit, but allows for Maximum distribution to major newspapers, magazine, online distributers, etc. Have yet to try it, but I have heard nothing but rave reviews.

RAMBO:(stands for Reach a Mom Blogger) allows you to pick a category and see if companies have posted an interest in featuring a product and/or service similar to yours. Great way to send samples to magazines and blogs that will feature and your product! Feature of

BLOGS/TWITTER/FACEBOOK: Social media outlets there are so many blogs that feature new products daily. Find blogs whose readers would be a good match for your product and offer to send a free sample or offer a discount to the readers. One of the best ways to get your name out there to people who buy online. TIP: blogs run by real people with real interests. Don't oversell yourself. Twitter and Facebook are a great way to mention updates in your shop that can potentially reach more people than your normal readership. Find the medium that works best for you. I am big on reducing excess computer time. Blogging is my thing, but I am dabbling in others and have been able to make contacts with people I wouldn't normally get to!

Well folks, there is more. Oh so much more. When I get my press kits done, I am happy to share how they look. Details are everything...and so I am taking my time. But in the meantime...if any of you have anything to add to the discussion, please do! There is so much out there on PR for business, but not a lot on PR for CREATIVE business. Any other tips? Make a comment! Have questions? Leave a comment!

Happy press making!

Happy Birthday Sarah Jane.

No, it isn't my is Sarah Jane Studios 1 year anniversary!! WOW! I still can't believe the shop has been going for an entire year! And what an amazing journey it has been the past 365 days! I truly believe that what you feel most comfortable doing as a child, you will find yourself doing as an adult...or wish you were doing, which if that is the case listen to your inner wishes! That is what I did. If you asked me when I was 7 what I wanted to be when I grew up, it was to be an artist and a mom, and maybe even have a shop. And presto: 22 years later, that is what I am doing! No...It hasn't been easy...but it has been SO rewarding on so many levels!

So, the actual anniversary of my shop opening was on Oct. 4 (but I have been sick as well as husbandless the past several days which means ZERO mommy time) But we can't have a birthday without a celebration!!! I just feel so grateful for the past year...the friends I have met, the support you have is truly overwhelming sometimes. Thank you!!

This year's honor of the 12 months that have transpired...I am giving away 4 of my new calendars from my "month by month" series.! Yes, they are finally completed! I think you will just love them. These calendars are really more like a piece of art for your wall, with a few numbers that happen to be on the bottom. Just darling!

They will be in the shop by tonight for only $24. They will make the perfect gift, or mini art peice for that empty wall next to your phone or desk. Each page measures 8.5x5.5 inches and is completed with green grosgrain ribbon perfect for hanging!

But for you, my dear friends: A free gift from me!

To win a calendar, all you need to do is:

  • enter a comment below with a suggestion for something you would like to see in my shop for next year
  • Your name and a way to contact you (email, or blog link)
  • Comments will be closed on Oct 10th at Midnight EST
  • Check back on October 11th at to see the 4 lucky winners!

Thank you so much for all your support over this past year! I have loved getting to know you, and if I haven't met you yet, pop in and say hello! I am nice...I promise:) In the mean time...Happy commenting!

A bit of an early spook.

Ok, so I am about ready to start putting my seasonal prints and stationary up for sale...but before I do, I would love to know what you think about this one. I am trying out a couple new things in photoshop, and I thought it was perfect for a vintage-y halloween spookiness. Haven't decided if I want to order these as postcards...what do you think?

Happy Site Friday.

Today I am featuring sites to find GREAT KIDS MUSIC.
What music do you AND your kids love: That is the question.
(it's your should love it too!)

I could list hundreds of songs: but this is a short list of what my kids are loving right now.
Disclaimer: Itunes links weren't working, so most links are youtube...some videos are dumb. Links were chosen for music not video:)

The Real Old Stuff:
Some of the vintage classics are on itunes, but you can also get CD's at the library. I thought my kids wouldn't like the sound quality or how out of date these are. Quite the opposite! This genre deserves a whole blog post by itself,but here are two of their favorites:

Whose afraid of the big bad woolf?
Vintage record version
Popeye the sailor man
My kids fall over in histerics over popeye's laugh
The worry Song:
Gene Kelly and Jerry mouse dancing from the movie "Anchors Away." LOVE Gene Kelly.
Here is the video: Your kids will LOVE this!!! (Have I said 'love' enough?)

Ok, so not that old at all. But a staple in our home. Check out the album from the first season, as well as this FAVORITE video. I just can't ever get enough.

The Littlest Bird: three good tanyas
Don't you love this group? And to have a song about/for children...even better.

James Taylor:
You just can't go wrong. His music will put your kids to sleep, but also get them dancing. So easy to listen to!
Sweet Baby James: James Taylor
How sweet it is: James Taylor

Jack Johnson:
You can't go wrong. My kids love ALL of his albums. these are favorites:
Upside Down
3R's: Reduce resuse recycle
Better together
Banana Pancakes

Peter and the wolf
Perfect to play make believe and act out the story. This link has the narration.
The most relaxing classical music in the world ever
Perfect for getting them calmed down before bedtime, or provide ambiance

Ok, so some of you will say no to this, but his music is so great for kids. soothing voice, songs from every culture, the most "kid song-ish" I will go.
Baby Beluga
Baa Baa black sheep

My new favorite artist: Asheba
No more monkeys
If you only listen to one song on this post, listen to this. Kids classics with a Jamaican rhythm. This song gave me a library fine (my kids listen to it everyday!!)

The lion sleeps tonight
Best authentic rendition I have come across. Remember Graceland by Paul Simon? This is THAT South African group. My kids love the african vibe, and love acting this out.

Paul Simon:
Speaking of him, anything Paul Simon is a good choice.
I know what I know: zimbabwe performance
Father and Daughter: This is Addie and Kenneth's Signature song

My new favorite CD that has the two songs above, plus more that I can't find right now: Putumayo
World music for kids! I love it! My kids don't realize that they are learning other languages!

Other great music:
Anything Tracy Chapman
King singers Kid's Stuff (anyone know where to buy this? It is out of stock on Amazon)
Martha Stewart Kids: Playtime
Michael Buble: Everything
...etc etc etc...

EDIT: I just received a comment with a link to this site. An ENTIRE blog dedicated to children's music! Yahoo! Hear it, love it share it.

OK: so this was a lot longer than I originally planned it to be. But now it is open to you:

What music to you AND your kids love??? Please share!

I will try and put together a compilation we can all access.

Opinions Please.

Hello visitors, welcome to Open Studio! It's been a fun night here drawing and painting. The work is finished, and it's time for comments and critiques. Sit back, relax and have a look.

Now that you are visitors today, I am opening up the art studio for comments. I want to know which one you like the best. Or which one you would hang in your daughter's room (or yours, or your sisters...) I am really interested, cause I just don't know myself! All opinions welcome.

1) Blue

2) Chalkboard

3) artist paper color

4) green grass

Ok. Maybe you don't like any of them, but this is open studio time, so if you don't like any, tell me, but be nice. I want to make a few more prints to match, so which ever background you like will help me to draw up more little lammies. And please...even if I have never seen you around before...pipe up! All opinions welcome.