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November 2013

Gelt, Gilt, and Guilt

ThanksgivingPlate closerlower
Photo Credit: Aryn Shelander

Every year I create a new table motif for our Thanksgiving table. This year with Chanukah and Thanksgiving on the same day, Chanukah gelt and autumn colors set the motif of round gold dots.

Chanukah gelt is gold foil wrapped chocolate.
Thanksgiving 2013 and more 227
Do you see the gold dots on our table covering?

Photo Credit: Aryn Shelander 

The gold chargers, gold flatware, and vintage gold drinking glasses all followed our theme. Eight candlesticks polished brightly were symbolic of the eight lights of Chanukah.

Thanksgiving 2013 and more 224

Our Menu includes contributions from all our guests.
Thankgivukah thanksgiving hanukah dinner menu
Menu design by Aryn Shelander.

We concluded our meal by asking each person at the table what they were thankful for in the past year. My daughter reminded us that the more specifically we articulated what we were grateful for the more positive impact it would bring.

So I thought back over the past twelve months and remembered the people connected to me in one way or another who have succumbed to the ruthless effects of alcoholism.  It has been wrenching to witness how they have slowly lost connection with their families, friends and even their own internal motivations due to the grip of alcohol. My heart goes out to everyone dealing with alcoholism in their lives.

One thing we can do is talk about difficult issues openly without judgement.

My thanks goes to everyone for giving to each other, their families, and communities without guilt. This is what friends and family are about.

Philip Cohen  photo of Thanksgiving Table
Photo of the thanksgiving table taken by photographer Philip Cohen using an Apple phone panoramic option. The chairs look kind of funky as the camera seems to combined them. They are all 100+ year old chairs painted black.

Ace flies his plane from the deck going over the canyon like a Turkey Vulture and then, they catch the plane in mid air on the way back. That was thrilling! Photo Credit: Philip Cohen 

No shoes in the house! They all wait for their owner at the front door.
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen 

Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving 2011

Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving 2009

Thanksgiving 2008


Animated Images - GIFS for Everyone

Animated GIFS are great! They are a sequence of several still images that appear kind of like short videos and they play on all devices including phones and tablets.  They can give your site a "jazzy" kind of feel and added information.  For example, here is a GIF animation for the diagram and first stages for the assembly of Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin.

This animated GIF shows the diagram, working drawing, and first days of assembly for Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin.

Some new free APPS create animated GIFs easier than ever -- and you no longer need to purchase PhotoShop Image Ready to create animated GIFs.  This post will provide some helpful tips to prepare for making animated GIFs.  Followed by the "pros" and "cons" of four APPs that I've tried recently.

If you would like some additional background on GIFs, visit some of the previous GIF-related posts listed at the bottom of this post.


1) Create the images you plan to upload for the animation. All images need to be the same size and shape (either vertical or horizontal) before you start. It doesn't work to mix landscape and profile layouts in the same animated GIF.

2) DO NOT put animated images near each other on your site. It drives viewers "wacky" to look at multiple moving images that are not synchronized. Make sure the next animated image is far enough down on the page so the two animations can't be seen at the same time.

3) DO NOT resize your animated GIF
after you make it. It will not animate. Decide in advance the size for the final animated image

I love the ease of this new technology for creating an animated GIF but it has limitations.

Below are four APP sites for comparison with the pros and cons.




Gickr will allow you to upload images from your computer. They say that you can also use your Flickr or Picassa site which would be great except I could NOT figure out how to make it work....This is just infuriating when the instructions aren't clear. Even asking for help from my tech savvy expert daughter didn't solve the problem.

Gickr pro and cons:

  • Allowed upload of large 2-3MB images from your computer
  • Adjustments for the final animated image size up to 450px. (That was bigger than the other sites.)
  • Adjustment for animation speed.
  • Deleting an image was possible. This is a great feature, because a one click mistake on the other sites and you had to start the animation over from the beginning.
  • Image download
  • Embed code for the image URL


  • Adjustment for animation speed was Slow, Normal, Fast
    (without a specific numerical value so it was a guess.)
  • No constrain proportions options, so you can easily distort your image.
  • Maximum of 10 images for an animated GIF.



