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March 2010

Simple lighting to photograph your work.

Sayumi Yokouchi wrote a letter asking two good questions.  I have paraphrased her questions and will answer the second one here.  (The first was answered in a previous post.)

Sayumi Yokouchi red coil neckpeice
Circle Drawing: Coil Neckpiece Red  © 2009
Found Wire, sterling silver
30 x 26 x 3 cm
Artist: Sayumi Yokouchi
Photo Credit: Ralph Gabriner

Dear Harriete,

Perhaps it is time for me to start my own photo shoot so I can get the images the way I like.  I'm ready to invest in a digital camera + lenses + simple lighting system.

What would you recommend?

Sayumi Yokouchi

 

Sayumi,

Purple Flower Brooch by Harriete Estel Berman
  Purple April Flower Brooch  © 2010
  Post consumer recycled tin cans.
  Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
  Photo Credit: Emiko Oye
  Shot taken in my studio using diffuse
  natural daylight.      This Flower pin is SOLD.

The photos that I take in my studio are limited to small  less expensive items that aren't worth spending a couple of hundred dollars on for professional photography. In these studio shots, I use natural light from two translucent skylights with a southern exposure and a window near by. This provides bright, white, diffuse light in the middle of the day.

Flower PIN by Harriete Estel Berman in Hershey Red with peach center 
Flower Brooch Hershey's vintage red with peach center     © 2010
Post consumer recycled tin cans.  One of a kind
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman                   Photo Credit: Emiko Oye
Photo taken using bright diffuse daylight without additional  lighting.

Diffuse natural light avoids all the problems that can occur with photo lights. You can duplicate this situation for yourself by photographing your work in a location that would be in direct sun, but wait for an overcast day. This provides bright diffuse light. This is my super simple method.

The location for your super simple photo shoot can be inside near a window or outside in a location that would be in direct sunlight. BUT, it must be an overcast or foggy day to have diffuse light. (I said that twice because it is so important.)  Photographing work in the shade is NOT an alternative because this creates a blue cast which won't look good.

Group of April Flower Brooches by Harriete Estel Berman in honor of Earth Day.
  April Flower Brooches © 2010
  Post consumer recycled tin cans.
  One brooch posted each day in honor
  of Earth Day. Photo taken with diffuse
  natural daylight by emiko oye.

The problems caused by artificial photo lights include harsh shadows, blown-out highlights, and the need to color balance the light source for correct lighting. Using photo lights greatly increases the difficulty of getting a great photo especially when your work is shiny, glossy or metallic. In addition, purchasing photo lights is a significant cost.

Do NOT use the flash on your camera to photograph your work. 

If you want more information on using artificial light sources, there was a great article in a recent The Crafts Report, April 2010 by Steve Meltzer, pages 34-35. He discusses all kinds of low cost options for photo lights. Look for this magazine at your library or local book store. The Crafts Report almost always has an article from Steve Meltzer about photography. I recommend the magazine as a subscription just for his articles alone.

Steve Meltzer also has two books that can help you with your photography efforts. They are both shown in the right column of this blog. His information is always practical and relatively easy to follow. CLICK ON THE BOOKS Capture the Light: A Guide for Beginning Digital Photographersand Photographing Arts, Crafts & Collectibles: Take Great Digital Photos for Portfolios, Documentation, or Selling on the Web (A Lark Photography Book) to see if Amazon.com even has a used copy to save you some money.

The next blog post will be about how to use "bounce cards" to reduce deep shadows and improve the lighting conditions during your photo shoot. This blog post will be authored by my photographer Philip Cohen. He shoots all my work which you can see on my web site.

Two documents in the Professional Guidelines may also improve your images.

     Guide to Professional Quality Images

     Working with Digital Images Effectively

* The books in the column and shown above are affiliate links. Clicking on the links and buying through Amazon.com could possibly provide this blog a few pennies to keep on going. Thanks for your support.


