Chapter 1: Playing the Guessing Game

“Well, heeeeeeeey!”

Oh, good lord, who are you? And why are you wearing a pair of sunglasses on your shirt when you’ve already got some over your eyeballs?

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How I Became Disenchanted by Harry Potter

I went back and forth about whether I want to share this little story or not, mostly because it’s something I still feel a bit of bitterness about and I want to inform more than rant, but ultimately I decided it’s a nice learning experience for those of us who create things. A cautionary tale, if you will.

As I’ve mentioned, I started my own company in October 2018. Initially, I set out to create jewelry inspired by fandoms (gaming, books, movies, etc.) because I’ve had tons of ideas stashed in my mind for a very long time and this was an excellent opportunity to get them out. I’m sure many of you can relate: our ideas never end.

Excited to get started, I jumped in (admittedly without doing much research beforehand), starting an Etsy shop and creating my first five pieces. Each piece was inspired by my favorite franchise of all time: Harry Potter, of course.

There were some pieces that were pretty literal in their interpretations, like a pendant with a quote by Ron Weasley on it, Hedwig in her cage, or this keychain:

Originally called “The Dark Mark”

Then there were some that were more abstract or loosely based, such as a piece featuring pink ombre floral beads inspired by Hermione’s Yule Ball gown in Goblet of Fire, or the necklace below – this is important, and you’ll see why in a second.

Originally called “The Invisibility Cloak”

The Invisibility Cloak was immediately my favorite piece, and also my first two sales (because my friends are awesome and supportive).

As a relatively new seller on Etsy and as someone who has only ever used or had any connection with Etsy when I’m looking for handcrafted fandom-style items, I didn’t think much about what I was calling these items or how I was tagging them, except that I tagged them to ensure they would be found on the site by those who would enjoy them. If you do a search on Etsy for “Harry Potter” you get hundreds of thousands of items as a result, and I wanted to make sure I was one of them. Because Potterheads unite! Or something.

Once I had my Etsy shop up and running, I set out to talk about my stuff and let people know it exists, as many sellers do. Because The Invisibility Cloak was my favorite, it was the main piece I excitedly threw around all over the place. I was so thrilled for this new adventure and I needed EVERYONE to know it.

One night, in giddiness-fueled impulse, I decided I wanted J.K. Rowling to see the necklace, so I tweeted at her (because Twitter is her favorite haunt and all). It said something along the lines of, “I made this necklace, loosely based on Harry’s invisibility cloak! What do you think?” It included a picture and a link to its Etsy listing.

But, uh, I guess that’s where I made a mistake.

I had heard things – not so great things – about JKR and her team, and how they’re pretty crazy about copyrights (and $$$). Disney as well. But I never really took it too seriously. People like to exaggerate, right? JKR is a creator; she understands inspiration. Literally shit-tons of things have been inspired by her work, just as she was inspired by others when she created it. But, haha… this is where my opinion changed.

A week after this tweet was sent, I got an email from Etsy saying the Invisibility Cloak necklace was taken down due to copyright claims by Warner Bros and was not to be put back up.

It would help if they responded to emails.

You guys. My very abstract interpretation of a magical object in a book series, a necklace which sat amongst other more literal Harry Potter listings, was totally ripping off the franchise.

Now, I understand the basics of copyright and ownership, intellectual property and the like. I would never intentionally rip off someone else’s work, and I fully support and respect creators in that regard. But this felt so ridiculous. It felt petty, in a way? And I didn’t understand, especially when it seemed as if they’d only targeted it because of the tweet. They didn’t even take the time to look at the rest of my shop and see all the other Harry Potter themed items. It felt like I’d said, “Hey, JKR, what do you think of my work?!” and she’d responded with, “That’s mine. Goodbye.” Except with less words and through a legal team.

Etsy gave me the option to email Warner Bros. I’ll be honest, initially I was really hurt, so I didn’t email them right away. I wanted to do my best to figure out how to fix the situation and not make it worse by getting all emotional because I’d only had my shop for a week and felt like it was already doomed. When I did email them, I politely asked what I needed to change and expressed my apologies for being mistaken in thinking what I was doing was fine. It was very much a tail-between-the-legs email that Starla From The Past, who had serious pride issues, would have scoffed at.

