Tuesday, February 25, 2014

a new venture


Later this year I'll be opening an etsy shop called Months and Years. There I will be selling heirloom-quality handmade baby clothes. Each will be unique; I will not be making multiples or runs of sizes. Each piece will have its own inspiration drawn from mythology, poetry, folklore, song, something; I'll include the story of each piece in each posting. I will post items in batches, a half-dozen at a time; and they'll be priced to move. My goal is to hopefully empty the shop almost as quickly as I fill it.

I'll be sure to post a quick preview shot of each of the six items here, as I finish them, and then I'll post an update about when they'll finally be available for sale.

Why am I doing this? Well, earlier this winter, I realized I wasn't satisfied with how I was spending my time. My evenings were long vacant swaths of TV-time - and I was feeling bored and a bit stifled. Sewing and embroidery are - I think - ideal evening activities. They require a kind of engineering-brain, able to follow instructions, and pay attention to details of measurement and construction, but they don't require the draining focus and observation and judgment of painting. So it's a good evening activity for morning-bird me, who is already pretty much done for the day, cognitively, by the time I'm having dinner.

So, what to sew? Well, my own weight is in flux, so I'm not really sewing for myself right now - better to wait and find out where my body will settle, THEN sew. And to boot, I have a lot of scraps in my fabric stash, as I tend to buy fabric in 3-, 4- or even 5-yard increments (so that I have flexibility when I sew - I can make whatever I want!). This leaves significant scraps - and as I only buy natural fibers, we're talking yards of silk, wool, cotton and linen here. This is not the kind of thing you just throw away.

So I settled on baby clothes. Plus, I've always LOVED baby clothes. I've always loved working in miniature in any medium; I love the fussy perfection of it, the detail, the smallness. I love that with very little material one can create a very rich effect. I even love the excess of it; what newborn child needs a hand-embroidered, herringbone silk twill dress (above)? No child, not really. Antonin Artaud, one of the French Surrealists, author of The Theatre and its Double, theorist of the Theatre of Cruelty, once wrote that excess without cause was the beginning of art. That pretty effectively describes the power of fascination that beautiful, artistic, tiny clothes hold for me - and why I like to make them; there's a potential to make the simple act of dressing into an art form.

So. Months and Years will be a kind of repository for periodic tiny collections of unique handmade clothes in a variety of sizes. The first piece of my first collection, above, is the "When the Violets Return" dress. It is inspired by an Irish prayer spoken when the gentians bloom in the Burren - and more on that when I finish the rest of the collection. It is a size 0-3 months, made from a warm and soft 100% silk herringbone twill (it has the weight and softness of a nice flannel shirt) with a cotton calico collar. The bodice buttons up the back, and the embroidered violets wrap over the shoulder and continue on the back of the yoke.

The next dress is inspired by line that I found very striking in a story from the Brothers Grimm; I'm still figuring out how I'm going to execute the ornamentation, but I'm excited to start cutting the fabric tonight; I have to measure my scraps and make sure I've enough cloth, but it should be a size 2T or 3T and made from fuzzy navy wool.

7 comments:

Abigail said...

I love love love love this idea!!! Can't wait to see your etsy store!

andthenthey said...

Yes! What a sweet idea. How are you handling the copyrights on the patterns? I've been meaning to look into that.

I LOVE the literary element. What an inspiring dress for a little girl.

fleur_delicious said...

Actually, the copyright issue *isn't* a problem, at least for sewing patterns - and it doesn't seem to be an issue for knitting, either, though I haven't investigated that one, as it doesn't apply to me at this point. Thanks for asking - let me share what I know. (I think it's worth keeping tabs on this issue, in case the legal status changes!)

Check this out, from the US Copyright Office:

"A “useful article” is an article having an intrinsic utilitarian function that is not merely to portray the appearance of the article or to convey information. Examples are clothing, furniture, machinery, dinnerware, and lighting fixtures. An article that is normally part of a useful article may itself be a
useful article—an ornamental wheel cover on a vehicle, for example.