April Flower Brooch in Honor of Earth Day

Every day through the month of April I am going to post a new Flower Brooch in honor of Earth Day. Constructed from post consumer recycled materials, each brooch is a combination of this springs fashion focus on flowers and prints.

April Flower Brooch Blue and Yellow constructed by Harriete Estel Berma from recycled tin cans in honor of Earth Day
Flower Brooch Blue and Yellow with Purple Center     © 2010
Post consumer recycled tin cans.
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman                   Photo Credit: Emiko Oye


Communicating with your photographer - What kind of images do I want?

Sayumi Yokouchi wrote a letter asking two good questions.  I am going to paraphrase her questions and answer them in two separate posts.  Here is the first one.

Dear Harriete,

I LOVE your site and tell/share it with everybody. Thank you, thank you!!! 

Sayumi Yokouchi Circle Drawing Brooch
 Circle Drawing Brooch 9     © 2009
 Found Wire, Sterling Silver wire
 9 x 7.5 x 1.5 cm
 Artist: Sayumi Yokouchi
 Photo Credit: Ralph Gabriner

I've been using a professional photographer for years (after a number of my own attempts to photograph my work).  The images are fine most of the time, but it is sometimes a bit of a frustration to describe how I want my work to be photographed.

Perhaps it is time for me to (really) start my own photo shoot, so I can get the images the way I like.  I'm ready to invest in a digital camera + lenses + simple lighting system.

I read your quality image guidelines.  What would you recommend?

Thanks again.

Sayumi Yokouchi

Sayumi,
When I take my work to my photographer, Philip Cohen, I usually have a very clear idea how I want it to look. I tell him the most important part(s) of the artwork and point out the elements that I want him to feature in the close-up.  We have developed an approach that accommodates most work. Like you, it is the exceptions and unusual work that I have to go further to communicate.

Sometimes I have a postcard in mind as in the image below. The artwork, "A Square Yard of Grass", was photographed with this triple-panel folding postcard in mind.Grass postcard by Harriete Estel Berman is available for purchase.
When you want something different, the photographer can't read your mind, so plan on additional discussion to convey your larger objectives for the images.   In preparation, I often do test shots in the studio with a digital camera or prepare sketches with colored pencil on paper of the desired image.  Either option may take me a couple of hours to prepare, but it is a lot less expensive to spend my time testing out the angles and compositions with a digital camera than to pay my photographer his hourly fees on unsatisfactory trial shots.

Windows of Memory by Harriete Estel Berman are constructed from vintage steel dollshouses and recycled tin cans. For very large work, sometimes the approach has to be significantly different. For example, to shoot these window frames, I had to move all my furniture, install the artwork temporarily in my living room and pay for my photographer to come to my house.

Blades of grass from grass sculpture by Harriete Estel Berma are constructed from reycled tin cans. For the grass sculpture (below), I used this close-up to promote the work before it was installed. Then after it was installed at a second exhibition site, I was able to find a professional photographer able to take on the challenge of this scale (9' x9') with a large format camera.Grass/gras sculpture is 9 ' x 9' lawn of grass by Harreite Estel Berman 

So, in summary, the best way to communicate with your photographer is to be prepared with illustrations or demo shots to show what you want.  When you know something unusual is coming, plan on taking more time to communicate your wishes with example photos from your digital camera or sketches. 

If you have suggestions about how you communicate with your photographer, will you share them with the readers of ASK Harriete?

The next post will be the second question from Sayumi Yokouchi regarding simple lighting systems for photography and resources for digital camera and lenses.

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info

Stay tuned for April Flowers on ASK Harriete.  Starting March 28th, one April Flower Brooch will be posted every day in honor of Earth Day.  Spring flowers bloom with post consumer, recycled tin cans, brilliant colors and bountiful prints. 

Ooops!!! I sold a few already. A preview is below:

APRIL FLOWER BROOCH by harriete Estel Berman is made from recycled tin cans.
APRIL FLOWER BROOCH by harriete Estel Berman is made from recycled tin cans.


To be or not to be a FAN on Facebook? That is the question.

