Friday, 13 February 2015

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

Can you take words from one website and use them on your own?


We've all seen the anti-piracy advert at the start of DVDs - all edgy music and grainy images with shouty captions: YOU WOULDN'T STEAL A CAR... Ed Byrne does a good bit about it.
The message is, it's not ok to download films, because it's stealing.

We probably all agree. But then we've probably all downloaded something illegally at least once in our life - an mp3, a film, some software - it goes on.
What also goes on is the theft - yeah, I'm going to call it theft - of images and words online.
I've already blogged about the photos thing, but this week I've been driven over the edge by the words.

I'm a journalist by trade (not that you'd know from reading this blog, right gang?) so I'm a bit more precious about my words than most. I accept this. I also accept that not everyone has had to sit through libel and copyright training many, many times, so I think I try to be quite forgiving when I see some of our original content being used by someone else.

It has happened five or six times since we launched the current incarnation of our website: I've found words, written by me for relovedvintageinteriors.co.uk, lifted wholesale and used to sell someone else's painted furniture on another website. Sure, sometimes they've changed the odd word here and there, but not enough to make the words their own.

"So what?" you might ask. It's only words. To that, I say: "Who are you? Cat Stevens?" (one for the kids, there).

Those words were crafted in my mid-range brain specifically with the intention of promoting and selling Reloved Vintage. They are personal to me and the business. If you just copy and paste them into your website, it says two things about you:

1. You're a bit lazy
2. You don't have anything original to say about your business.

Going back to illegal downloads for a second, if you illegally downloaded a film, and then you got caught bang to rights when the owner of that film showed you proof. You'd admit it and apologise, right? If they then simply asked you to delete that film from your hard drive, you'd probably do it straight away.

Yeah, me too. And I'd consider myself lucky that they didn't sue me or tell my mum.

Most people I've contacted do just that. They apologise and remove the offending words immediately. Some blame whoever built the site for them, which may be a cheap excuse or, more likely, it reveals there are a number of unscrupulous website builders out there.

These people, by and large, are just like us. They run a small business. Some do it full time, some do it in their spare time, but none seem to be vindictive. They've gone about their word-pinching with innocence and act quickly to put things right. They're alright as far as I'm concerned. Decent people doing the right thing.

Which is why it's very strange when something like this happens.


Extract from the Commissions page of another website
Extract from the Commissions page of relovedvintageinteriors.co.uk

I was doing my roughly quarterly check to see if our copy was being used by anyone else (my highly technical system? Pasting phrases into Google) when I found this website.

A lot of the wording has been changed, but key phrases, written especially to reflect the stye and approach of Reloved Vintage were there, word for word.

This was also the case on the About page:

 
From the other site's About page

Extracts from our About page

I sent messages via social media to the owner of the other site, expressing my concern. They replied to say they had never even seen my site and that, most definitely, nothing was plagiarised. I pointed out the similarities. They replied. No apology, just a note that they were off to work and would have a look later. Then nothing. I chased them up a few days later. A full week later, after another nudge from me, they said they were too busy to look at it. I said that wasn't good enough. I've given them a deadline.

The owner of the site has a full-time job on top of the furniture side of things. So do I. So did Laura until a month and half ago. We get it. It's hard. You're always busy, but it doesn't take much time or effort to delete some words from your site.

While all this was going on, I Googled again. I found another website using our words. Seriously! You should try this yourself.

It wasn't word-for-word, but it had definitely been copied and altered slightly. I sent off an email and got a reply the next day. They apologised and said their site had been created for them by an external website builder. It seems there really are lots of lazy website builders out there.

If you're reading this and you have a website you paid someone to create for you - words and all - perhaps you should do a quick check on where those words came from...

I worried that I was being too precious and whingey, but everyone I spoke to about this was outraged - perhaps more than I was. They had no idea this kind of thing went on. Colleagues, fellow small business owners, friends - they were all "Call your solicitor!" "Some people have no shame" "That's unbelievable".

I get it though, not everyone is confident with words. It's easier to 'borrow' someone else's than write your own which might not be very good, or pay someone to do it for you. It's certainly cheaper, and for a lot of people, the furniture's just a hobby, or it's their livelihood and times are tight.

Doesn't make it right, though. Just like that downloaded film.

