15 April 2010

The Real Slim Shady

Time once again for the Talk About Blog.
The Snow Leopard Network is tackling a tough topic this week.

I thought about not posting this time around because,
well let's face it.
I think we all know where I stand on this issue.
(Wry smile, rolling eyes.)

The question?
"How do you view the topic of copying?"
What does "copying" mean to you?

Oh boy.
And the can gets ripped open . . .

For the record,
I've already spouted off about this probably too much for my good.
You can check out my archives, if you wish.
It's all there.

But for this Talk About,
and out of my deep respect for my team members,
I'll try to be a bit more ladylike and clear in explaining WHAT exactly copying means.
** TO ME **
And for the record, I'm going to keep this specific post to the realm of Etsy,
as that's really the only arena in which I have any experience.

She breathes . . .

Wait, let me go refill my coffee cup.

First, let me say that copying does exist.
Blatant, intentional ripping off, done solely for money and
without respect or care for art or design.

I get and agree that as technology expands and the world shrinks,
it becomes harder and harder NOT to see others' works and ideas in action.
And I agree that people inspire one another, which I think is a great thing.
I agree that ideas overlap, sometimes to the extreme.
I agree that more than one person . . .
hell, even more than a hundred people,
can come up with the same concept and execute it the same way.
No arguments there.

Where I start to have a problem is when people say,
There's nothing new in the art world.
Everything has already been done.
There are no original ideas anymore.

How sad and uninspiring is THAT?
And quite frankly, I think it's silly to be thought of as egotistical
for believing in the notion of an original idea.
Kind of makes me feel like humankind isn't being given enough credit.
While some artists truly believe that nothing is new
(and though I don't agree, they have every right to believe it)
I also think some just use those statements as a copout.
A backdrop for their own work . . .
Setting the stage for "inspired making."

{{Okay, but backing up for a moment.
While I personally DO believe in the existence of original ideas,
I agree that they are incredibly rare.
Part of the reason I think they are so rare, though . . .
is because a lot of people have just given up on trying to have them.
Preferring instead the passive, easy road already paved by others.
Much smoother to travel.

So what is copying?
Let me give you the Rosy Revolver definition for copying.
Take a seat.

Copying isn't just about the design.
The work.
The style, materials, the wording, the photographs.
It's timing.
It's context.
It's all of it . . . together, in relation to an artist's past style.
It doesn't have to be an exact duplicate of a design.
Copying, for me, is as much about intention as it is inspiration.

For example.
I make roses, right?
Out of scalloped bezel wire.
Spiraled around.
No big deal. Nothing special.
Am I the first or only person to ever think of this?
I HIGHLY doubt it.

So why do I get pissed when other artists do the same thing?
An excellent question.

I get pissed ONLY when I can look at the entire picture and find no trace of evolution.
When the other artist displays no stylistic stepping stones,
no flow to the work,
no progression or even connection between past work and present work.
When there is no evidence of a journey made.

So in other words,
if a well-established Etsy shop has hundreds or even thousands of sales,
all shiny bangles and hammered discs,
modern lines,
bright polish and a clean, structured, geometric style . . .
and that style is visible via the seller's Sold section
all the way back to the beginning of the shop's existence . . .

If that shop had never used prefabricated components like filigree before.
If that shop had never boasted a single twisted rose bud.
If that shop had never used beaded wire, open marquis findings,
or a combination of all or some of these components before,
and then
Without evidence of evolution or progression or stylistic exploration,
started using these things that are so opposite of what their style has always been . . .
almost exclusively and nearly abandoning their old style,
changing directions in mid-air,
singing with a different voice altogether different from the one they've used for so long,

. . . yeah.
I get pissed.
(Oh, and if my shop is in THAT shop's Etsy favorites? That just adds fuel to my fire.)

And can I prove that they are ripping me off?

But it's a gut feeling.
It's deductive reasoning.
It's common sense.
And I believe there is still something to be said for such things.

To me,
will always be largely based on process.
On ideation.
The journey of making something, from the first thought to the final product.
The intentions and inspirations behind an item are,
in my opinion,
hugely important in the being able to label something as true "art."

I consider the pieces I make to be just that.
Made with meaning.
They are the "real" deal,
even if they are not the first like them in the history of the world.

But work made just for the sake of selling,
made just to look like other work that has proved profitable,
with no soul and no story and no spirit . . .

Not art.
Just copies of art.

* As I said, more about my views on copying, my history of copying and being copied may be found in my archives.

** These are all my own personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of my teammates.
You can see their posts on this same topic by visiting the links below:


  1. hurrah! we are on the very same page :)
    well said!!!