Let's talk.  I am one of those people who is outspoken and honest...sometimes too honest, so here it goes.  After I spill my guts...will you tell me your opinion?

I was NOT a "fan" of the Facebook individual "Fan" pages. After I wrote this post they changed it to "Like". 

Have you been "told" this is a great way to promote your work? Why do you have professional page? Do you ask people to "Fan" or "Like" your page?

Pure, Delicious and Refreshing by Harriete Estel Berman
 Pure, Delicious and Refreshing © 1995
 Recycled tin cans, vintage steel doll
  houses,
 Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
 Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

 

My artwork is so much about my existence that showcasing images of my work on Facebook is sharing part of myself. I am not bragging, but sharing my soul. For anyone who knows me there is no separation between personal and professional.

 

Trapped by the Seduction to Domestic Perfection by Harriete Estel Berman
 Trapped by the Seduction to Domestic
 Perfection© 1996
 Recycled tin cans, vintage steel doll
 houses,
 Artist: Harriete Estel Berman 
 Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

Nevertheless, asking people to "Like" my work seems to be asking too much. People may like my work or dislike it, but that is their personal opinion. It doesn't seem right or necessary to ask them to publicly announce their allegiance.

Guess this reflects how I feel about viewing anyone's work. Certainly it is refreshing to meet new people and be introduced to their work, but my reactions are usually multifaceted with mixed impressions on a wide range of thoughts that stream through my head. An assessment is almost always much more complex than a simplistic "like" or "dislike" or, to be or not to be a "Fan." 

Ripe and Luscious, Peak of Perfection wall peice by Harriete Estel Berman
Ripe and Luscious, Peak of Perfection
© 1996
Recycled tin cans, vintage steel doll
houses,

Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen
more info

Consequently, I find it unsettling when asked to be a "Fan" of anyone. Both "Fan" or "Like" presume too much. It seems like a thinly veiled request for an endorsement that has not been earned (at least not so quickly).  I'd much prefer more variations on a business page such as: interested, entertained, delighted, or learning.

I respect the efforts of people to give visibility for their work to a wider audience.  The exposure is a great idea. Inviting friends and acquaintances to your passion for creativity is quite reasonable. Absolutely, your work is indeed part of who you are.  Share your work on Facebook.

In fact, when I look at an artist's or maker's profile page and if they don't have photo images of their artwork, I wonder who they really are?  I can't imagine people who call themselves artists, makers, or craftspeople  not including their artwork as part of their profiles.

Reality Studded with Thorns Hides the Front door from the Street by Harriete Estel Berman is constructed from recycled tin cans, and vintage steel dollhouses.
 Reality Studded with Thorns Hides the
 Front Door from the Street ©  1997-98
 Recycled tin cans, vintage steel doll
  houses,

 Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
 Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

Nevertheless, asking people to "Like" of your work is a social pressure that feels overly simplistic, superficial, and improper etiquette.

To be or not to be...a "Fan"? Like or dislike, it that really the question?

Any alternative responses? What is your opinion?


APRIL FLOWER BROOCH by harriete Estel Berman is made from recycled tin cans. 

APRIL FLOWER BROOCH by harriete Estel Berman is made from recycled tin cans.
APRIL FLOWER BROOCH by harriete Estel Berman is made from recycled tin cans.


Employee versus Contractor

HarrieteEMIKO72web
Many artists think that there is an extended gray area as to whether "help in the studio" (i.e. part time worker) is an employee or a contractor.  The I.R.S. does not see this as a gray area, but always as black and white, leaning toward employee.  The I.R.S. has specific guidelines online. If there is any doubt whether an individual working for you is an employee or outside contractor, the I.R.S. will say this person is an employee. I know I said this twice. It's really important.

The I.R.S. states "anyone who performs services for you is your employee if you can control what will be done and how it will be done. This is so even when you give the employee freedom of action. What matters is that you have the right to control the details of how the services are performed."

In contrast, "an individual is an independent contractor if you, the person for whom the services are performed, have the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not the means and methods of accomplishing the results".