ImgFlip pro and cons:

  • Uploaded large images but you had to upload all the images after selection


  • Animated image size limit is 300 px width or height.
  • No "constrain proportions" options so you can easily distort your image
  • The default animation GIF size is a square, so make sure if you change the rectangle dimensions, they are in the right proportions.
  • Adjustment for animated speed in NOT slow enough.
  • No download for the animated GIF image
  • Embed code to post the animated GIF to the HTML on your website or blog slowed down the load time for my web page. Slowing down load time is not good. It is one of the 200 criteria Google uses to evaluate your website quality.
  • This site appears to allow a fixed number of free animations per day.

Below is my test example showing people threading pencils for Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin at Maker Faire 2009. Using ImgFlip site was fast and easy. It uploaded individual 2.5 MB images quickly, but the default animated image default was a much smaller image. I was able to recalculate the size, but be careful.

Since  I couldn't slow down the animation more than what you see below  it was not a great choice. This speed is way too fast for a photo combination, and would be better as a flashing arrow, or blinking eye.

Despite the self appointed description of "Best Gif Maker on the Planet", ImgFlip is one of my least favorite APPs because of the size limitation.

GifMaker.Me looks respectable....offering free animated GIFs without registration.

GifMaker.Me pro and cons:

  • Uploaded large images but you had to upload one image at a time.
  • Allows up to 30 images for your animation.
  • Allows combination with music from YouTube. (See the animation of our Thanksgiving dinner at the bottom of this post. Click on the image or the link.)
  • Final animated image size limit is larger than other sites. 
  • Animation adjustment allowed a delayed start this is the only site that had this option.
  • "Constrain proportions" option so you can avoid distorting your image. This was the only APP that I found with this option.
  • Adjustment for animated speed is very wide adjustment.
  • Allows GIF to play backwards!


  • After a week our fabulous animated GIF of the Thanksgiving table was completely gone. The animated GIF dissappears....poof! We don't know why. Maybe adding the YouTube link for music caused this to happen. I will be checking into this and updating this post.
  • The small animated GIF below still works. 
  • This site put a white border above and below my image. Yuk! Ifyou have a white website it may not matter to you. For me the image is unusable except for this demo. I am very disappointed because this was the best animated GIF site.
  • Perhpas you can figure out out to get rid of this border.Output_L9Wps2


MakeAGif looks kind of cheezy, (bouncing boobs and dancing girls are a real turn off) but I decided to try it anyway.

Make a gif pro and cons:

  • Allowed me to upload 18 images and it looks like I could upload even more.
  • Allowed upload of large 1.75MB to 2 MB images.
  • Click and uploaded images so that they uploaded simultaneously while you selecting your next image.
  • Allows you to rearrange the order of the images after they are uploaded.
  • Allows tags for your animated GIF.
  • Allows download of animated GIF.


  • No uploades of images over 2 MB.
  • You can not delete an image...this is not good. Once you have your set of images for animation... if you have a  duplicate or unsuitable image, NUTS! you have to start over.
  • No "Constrain Proportions" thus you could easily distort your animated image.
  • Adjustment for animated speed in NOT slow enough, even the slowest speed was a little too fast. I experimented with this image and uploaded two doubles for some images so that I could have a image linger for a longer period of time.

I did not like the categories on the site for my GIF. Obviously they are usually dealing with questionable entertainment content and I am concerned about sharing my images on a site with sleazy entertainment.

I recommend using the custom size for your animated GIF.

One fabulous aspect for MakeAGif was that you could download your own image. Bad news was they inserted a MakeAGif logo onto my image. Do you see it? If I had made the animation myself in PhotoShop Image Ready that would never happen.

