Chic Interview: Sarah Feingold, Etsy's Attorney

Written by ChicCEO Published in
We got the opportunity to catch up with Sarah Feingold from Etsy's Attorney and talked about her work as both an artist and an attorney...

Though normally Artistry and Law are seen as opposite, how have you found that these two connect?
Traditionally, entrepreneurs and artists are risk takers while lawyers are risk adverse.  However, artists and lawyers both need to think creatively; artists when creating their work and lawyers when advocating on behalf of a client.  To me, I've always loved art.  There's a satisfication to making something with your hands.  And once I create, my brain wonders about the legal rights to the creation.  That's how I connect art to law.

What advice would you give to aspiring artists and designers?
Most aspiring artists and designers come to me for legal information for protecting their unique intellectual property.  The creative and entreprenoural minded are often concerned that their competition will copy them.  But, I think that there's a beauty in sharing.  I feel so fortunate for all the artists and teachers who have shared with me. I would hope that artists and designers consider this option. 
However, I understand that some things should not be shared. So one piece of advice is that If you ever see something online that makes you concerned, remember to stop and breathe. I've seen many artists and designers jump to legal conclusions and make a situation worse by reacting too quickly.  And if you have a question, talk to an expert, like a lawyer.  Sometimes a little detail that may not seem important can greatly impact an outcome.  Investing a little in legal advice now can save you and your business in the long run.
My best piece of advice pertains to business, and not law.  Artists and designers need to keep looking forward and innovating.  Also, work on making art that stands above the competition in quality. Give amazing customer service.  Have a story to go along with your art.  Be sincere and smile. 
What is the best part of your job?  
The best part of my job at Etsy is working with amazing and diverse creative coworkers at a company that makes a positive impact on so many people.  When I hear stories of artists who were able to start a business or from brides who could find that perfect detail for a wedding, I can't help but smile.  As an artist and a lawyer, I found a place to combine my interests.  And that is just so rewarding.

How has your decision of attending to Law School made a difference as an artist?
Truth be told, as an artist I'm not sure if law school made a difference.  But as a business person, I'm afraid that negatively affected me.  Lawyers are trained to be risk adverse and entreprenours must take appropriate risks. 

How did you become involved with Etsy?
I was working in a law firm in Rochester NY making jewelry in my spare time.  A friend introduced me to Etsy and I was immediately hooked.  The site was simply beautiful, easy to use, and perfect for my needs.  I was already writing and speaking about legal issues of artists and I wrote to Etsy to tell them about my projects.  One thing lead to another and I spoke with Etsy's founder, Rob Kalin, on the phone.  We talked for a while about legal issues, policies, and the future of Etsy.  When I hung up the phone I knew I had to work for this company.  I booked an airline ticket from Rochester NY to NYC, mailed Rob my resume, and annouced that I'd be coming down for an interview.  That was over five years ago.

What are the most common questions people have in regards to intellectual property, business, e-commerce?
I think there's a lot of confusion over how to use other people's works.  And I see questions about how other people can use your work.  And then once this work is created, there are questions about selling the work.  The law is not as simple as people seem to believe it is. 

What led you to create “Copyright for Artists?"
I went to law school because as an artist myself I had questions about intellectual property and jewelry designs.  After completing all law school courses related to this topic, I knew there was still so much more I had to learn.  I approached my intellectual property professor and asked if I could continue studying with her in some way.  Our independent study turned into the first draft of "Copyright for Artists."

When creating your jewelry designs, where do you find your inspiration?
I find my inspiration everywhere.  I carry a sketchbook wherever I go.  I'm always doodling lines and circles and thinking about new ways to make simple yet unusual shapes.  Most recently I have been on a marble kick. I just love thinking about unique ways to display tiny gemstone spheres.

What inspired you to create/ name your “Gravity Collection?
A few years ago I purchased a grab bag of gemstone beads.  Several of the beads were not beads at all; their perfectly round bodies escaped the piercing drill.  Instead of seeing these tiny objects as faulty, I saw them as an artistic challenge.  I named my collection because the precious gems move in the sterling silver cradles.  And why do they move?  Gravity, of course.  Now my challenge is finding more little spheres!



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