51dZgYTDCgL._SL160_Quoting from the book Hiring Your First Employee, "The I.R.S. prefers to have workers classified as employees because it believes that independent contractors are relatively unreliable when it comes to paying taxes. If you treat a worker as an independent contractor, and the I.R.S. classifies that person as an employee, you'll be liable for employment taxes for the worker, and may also be charged a penalty for your erroneous actions."

 

StartCareerPayDay72
    Start Career Pay Day     © 2010
    Recycled tin cans, sterling silver
    rivets.
    Artist: Harriete Estel Berman    

For more information, read the details below. If your aren't sure...buy the book or get it from your library. It may be a valuable lesson you can learn.  My previous post was a book review of  Hiring Your First Employee by Nolo Press.

Harriete Estel Berman
Visit my studio online

Behavioral Control
"Behavioral control" refers to facts that show whether there is a right to direct or control how the worker does the work. A  worker is an employee when the business has the right to direct and control the worker. The business does not have to actually direct or control the way the work is done – as long as the employer has the right to direct and control the work. 

The behavioral control factors fall into the following categories:

  • Type of instructions given
  • Degree of instruction
  • Evaluation systems
  • Training

An employee is generally subject to the business’s instructions about when, where, and how to work.  Here is the IRS web page on Behavioral Control.

All of the following are examples of
Types of Instructions:

  • How to do work.
  • When and where to do the work.
  • What tools or equipment to use.
  • What workers to hire or to assist with the work.
  • Where to purchase supplies and services.
  • What work must be performed by a specified individual.
  • What order or sequence to follow when performing the work.

Degree of Instruction
Degree of Instruction means that the more detailed the instructions, the more control the business exercises over the worker. More detailed instructions indicate that the worker is an employee.  Less detailed instructions reflects less control, indicating that the worker is more likely an independent contractor.

Note: The amount of instruction needed varies among different jobs. Even if no instructions are given, sufficient behavioral control may exist if the employer has the right to control how the work results are achieved. A business may lack the knowledge to instruct some highly specialized professionals; in other cases, the task may require little or no instruction. The key consideration is whether the business has retained the right to control the details of a worker's performance or instead has given up that right.

Evaluation System

If an evaluation system measures the details of how the work is performed, then these factors would point to an employee.

If the evaluation system measures just the end result, then this can point to either an independent contractor or an employee.

Training
If the business provides the worker with training on how to do the job, this indicates that the business wants the job done in a particular way.  This is strong evidence that the worker is an employee. Periodic or on-going training about procedures and methods is even stronger evidence of an employer-employee relationship. However, independent contractors ordinarily use their own methods.

FULL DISCLOSURE: The book images and corresponding links are provided for your convenience as an affiliate link. IF you purchase a book through a link on this blog, it may generate a small percentage of income to support this blog.

 


Hiring Your First Employee - a book review .

If you have ever considered hiring additional help for your work in the studio, this book is for you.

51dZgYTDCgL._SL160_ Hiring Your First Employee, A Step by Step Guide by Nolo Press, answers nearly every question from beginning to end in the employment process.  It covers everything from job descriptions, job postings, and interviews to the more exacting issues involving taxes, withholding accounts, and workman's compensation.

Even though I have had people working for me for over 15 years, I still learned quite a bit more information that was effective and helpful.

My usual test for buying a book is if after reading the entire book (borrowed from the library), I come to the conclusion that I need to have the book as a convenient and ready reference in my future activities.

The layout of the chapters and subsequent information is very effective.  It starts out with Chapter 1 "Deciding Whether to Hire an Employee." This is a really important question to decide whether your "help in the studio" is an employee or an outside contractor.  The I.R.S. takes this issue VERY seriously. A lot of  artists try to slide by or "fudge" this situation. Personally, I don't think the risk is worth it. (Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post about employee vs. outside contractor to learn more.  It is usually very clear one way or the other. 

