studio drawclose : on copyright, poverty mindset, and creative empowerment

What does the language we use to discuss copyright issues actually communicate?

The copyright warning. One of the pesky obstacles to re-publishing and selling my handknitting patterns. I’ve mulled this over for years, in a variety of contexts.

The language I find in the knitting community often reminds me of a scolding schoolmarm. The underlying assumptions project negativity into the hobby.

I worked in my local yarn stores in Boston and Pittsburgh for over four years. I loved teaching people to value their experience with the craft, and build skills based on those experiences. So many of my students had never been empowered by learning from their successes. So many of my students began their knitting journey with little or no value for their own perspective.

Many non-knitters state they don’t understand the value of the creative journey. “You buy all the supplies, and then you have to make it?” Much of American culture values consumption cycles to the point of addiction. The consumer valued only because of what and how much they consume. The active, mindful handcrafter knows,  value comes from within.

I think each knitter takes their own journey from ‘consumer-knitter’ to ‘mindful-knitter’. I think that the copyright discussion is a part of that journey; at times it can be the initiation on that journey.

To Knitters : The copyright message from Studio Drawclose Knits

Assuming each knitter makes her or his own journey of discovery,  the conversation about copyright, use rights, and paying the designer for the pattern remains constant. In bringing it up, I assume nothing about you. I simply inform you, dear knitter, of my point of view, regardless of your place on this journey.

People don’t like to pay for what they want (when a price is provided) if they don’t value themselves and the activities that are enabled by that activity. Let’s consider that. Poverty mindset runs rampant in a culture that encourages people to remain constantly disappointed; that mindset poisons activities that are ‘ours’, encouraging us to constantly search for ‘more’ or ‘something else out there’ to provide us with value. I’m not interested in that, for myself or others.

My copyright message becomes an invitation to respect those who enable your creative process. In creating this pattern for you to knit, I have respected your ability to enjoy the process of making, maybe learn a few new things. Please return that respect by purchasing the pattern, and keeping it away from the xerox machine (or the “copy-paste” functions of your computer) as a ‘gift’ for your friends, knitting group, etc. All making takes time and energy, both mine and yours.

Respect your time, your work, your joy. Thank you for considering these ideas.


For Non-Knitters :

I am distributing hand knitting patterns under the imprint studio drawclose. You can find them for sale at the social knitting site Ravelry. Look for me, drawclose, there.

As the craft of knitting has spread and grown via digital culture, the ease with which people can steal (or share) the patterns that enable their activity stimulates ongoing conversations and interesting behaviors on the part of designers. Some resort to ‘locking down’ the digital media in ways that mirror DRM efforts. Others simply throw nonsensical warnings at their audience. With each visit to a local yarn store, I study how the conversation has grown and changed over time.

something about the importance of frank zappa

I might be movin’ to Montana soon
Just to raise me up a crop of Dental Floss Raisin’ it up
Waxen it down
In a little white box
I can sell uptown


I met him through his daughter, Moon Unit, who had a pop song that did really well in the early 80’s. I loved him for the kind of music that he made that was all squiggly (for the lack of a better word) that had lyrics like the ones to Montana, which run through this little essay.

Later he became Seriously Important. His testimony at the PMRC labeling hearings before Congress were aired on TV. His testimony declared creative freedom, defended personal liberty to create.


Part 1 – Frank Zappa at PMRC Senate Hearing on Rock Lyrics


Frank’s testimony provides astute insight into the gap between performer and audience. His description of audience as ‘consumers’ back then touches the contemporary audience identity of those who now get their music without paying for it.


Movin’ to Montana soon
Gonna be a Dental Floss tycoon
(yes I am)


Revisiting his testimony, I reflect on his discussion of ‘the music industry’. Record labels mediated the relationship between composer (Zappa’s language) and audience. Music was a product, to the audience. For the composer, music is an activity. The industry itself transformed music from activity to product. Congress was acting to regulate that – the way that music as a product was marketed to the audience. Zappa was testifying to how that regulation would affect the creator.


I’m ridin’ a small tiny hoss
(His name is MIGHTY LITTLE)
He’s a good hoss
Even though He’s a bit dinky to strap a big saddle or
Blanket on anyway


Zappa’s core message has been ignored. Why regulate music, declaring it good or bad? Why not provide music education in the public education systems funded by the government, so that people can decide for themselves what is good or bad? I mean, that’s the function of the constitution, right? To provide us with the liberty to enjoy our deciding of good and bad in our own lives.


