last week drama erupted in the blogging and crafting community regarding Sublime Stitching and Urban Threads.
i've been wanting to write about this since i first saw it, but at the same time, i felt it was important that we as a community tried to get the full picture before throwing accusations around.
the story started out with e-mails being posted publicly that were supposedly written by Jenny of Sublime Stitching. there were several different e-mails, and they were sent out to various crafters. though the e-mails claimed to be sent to "good customers", they only seemed to be sent to people who were well known in the crafting communities.
people posted them publicly, on flickr, by tiny haus of diem chau (amazing amazing embroidery), on the feeling stitchy blog, by floresita, who's very well known for her vintage embroidery transfer blog, on the early bird special blog, on etsy, on knitgrrl, on stella design gallery, the handmade nation blog, freedom of stitch, the kerr family blog, whipup.net, hot buttered toast, on craftathon.com, on glitter, on ravelry (you need to be signed in to see it)and on the dinosaurs and robots blog, which was picked up and posted on boingboing, bringing it to even more people's attention. craftgossip.com apparently did have a post up, since they're showing up in a google search, but the post has been deleted.
everyone seemed to jump to the conclusion that jenny had been ripped off, and that this was another case of small indie company being screwed over by a big company. the biggest reason people seemed offended was because it was Jenny, not because of the situation.
this gang mentality was really difficult to see and read, and was really upsetting. it felt like jenny's celebrity status was the main reason why people were upset, if a lesser known crafter had made the accusation, it wouldn't have gotten the same response. i've said before that i'm really uncomfortable with the celebrity status of some people in the craft community, and that i feel it can sometimes prevent other crafters from success, when the same people are chosen for interviews, articles, etc time after time. the whole concept is very foreign to me, as someone who doesn't keep up with celebrity gossip or that sort of thing. i had a brief twitter conversation recently about the lack of celebrity crafters in canada. while i hadn't really thought about it in that sense, it does seem to be a cultural difference. we don't really have gossip mags or tabloids here, the ones we get are all from the US. while there are definitely some people who are interested in celebrity gossip, it doesn't seem to be to the same obsessive extent that US society shows. so that's slightly off topic, but at the same time, also kinda explains why the whole thing was so disturbing. frankly, i now have less respect for the blogs and crafters who posted the information straight from jenny's mouth without making up their minds themselves.
i think it's super sleezy and crummy that Urban Threads was pretending to be an indie business when they're not. when i first found out, i felt gross that i recommended them to other machine embroiderers. and gross that i'd been buying from emblibrary.com lately too.
but at the same time, i don't know how i feel about jenny's accusation. the things shown ARE similar, but that's because the designs are certain images. there are only a few ways to draw a 50s rocket, or vintage christmas ornaments that will work out in an embroidery design.
i think it's gross that people defending jenny online aren't giving a fully clear picture, like this image
floresita admits later, AFTER someone points it out, that she set up the urban threads image to look like the sublime stitching image. (you'll note that feeling stitchy has now edited their post to remove the biased image)
the idea of an atomic pin up isn't new, jenny's design wasn't a new idea. they're both copying it from pin up artists from the 50s. this blog shows an anatomical heart design and the xmas ornaments - http://www.dinosaursandrobots.com/2009/04/upport-independent-business-and-reject.html um, it's anatomical heart. they only look one way! and the xmas ornaments are really similar to the ones i made all of my friends for christmas. if i decided to sell my file, would i be accused of stealing designs too? there's a distinct look to that style of ornament, so there's only a few ways to really draw them!
jenny designs patterns that are trendy, doesn't it make sense that others will jump on the same trends that she's noticed? SO MANY of the designs jenny sells at sublime stitching, and that Niamh sells at Urban Threads, are available on scrapbooking paper, yet i'm sure the scrapbooking companies weren't stealing designs from either of them.
i follow both blogs, urban threads and sublime stitching, and honestly, i haven't noticed the similarities. yes, they write in a similar tone, but EVERYONE in the DIY community does! we all write about wanting a new look, seeing a need for change in the craft industry, etc. everyone who's done well as a DIY artist talks at some point about how others can do well, for jenny to use that as an example of copying seems like she's reaching. (i realize urban threads ISN'T actually an DIY thing, but they're pretending that they are, so they're writing in that style. THAT is what bothers me, the pretending.)
and it bothers me that there's nothing on the sublime stitching blog about this. why hasn't jenny publicly said anything? she's just sent out e-mails, so that everyone else will make the accusations for her.
i don't know. it seems like everyone is jumping on the accusations of stealing, without a whole lot of back up.
i do think that urban threads takes inspiration from current crafting sites like craftster and etsy, but what's the difference between marketing research and stealing? if you're trying to think of a design to use, and you realize that owls are super duper trendy, is it stealing from all of the other artists that are using owls in their designs? i really don't know. and frankly, i don't think that the examples they're using are very good, and if that's the best she could come up with to compare (i'm not clear on who made the comparison images - jenny, someone else? they're being posted on multiple blogs), then maybe she shouldn't have been so quick to make the accusation.
(jenny asked about machine embroidery in her last poll, but really, i don't think jenny would do well with machine embroidery with her current policies. the vast majority of machine embroidery sites out there let you sell things you've made using their patterns (urban threads included), and jenny has a convoluted way of doing that, where you have to e-mail her and wait for her response to see if she'll approve you, and people have said that it takes forever. i think she's overestimating the amount of competition that the two companies are to each other.)
for me, the big thing is the pretending to be DIY when they're not. that's like the greenwashing that's happening now that it's "cool" to be organic, it's totally scummy.
i sent an e-mail to Urban Threads telling them how upset i was, and i was kinda abrasive in it. they sent back a perfectly nice reply linking me to both Niamh's response to the whole thing, and the statement of the president of Embroidery Library.
it's also been pointed out that Niamh O'Connor (from Urban Threads) has a profile on LinkedIn, and on it she states that she's involved with both Urban Threads and Embroidery Library.
so now i don't know. i want to believe the best of people, and i want to believe that it was simply a poor decision on Urban Threads/Embroidery Library's part to not disclose the link more publicly, that it wasn't an attempts to trick people. i've been impressed with their responses, both publicly, and in e-mails they sent to me. the fact that there has still not been a public response from sublime stitching is really bothering me.