Start Career Pay Day Pin by Harriete Estel Berman suitable for a budding career.
   Start Career  Pay Day          © 2010
   recycled tin cans
   Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
   Pin available for purchase.

Subsequent chapters cover pay rates, employee benefits, workman's compensation, withholding and taxes.  All the  practical issues that employers need to consider. I personally thought that Chapter 5 "Getting Ready to Hire" about job descriptions and  finding employees was new information for me.  (I have always found my employees by word of mouth through the local Metal Arts Guild.) Chapter 6 then goes through screening applicants and the interview process. Our society has become so litigious that we all need to be extra careful in this regard.

There are several charts and lists of state by state lists of specific requirements. That was great. Just read what you need to know and move on.  Personally, I think that if you are considering hiring help in the studio or already have an assistant, this book should be your next investment to put your mind at ease.

CLICK ON THE LINKS in this blog post or side bar to find information about purchase. At the time of this writing, Amazon.com has the best prices (including used books), but this book Hiring Your First Employee may also be available through NOLO Press as an electronic book.

Stay tuned for more blog posts related to hiring assistants for work in the studio. Share your experience hiring employees or ASK Harriete a question.

Purchase of this book from Amazon.com is an affiliate link and helps support this blog as a resource for the arts community.    


A Copyright Question: Is Using Covers of Romance Novels "Covered" within Fair Use?

Hi Harriete,
I have a copyright question that you may be able to answer.  I am making a neck piece (not really wearable) in which I've cut out small sections of romance book cover illustrations.  I will probably produce a small series using similar illustrations.  If I exhibit these online and an  illustrator recognizes his/her work, could I be sued?  Or would it be true that since I have altered the work it would be considered OK?  I seriously doubt that I would ever sell huge numbers of these pieces.  Thank you for your help.
Claudia Rush

Claudia Rush Necklace titled Take Me Now!
Take Me Now! © 2010
S.silver, fine silver, copper,enamel, book
cover illustration, resin,pearl.
Artist: Claudia Rush

Claudia,
In short, I think you could use portions of the cover illustrations if you are able to transform the images within your work to make your own commentary about romance novels or about these particular images.

Please refer to my Fair Use Guidelines which briefly itemize five key factors necessary to be considered Fair Use.   In this post, I'm going to add a bit of artistic critique as well.

To paraphrase Fair Use Guideline #3, Work using found objects (e.g. romance novel illustrations) needs to impart parody or commentary that is different than the original work.  Right now, I don't see a differentiating commentary. I see couples kissing or staring into each other's eyes associated with heart shapes and flowers.  These objects and images seem to be reinforcing the original intent of the illustrations.  To be more blunt, Fair Use does not cover the use of copyrighted images just because they are convenient or they already say what you want to say. 

Claudia Rush necklace close up titled Take Me Now! While I am very supportive of artists using found materials under the concept of Fair Use in Copyright Law, I am concerned that this neck piece is not pushing the images into new territory. Specifically, I don't interpret a larger commentary or parody about romance novels or about romance in your work.  The images could just as easily be from movie advertisements or magazine ads or from other sources including photographs that you took yourself.

What alternative statements could a neck piece inspire to fit more clearly under Fair Use? The deeper meaning will make your work stronger and protect your fair use of the copyrighted covers more effectively.

How would you do that? For example:
Put small books (referring to the romance novels) on the necklace opened with bleeding hearts;
Put thorns on your necklace (you said they weren't wearable);
Put small pens on your necklace (that looked as if it were thorns); 
Put a fabricated silver pen or pencil on the necklace that was bleeding or exploding with warped hearts;
Add paper Saccharine or sugar packages as "leaves" or "flowers".  

Romance novel I just suggested a variety of ideas. You don't have to use any one of them. The issue is that the reason for using the copyrighted images in your work needs to make this necklace more about your own unique statement or some interpretive commentary about the illustrations or about the romance novels.

Your Fair Use commentary or parody could be about how the story line of romance novels follows a predictable or repetitive pattern. Another idea might be how romance novels sell the idea of romance which is thin like a piece of paper. Or the saccharine sweet illusion of romance from this type of literature.