Concluding comments:

New APPs can create animated GIFs super easy but not all APP sites are created equally.  If you know of a better APP recommendation let me know.....every site had different limitations, pros and cons.

I prefer to animate the GIFs myself to control quality, but if you don't know how to animate GIFs, these APPs are good quick options.

My one concern is that these GIFS made from the free APPS will work not work on all technology, tablets and devices since the APP may be Flash based. Let me know if the animations do or don't work for you. 

Working on the pencil installation with young student 2011.


Superhero images - now animated

Digital Image (extensions) - Or alphabet soup? A quick tutorial.

IMAGE FILE NAMES can be your code for managing photographs.


Jamie Spinello's Copycat Discovery! This wasn't supposed to happen!

After the posts last week about copycat problems, Jamie Spinello contacted me on Facebook. Jamie says that she has discovered that three of her necklace designs have been copied almost exactly by Forever 21, Charlotte Russe, and Nasty Girl.

It takes a lot of courage to speak out about these issues. There is no easy solution. Recognizing the problem and a willingness to speak publicly about the struggle to protect your work takes courage, a lot of courage.

Think about the issues presented here. What if this happened to you?

Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Jamie Spinello in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASK Harriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is implied.

The red questions are my questions to Jamie Spinello.

If you have your own questions, why not ask Jamie in the comments?


I am not an attorney, I am only stating what I have learned so far. My actions regarding the copycats have just begun. My story is not yet over. 

Profile of Jamie SpinelloBefore beginning this narration of my story, I'd like to reinforce that it is a good practice to get in the habit of registering copyright for all the designs an artist creates and wants maximum protection. That is a step all artists need to start taking if they are career artists/ designers.

Also, it is $35 per piece to register a copyright online. If your work qualifies (read the details and fine print) you can register a whole "series" for $35 which would save a ton of money. Make sure it qualifies by the definition of "series" as defined by the US Copyright Office, which is a bit different than an artist's definition. 

Jamie Spinello story starts with this email:


Thanks for your interest in my story. I appreciate you sharing it. There is misleading and confusing information about whether or not an artist can defend their work. Many people seem to think "no", but if you go to the US copyright office's website, they have a number of free .pdf downloads on the subject available for anyone to read and educate themselves. There they can read about what is called "common law copyright".

"Common Law copyright" is an automatic copyright given to a work upon creation, "pen to paper" so to speak. Common law copyrights are backed by proof of first publication and first sale dates. If you publish something online with an e-commerce site, a record of its existence in time is created and preserved.

For example listing an item on Etsy and paying for that listing fee through PayPal, once it is available for public view, it is "published" on that day, both an Etsy and a PayPal record will exist for this.  The first time the item sells, another record in time is created that can serve as evidence, especially if it is through PayPal or another reputable payment service that keeps exact records.

Although it is not required to register your designs because of common law copyright, it is advisable to do so as extra protection, first and foremost because the infringer will suffer a much greater monetary loss once the copyrights are filed with the US Copyright Office site (there are many details about this, read more at the US Copyright Office site) , which makes it a bigger risk for them and it shows that you are poised to defend yourself should someone choose to try to take advantage of you.

I get really upset when I see people say, "Oh well, nothing you can do, can't copyright art" etc., not only because it is a really callous thing to say something like that to someone that has just been robbed, but even more so because it is simply FALSE. The false rumors about artists not having any rights need to stop.

I think the photos speak for themselves.


The way that I found out about all of this, is that I happened to be reading some forums and someone was upset that a big company had stolen one of their paintings and put it on a t-shirt (with the artist's signature still on it and everything).



Right then I thought, "Hmmm wouldn't it be horrible if...." and then I went to Google Image Search and reverse image searched one of my most graphic necklaces.

Google-Reverse-Image-Search-Box-CameraWithin seconds, there were gold plated copies of my design popping up in the Google image results. I was shocked! "This wasn't supposed to happen! This can't be real. This can't happen to me!" I thought.

