03 October 2009

An Honest Letter

Oh the irony.
Those of you who knew me in May know how far I've tried to come.
To be better as a person.
Better as an artist.

And so here I am tonight . . . and I am on the opposite side of this divide.
The copied. Not the copycat.
And there is no pride in this, though I once thought there would be.

So again, I'm going to put it out there.
Again, I'm going to lay it on the line.
Where I come from, what I've done.
And why I believe it is worth repeating.


People can change, they can make the right decisions and do the right things.

And so I'm going to write you this . . .
because I have been where you are.
But I chose to change.

* * * * * *

To you, my dear, insecure, tired little copycat:

I visited your shop today after two other Etsy sellers told me about your work.
They were concerned that the three of us are being copied.
I get the feeling too, that you already know of me.

Though of course, I cannot prove that you are intentionally copying me and/or some others,
and although you obviously have the right to make whatever your heart desires,
I want you to know that it really burns to see my ideas
made tangible and claimed by someone else.
But what is MORE important:

I want you to know how much you are hindering yourself, my friend.

I copied another artist awhile back.
I have done exactly what it is I think that you are doing,
so please believe me when I tell you it's not worth it.
I justified it in my head by saying to myself,
"Well, I'M the one picking the stone out,
and I'M the one building a setting around it,
and I'M the one deciding exactly what element goes where,
so really, I'M the designer."
But the fact was, the embellishments themselves
and the overall style were NOT my design,
and not truly mine to claim.

Whether you admit it to me or not,
I am betting that somewhere deep down,
this sounds familiar to you.

What I wanted to ultimately say is this:

When I copied this other jeweler, she wrote me a note,
and she let me know it hurt her and she let me know she didn't appreciate it.
But she also told me that I didn't need her or anyone else to give me my creative edge.
She said I had the inspiration and ideas already inside of me;
I just needed to dig deep.
Her words hit me really hard.
I wrote her back and admitted to what I was doing.
I apologized both to her privately and publicly on my blog.
I pulled all the work out of my Etsy shop that even remotely resembled hers.
Then, I stopped making things for awhile,
and focused only on searching myself and my surroundings for what truly inspired me,
what made me ME,
what made me love art and design and jewelry.
It was a very intense and emotional process, but it was well worth it.

I believe I read tonight in your own words, that
"if it was always easy it probably wouldn't be worth doing anyway."

I really got to the root of my style, looking at why I loved her work,
and what sorts of things I kept around me day to day,
why I loved them, and so forth.
I was able to identify that color, texture, repetition, vintage,
western, asian, and indian influences are all things I love.
I could directly pin-point these influences,
see them around me in the home and life I had built,
see them in past works I had created in all different mediums while in school.
It wasn't just looking at someone else's jewelry anymore and going,
"Hey, I like that."
It was much deeper, and much more significant.
And what came out of me was the best work I've ever done,
the pieces that i really care about and feel connected to.
Pieces that, oddly enough, seem to be reflected in your own.

This is in no way a pat on the back for me;
I am not flaunting something that was so obviously the right thing to do.
I never should have ended up at that place to begin with.
But the point is, I did something about it.

And I hope you will as well.

I hope that you will step back a moment, and rethink what you are making.
Even if you never apologize, or admit anything to anyone.
Quite frankly, I really don't care about that.
But you are cheating yourself of your gifts,
and you are cheating your unborn ideas of their potential
when you limit yourself to doing what has already been done.
You are giving yourself a "creative lobotomy", as someone once told me.
Obviously, you are very skilled with your craft.
And you obviously have the patience to assemble precious metal and stone . . .
but you need to apply that patience towards digging deep within yourself,
and whatever it is you find in there that is solely and uniquely YOU,
you need to apply your craft towards making it tangible.

Because lady, let me tell you:
your current pieces might have been made my you . . . but they ain't your own.

Dig deep!
It's worth it.

Most sincerely,
JJ Papke
(Rosy Revolver)


  1. Jess I can feel your frustration and anger and rightly so. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but when someone steals your creative ideas and claim it as their own it is fraud. Your blog was beautifully written and I think that "designer" will rethink what she is doing and make things right. No matter how hard she tries her jewelry will just be poor imitations and she can not feel pride and satisfaction in her work...she will have to live with that until she decides to become creative in her own right and find her style. You are one of a kind!

  2. Thanks Sandy, but I'm actually not angry at all. Just sad, because I've been that insecure before, and felt I had to copy someone else's success instead of finding my own. It isn't meant to be about poor me, as I am better for it. It's meant to encourage another, and help share what I've learned from my mistakes. xoxo

  3. Sister.
    I meant it when I said it, and I'm glad to see how far you've come:) Thanks for speaking for us all in this blog post and for choosing to dig deep in the end. I love you for it. Truly. And more importantly, I respect you for it.

  4. Oh you beautiful woman. What a graceful way to express something so challenging with such compassion and grace.
    You are excellent not only in terms of your talent, but in terms of your heart and that is more important than anything your hands could ever do.

  5. ...bless the message...& the teacher...the sister...the artist...the passion...the love...in YOU...