While all of my opinions are subjective, and to some extent involve a critique of your neck piece, the point is that Fair Use does not protect use of found objects simply because they are images you want to copy.  A Fair Use work has to transform the found objects into a new work with a different message

Claudia, thank you for sharing your work for discussion.  It takes guts to make a piece and then put it out there for other people to review.  I hope this conversation will only make future work stronger and more effective.

If more people are willing, I might try critiquing other work in this blog in the future. 

Harriete Estel Berman

* According to the online ARTS Magazine of the Arizona Daily Wildcat the romance novel industry makes up 55 percent of paperback publishing in the United States, and more than 200 million books are sold each year, according to Desert Rose. The genre, and its various sub-genres, have their root in Samuel Richardson's Pamela, according to Desert Rose. Image scource can be found HERE. 

A response to comments on Copycat, Copyright and Coincidence.

Many people left comments regarding the series of posts about "COPYCAT, COPYRIGHT or COINCIDENCE". Here are some responses to a number of comments.

Metalsmith2010 This series of posts was originally based on an Opinion article I wrote for the January 2010 issue of Metalsmith Magazine, Volume 30/No.1/2010.  I hope you get a chance to read the entire article in the magazine, but to facilitate a dialog on this blog, a summary of the opinion is presented in an earlier post. 

My response to some of the comments (in no particular order) is below.

TamryGentrybacklit steering wheel_433Tamra Gentry asked how I feel when people say, "There's nothing new under the sun?" as a rationale for copying other artists' work.  My reply....a few people try to justify allowing copycat work to be sold in a show or included in a book by rationalizing "there is nothing new under the sun."  While I agree that we all build on a foundation of ideas established before us, this doesn't justify copying other people's work and taking credit as the originator.  It takes a lot of work to be "inspired" and create something new and innovative.  The originator should be recognized for creating and the imitator should be labeled "copycat."   

K. Alice asked, "How to prove that someone is a copycat?" I don't think you have to prove that the work is a copycat unless you are taking the case to court. The issue here is whether a "reasonable observer" would conclude that another artist's or maker's work is too similar or that the style or technique inappropriately resembles your own.

CERF Shoe by Harriete Estel Berman is constructed from recycled tin cans. It has a UPC toe and looks liek a Converse style sneaker. It is comparable to a person who steps on your toes in line.  If they did it one time, apologized and didn't do it again, then you would graciously accept that it was an unintended accident or coincidence. If that person repeatedly steps on your toes, you would no longer consider this unintended.

In most circumstances you will be making a judgment call, dividing hairs, whatever you call it.  There will always be room to quibble about differences.  But I have seen multiple examples where similar work seemed like no accident. It was inappropriately close, i.e. a "copycat" to any reasonable observer.

CERF shoe by harriete Estel Berman constructed from recycled tin cans, shoe laces are a peice of recycled copper wire. If you're concerned about an incident of copycat work, ask your fellow makers, artists or mentors for their opinion.  Ask for help from individuals you respect.  

Everyone should be an advocate for their own work, but I never suggested being rude or showing disrespect. Polite professional communication while standing up for your work is always best.

As a comprehensive statement, I would like to emphasize that this copycat issue should be part of an ongoing discussion and mission statement within the arts and crafts communities at large.  This is about fundamental ethics. Teaching and learning from one another is an honored tradition for skill development, but copying another maker's work should not be condoned nor tolerated.  I'll admit the boundary line is not always perfectly clear, but we should be united in saying out loud to the entire community, copying should be discouraged and originality should be encouraged.   

The article in Metalsmith Magazine and these blog posts are an effort to openly discuss a problem that may have always been there.  Not discussing the issue and whispering complaints behind closed doors doesn't do anything to rectify a problem.  Imitators get away with it only if everyone remains silent. 