Copyright does not protect the mechanical or utilitarian aspects of such works of craftsmanship. It may, however, protect any pictorial, graphic, or sculptural authorship that can be identified separately from the utilitarian aspects of an object. Thus a useful article may have both copyrightable and uncopyrightable features. For example, a carving on the back of a chair or a floral relief design on silver flatware could be protected by copyright, but the design of the chair or flatware itself could not.

Some designs of useful articles may qualify for protection under the federal patent law. For information, visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website at www.uspto.gov or call (800) 786-9199.

Copyright in a work that portrays a useful article extends only to the artistic expression of the author of the pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work. It does not extend to the design of the article that is portrayed. For example, a drawing or photograph of an automobile or a dress design may be copyrighted, but that does not give the artist or photographer the exclusive right to make automobiles or dresses of the same design."

So there, specifically, dresses can be sold.

(source: http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ40.pdf)

And further:
"“Copyright in a pattern normally pertains to the pattern itself, i.e., to the written instructions, diagrams and/or pictures, not to the object that is constructed from the pattern. If the pattern, however, includes original artwork that would be incorporated into the work that is made, then a person may need permission to use it commercially. An example of that would be a knitting pattern depicting original artwork. An example of the opposite would be a dress pattern: the dress made from the pattern is not subject to copyright protection.

[again: explicitly, dresses are legal]

Here are two examples where both patterns, i.e., the written instructions and artwork, are protected by copyright, but only one of the products made from the patterns would be protected. A pattern for a sweater made with standard knitting stitches, such as a cable stitch or a popcorn stitch, is protected by copyright; however, the sweater made from the pattern contains no copyrightable artwork because it consists of standard stitches, no matter how attractive the sweater is. On the other hand, a pattern for a sweater that depicts original artwork — let’s say a mountain scene with a deer — is protected both in the form of the pattern and in the form of the sweater. The artwork on the sweater is protected by copyright. In the first instance, a person using the pattern can produce sweaters commercially, but not be infringing a copyright because the distribution of the sweaters is not distributing any copyrightable authorship. In the second example, by distributing the sweaters, the person is also distributing copies of the original artwork and would normally need permission.”

(I'm looking for the US Copyright Office's source URL for this one)

fleur_delicious said...

And yet a further addendum from 2006:
As noted above, the Copyright Office takes no position at this time as to whether Chapter 13 should be amended to include protection for fashion designs. Proponents of such legislation have provided the Office with anecdotal evidence that fashion designers are harmed by the sale of “knockoffs” of high-end fashion designs. To be persuaded of the need for such legislation, we would have to see more such evidence, as well as some evidence quantifying the nature and extent of the harm suffered by fashion designers due to the lack of legal protection for their designs. To the extent that the Office has been presented with anecdotal evidence, that evidence relates to clothing designs. While there may well be similar evidence relating to the items identified in subparagraphs B, C and D of proposed § 1301(b)(9), the Office currently is not aware of such evidence."
(http://www.copyright.gov/docs/regstat072706.html)
And, last but not least, this group has apparently been investigating the claims made by major pattern-makers (McCall's, Simplicity, Vogue, Butterick - I think?) and has not found that any of them has actually even registered those copyrights that they claim to possess.

(http://www.tabberone.com/Trademarks/CopyrightLaw/Patterns.shtml)

At this point, I'm not worried about it. The US Copyright Office doesn't consider this a violation of copyright since I'm not using any embroidery motifs included in any of the patterns I own. Additionally, as I have a tendency to alter patterns anyway, adding and eliminating features as I desire, I don't think this is really going to be an issue.

Oranges and Apples said...

will you be making boys stuff as well?

fleur_delicious said...

Definitely, Franca! I have a beautifully illustrated copy of Chestnut Gray (it's kind of a Cinderella story, but about a boy named Ivan, whose magical horse serves as fairy godmother); I want to have an outfit for an Ivan in the first batch!

(And for some reason my husband has opinions on this subject and has told me he wants me to make boys' overalls. How could I possibly resist such a darling petition?)

andthenthey said...

Oh, wow! I just came back to check the comments again. Thanks for the amazingly thorough rundown! That totally makes sense - can't copy the pattern, but can sell the product. I can't wait to see what else you make!