  6. Very VERY well said lady. I have so much respect for you for taking the high road and heading down the path of honesty and openness and general "make things right-ed-ness" :) Everything from your design concepts to your final finished pieces are gorgeous testimonials of who you are and what you are capable of, and the fact that someone has decided to pilfer your ideas only means (to me) that you are on the right track. It totally sucks and I wish it never happened but people don't steal (and STEALING is exactly what it is) ideas that aren't worth stealing.
    Ultimately, the only thing we can take heart in is that when people copy us and choose to continue on in it - not changing their ways and chosing to create for themselves - they are only ultimately doing lasting damage to themselves and stifling their own creative process. So sad. It might sting us a bit from time to time but ultimately, we move on. We have to - it is in us. We "make" again and again and our creative wells will never run dry.
    Keep on keepin' on and know that there are many of us out here keepin' on right along with you. :)

  7. JJ, that was an extremely moving and very honest post. It was also very brave...................
    I hope that my little lady sees this post too........
    xox Louise

  8. I've felt that pull, in seeing a design and wondering if I am capable, do I have the skills to recreate it, and then thinking, well if I changed this, or did this differently, surely it would be my design. You just helped me answer a question I've had inside. Sadly, no matter what I changed, that design would never be mine. Thank you for inspiring us all to dig a little deeper and see what we find inside.

  9. This is EXACTLY what makes you and all you do so special.
    A very touching, honest, naked, email. I pray the eyes that were meant to see this do and their heart is open to the words that so obviously came from your heart.
    Blessings to you JJ

  10. What a beautifully written post! It is the nicest smackdown I've ever seen given to a copycat; kudos to you for having such grace and class. I've started letters like this more times than I can count over the past few years and because I do not like confrontation, I deleted them. I regret it daily but this post has inspired me to stick up for what's mine and what supports my two children. Me thinks it is time to put on my big girl panties and have a chat.

    We'll miss you at the Handmade Market this November. Hopefully you'll come say hi to us?


  11. what an elegant response to something that plagues the most insecure moments in any creative person's journey. thank you. i will be putting a link to this in my store to share with my customers and lookie-loos. perhaps it will strike a note with someone else prior to a weak moment they may be having. good luck. xow.

  12. JJ,
    I am so proud of this post! I concur with all the comments mentioned above. We all make mistakes, but it's what we do after we fall that makes us who we are. It's beautiful that you would share your own lesson, so someone else can grow too. Your integrity is something to be proud of.

    Amazing. Incredible. Awesome. You.


  13. I agree with Kristen..that was a very nice smackdown & very brave of you to be so raw & candid in your post.



  14. Had a wordy comment all written up but it didn't properly convey my feelings. And I've realized that either I don't have the words or it's just too early, not enough coffee.

    I'll just share with you something I realized when I came across people blatantly copying my work...

    Whoever decided that imitation was a form of flattery must have been the imitator and not the imitated.

  15. I am pretty sure I know who you are talking about from your letter based on some new stuff I have seen on Etsy. I have some people who like to imitate my photography and some design elements, it is frustrating.

  16. I can't tell you how deeply moved I am by your post. I have had my own experience with this and I honestly do not believe anyone can understand until it happens to them. I want to let you know that I stand behind you completely and I am so disappointed in this person. It is an extremely insecure person that would do this and you are right, the only solution is for that person to dig down and find their true self. It is hard not to feel anger when these things happen but in the end you are right, it is ultimately sadness.... It breaks one's heart to see all of the time and effort and originality taken away by someone with the flick of their torch. In the end someone who chooses to find a shortcut through someone else's work will never be able to capture the magic that makes it amazing. They don't really understand the breath that was breathed into the work to create perfection.

    Please know that I am so sorry for this and I stand behind you.

  17. Oh my heavens, this honest post needed some time and reflexion on my part... as it was an unusual and utterly graceful way to approach such a delicate subject {so please excuse the long novel;}

    Some insights came to me while reading your words and then also the comments of many I am familiar with and most I adore, the first realization was that the silent credo of walking the path of working at being a better person and artist adheres to us all who have made a response, I believe... and although this was written in October I have seen these same designers loosely respect the very vague, sometimes unclear line of "territorial design" claimed by the crafter... I know each are capable of creating the same piece, and at times I have seen some of their work look similar to their peers {too my eyes} and that doesn't worry me too much because I know inspiration is a very organic thing, and this medium has very little wiggle room for distinctly new-rare-as-red-wine "invention"... especially to a beginner silversmiths like moi who has mastered only the basics... {yet never is it an excuse to blatantly copy someone else's work} I posted a bit on understanding who is ones inspiration and how to give the respect that is needed and appropriate to our inspiration muse, after all, we all had to learn this medium from some one, and it's important to give homage to those who have assisted us along the way... my instructor is Kerin Rose {http://kerinrose.blogspot.com} and it's been an incremental and long journey of learning... it's not easy this craft, even though it is in my blood... it's absolutely rewarding with every step I take when I honor my own spirit and create what my heart passionately burns to make.


    all and all, just the same, this post is a beautiful reminder to all of us, and it will serve many with a long string of pearls of wisdom... I think I very much would like to refer some lovely people to this fine place:)

    Love and Light
    See you in the Wind,
    Thank you kindly,


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  19. What a wonderful post! I feel very strongly about the issue too.

    I linked on my Treasures for Tots FB fan page: