Monday, October 10, 2011

On Being Honest

I have had my photos stolen twice in the last month. Let me rephrase that: I have simply caught two others stealing my photos. Who knows how many other small businesses are out their using my photos and claiming my work as their own.

When I was a college student I heard this phrase:

I have been asked what I mean by my word of honor. I will tell you. Place me behind prison walls - walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground - there is the possibility that in some way or another I may escape; but stand me on the floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor never to cross it. Can I get out of the circle? No. Never! I'd die first!
Karl G. Maeser.

Every time I walked into the Maeser building for my horrible sleep-inducing Philosophy class on the campus of Brigham Young University, I thought about these words and used them to measure my integrity. College was hard for me. Dang hard. I never got great grades and probably could never get into graduate school if I even wanted to (which I don’t). But I was proud to say that every ounce of lousy homework and testing I turned in was my own. Even when I would leave the testing center crying because I got another D on a test, at least it was my D. Yes, I did graduate.

So imagine how I felt today when I found a competitor who had stolen my Christmas stockings photos. My heart was racing and my fingers shaking so hard I couldn’t type a reply to her.  This competitor stole 12-16 of my photos, rubbed out my watermark, and posted my work as her own.

Here’s an example:

My photo with original watermark:

DSC_1462 copy

And after what I am sure was hours of using the ‘clone stamp’ tool in Photoshop, here is a screen shot of that same photo on her Facebook business page that she claimed as her own:


Notice there is no sign of my watermark left across my mantle. I zoomed way in on this photo—no scarring was left from her Photoshop attempts. This is where the dishonesty just blows my mind.

What is my integrity worth? It’s priceless. Without my integrity I have nothing and am nothing. If I can’t be trusted, there is no point to much else. I can be lazy, sarcastic, eat too many carbs, and be judgmental, but I am an honest person. I could list a bunch of dumb things like how when I get home from Macey’s Grocery Store I find out I wasn’t charged for the milk in the bottom of the shopping cart and how it angers me that I have to return to the store to pay for that milk, even though it was their mistake. It annoys me, but I do it. Because it’s the right thing to do.

We need a return to honesty, to integrity, to virtue, to all the values that make a civilization tick.

cynthia in sewing roomI wish the folks that steal from me could see me……..picking out my fabrics for hours at a time, online and in stores, to find the perfect combination….. I wish they could see me digitizing fonts at my computer, sampling them in satin stitch and filled stitches on several types of linen and canvas to find the perfect combo, often having to redraw each letter from scratch because the stitch angles are all wrong…. I wish they could see the dishes piled high in my house and my sticky floors because instead of cleaning, I am sewing my fingers to the bone to fill my orders. I wish they could see me awake at 2am because my mind has finally come up with the perfect way to interface the stockings that will give them structure and yet not make them stiff….. I wish they could see me dragging my knuckles across my arms at night because of chronic pain in my arms that no doctor (neurologist, chiropracter, orthopedics) can figure out. I wish they could see me emailing each customer countless times to ensure that they get the perfect font for their special Christmas stockings.I wish they could see me with my Nikon camera, set up my tripod, fiddle with the aperture, the shutter speed, deciding whether to shoot in RAW mode or just a vivid .jpg, open my mini blinds, attach the bounce flash, take the photos, then spend loads of time editing them in Photoshop only to spend even more time writing the listings for etsy to sell the stockings.

In other words, I wish they could see me work like a dog for my little business instead of stealing it all from me with just a few hours of crooked Photoshop time for them. Maybe then they would think twice about stealing from another small business.

But until then I’ll keep adding ugly watermarks to my photos.


Patta Patta said...

I hope this thief sees this post, Cynthia. This truly makes me so angry.

Scott, Mandi and the boys said... are an AMAZING woman. One that is true to her values and beliefs. You are talented, one that many admire and look up to. Someone may be able to steal your designs but they can never steal what you believe in and are. I wish I was half as talented as you. It's too bad everyone does not have the same values as you and tries to impress and earn money from someone elses work. Keep up the amazing work and know that all those hours and sleepless nights do not go unnoticed because many of us admire you for "more" than your work. Hopefully nothing like this happens again. Try and take it as a positive thing and know that the reason they probably stole from your designs is because they can't come up with something that good on their own...although I am in no way shape or form trying to say it is right!! You are amazing inside and out!! :•}

The Sassy Closet said...

