Banned from bottlecaps!

That’s right. I’ve been banned from bottlecaps. And you too!

You know the cool craft idea of putting a picture inside a bottlecap and covering it with varnish? There is an artist who says she invented the idea and has copyrighted the process (although I think she means patent). I believe her. She has had her business for 14 years and is quite successful at it. Her work is very recognizable and stunning!

However, it seems other people picked up the idea back then too. I’ve seen bottlecap art like this for more than a decade. I told her and she disagreed and made me feel like I was a liar 🙁

A while back, I gave the picture bottlecaps a whirl. I didn’t feel guilty trying it out because i had seen different variations of how to make them everywhere – in craft magazines, tv shows, artist’s web sites, boutiques, etc. Just yesterday Carol Duvall showed how to make them for her holiday show. At the craft store where I shop, they have a sample of picture bottlecaps hanging up for display.

The process is sooo fun because you can make lots of cute personalized gifts. But because i saw it being sold by other artists, I didn’t want to make these keepers for sale on my web site. So I tinkered and designed a pin made with a dangling milagro and hand cut tissue paper. I varied the design enough so it would become my own design and not a knock off of any of the other’s I had seen. Safe enough i thought.

Last month I taught a few Day of the Dead classroom kid craft activities. As a gift, I made a innocent batch of DOD necklaces in bottlecaps. I had a lot of students and didn’t have a lot of cash to spend so I whipped them up. These weren’t anything special, an ordinary bottlecap, a picture slapped inside and covered with thick varnish tied to a black satin cord. Easy enough. I had ten left over. In the heat of our art booths, I thought, “What the heck, I’ll clear these out at the booth.” I never gave it a second thought. I wish I would have!

There at the festival was one of my all time favorite artists – who happens to be a bottlecap artist and the above said inventor of the picture-in-a-bottlecap process. Her stuff is the bomb – cool pictures, loaded with glitter and fun detail. (I like her worked so much that a couple years back when I was working on my La Casa Loca book I invited her to contribute a project and she did). We met in person that day at the festival, traded items and happy conversation and had a cheery weekend. I was excited to meet her in person.

Today I got a polite, but quite frank, email from her stating that I “lifted” her designs! Stunned, I couldn’t think of what she was talking about. I looked at my pin on my web site and it really was quite different than anything she did. I took it off my web site. I mentioned it and she replied that she meant the DOD necklaces at my art booth! I explained that I am not one to copy and that I had seen this idea as far back as the early 90s and it has grown in popularity. It’s not like I saw hers, got a loan and started selling them at Neiman Marcus… She then ever so politely accused me of copying another idea from someone else!

Now I feel like an idiot because i drooled all over this lady’s work and sincerely complemented her up and down – only to be accused of stealing.

When i look back, I can see it must have seemed disrespectful for me to have my cheesy bottlecaps. In all honestly, if i wasn’t so pre-occupied with running the booth I would have not set them out. It was an after thoguht, and we didn’t even really sell any, maybe a couple. What hurts is that when I explained this to this lady she didn’t believe me. She kept insisting that I’m a copier, a “lifter” and I should abide by the unwritten artists code of ethics. It was a freak one-time occurance. By looking at my art on the website I think it shows i don’t copy, my goal is to always come up with new and innovative ideas on a regular basis. And i expect for others to pick up on them. It’s inevitable.

I know the in’s and out’s of ripping off ideas. I’ve been there. I’ve seen knock off’s of my flower pots and have even seen people take Patrick’s pictures and incorporate them into assemblage pieces and sell them for lots of money. For the former, I decided to let it go – it inspired me to move on to new designs and ideas. I would rather come up with new, fresh designs than conduct a painstaking witch hunt for people trying to copy my work (I tried that and it’s draining on the soul). It’s gonna happen eventually and when it does, I’ll have a whole new crop of wicked cool stuff to debut.

My question is, how can you outlaw an art application? If it is cool enough, eventually it will go mainstream and everyone will want to try it. Record album purses, glitter on greeting cards, cigar box purses, etc…

I’m moving on from this right now. I am no longer going near any bottle caps. It was not my intention to steal or hurt anyone’s business. I simply made them as a happy gift to give to some kids so they would have something to remember about my art class. UPDATE: I love bottle caps and will continue to use them – but putting a new twist on the style!

I was so upset, offended and hurt today that i tossed out my earrings I had traded because the magical sparkle of her happy spirit of that day was gone. Not because of what she initially expressed today, that is totally understandable, but because of the way she still accused and condemned me to copycat purgatory after I explained myself.

I went into the art room and went crazy making all kinds of new things that I am quite proud of. Sigh. I think i feel better now.

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* All content/photos copyright, © Kathy Cano-Murillo, 2008.

Love & light,


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Kathy Cano-Murillo

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Hi, I’m Kathy, The Crafty Chica! My specialty is creative motivation. I’m an artist, author, and speaker and this is where I share my craft tutorials, artwork, articles, books, product lines, and workshops!

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