So after one search, I did another reverse image search of another design, replicas popped up, and then a reverse image search of another, and more replicas popped up. At that point, I decided to educate myself as fast as possible about what my rights were regarding copyright infringement and to seek an attorney.


How long ago did you make this discovery for the necklaces?
I discovered the first knockoff of my work at the beginning of October 2013. I discovered many more of my necklaces and earrings being knocked off by well-known stores all on the same day.

After I posted about the first infringement that I had found, people messaged me about more infringements that I had not even seen yet. Some of my designs have been for sale online and through large retailers for many months in 2013 without me knowing.

I think all artists and designers need to do reverse image searches of their work at least once every couple of months and get in the habit of formally copyrighting their work that they want to protect seasonally. This is a serious problem and large mass producers are thinking they can get away with it.  
What has been your legal action so far?
I have gathered and cataloged a ton of evidence. I am letting my social media followers and customers know about this issue, so that they can keep an eye out and also know that these knockoffs are not authorized by me if they see them in stores.  I am currently working with attorneys.

The copycats are competing in the same market. Do you think the copycats of your jewelry could cause customer confusion?
That was my number one first concern. I don't want my customers thinking that my ideas and my designs are not my own if they see the knockoffs of my work in any of those stores. I also do not want my customers thinking that I willingly do business with those companies. I have a different set of values than a store that mass produces items.  I am a one woman handmade studio. I do not mass produce any of my creations. I take pride in designing all of my work myself and making my designs by hand one at a time.
I wonder why you're being reserved about this?
I just want to be as professional as possible by maintaining a level head through this all.

Jamie will you tell us more about your legal battles as your case evolves?
I don’t know what specifics I will be able to give along the way, as I mentioned before I am at the beginning of this. If there are specifics that I think could help others, I will ask my attorney first if it is OK to share details. If nothing else I would be happy to talk more specifics after a resolution is found.

Jamie Spinello
Austin, Texas

Looking For Copycats of Your Work

As mentioned in previous posts.....the copycat problem is every where and it can happen to anyone.  So how can any of us find out if someone is copying our work?  Well, in our techno media enriched world . . .  there is an app for that.

In story after story there has been tool that has helped discover copycats - Google's Reverse Image Search. 

There are four ways to use Reverse Image Search. I practiced with all four for several hours in preparation for this post and tomorrow's revelation....and found a multitude of discoveries. 

The four ways to use Reverse Image Search are:

  • Drag the image into the search box:
  • Upload an image;
  • Paste image URL into the box;
  • Right Click the image to use a Firefox or Chrome App

THE BIG SURPRISE IS: CHANGING THE METHOD for the Reverse Image Search CHANGES THE RESULTS!  In fact, the results may vary widely! 

BermanConv2ZazzleFor my own test, I decided to use this image of my teacups.

My reason for selecting this group is that they were used on the cover of the book The Fine Art of the Tin Can, but my name would not be associated with any images of the book. I thought this would be a great test.

Furthermore, I have two images of the same group (one with a graduated background and one on a white background). Would the background impact the Reverse Image Results?


Start your Reverse Image Search by CLICKING on the camera icon in the Google Image Search Box.

A SEARCH BY IMAGE box opens up.


Dragging an image into the box or uploading an image produced the same results if you used the same exact image. When I changed between a PNG and a JPG, I got different results.

Uploading a PNG image produced the following Reverse Image Results.  


Uploading a JPG image produced another set of Reverse Image Search Results!

Uploading a URL for an image from my website shows a different set of images.
The results included the book, one of my bracelets, another group of my teacups, a few other unrelated images of my work, and 100 more images that have nothing to do with me or my work. It seemed to show images with similar colors and unrelated content.



The final test uses an APP for Firefox. This APP is available for both Chrome and Firefox. This option is a lot faster to use, but produced the smallest number of results.

After downloading the Firefox APP for Reverse Image Search, right click on any image.  As an example, I am using these cups as a test for how the effectiveness of reverse image search.