They didn’t reply, so I did my own research in the meantime and found that, essentially, it’s expected that creators who have made products inspired by specific fandoms should not use tags or titles specific to that fandom unless they have license to do so. You can use tags and titles that hint at what it’s supposed to represent, like a generic cereal meant to be similar to Cap’n Crunch. A notebook featuring Hermione Granger, for example, cannot depict a Hogwarts crest or her name, but a notebook featuring a bushy haired girl in a witch hat and a school uniform can be titled Brightest Witch Notebook. Something like that. Maybe they’d still get you for using “Brightest Witch.” I really don’t know.

After another week of silence on their end, I decided this wasn’t even worth it. My shop was meant to be fun, and a place where I can try to make myself feel useful after the year I’d been through, so – pardon me, but – fuck them. I sent another email to Warner Bros, and this time I wasn’t as nice. I mentioned that, number one, instead of shutting down an item completely, they could have sent a warning or some sort of message to indicate it wasn’t appropriate. Number two, they should shift their focus to shops under the “Harry Potter” search on Etsy that are making thousands of sales off of images, fonts, and characters literally ripped from the books or movies before targeting a very new and small shop. Number three, I don’t think JKR owns exclusive rights to the term “invisibility cloak” anyway. And I probably added more sarcasm to finish off with a flourish. As respectfully as possible.

Having said what I felt I needed to, I removed all associations with Harry Potter from my shop and started fresh. To this date, I still haven’t heard from Warner Bros and the necklace still sits deactivated in my shop. The Invisibility Cloak necklace has moved to my new site and is now called Multicolored Hematite Arrow Bib Statement Necklace, which, yes, is utterly boring, but I find now that it’s worth it to represent myself and not what I thought something else was.

All in all, I’m thankful that I learned this lesson early on from a creator/business perspective, but as a fan it still gets to me sometimes. The one thing that really changed throughout this process is that when I see Harry Potter merchandise now, I keep walking. I think that’s what disappoints me the most. The magic is gone.

What do you think? Should Warner Bros have a system of notifying creators prior to shutting them down? Was I being dramatic? LOL, probably. Feel free to share your honest opinions if you’d like.

Thank you for reading <3

Anxiety, and What Can Help

Out of all the things I wanted to write about today, this wasn’t planned. But sometimes we just have to talk about this. In some way I’m hoping this will help me sleep tonight because, omg, it’s been on a rampage in my brain lately.

I wasn’t diagnosed with anxiety officially until last year, but looking back I can see I’ve had it for over two decades, and I could probably even chart its path of devastation over the course of my life. Over 40 million Americans over the age of 18 suffer from anxiety, and there are tons more even younger and all over the world. There are even more who go undiagnosed, and in my opinion, not being aware of it is the most dangerous part.

Anxiety is like a plague, and there isn’t one sure fire way to stop it. It can disguise itself as anger, paranoia, insecurity, confusion, insomnia, jealousy, and essentially any other negative trait that leaves us flailing in life. It has the power to take a perfect day and fill it with dread and tears and arguing. In times when you are most vulnerable, it will give you an unwarranted mental slideshow of all the ways things can go badly with you or your friends or loved ones, or even your pets. It can take someone’s simple statement and warp it into a personal attack on you.

Anxiety is like that one person who responds, “Well, actually…” to everything you say, in that nagging, know-it-all voice.

I remember a few years back talking with a friend who said she wishes we could just get the word “anxiety” out of our vocabulary; that maybe without acknowledging it it won’t have any power over us. Maybe without it, in the back of our minds we wouldn’t hold ourselves back with the idea that maybe we shouldn’t because anxiety. Sometimes when I’m having an attack, I think about that and try. I haven’t had any luck yet, but I’ll let you know if I do.

Sometimes anxiety gives us room to breathe, coming in waves instead of full force. For a long time I had mine under control and I was thankful, but it likes to get me when I’m comfortable again. So here we are. I’ve had insomnia for a week now thanks to all this. After finishing this post I will be popping a Klonopin and going to bed, hoping to get some sleep so I can get work done tomorrow.

Don’t worry: I’m okay. This is tolerable and I’ll get through it, but I’ve found sharing is helpful for me so before I go I’d like to share with you some non-prescription things that have worked in taking the edge off for me.