He’s a bit dinky to strap a big saddle or
Blanket on anyway
Any way I’m pluckin’ the ol’ Dennil Floss
Even if you think it is a little silly, folks
I don’t care if you think it’s silly, folks
I don’t care if you think it’s silly, folks


His loopy, scribbly music. He talks about finding musical lines from the cadences of ordinary speech. Music as conversation. I’ve been learning how to write a fugue, more recently, with all of Bach’s etiquette. And here, in the fugue, is the process of conversation – a musical idea is passed back and forth between voices, evolving through slight shifts in notes and presentation. The vocabulary for the techniques of the fugue is a vocabulary of conversation.

Zappa takes that conversation from music theory to include the waveform. He talks about that in a wonderful documentary made after he was diagnosed with cancer.


Frank Zappa – Peefeeyatko


Peefeeyatko contains the transition from instrumental music to the computer as performance tool. Today’s software puts Zappa’s programmable synthesizer into ordinary computers anyone can walk into a store and buy. This is important, and overlooked, I think, in the fight over who gets to better identify our discontent.


Every other wrangler would say
I was mighty grand
By myself I wouldn’t
Have no boss
But I’d be raisin’ my lonely Dental Floss
Raisin’ my lonely Dental Floss
Raisin’ my lonely Dental Floss


Our culture struggle with the problem of music-as-product vs. music-as-experience. The form by which the audience purchases it is so easy. Click a virtual button, a virtual thing downloads to an imaginary space inside a computer. Keep track of one’s sonic possessions by looking at lines of text on a screen. Keep track of those virtual possessions using a tool that you use to write email, read the internet, and do other things. Listen to that data file by clicking on it using a virtual tool, a mouse or trackpad.

The audio file is an invisible body. LP records, 8 tracks, cassette tapes, CDs are things, they give music physical weight. Does the iPod get heavier when I sync my music to it? The experience of listening is easily forgotten. The appreciation of value provided by the listening experience? Often overlooked, for it is our experience. American culture teaches the art of dissatisfaction, in order to fuel ongoing consumption.

Its so easy it makes people forget, or never learn, that the act of creating music takes a lot of work. Work which I need to return to – I want to learn how to write a fugue by writing a fugue, and writing this essay is a little bit of a distraction from that (I’m about a third of the way through that process).

Technology makes many things very easy for us. Technology makes it easy to consume. Remember to value what comes from us, what the tools themselves can’t do – like create the music, like play or speak from the stage.


refreshing the the poetics of annihilation

Sometimes the mistake comes from seeing it all the way through to the end, without having begun.

The ease of overplanning facilitated by computers kills work the cradle. Once the imagination knows what the trip is going to be like, it doesn’t want to take it.

The drafting process is the first third of the path to having the work exist outside the mind/body. Editing is the second third. The audience meets the work, ‘publication’. The last third.

Each stage has its own demands, its own peculiar kind of sweat.


I live in a culture steeped in violence. There is violence in the work. Or there is consideration of recovering from violence, contending with it. I have made work that is psychologically or spiritually violent, yet I sit on it. Right now, I do not want to inflict it on an audience.

I am an American. Like other Americans I walk around with the blood of indiginous people on my feet, with the blood of slaves on my feet, with the blood of domestic violence on my feet. History soaked our nation’s birth with blood. We consume images and stories soaked with violence.

We can create peace. How do we create peace from a violent fabric? How does the transformation happen? Does it start with forgiving the past we have inherited, in order to simply let it drop, in order to make something new?

The poetics of annihilation are my name for looking at the violent stories of the 20th century, looking at our inheritance, and figuring out what to do with those stories. There is so much: the US government infecting african-americans with siphilus. The German government killing millions of civilians. The US dropping atomic bombs on Japan. The hundreds of millions of acts of war that individuals perpetrated at the behest of their governments.

How do we choose to witness this? We have our methods of recording, our films, our books, our internet. How can we face the weight of that violent fabric woven by those who went before us, and move forward without re-making that?

How can we, the talking monkeys, see, but not do?

Will Marion Cook’s advice to Duke Ellington

He [Duke Ellington] had begun to record and managed to sell some of his tunes to the publishers of Tin Pan Alley. But he was still not satisfied, and he confessed his unhappiness to his friend Will Marion Cook, a classically trained conductor and Broadway composer.

During long taxi rides through Central park, the two men talked about music. Cook urged Ellington to get formal training at a conservatory. Ellington didn’t feel he had time for that. “They’re not teaching what I want to learn,” he said.

“In that case,” Cook told him, “first find the logical way. And when you find it, avoid it. Let your inner self break through, and guide you. Don’t try to be anybody but yourself.”

It was advice Duke Ellington would follow all his life.

“Duke Ellington knew how to take what could be and make it what is. He understood what it took to make something invisible visible.”


From the second episode of Ken Burns’ monolithic documentary, Jazz.