Right click on the image.... do you see how the Reverse Image Search is now an option? With the Firebox APP, I only got three Reverse Image Search Results (the fewest number of images) for any method.

However, this method did include an image "borrowed" by a person with a Google+ profile without attribution, name of the artist, or link to my website.


I visited the page..... which turned out to be a Google + profile. What irritates me is that people borrow the image without an attribution or link back to my website. 


I am not going to worry about this now, however this has been a stunning or even shocking revelation from Reverse Image Search.

My observations of Google Reverse Image Search.

  • The size of the image affects search results.
  • Type of image (GIF, PNG, JPG ) affects search results.
  • Method used for Reverse Image Search produces different results.
  • Uploading an image or dragging an image into the search box produced nearly identical results.
  • The Firefox APP produces the smallest selection of images.

Every variable of image type and size changes the Reverse Image Search Results.
Reverse Image Search is still in a development phase. The results are inconsistent, but it seems to be improving, and it is another tool for protecting your art or craft from copycats.

Are you concerned about preventing copycats? Read the post "Copycat, copyright or coincidence - simple steps for prevention for suggestions to protect your work. Use the Google Reverse Image Search frequently to be proactive doing a few tests for the most effective results.

Stay tuned to tomorrow's post about another example of copycats and what we can learn.


Copyright and COPYCATS

Copyright and COPYCATS

Recently I learned some details about a far too common practice in which contract designers and manufacturers surf the internet for design ideas.  They are looking for trends in consumer tastes to "inspire" new design concepts.  Unfortunately, the line between "inspiration" and "copy" which may be clear to most of us has been crossed on enough occasions to raise real concern.

Therefore,protect your work with a registered copyright.  

Copycatsh Legally, copyright belongs to the person who can prove that they are the earliest author or original creator.  But one small additional step can make a big difference if you find someone copying your work. 

"Registering" your copyright through the US Copyright Office provides a clear legal foundation (i.e. a dated document officially issued by the US Copyright Office) that you are indeed the original creator.  

However, even a registered copyright does not automatically protect your designs and ideas from infringement.  The Copyright Office will not take action against an infringer.  If you discover that some entity is copying or infringing on your designs, then you (at your own expense) must sue the infringer in court for copyright infringement.  But the registered copyright provides a powerful foundation supporting your claims.


With or without a registered copyright,
you must be an active advocate for your work and for the ethics of our community.

You can register copyright on your design (or series of designs) at any time.

So the real question is, How should I decide whether or not to register the copyright of my work?         

Registering your copyright does cost money, a minimum of $35 per application.  So it is probably not worth registering every single piece of work that you make.  However, if you create a particularly novel design or a design that will likely influence subsequent work or a series, then the expense and effort of registering your copyright may be worthwhile. 

Even with registered copyright, legal enforcement via the courts may be too expensive and time consuming and far beyond the resources of most single individuals.

Consequently, social norms and raising awareness can actually be the most effective path to quell growing copycat abuse. The internet can help this call for action . . . and  I am advocating for a change in our collective thinking.  We need to raise our voices loud enough and expect a new behavior regarding "borrowed" or copied designs, i.e. a policy that compensates artists and makers for commercial use of our art and craft designs.

Instead of just shaking our heads, giving up, or slinking back to our studios, we need to bring visibility and awareness to the copycat problem. 

Many artists and makers are afraid that any controversy, even as the victim, will shine a negative light on their work. 

I understand this fear. This week I witnessed what was intended to be an open discussion about the issues turn into an abusive fight over craft carrion.  As long as the craft community can't stand together with united voices for just treatment of fellow artists and makers, we will continue to be exploited.

Look at the real and growing impact of copycats.  It is time we said out loud that stealing our designs is UGLY.  It is illegal and unethical to copy other people's work.