I'd love to hear what you think. Am I over-reacting? Should we just accept that once you put something online it's going to get stolen? Or does more need to be done to protect our intellectual copyright? Let me know below...

Thursday, 27 November 2014

What happened when a chalk paint skeptic tried out a chalk paint powder?

We use Websters Chalk Paint Powder to upcycle an old table


Chalk paint. You either love it or hate it. Or you’re indifferent to it. Whatever. At one point or another, we’ve fallen into all of those camps.

We’ve used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and found it quick and easy but, more often than not, we’ve used it and found it a right faff – with a bobbly finish and a need for lots of post-paint work which kind of cancels out the paint’s ‘no-prep’ selling point.

As a result, we’ve been reluctant to try other chalk paints. We’re constantly told that Autentico is good, but we can’t shake that Annie Sloan feeling.

So, when we were approached by Websters about trying out their Chalk Paint Powder, we decided it was a great opportunity to shake off our chalky fears and see if we could be converted.

You wouldn't want to get caught at customs with this sample pack...


Websters Chalk Paint Powder has been available in the US for a few years now and has produced some great results from American upcyclers. See websterschalkpaintpowder.com/just-bragging/ for a really inspirational gallery.

Now it has hit the UK and we were among the first British furniture painters to give it a try.

The idea is a simple one. By adding the Websters Chalk Paint Powder, mixed with a little water, to any emulsion paint of your choice, you create your own chalk paint.

Like chalky porridge

It's a bit like creaming butter with sugar


We used Rock A Billy Blue from the Crown Vintage range, following the easy-to-use instructions to quickly create our own chalk paint.

This is fun!

All mixed up, nice and smooth


The paint became slightly thicker, but there were no other noticeable differences once mixed – no colour change, no lumps or streaks.

Our subject was a table we’d picked up the weekend before and were just itching to paint. The base and legs had been varnished many many years ago and, under normal circumstances we would have sanded them back before applying a coat of primer, then our chosen paint.

Our next victim


In the spirit of all things chalky, we instead just gave it a once-over with sugar soap to remove any grease, dirt and dust, then went straight on with the paint.

The first coat went on with very good coverage


The adhesion and good coverage were immediately obvious and before we knew it the first coat was done. We’d wondered beforehand if one coat might be enough – and it wasn’t a million miles away, but we decided a second coat was in order.

The second coat went on as easily as the first, with none of the annoying bobbling that has sworn us off chalk paint.

With both coats done, we simply added some Annie Sloan Clear Wax and then Dark Wax before lightly distressing with sandpaper and a scraper. The distressing was easy, as the paint came away easily, but without any chipping or flaking, allowing us to control exactly how much or how little of the wood we wanted to reveal.

On goes the clear wax, which darkens the colour slightly


The fact the paint comes off quite easily does mean that if we were after a clean finish we’d probably still want to sand the wood first, but, for a distressed finish, painting directly onto already varnished wood is fine, and on a less varnished piece the paint would probably adhere better anyway.

It’s safe to say we were really impressed with the Websters Chalk Paint Powder – not only did it go on well and give a good finish, but we had loads left over – it really does go a long way.

The finished table - though we've since decided to paint the top, too



Try it for yourself and let us know how you get on. In the meantime, you can Like Websters on Facebook  or follow them on Twitter @WebstersChalk

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

What we've been up to lately

Ok, so it's been a while


Yep, it’s one of those blog posts where the author apologises for not updating for so long, so sue me.

We’ve been busy, you know. We’ve been wearing our Paper Plane hats (note to self: get some Paper Plane hats made) selling cards and prints both on and offline. Who knew that Christmas cards could take up so much of your time in October and November?


Paper Plane's best-selling party drinks cards


We’re now selling our PP range online at paperplanedesigns.co.uk, relovedvintageinteriors.co.uk, notonthehighstreet.com and etsy as well as in the real world at Vintage Betty and French Grey Tales (and a couple of exciting new stockists in Stamford and Rutland to be announced soon) and also at the awesome Lollyrocket Shopping Event, organised by the whirling balls of energy that are Hayleigh and Michelle from Lollyrocket. You should check out their website – especially the candles, which appear to be selling like hot, um, candles.

