This week we’d like to introduce you to Christmas Sweater Designer Debby McClain of TackyUglyChristmasSweaters.
What is the inspiration behind becoming a creator? What do you enjoy most about the creative process?
I have always enjoyed crafts and art; I majored in it in school. I explored all different kinds of mediums. Some I was good at, others not so much. I started as a silversmith, creating sterling silver jewelry. Today, I spend a lot of time with my Ugly Christmas Sweaters, which are always fun, and I get to use all kinds of “treasures.” It’s great to love what you make!
Can you take us through your creative process? How long does it take? Does everything you produce make money?
My creative process starts either with a vintage sweater or an idea. I think about what the end product will be—sexy, funny, glamorous, outrageous—then work toward that goal. I love to do theme sweaters. I see what materials I’ve accumulated, then work in that direction. From there, it feels like they literally make themselves!
What do you think is the biggest misconception about your line of work?
That it is easy. It’s not. Each sweater has different challenges. You have to hope that people will embrace the end product and love it. Some of my “mistakes” ended up being the best sellers!
When did you first become aware of copyright, and why?
Back in 2018 or so, I had customers reaching out to me to tell me my sweaters were being “sold ” by random companies on Facebook. After researching, I found companies were stealing my photos, descriptions and even reviews from my Etsy shop, and advertising on Facebook. That was a rude awakening for me. I had to try to shut them down while in the middle of my Christmas rush. It was truly awful.
Have you experienced copyright infringement and, if so, how has it affected you personally and financially?
Personally, I feel violated and frustrated when other people profit from my work. I am a very small shop; I don’t have a big budget to go after the pirates. The ultimate slap in the face was when I found a company on Walmart selling a knock-off of my sweater! I’ve lost sleep due to anxiety over the scams. It obviously damages my brand because people think I ripped them off. It’s hard to tell how much was “stolen” financially. We may never really know.
What do you do when you encounter someone stealing something you’ve invested your intellect, time and money into?
I contact Cher at Qti.ai! They find my product images on sites I didn’t even know existed. I wasn’t aware that my Heat Miser was stolen; that picture was from about four years ago. I’m not surprised though. These scams are like whack-a-mole. Whenever you take one down, another two or three seem to pop up. That’s why Qti.ai is so effective: They have their own “Scam Intelligence Bots” that go head-to-head with the scam bots. At least it levels the playing field for me.
What is the best piece of advice that you would give other creators in your field about copyright and how to protect themselves?
Unless you have deep pockets, there have been very few alternatives for small brands like me to protect ourselves. Then Qti.ai came along earlier this year, with the deliberate intention of helping artists and designers. I recommend them all the time to my fellow Etsy sellers.
If you aren’t already a member of the Copyright Alliance, you can join today by completing our Individual Creator Members membership form! Members gain access to monthly newsletters, educational webinars, and so much more — all for free!