CERF SHOE by Harriete Estel Berman is constructed from recycled tin cans looks like a Converse sneaker with a UPC toe. Raising the issue of copycat work may be difficult in the real world but you could be performing a great service. A copycat will always have a limited audience for their work. The copycat person has much more to gain by finding their own voice, and in doing so, discovering an exciting future of possibilities. 

IN CONCLUSION: While I don't think that we can entirely eliminate copycat work, I believe that the best protection is a clear message of community ethics. 

I hope these posts offer a forum for ongoing discussion. Even if you are reading this post months later, you are welcome to leave your comments.

Save the Cease and Desist letters for your future reference. ["A kinder, gentler Cease and Desist Letter" and "A Formal, Assertive Cease and Desist Letter"

Share this information with your fellow artists and makers. Discuss this issue at your next Critique Group or online.

BermaidLady72gr
Bermaid  Pin © 2010
Recycled tin cans, sterling silver rivets,
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Available for purchase on Etsy

Become an advocate for other artists. When you see copycat work, it is your responsibility to say something.  Either contact the originator, send a letter to the copycat, or speak to the exhibition or craft show organizer.

Perhaps the Internet can be a tool for effective change, rather than a medium where people are afraid of being copied.

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info 

 



What is the difference between Copyright and Trademark?


ConsumerIcongr72
It is easy to find plenty of information online regarding copyright, trademarks and patents. 
Perhaps an overwhelming amount.  So this post is just to get you started if you want to look into the various forms of legal protection for your work.
COPYRIGHTRADEPATENT.

Start with the U.S. Copyright Office, especially their online page of frequently asked questions (FAQ's).

How is a copyright different from a patent or a trademark?
Copyright protects original works of expression and authorship.
A patent protects inventions or discoveries. 
A trademark protects words, phrases, symbols, or graphic designs that identify the source of the goods or services of one party and distinguishes them from those of others.

Ideas and discoveries are not protected by the copyright law, although the way in which they are expressed may be.

Trademark Copyright_symbol2Nolo Press offers this explanation about the difference between copyright and trademark. "Copyright protects original works of expression, such as novels, fine and graphic arts, music, audio recordings, photography, software, video, cinema, and choreography by preventing people from copying or commercially exploiting them without the copyright owner's permission.

ThreepinBERMAID72GR Copyright laws do not protect names, titles or short phrases. That's where trademark law comes in. Trademark protects distinctive words, phrases, logos, symbols, slogans, and any other devices used to identify and distinguish products or services in the marketplace.

There are, however, areas where both trademark and copyright law may be used to protect different aspects of the same product. For example, copyright laws may protect the artistic aspects of a graphic or logo used by a business to identify its goods or services, while trademark may protect the graphic or logo from use by others in a confusing manner in the marketplace. Similarly, trademark laws are often used in conjunction with copyright laws to protect advertising copy. The trademark laws protect the product or service name and any slogans used in the advertising, while the copyright laws protect the additional creative written expression contained in the ad."

Patent-smooth-criminal-shoes
Patent  Leather Shoes (joke des)

Next destination is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office web site.  The "PTO" is a separate agency from the Copyright Office.  To obtain a trademark, it is usually a good idea to hire professional legal advice and guidance. While the PTO web site says that most trademark applications are filed online, trademark is not as simple as copyright. From everything I have heard, it is expensive and a service typically performed by attorneys specializing in trademark.

Jasmine72gr
Jasmine Trademark Pin © 2009
Recycled tin cans, sterling silver rivets
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Private Collection

The Trademark search is a significant step. The Nolo Press web site has information about doing your own trademark search.

Nolo Press also provides a useful article on Getting a Patent on Your Own if you're interested.  Quoting the Nolo Press web site: "You cannot get a patent just on an idea. You must show how your invention works and your invention must be new. This means it must be different in some important way from all previous inventions. It also cannot be for sale or be known about for more than a year before you apply for a patent."
 
Harriete
ConsumerIcongr72

Authentic Iconic Copyright,
Trademark and Patent Pin
© 2010
Recycled tin cans, sterling silver rivets
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Available for purchase on  Etsy