I've never understood how someone can steal from someone else- ESPECIALLY from someone they admire. Makes me sad. Make me angry for you. And this post makes me proud of you (and I don't even know you)! I'm a customer and have ooh-ed and ahh-ed over those stocking pics. Hope to make some for my family, inspired by your fabulous work. Trust me-your style, color choices & look are ALL unique to you. No one can copy that! So disgusting that people work so hard to take from others. Imagine what they could accomplish if they put that effort to work in an honest manner. Just sad.

Brian and Carly said...

Reading this brought tears to my eyes. People are so cruel and unfair sometimes. So happy to have a friend like you.

Candy said...

Oh how I miss you and our talks about all our Etsy issues. This however, is something completely unique. It's terrible and awful that someone would do this! BIG, FAT, BAD MARK in heaven for them!
You are amazing and my hero in a lot of ways! I related to your post because as of this moment it is 11:26pm and I just cut out six baby bibs. I should be asleep, I should have made my kids' lunch for tomorrow, I should have swept. Nobody sees your behind the scenes hard work.
Keep your chin up. You ARE honest. YOU are admired. Your talent is like none other....I'm always bragging to friends up here that I KNOW you, and tell people all about your Etsy shop.

sending love your way.
Now go eat some chocolate. That will make you feel better. :)

miss you.

Nancey said...

What a witch. I've heard of offshore companies/Etsians stealing photos and pdf patterns and listing them as their own, but from a fellow seamstress?...who understands the work and pain that goes into making things? How will she explain herself when her customers wonder why theirs doesn't look as good as the ones in the photos? Get a life, whoever you are.

Anonymous said...

I definitely understand where you are saying Cynthia! I swear there are people out there that seem to always ruin it for others, and never take responsibility for it. Eventually people are not going to want to post their photos online showing their artwork because people claim them as their own or steal them for no good reason.

Just keep in mind Cynthia, that those who buy from the person who is showing off your image isn't getting the true "stockings" if you know what I mean. I sure do hope people realize they are not getting the true stockings, if not hopefully they will find out soon.

Again, sorry this happened to you and doesn't continue to happen.

Sewplicity said...

Sadly we live in a world where people like this exist. I had someone steal my business name about a year ago which forced me to officially trademark it. I can empathize with your is an awful feeling to work so hard just to have someone swipe your hard work and call it their own. We must do our best to protect ourselves and our work and hope that we've done enough. I am truly sorry this has happened to you. It's hard (impossible) not to get emotionally charged when this happens, but try to stay calm and fight back with cease and desist orders which I've found effective and scary for the culprit. Good luck!

Cally said...

Infuriating - I can see why this has made you angry! In these kind of situations I find it sometimes helps to look at it from the other side and just feel sorry for them - they're trying to make something they truly admire their own, something they realise they could never achieve for themselves. I know I'd rather be you, the creative one that is stolen from, than the the person aspiring to something they could never achieve alone!

Autum said...

Wow Cynthia, how sad it that. I just keep wondering, what will her customers end up with. Certainly not a stocking exactly like the photograph. As small as this cyber world is, did she think her plagiarism would go undiscovered?

Rachel said...

I am so sorry Cynthia! I cannot imagine how this must feel. I follow your blog because you have NEVER created anything that I did not love. YOU are the best at what you do and lead me to dream and create and make me better! Thank you for your tireless hours, sticky floors, stacked up dishes and lack of sleep to strive for excellence. I so appreciate you!

Pam said...

I'm 53 but I still believe in and practice my fathers most important lesson to me and my siblings. HONESTY. Never steal or lie. To this day I can not tell a lie or pumped a penny over at the gas pump and not go back to pay for it. I read your post on Facebook yesterday and was so taken back by it that I couldn't even reply. I had a similar experience happen to me when I sold handmade stockings on Ebay. My photos were not taken but my words were. I hate that she stole your photos but even more so I hate that she stole your creativity by offering to make and sale identical stockings, YOUR STOCKINGS! I noticed that she has a lot of photos from Planet Appliques site. Planet Applique does allow you to advertise using there photos however I'm sure it is assumed that you won't use them unless you have purchased the design from them. I just wonder if she has. So sorry that this had to happen to you.

