Seriously, Maryland, what the…?

by Shannon on May 8, 2008

This was depressing. Clara from Knitter’s Review reports from Maryland Sheep and Wool the following dismal news:

While I was helping set up the Spirit Trail Fiberworks booth early Saturday morning, word spread over the PA system that that the Optic Waves Shawl from my book had just been stolen from the Brooks Farm Yarn booth. It was a sad and sobering way to begin what was supposed to be a joyous event. Unfortunately, this proved to be the first of several incidents that shook vendors and festival organizers.

Clara has posted an open letter to the person who stole her shawl. Return it, COD, no questions asked. But seriously, whoever you are, if you happen to be reading this, you should be ashamed. This is not what knitters do. We create. We do not steal (well, except for clever tricks and tips from our fellow knitters). If you are a knitter, that is. I can’t imagine a true knitter doing this — someone who appreciates the value of handwork, and knows how much time and effort it takes to make something this beautiful.

Yet that’s not all. Clara continues, after the rest of her (not-as-depressing) show writeup (photos of sheep cheer me up any day):

Sunday began on another sobering note. Overnight, hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise had been stolen from several vendor booths in the main building and the nearby barns. Cash registers had been pried open, and all the goat pens and rabbit doors had been opened. Thankfully all the animals were safely found and recaptured.

See, this is what I don’t understand. Stealing cash — ok, anyone might do that. Stealing handmade items, though — that’s the lowest of the low. In March, at a sewing expo, we had original designs stolen out of our booth. Zabet from ¡The AntiCraft! was there to sign copies of their book, as was my friend Xan — we were signing AlterNation together. In our teensy booth, we had no fewer than five people inside and around the perimeter when someone (or multiple people) thought it would be ok to steal a few of Xan’s one of a kind, vintage materials purses.

Mind you, this came after an entire day of not-even-whispered “Oh, I could make that”s (well, you didn’t, she did), “This costs how much?”s and even one woman stopping to pull out a notebook and outright DRAW a schematic of one purse for sale. I don’t think I need to remind you, my sensitive and creative readers, that doing that is really, really rude. At least wait until you get a booth or two away! Hell, snap a cell phone photo when our backs are turned. People like that make me not want to do shows any more, I swear.

The cherry on top? After overhearing another set of “I could make that” people, one lovely woman browsing in our booth showed me a very cool bracelet she’d made. Then she informed me that a few booths away from us, one of the vendors who had bought one from her last year was now selling kits to make them — with her original piece as the display item. Do these people have no shame?

Remember the incidents at Handmade Arcade a few years ago? Stealing in front of me, and corporate spies snapping photos to take back to their discount-store overlords? It’s just been getting worse.

I don’t know what to say.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Kari May 8, 2008 at 11:08 am

I just don’t understand how people can say and do such blatantly rude things – right in front of the vendors they fully intend to rip off… and that doesn’t even speak to the people stealing money and handmade items (or the big retailers, don’t even get me started on corporation’s lack of ethics.) Oy.

How bout adding RFID’s to our knitting? I don’t know how far they work, but I know if I knit a lace shawl, and someone stole it, I’d totally want to track their a** down. …downtown.

Anne May 8, 2008 at 12:26 pm

How horrible! I was there but didn’t hear any of the announcements and didn’t hear about the cash registers/animal cages. What kind of person does that?!

martha May 8, 2008 at 4:23 pm

I’m so sorry to hear about the incidents. When I go to craft fairs here in California, I see the same thing happening. Some people are more discreet than others, but the majority of the people attending go to enjoy, support, and appreciate the hard work these craftsman put in their products. Hopefully the majority did the same at the Maryland Sheep and Wool and had a good time.

Natalia May 8, 2008 at 6:37 pm

Ugh, this is why I won’t do the big street fairs in Chicago anymore, and stick to the indie shows. The last time I did one, another jeweler I know caught one of the vendors (who sold cheap, mass-produced jewelry) taking pictures of her designs, no doubt to copy them. All weekend I heard over and over “how can you charge this much for a ring when the guy over there sells them for $10?” Um, not my rings he doesn’t, and he doesn’t make each one by hand. At least we didn’t have anything stolen! I can’t imagine a knitter stole the shawl, at least I have to hope not.

Vellan May 8, 2008 at 8:52 pm

Aside from the trite-but-true ‘that’s disgusting, they should be ashamed’ etc, these idiots don’t realise that they’re shooting themselves in the foot.

