Artist Attribution - Why It's Important and How to Do It
Last week I left a Facebook group because I was pushed beyond my personal tolerance on seeing posts there that lacked attribution to the original artist or designer. I understand that the group is mostly populated with rug hooking hobbyists and that is wonderful. Our in-person Tuesday group (currently meeting outdoors) and our Thursday Zoom group is a mix of fiber art hobbyists and professionals. Normally this distinction is not even in our consciousness as we share our work, enjoy one another's company, and learn from one another. I know I don't think much about it in those interactions; we're all just rug hookers.
Where the difference comes up for me, though, is on issues where perhaps more understanding between hobbyists and professional artists/designers/studio owners is needed. One of the most important subjects for which this is true is artist attribution.
This post is not going to delve in to the details of copyright law. There are some very good posts available in the rug hooking community on copyright law written by other artists and legal experts. Additionally, sometimes guilds do programs on copyright in an effort to educate their members about what is or is not allowed under the law. Having had a few designs infringed upon over the years, I know how it feels to have intellectual property laws and conventions violated, and it's not pleasant. But, what I am going to talk about here is more about how a respectful, warm community should treat one another, and that is with respect.
No one gets rich designing rug patterns in our traditional rug hooking niche. You can name the most successful people in our field and none of them are flying around on private jets or buying multi million dollar estates. In fact, for the vast majority of us, this is mostly a labor of true love that, if we're lucky, will pay for itself and then a bit more. I can not emphasize this enough: every sale matters to us. While every sale doesn't matter enough for us to take any kind of abuse or to silence who we are (see my blog post 'Shut Up and Sing' for reference), every sale that does not include those things matters to our bottom line.
So, if we care about our financial bottom lines, is this really a labor of love? Yes, it is. I have a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration/Marketing and a wealth of pre-rug hooking corporate and real estate work experience that I could be more handsomely paid to put to use. Additionally, I would not be able to maintain an inventory-heavy based business (as opposed to zero-inventory businesses like drop-shipping premade products and just acting as a middle man, or strictly service sector businesses, as examples) if I did not earn some profit from adding value to that inventory and selling it. These realities apply to my retail and wholesale rug hooking studio, but they also apply to artists who strictly make and show finished art. Those artists still need to support all of their supplies, their time, costs of promoting their work, gallery fees, and, in many cases, their very lives. In short, artists and makers of all kinds need to make money and there is nothing shameful about that.
Artists and makers also thrive on kind words spoken not only to us, but to others about us in ways that help spread the word on who we are and what we are doing. Of course we each have our own ways of marketing what we do and know that the primary responsibility for that is on us. But word of mouth is a powerful help to us and, in fact, many of us use it to raise one another up too. If you follow my social media you will notice that I am often promoting someone else's work on it. I believe a rising tide lifts all boats and I am grateful when other artists promote something I am doing as well. Employing word of mouth is the easiest, cheapest, most non-committal way you can help another artist. It is so easy and cheap, in fact, that there is almost no reason not to do it when the opportunity arises. There is especially no reason to skip it when someone is showing their finished piece hooked from that artist's pattern.
This is why I am so taken aback when I see my patterns, or those of other artists that I sometimes recognize and sometimes don't, hooked by others (legitimately, assuming the patterns were purchased from the designers) and presented online for admiration with zero reference to the designer or studio of origin. I want to be clear. Pattern designers and studios LOVE seeing their work hooked in the multitude of creative ways our amazing and talented customers hook them. We LIVE for that and are so GRATEFUL for their business. This is fact. I have literally cried tears of joy when I've seen one of my patterns hooked in a particularly impactful way.
However, when the work is then presented online or in a show with zero mention of the design's origin, we feel diminished in some way. We may feel diminished just because, hey, it would be great to have the recognition; we put our souls in to this work and many designs have deep meaning for us. We may feel diminished because we know that if people knew who designed the piece, they might come to us for that pattern too. We may also feel diminished because we know that others might come to us for something similar, if not that pattern. Or, we may feel diminished because it seems as though our creative genesis of that work has literally been forgotten.
But it's not just about us. When I was learning to hook rugs, I started to recognize different designers just by seeing a finished piece. I can still recognize many artists' work in an instant and, if it's based on a pattern for sale, I know exactly where I can get that to hook myself if I choose. The reason I have this body of what feels like intuitive knowledge when viewing hooked rugs all around our community is because the original designer was made known to me. In other words, the artist attribution was present enough times that I was able to learn on sight whose work I was looking at and how to procure it myself. It is literally a service to all rug hookers, whether they make a hobby of hooking or make a living of hooking, for us to always share a design's origin.
Finally, it's just the right thing to do.