Kim Lyons says: "Where I sell on the weekends, its flooded with foreign manufacturers (and local stylists) taking pictures. There are apps now that allow the photographer to be even more sneaky with their i-phones. Some days you get exhausted by all the "no photos" or "please delete that photo" that it distracts from selling.

Lyons continues: "And yes they do like simple designs that are easy to rip off. But blaming the artist for having a simple style is not fair. Those styles are the bread and butter keeping the artist afloat."

"Blaming the artist for creating simple designs, is the same mentality of blaming any victim for being victimized." END QUOTE

Going back to the copycats:
This flock of predators pick over the craft community for mainstream manufacturers and marketing venues. The stores with their distribution channels, brand names and superior marketing budgets assume that the artists/makers will never find the copycat version or we will just walk away in defeat. They are counting on our collective passivity.

As a community we can change the culture of defeat and tolerance of exploitation.  We can raise our voices in a chorus to call out copycat abusers.

It can be worth your time individually and collectively.  Design fees could range between  $2,000 to $5,000. (That is a guess...anyone want to tell me clearly what to ask for as a fee? There are many variables.) Typical terms could be a flat fee or a percentage of sales or both.  Ideally, a contractual arrangement should be agreed upon before the company starts manufacturing and selling the product. 

Copycatscratch72shMy hope is that these posts and the numerous discussions on Facebook bring visibility to the ethics within the design communities. 

It is time that we ask our craft organizations and marketing channels to support a voice against copycats.

Help make the change you want to see in crafts. Do not let copycats continue to steal from the arts and crafts community. Raise visibility for these issues from within and without.


Are you an artist reading this? What actions should you be taking to protect your work?


Copyright - Practical and Financial Issues

Copyright - Legally Protecting Your Work

A response to comments on Copycat, Copyright and Coincidence.

Copycat, copyright or coincidence - simple steps for prevention.

The "No New Ideas" Justification for Unethical CopyCat Behavior

Preventing Copycat Behavior

What is the difference between Copyright and Trademark?


Discretion Has Value Beyond $$ Visibility

You might have noticed that the previous posts in this series about appraising value for a artwork has not included names and dollar numbers. While my personal and professional approach emphasizes transparency, there are times when the discretion and confidentiality has value.

The collector's donation of my work to a museum has been in the works for years, yet the appraiser would not mention or discuss the names of the collector or the museum. Even though I knew the name of the collector, and shared this information in our conversation, the appraiser would not confirm or deny this information.

Her commitment to anonymity  and discretion reflects her responsibility and professionalism.

Antique-bar-scaleI already knew that the collector preferred to remain as non-public as possible from previous correspondence, but to think that it could not be mentioned in a private conversation surprised me.

Sometimes, we must respect the wishes of others, even if it appears to sacrifice visibility to gain other benefits.  In this case, I have foregone the publicity that a famous collector has purchased my work to gain that collector's trust over the past 16 years.  It would have been advantageous on my resume, but a confidential relationship with the collector has value beyond visibility.

Most collectors prefer to remain anonymous. And the bigger the collector, the more likely they prefer to remain unexposed to uncontrolled visibility in the age of the internet.

Consequently, when I see artists and makers itemize the names of collectors of their work on their resumes or websites, this is a gigantic red flag.

Did the collectors approve such public revelations?  

Based on my experience, artists and makers should never publicly identify a collector's name without permission. It also gives me the hibbie jibbies when I see articles and blogs about unsolicited contacting of your collectors.

There is a very fine line that must be decided on a case by case basis. If you get to know the collectors who have purchased your work, that is great. An email now and then, may be welcomed. Sure ask them if they be mentioned on your resume or website.

At the same time, the collectors of your work may have a different perspective and not want to receive unsolicited emails, musings, newsletters or public mentions. There is no one approach, but if the collectors think your correspondence sounds needy, self promoting, or over abundant, you could easily burn that bridge.

PREVIOUS POSTS in this series:

What Information is Needed for Appraising Value?

Appraisers Approach to Appraising Value