So, yeah, we’ve been doing our PP thing, while trying to learn about how Etsy and notonthehighstreet work.
We’ve had loads of very helpful advice from a friendly bunch of fellow sellers including Newton And The Apple, Bread& Jam, Bookishly, Megan Claire, Tanya Garfield Jewellery, Becka Griffin, Zoe Brennan and The Green Gables – which is a little bit exciting in itself because we’ve always looked up to these people (still do) and can only dream of emulating their success and talents. It’s a bit like being 12-year-old girls who’ve just talked our way onto One Direction’s tour bus, feeling like utter imposters, only to find that, despite being super-huge megastars, Harry, Niall and co are a lovely, welcoming bunch.

Reloved Vintage is still very much alive and well, though. As well as her regular commission work, Laura’s found time to produce two brilliant chests of drawers (her best work so far, if you ask me) – now she just needs to find the time to get them both listed for sale with a full range of photos.
You can see one, Percy, here.

It's Percy!


Oh yes, and we bought a van! We really did! It’s a Toyota HiAce and we had to travel two and a half hours each way to get it, but it was well worth it. Now we can take on bigger jobs we previously had to turn down – and maybe we can squeeze in a big buying trip to France some time next year…


We only went and bought a van...



There’s just room to say that if you haven’t subscribed to our newsletter yet, please do – we’ll be sending out an exclusive discount code for subscribers only very soon.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Meet Paper Plane

We've been a bit quiet lately, furniture-wise (although tonight we're off to beautiful Harringworth to collect a wardrobe we've been asked to paint) and this is why... meet Paper Plane.



Paper Plane is our new business, specialising in prints and greetings cards, but with the aim of moving on to a more diverse product range as the business develops.

Laura had been itching to put her design skills to use, inspired by awesome people like Bread & Jam, Newton and the Apple and The Happy Pencil - and with my bordering-on-the-unbearable penchant for puns, we decided we could probably scrape enough ideas together...




Initially, we're selling via our new website and through the Reloved Vintage storefront on notonthehighstreet.com, but we've also got a small selection of products in two of our favourite shops - Vintage Betty and French Grey Tales.

We'll be adding more new designs to our range when we find a moment in between our full-time jobs, running Reloved Vintage and, y'know, managing to feed, bathe and dress ourselves.





If you'd like to give us a hand (and maybe even help us make the leap to doing this full-time, gulp) we'd love it if you shared any of the cards or prints you like on your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter accounts. Or, if you have a shop and would like to stock any of our cards or prints, just drop us an email.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Red Lion - mission accomplished

Reloved Vintage helps with dining room redesign at The Red Lion pub in Stathern, Leicestershire



Last month, I told you about our exciting project with The Red Lion in Stathern, Leicestershire.

Now, after getting through many sheets of sandpaper, several tins of paint, a whole load of varnish and a lot of hard work, the job is complete and the pub looks great.

The Red Lion's dining room before...


 
...and after!

On top of stripping and repainting all the dining room’s tables and picture frames, we were asked to act as design consultants for the whole project.

The owners had already decided on the general colourscheme and flooring they wanted, and Laura was able to make suggestions on which paints would best compliment each other for the walls and wood paneling.






We also suggested a shelf of food and cookery related books – and provided a few vintage pieces to add a little more rustic charm to an already beautiful room.




We’re delighted with how the room looks – the decorators and flooring teams have done a superb job and the owners, Ben and Sean, brought their own ideas to the table and have come up with some really great, eye-catching talking points. Everyone at The Red Lion was a delight to work with and we wish them every success for the future.

It’s a great pub, with amazing food – we very highly recommend paying a visit.





Tuesday, 22 July 2014

We're going down the pub

Reloved Vintage helps with interior design of Red Lion in Stathern


We’re delighted to tell you all that we will be spending the next few weeks on an exciting new project with one of our absolute favourite local businesses. We’re helping The Red Lion, in Stathern, Leicestershire, with the makeover of its main dining room – which means we’re going to be stripping and painting a LOT of tables!


The dining room. Photo courtesy of greatfoodclub.co.uk

As well as reloving the furniture, we’ve been asked by bosses Ben and Sean to help with design aspects of the room – our first ever job as interior design consultants!We’re so utterly chuffed to have been asked to get involved. The Red Lion, in the beautiful Vale of Belvoir, has a Michelin Bib Gourmand and is the sister pub of the Michelin-starred Olive Branch, just up the road from us in Clipsham, Rutland.The whole project should be finished by mid August and we can’t wait to show you the finished results.