I have often heard that people just don't know how to do this, so I thought it might be good to offer a little primer here on how to do artist attribution for each commonly used social media platform and, if you have one, on blog sites. So here we go.
General things to think about across all social media/online platforms:
Do you have the name of the artist or studio spelled correctly?
I know. A lot of us have crazy names and even crazier names for our studios. My maiden name was Colangelo, which no one could spell, so you'd think I'd have chosen a simple name for my studio. I didn't. Instead I chose to name it for our beloved historic home. So, as an example, even though our studio name is Parris House Wool Works, I see attempted attributions (which yes! I appreciate!) to Paris Hill Wool Works, Paris House Wool Works, Paris Hill Hooking, and lots of other adaptations. When checks come in this way, the tellers at my bank look at me and say, "You know...we can't accept this." So, just take a moment to make sure that you have the right spelling/word series for the artist or studio you are making an honest effort of naming.
What social media platforms is the artist/studio active on?
If you follow the artist or studio on a particular social media platform or blog space, just pay attention to how they name themselves on that space. This will help you with tagging them in your post. As a general rule, a social media platform shows you when an artist/studio has been successfully tagged by turning a different color and becoming clickable. If they are not on social media but have a website, often you can link their website to your post.
To tag an artist/studio on Facebook know how they identify themselves on that platform. For example, our FB page is simply 'Parris House Wool Works' and if you go to it and look under our page name on the left sidebar, you will see that to tag us on Facebook you just type:
This will be the same format for any artist or studio page you want to tag. They will have a name for the page and underneath an "@" something that is how their page is tagged on FB.
So the FB post would just include a line that would be typed, "Design by @parrishousewoolworks" and Facebook would convert that "@" phrase to show "Parris House Wool Works" in a clickable way.
Facebook also does some searching while you type, so as you type it might even suggest the page and all you'll have to do is click on it on a little drop down menu that pops up.
Tagging on Instagram is done exactly the same way. Please note that because different platforms have different name length allowances, sometimes artists/studios are named differently on different platforms. For example, our IG handle is just @parrishouse.
I don't love Twitter because Twitter is mean these days, BUT, if you're going to use it, tagging is done similarly. Our Twitter handle is @parrishousewool.
I'm just going to say that Pinterest is a real problem. Our Pinterest handle is also @parrishousewool but Pinterest does not make it easy to tag or maintain provenance for an image back to its original maker. Although we have over 13,000 monthly viewers on Pinterest, it is the platform we pay the least attention to at the moment because of its flagrant disregard for keeping images with their origins.
We do our best by watermarking some images and having most of our images link back to our website or shops when clicked, but Pinterest is the most difficult social media platform on the internet on which to protect your copyright or have an interested customer find you if they don't see the image on your page first.
I'm thinking that if you have your own blog you probably don't need this instruction, but the best way to provide artist attribution on your blog post is to hyperlink the website of the artist you wish to credit.
Here's what to do:
Type the name of the website for the artist/studio you want to credit.
Highlight that and then click on the "link" icon in your editor.
Put in the website's URL and hit "save."
The name of the website should then show up in the body of your text as a clickable link. Always be sure to test it to make sure it works prior to publishing your blog post.
Caveat - different blog platforms and editors may have a slightly different series of clicks, but this is a fairly universal way for it to be done.
Finally, most social media sites and some blog platforms allow the use of hashtags. Hashtags are great because they help people to find large collections of things they are looking for. Hashtags you can use can be as broad as #rughooking or as specific as #parrishousewoolworks.
For example, I have a hashtag for my upcoming book, #seasonsattheparrishouse, and a hashtag for my lake cottage, #sunsethavenmaine. When our guests at Sunset Haven use the accompanying hashtag, all of the pictures ever tagged that way by anyone are collected under that tag and can be searched that way. It's not only fun, but it's a great way to help others find an artist, maker, or page you'd like to help out.
Hashtagging is usually done in addition to the kind of page tagging I've spoken about above, as an extra way to put that post in to the larger collection of posts on the internet about that artist/maker/page.
I hope this explanation and mini-tutorial has been helpful. Please understand that this is not about ego or greed on the part of artists and makers. This is about survival, especially in a pandemic year when so many in person classes, shows, exhibits, and more have been cancelled for your favorite artists. The internet is one of the most powerful tools we have ever been given to disseminate information and, as hard as it may be to believe at this moment in history, it can be used for good. Crediting artists and makers for their work is an absolute good, with no downside at all. There aren't too many things we can say that about!
Thank you for reading and if you have any questions at all about how to do this, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am happy to answer questions or explain any of these ideas further. And for those of you who I see tagging Parris House Wool Works in your posts, thank you from the bottom of my heart. It means the world to me.
- Elizabeth Miller