Talking about it with a friend, loved one, or in a journal – or here.
I don’t know what it is about talking that helps. Maybe it’s sort of like sharing the load, like in the song Lean On Me. Having someone or something in your life who can listen and understand when you say you’re having trouble with anxiety is so important. If you don’t have that person, please never hesitate to reach out to me.

Deep (or simply being conscious of) breathing.
I never believed in this because, like, “ok, wow, you’re breathing – you do that all the time, how could this possibly help?” Well, I was in the ER once with a panic attack and they’d drugged me up and I was on the mend, preparing to get discharged, but one of the machines I was hooked to kept going off. The nurse came in and told me I need to practice deep breathing because, despite having calmed down, my breathing was still shallow and I was triggering the respiratory monitor.
Later, when I thought about it and made a conscious effort to focus on breathing, I realized I have actually gotten into a full habit of shallow breathing, so basically my breathing had been shallow 24/7 for a very long time. After learning that, I now practice breathing at a deeper (or, really, normal) rate, and I’ve found that I do feel more relaxed and calm doing this.

Weighted blankets (or people, if you don’t have one).
Oh man, the mainstream production of weighted blankets is so great, but I wouldn’t have understood the need for them a few years ago. I’ve found, and I don’t even remember how or why, that having weight on me really does help. I don’t have a weighted blanket, but usually when I’m having a bad time, I ask my kids or partner to simply lay on me and it’s like… I don’t even know the science or psychology behind it, but it helps me and it’s amazing.

Going outside and sitting alone (or with animals).
I guess this is about getting fresh air and sunlight, but sometimes when I feel overwhelmed in one way or another, removing myself from within four walls and physical things often aids in getting my mind to stop going all over the place. I am lucky enough to live out in the country so there’s a lot of space for me to get away, but I hope you have a place you can go to as well. Somehow my neighbor’s dog always knows when I’m struggling because he finds me every time I’m outside for this reason – I don’t know how, he lives half a mile away, but I’m not going to question it.

If you suffer from anxiety as well, as I know so many of us do, feel free to tell me about your experiences because everyone handles it differently. What’s worked for you? What hasn’t? If you don’t suffer from anxiety, do you have any questions or comments or experiences with stress you’d like to talk about? I’d love for you to share your story if you feel comfortable. I wish all of you ease of mind tonight and beyond. We’re all in this together <3

Next post will be less of a mess, I promise!

New Year, New Content!

Hi, everyone! Welcome to 2019, and to my first blog post of the new year. I’m thrilled to jump into all the wonderful things I want to talk about and do and play, but for this first post I thought I would share with you a little piece of what 2018 brought into my life.

I spent a huge amount of 2018 not doing too well. I was ill and suffering from major depression, so my bed and I had a lot of quality time together. I had to quit a job I had once been extremely good at due to my health, then tried to work a much simpler job and unfortunately got laid off for missing too many days – once again, due to my health. It was good times, as you can imagine.

But the last few months of the year were some of the best, and because of these and tons of support I received from friends and loved ones, I was able to pull myself out of my hole and finish the year stronger than I had been. Overall this made 2018 a wonderful year for me.

The biggest change for me in 2018 was in the beginning of October, when I launched a new handcrafted jewelry and creative business called Intricate Disarray. It’s been such an exciting adventure so far – sometimes scary, of course – and I’ve learned and grown a ton as an entrepreneur since I began.

I’ve set up a workspace where I can create and think and write and work, and I sit here every day, happily working away on many projects. I can’t wait to see where it goes and what I’m able to accomplish with it.

Intricate Disarray

Being my own boss has given me the control and purpose I needed in my life, because there’s nothing worse than needing to work to survive and not being able to because of the demands and expectations of someone else. It has taken the edge off of the hopelessness that comes along with chronic illness, and I’m truly thankful to be able to do this.

Plus, working my own hours gives me the opportunity to write here and interact with all of you. Bonus!

I would love to hear about your 2018, good or bad, if you’d like to share. Did you try anything new, go somewhere exciting, or find something that made you happy? I truly hope that whatever 2018 did to you, you have entered 2019 with a happy heart and a positive outlook. One of the biggest lessons I learned this past year is that no matter the situation, there’s always hope. You just have to fight through. And I hope to pass this message along to anyone who needs it.

Thank you for reading, and see you next time! <3