from the letters file…

It’s a good thing I don’t share all the letters I receive as some just make me want to throw something and others make me want to shed a tear. Some are so uplifting, yet too personal or bittersweet at times to publish on the blog.  This week so far I have received one of each.  Just for balance.
Remember Balance? Balance has been a theme here over time on the blog and in reality, everyday.
Which brings me to an email I received this morning.


I ran across a piece of art that I thought was public domain but have traced it back to you. I work for Hanes, and was thinking about using the art “Indigo wall panel” in a panty print but doing it in different colors, modified digitally so that it can be rotary screen printed. Would you grant me permission to use? If not, I will do something different and try to create the look of the technique digitally and that’s perfectly fine. Have a great day.

Thank you either way,



So, basically he is saying that they want permission to use the image of my shibori work as a shortcut to a graphic design to screen print onto underwear.  And if I don’t grant permission, they will “create the look of the technique digitally” and carry on. In my mind, I hear- “we will alter your image enough (digitally) so as to be able to call it our own or derived and skip your permission altogether.  Have a great day!

So what happened to common courtesy?  How about “I came across your work (while searching for patterns in indigo and shibori images online that we could glean for free use of artwork for our commercial product line) and would love to use your image and compensate you modestly (say $500) for it’s use.

I don’t know.  I really don’t know anymore.  Why? When a company that has reported net sales of $5.7 billion in their most recent report has their design staff searching the internet and basically bullying artists(my opinion) into granting permission for use of their works I just don’t know anymore.

So what say you, fair readers?

Should we say yes and allow them to use this artwork knowing that every time we see this pattern on Hanes panties (and we will see them) we will be reminded of the corporately owned world we must now operate within?  It might be a good thing to remind ourselves of this on a regular basis.  It is in all our lives daily in even the smallest of things.

Or should we say no, allowing them to feel like they did the right thing by asking and either remake my design in their own image (costing them a bit more) or even just to continue searching online for some other image they can use without actually having to do more than work the keyboard.

Indigo Blues was published in 2012. Like many images of my work, I find them regularly online without attribution.  This is a detail shot of the full piece that was sold through my online shop quite some time ago. The full image here.
indigo blues

On the other side of Balance, I received an order for moons the other day with an immediate email follow-up note from a fellow undergoing a very serious health challenge.  Having been hospitalized for many recent months he tells me the following:

 I have decorated each room I’ve spent time in– sometimes 4 to 6 weeks at a stretch — with fukuro obi hangings and other silk kimono fabrics,  which have always brought pleasure to me and to visitors.  A calming healing environment visitors would exclaim!    I will continue this “tradition” of Japanese design in the rooms when I re-enter for hospital for the transplant, a “cure”, in early September.  I plan to add your beautiful  moons to the room.  Many thanks.

and I reply(in part)…

It will be a privilege to make some moons for you.  Thank you for your order.

 I can imagine your room…your creating it with a certain peaceful attitude that promotes calmness, enjoyment, and healing qualities for both you and your visitors.  

I will be thinking of this as I dye your fabrics.  My favorite thing to do is to create intentional fabrics that I can infuse with thoughts and intentions for their recipients as I make them. Thank you. Be well, take care…


Of course a special package is being prepared.

14 thoughts on “from the letters file…

  1. Mo Crow

    ah the thorny wilds of this 21st C world where everyone is an “artist” and everything is shared often with no credit to the original artist. Graphic designers get paid a lot of money for their work as you should be if they want to derive a design from your work!


    1. shiborigirl Post author

      yes, it is interesting that these folks spend so much time gleaning the work of others for their own use instead of using/developing their own skills to joyfully create. But ahh…the corporate world often has no place for creativity unless it is applied to keeping costs where they want them-by any means. I found this article (albeit from 2012) even more disturbing.


  2. AmandaWW

    I think you should ask for payment for the use of your design, and politely point out your inherent right to copyright, including the right to sue or publicize their theft of your design if this right isn’t respected. You don’t have to directly threaten, just gently remind them of the laws of copyright.


    1. Cathey Byrd

      Negotiate. Ask about their distribution, expected term of production. I agree with the idea of “gently” reminding them of copyright laws (I’m sure they’re already well aware), but you also have the arsenal of a public forum. What do YOU think would be a fair price once you find out the usage? And oh, by the way, if you do decide to allow the use, make sure your agreement defines the limitations. You are NOT selling your art, you are selling the right to use your art for a limited manner and over a limited period of time. Good luck. Oh, by the way, I speak from experience–my husband was an illustrator for many years and this situation is not uncommon.


      1. freestyledesignblog

        I agree with both these comments. Negotiate is the right word for it. Perhaps you should consult a lawyer first for some guidance. Personally I think this is a pretty low act – asking permission but then telling you they will ‘borrow’ it anyway ‘with changes’. I don’t know how much they need to alter an image before it is considered not to be copyright infringement. I believe in Australia a design for a product must differ substantially in 7 different aspects before it is no longer considered to be plagiarism. I wonder how many other people have had their art virtually ripped off in this manner. It is enough to make me wary of putting anything out there.


  3. Pat

    Dear Shibori Girl,
    Please forward your letter to Joel, this letter you wrote, and let his conscious be his guide. Kudos for doing the right thing for the one who is ill. I am sure what you send will be worth much more thought than any spent on Joel. I personally do not like Hanes, they miss size by two and always do not fit.


  4. Michelle in NYC

    Having never successfully negotiated any contract for anything I’ve ever produced, but having friends who have, I suggest you send a friendly acknowledgement of the request along with a contract containing your terms of use and fee. I doubt a copyright reminder is necessary because even beginners know that such exist and a contract will imply it. Meanwhile, whatever you provide for the very sensitive person undergoing a serious health challenge will more than balance the scales. Good outweighs bad as light defeats darkness.


    1. shiborigirl Post author

      I just looked up and see the moon almost directly overhead in the blue morning sky. it is showing its day side and it’s unseen night side. the sun rising in the east chasing the moon as it moves illuminating the day side. i’m finishing up that special package today.


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