Pam said...

On a happier note, I started making two advent calendars over the weekend using your designs. What a pleasure it was to stitch them!! My grandchildren are going to be thrilled when I have them finished. Thanks for a wonderful design package and tutorial!

bulabean said...

This is terrible! I just wanted to say, that I've had it happen to me on etsy as well. A seller was using my quilt photos...I only noticed it by accident, and was shocked! The seller did take them down after I contacted them. The stockings are beautiful!

Monica said...

They may be able to steal your photos but there is no way they can replicate your incredible work. Imagine a customer's disappointment when they get this person's work when they are expecting to get your fabulous work. Guess they will be a one time customer and your customers will continue to be pleased and return buyers.
I am not trying to diminish the dishonesty but inalways try to find the silver lining.

VeronicaMade said...

How horrible for you, Cynthia! This is something I'm always worried will happen to me, and thankfully hasn't yet. I don't know what I would do if it did. I hope this person feels terrible for what she she has done. It's completely wrong and I can't believe she didn't think she would be found out, as small as the crafting world is. I can't believe there are people out there who do this. Your work is amazing and I'm continually inspired by you.

nicole said...

just so. very. wrong. I think your post about this actually kept it on the high ground. people love you cynthia and your work(sewing, photos etc) You deserve all the credit.

Farah said...

Cynthia, I am so sorry to hear that. some people are simply disgusting! It baffles me that there is such dishonesty. I would understand if she tried to make her own stocking in the same style you used, but using your picture and passing it off as her own is unbelievable. People like that cant last for long, because in the end she has to make the product and customers will notice the difference between the picture and the real thing. Keep creating, keep bringing beauty to life and karma will get to that girl!

Rebecca said...

I am really sorry to hear that. It is like identify theft in the blog world.
On a side note. I have had chronic pain in my arms and legs for the last year.
After going to ever doctor and naturopath under the sun we figured out we have black mold that is causing it.
It might be something you want to check out. You can read about it here. There is a test you can do for $150.

cynthia said...

hi rebecca,
would love to know more about the black mold problem. email me at


Sarah Redford said...

Well, I would just like to say that your blog has been saved on my bookmarks bar because you have so much talent and creativity! People can be inspired by your work but will never replicate it thank you for the inspiration.

Cathy Carmichael said...

Unfortunately it happens to all of us small business owners. So wish it didn't. :-(

The Captain's Daughter said...

The fact that you blurred out her Facebook name is a testament to your good soul!

I am so sorry this happened to you!


Anonymous said...

came across this post. Wow! but then I guess it doesn't surprise me. Leaches lurk around every corner, not just in the small business trade but ALL OVER, in every trade.

I think there is an html code that can make a photo not able to be copied from a long time ago. I'm going to go research that now and see if it something that can be used on our blogs/business websites.

I once was volunteering doing a painting job and left my purse about 10 feet away while I painted. I was on a ladder and turned around to see a girl and her boyfriend rummaging through my purse! I jumped off the ladder and chased them with my wet paint brush and paint can. And then confronted them and asked her to give back to me what she had stolen out of my purse. Her boyfriend said I was the one who was crazy and the girl flat out denied she did anything.

There are A LOT of leaches out there. We just have to deal with them I guess!

lynnie rodgers said...

Hi... I have just come across your blog site and find myself trying to tear myself away to go to my bed.... try as I might I was still reading it 2 hours later... you are such an amazing person, all the things you have achieved... I was so angry about the way you got upset when someone cheated on you, couldn't you get that person stopped from copying your work... I think it is so underhand for someone to do anything like that... my 2 daughters are always telling me to get my stuff out there as I have made lots and lots of different things but because I have a few health problems I find it such hard work to sort of advertise myself... if I had half the strenghth you have then maybe I could it... you are a very big inspiration to everyone out there... keep doing what you are doing.... Lynnie x

Cynthia said...

lynnie you just made my day, thank you for your comments.


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