If artisans can’t support themselves with their designs and/or creations, then they won’t be able to do it any more. Stealing won’t just push prices up for the suckers who are willing to pay – stealing will mean that there are fewer vendors and fewer innovations. Eventually there’ll be nothing new to steal.

And as far as ‘making things yourself’, there are two important points people should keep in mind. 1) if you factor in the price of materials, tools and *your time*, it’s usually cheaper to buy something that has been handmade by someone who knows what they’re doing. 2) Making a copy probably won’t give the same result. These things are an art, and every artist has their own style. You might do your own interpretation, but you might not capture the colour or vibrance or whatever of the original. When you see beautiful things you should buy them and cherish them – not create cheap knock offs.

I’m sorry for the long comment, it’s just something I feel strongly about.

Shannon May 9, 2008 at 9:06 am

Yes, but Vellan, it’s not even as if that shawl was for sale — it was a book sample! I agree that (in general) if you like an artist’s work, then just buy it! It’s rarely worth the time to try to reproduce something outright.

But as the stolen piece was from Clara’s book, and therefore *meant* to be reproduced from the pattern therein, it’s that much more mindbogglingly stupid. All you needed to do, thief, presuming you actually are a knitter, is grab a copy of the book in order to knit your own. But the thief was lazy, and greedy, and took the easy way out.

Berlinswhimsy May 9, 2008 at 12:23 pm

Ouch—this hurts. In a sad sort of way, I’m not surprised about all the rude comments. I’ve overheard similar things at crafts fairs and shows. I just don’t understand how people can be so disrespectful. And stealing handmade items is just too low. So is stealing ideas. Again, ouch.

Lindsay May 9, 2008 at 1:25 pm

I know of one vendor who lost a spinning wheel–someone just walked right out of the booth with it, and because it was so crowded they didn’t notice until it was too late.

I don’t know what the hell happened this year, but theft isn’t normally a big problem at Sheep and Wool. :(

Shannon May 9, 2008 at 2:04 pm

A whole spinning wheel? Oh, that’s terrible! I’m a spinning wheel dealer myself and I know the markup on them is not much at all, so that’s awful. I hope they had insurance!

Joanne May 9, 2008 at 6:36 pm

Thanks for posting about this! I posted about it on my blog, too. It seems to me that many fiber arts people know (and should care about) one another. It also seems like we, the good folk, each should be able to shoulder some responsibility here. Like, if you see someone who appears to be swiping something? We LOUDLY invite them to pay. Try to catch the person’s sleeve and hold on. Try to get help.

(Or, in the stealing ideas department? That’s a great time to steal a camera phone–just to make a point?!)

There are crappy bad people in the world, believe me, I know. However, I’ve been surprised by the number of people who just assume that we should throw up our hands and say, “Geez, this stuff happens. Sorry.” That’s not enough, in my opinion. I think–like neighborhood watch!—if we want a safe, theft and vandalism free experience, we all have to be willing to step up to protect what we care about.

And uhh, I don’t own any livestock, but I’d definitely camp out for a night every now and again at a festival just to keep everybody safe. Catching even one goat or rabbit is a heck of a lot of work!

isela May 12, 2008 at 12:20 pm

I was giving a demonstration at the KnitOut and someone took one of the books I had there on display :(. Shameful! Mind you, there were books being sold at the Rotunda but I guess they wanted my copy.

Sue May 13, 2008 at 8:41 am

I was at Sheep and Wool on Saturday and we had such a wonderful time, but this just really saddens me to think of people stealing merchandise/cash. This is a rather unique venue tho –part of the attendees are there almost solely for the yarn while the rest of the attendees are there as a family outing event to see livestock, the shearing and other demos. There is no entrance fee and no parking fee for the event. Consequently, the number of attendees is almost too large for the amount of space allotted, the vendor booths become so crammed by early afternoon that you can get claustrophobic! I hope this year’s theft and vandalism is the exception to MSW and does not become a norm…..it would certainly be a loss to the community.

Katie May 13, 2008 at 11:48 am

It is depressing to think that even crafters are not immune to the seedy. Stealing anything from a craft fair takes some serious gaul. It is sad to think that vendor would have to resort to locking up merchandise or chainning it down to prevent this sort of thing from happening.

Shannon – are you going to the Great Lakes festival?

Mary E.Dadds May 18, 2008 at 9:29 pm

I had heard something bad had happened at the Md.sheep and wool show.
But this is the first place i could find out what it was.
This is terrible to read.
I did not attend this year.First year in a long time.

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