I started writing Craft Venture a little more than a year ago, when I was working at a more than fulltime day job (financial/business management) while running my tiny business evenings and weekends. A year later, I am now purely self employed and my business has developed to the point that I need more time than exists in order to continue growth and development, particularly as I prepare for a couple of big shows this Summer, immediately followed by my very busy season (Fall, the holidays and Winter).
I absolutely love writing Craft Venture, but have made the very hard decision to step down from the column in order to spend more time on my business and upcoming deadlines. I’m very happy to have reached another new level with my business (isn’t that all of our goals, to continue to develop and grow?), but am sad to say “goodbye” to all of you!
Well, let’s not say goodbye; after all, we’ll see one another in the blogosphere, on venues like Etsy, and exhibitions like papernstitch! Today will be my last post on a topic that is very important to me: originality.
I’ve thought quite a bit about what I’m calling “the culture of copying” in the handmade community. I’m not alone, as 198 (as of this writing) comments on this very topic will attest, on a recent decor8 post on this very topic!
There are so many facets and levels to defining what constitutes “copying.” Are we talking about actual copyright infringement? Trademark violation? Exact materials and colors that a competitor used? Tracing? Jumping to join the latest popular trend in art or craft?
According to Wikipedia (not exactly the final word in definition), copying is “the duplication of information or an artifact based only on an instance of that information or artifact, and not using the process that originally generated it”.
There are many who oppose the idea of originality in art and craft. “There are no original ideas!” Im certainly not the first person to knit accessories. A hand knit scarf is not an original concept. However, I am able to approach my designs, styling, photography, copywriting, etc. with my own unique voice and vision. I do strive to be original.
There are those who claim originality in their particular form of art or craft, while their designs are clearly copies of other work. Meaning that they have relied on another artist or artisan’s unique voice and vision. Many think this is perfectly fine, since there are no original ideas and knockoffs are an accepted part of the fashion and design industry. Others see this as plagiarism. Still others see this as an inevitable part of business.
I neither have blinding insights nor answers. As much as I strive toward originality in design as well as style and photography, I’m sure I’ve been influenced on more than one occasion by other work!
I am taken aback when I learn that a colleague bases their work on patterns or designs from others “¦ but should I be?
We are all part of the handmade community, which I often idealistically believe is above messy things like copying. Ironically, the communitys DIY knowledge sharing culture may have resulted in the “culture of copying.”
That long hoped for phone call from Martha Stewarts producers means youll get the honor of appearing on her very popular series in order to show gazillions of viewers exactly how you make your creation (and no, I wouldn’t turn down that invitation either!).
Any number of very popular craft and design blogs will share with you exactly how to make your own version of big name designer’s to indie crafters original design.
I think we do this to ourselves. Our culture of sharing, in the spirit of handmade, has been turned into something quite different: a culture of copying ““ even plagiarizing.
I love to learn new techniques and ideas working from others patterns, tutorials and designs. However ““ and this is key to me ““ I dont offer these items for sell. I may knit a sweater or baby blanket from someone elses pattern for gifts or my personal use, but not to sell. I work swatches and sections from Vogue Knitting or favorite knitting designer patterns, in order to learn a technique. If I were to offer these for sell (which I would not!), I would do so with the clear understanding that the original design is not mine. Doing so avoids plagiarizing (although it doesn’t avoid copying or copyright infringement).
Is it even possible to create original works in a culture of copying and influence by others? Sure, I think so (and I had the same art history education as other art and design majors!). We can be and are inspired by other works, but most of us manage to both copying and plagiarism.
In a culture of copying, how do you avoid … copying? I think self awareness ““ an honest review of your source and inspiration ““ is a step in the right direction. Copying ideas, text and photography style is easily remedied: dont! Come up with your own ideas,words and style. Doing so isn’t easy ““ it’s hard work that is crucial to your branding. Part of branding is being recognizable as you and not your competitor!
The culture of copying can become the culture of originality, but not without effort. Changing a culture isn’t easily achieved and requires changes in the culture itself. Our culture – that of artists, designers and artisans – is huge! However, we can affect change in our microcultures. Talk about copying, influence, originality, inspiration and plagiarism amongst your friends and colleaugues. On your blogs. In your teams and groups and associations and clubs. If you want a culture in which copying and plagiarism isnt acceptable, you have to create that culture by changing the current culture. Start small!
Recognize the place that influence, inspiration, education and sharing have in our respective forms of art, design and craft. As well as in your particular work. Shifting your own perception via self awareness is the single most important contribution you can make to creating a culture of originality.
This is a controversial topic! What are your thoughts? Is copying just the price of doing business? Is plagiarism acceptable? Do original ideas exist?
If there is a “culture of copying,” is shifting to a culture of originality possible? If so, where can we start? Where can you start?
Again, it has been my honor being a part of papernstitch this last year and I will truly miss you all! A huge and heart felt thank you to Brittni for this opportunity and experience, and to all of you for reading the column! I look forward to reading and learning from your comments!
Top Image c/o Lucia. . . entitled It’s Arguable Whether I Had Any in the First Place