This month, we are delighted to feature ACID member Grace, owner and designer of ‘At Miss Gracie’s’ which was launched in 2019 on Etsy, initially selling buttons and lace on hand made vintage styled cards.
Grace has developed her business over time, building on her complimentary background and blend of skills that have arisen from designing computer games, a love of textiles and an enjoyment of passing on knowledge and skills to others in her role as a lecturer. Her experimentation with embroidery techniques continues to influence her ongoing designs.
It was following a period of personal challenges that Grace decided to pursue her passion, and she undertook a Master’s degree in Fashion, Dress and Textile History at Glasgow University.
Grace’s model is one of re-use and re-purpose with integrity and authenticity at its heart. Charity shops provide excellent opportunities for sourcing genuine vintage items and materials which could also be utilised for recycled packaging.
The range of products has developed to include scarves, jewellery, inspiration packs and vintage toys.
When and why did you first start creating your designs?
I wanted to refocus my creativity towards textiles and linking to my love of vintage items. Using the vintage fabrics found in charity shops, I started making up kits and selling them in my Etsy shop.
Sales built up and I sold the embroidery kits that I had designed. It was important that the kits would use vintage items wherever possible. Items would be sent in a handmade bag, wrapped in tissue paper, recyclable textiles and including handmade vintage style gift tags. I also write and design all my instruction booklets and print them. To ensure quality raw materials, I bought old, embroidered tablecloths and vintage linen and re-purposed them.
Your embroidery kits are a great concept to help other people be creative, what inspires you?
I attended a trial day to The Royal School of Embroidery, but I felt their focus was more on teaching skills to perfect different stitching techniques, rather than on designing. I felt I wanted to offer an alternative to the more traditional embroidery kits available.
I love colour, monochrome and combining combinations and texture of thread and fabrics. I am inspired by textile history and research and love visiting museums. I also love Pinterest for inspiration.
What steps do you take to protect your IP rights? – can you also tell us which ACID Membership services have you used and how have you benefited from being a Member?
Joining ACID. I use the ACID logo on all my documentation and website, and I also include copyright statements. I have assigned each of my kits a licensing number digitally printed on the fabric and in the instruction booklet. I am also looking into other areas where I can expand my IP protection for designs.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where your IP has been infringed upon? If yes, how did you deal with it? What was the impact?
I launched the hedgerow series embroidery kit in 2022 and subsequently sold several of these new kits to the same person. This person said that they “were paralysed and the kits were keeping them occupied.” Time progressed and I noticed that, unlike most customers, this individual continued to order repeats of the same kits in multiples that they had previously purchased.
As I recovered from Covid, I realise that my new kits were being sold on. The person who said they were paralysed was actually the matron of the establishment I was posting the orders to!
I complained to Etsy but you are not allowed to ban anyone from your shop. I cancelled orders from this person but they continued to buy more. I refunded the money paid but this caused me problems with Etsy whose advise was to close my shop and seek legal advice. A challenge given limited financial resources.
I removed the kits from Etsy and built my own website in 2022 but this person followed me there too for a while. Towards Christmas in 2022 I did add more embroidery kits back on Etsy and this person (they) started purchasing again using an alias. In 2023 I joined ACID and recently put the Etsy shop in holiday mode.
I have not totally resolved the matter. I know more about the people who took my designs, but I am not sure where they are being sold. I spend many weeks on a particular design and it’s soul destroying for it to be stolen by someone who does not have the same skill set as me.
Did you have any knowledge of intellectual property when you started your business?
I did have knowledge of IP when I was teaching game design, but it is very different when it is your own business.
Have you brought anything new to the marketplace recently that you would like to share?
I have lots of new designs just about to be launched.
What is the best aspect of ACID Membership for your business?
Being part of a large design community.
What advice would you offer to a new designer?
Join ACID to support you.
ACID values the support of its members to enable it to campaign for design law reform. Do you have any messages for Government/Policy Makers on IP issues? Do you think that copying of designs is deliberate and blatant?
Yes, from my experience it absolutely it can be deliberate and blatant. It is particularly blatant as they are selling, using my ‘At Miss Gracie’s’ name.
I believe that the people who took my designs are part of a larger community and that they look for new designs and take orders. I would ask that the Government make laws which have larger penalties for copyists to act as a deterrent. But seeking justice also needs to be more cost effective, as currently, most small or lone designers simply can’t afford to try and stop copyists, even when it is blatant.
At Miss Gracie’s