  2. I loved reading your post. it was very well put, and articulate :) you have a unique view point, of which i agree completely. thank you for sharing with us, as a team :)

  3. i'm in agreement...you hit right on it..provenance is the key..how did the artist get to that design idea ..
    i can show a 30 year progression for my work..and Hello ya'll, copying is NOT a form of flattery..
    you can sure tell anyone who has been inspired by work and made it their own..it might take a few tries but their work takes on it's own life.
    not just a reflection of yours.

  4. Oh good golly!! You have just spoken my heart and mind in this post. Thank you!!!!! I feel as if a weight has been lifted just from reading this and knowing that this frustration exists in the "real" world and not just in my head. haha. Thank you again. I have just discovered your TERRIFIC blog, and your awe inspiring work....I am looking foreword to becoming an addict to your work....I cannot wait to look down at my fingers and feel the wind blow through my hair and remember that i got this piece of art from a competent, strong woman who is taking the world by fire.

    Thank you again.

  5. Ah, so clear, so concise.... I applaud your statement.
    I think for me the thing that feels so sad:
    when someone makes something it reflects their spirit...
    when someone 'borrows' the whole shebang it comes across as lacking any kind of inner light: it could have all the beauty, but it is missing the key component which made the original so luscious:

    You know I support you to your very bones.
    Love love love,

  6. Wonderful, Jess! I very much appreciate your considered thoughts on this and I feel you have given voice to my somewhat vague feelings on this subject. You have wonderful courage in standing up for your own work and by extension the work of others. These are unpleasant things to think about you've done a continuously fabulous job addressing them.

    People come from a wide range of backgrounds to sell on Etsy. These backgrounds may or may not have a basis in personal creative exploration, unique artistic voice and respect for others' work. In this context, I think it is absolutely vital that thought is given to intellectual property and a push for making and celebrating original and innovative work.

  7. I co-sign 1000%. I think that what you quoted,

    "There's nothing new in the art world.
    Everything has already been done.
    There are no original ideas anymore."

    is a really lazy approach to thinking about all of this--if folks even bother to think about it at all, and when I hear crap like that I have to just shake my head and go do yoga or something. ;-]

    Excellent post.

  8. not only was this posting a concise lesson in the correct meaning of what is copying, it is not one that points fingers or is immature in its content and speaks to the entire nature of artistic theft.

    for those artists that are able to profit from copying, although some of you claim an artistic sensibility that accompanies its genesis... you do not have what it takes. originality is the result of many many many and then even more efforts. often times integrating professional assessments of one's work. in copying someone who has traveled along the pathway of critiques and constructive criticisms, you have stolen an education that has not been your own. plainly, this is intellectual theft. it is precisely why folks who are copied feel so much pain when others steal from them. they have not done the work, the evolution, the tests and trials to get to a specific place that you might try to claim as your new jumping off spot. how dare you trivialize this process and denigrate it with such phrases as :"ever since i was little, i was artistic."
    it is NOT an excuse.
    real creators have morals and values. when you co-opt their ideas, you are no longer really an artist. you have become a manufacturer. not the same thing. and shame on you. someone is always watching. you publicly have announced your ineptitude, lack of integrity and lack of imagination. bet it feels great huh?

    xoxo. w.

  9. I really enjoyed your post. You have such a wonderful and fun way of putting things that made me want to read on. Although my views are a little less intense, I do agree with the ideas that people need to find their own voice and ideas. And although I'm one of those that said it's hard to come up with a new idea, I do agree you should continue to strive for that otherwise we wouldn't have all the great technology we have now. And, as new materials and technology arises, so too will new ideas and creations of art as they will be inspired by the new technologies. So, I'm sorry that you've had to feel the frustration from others, but you're stuff rocks and you certainly have a great sense of who you are as an artist! thanks for sharing

  10. Thanks, y'all. :) I know you must be sick to death of hearing me rant on this subject.

    And WATTO- thanks for stopping by and reading. I'm a huge fan of your work. WILL own me some one day. :)

  11. Hmm…interesting post. I’m one of those that believe there aren’t really a whole lot of original metalsmithing techniques/ideas out there any more. Maybe adding etched elements from your own hand drawn designs, but I’m sure someone somewhere would cry copycat about that too. I think the originality, the art, comes directly from the artist themselves, whether it be in the presentation, the packaging, the story behind the piece or just the personality of the maker.

    I sell my stuff only at art/craft shows, I do absolutely no on line sales. I have no website. I have no blog. This is just how I’ve always done it, not because I’m afraid of people copying my stuff (or because I’m afraid someone will claim I’m copying them). I enjoy the art shows and the festivals. I really enjoy meeting my customers in person; some of them have even become close personal friends. And, of course, I love it when they say they’ve come to the show only because they knew I’d be there.

    I really disagree with you when you say you know someone is copying another when they suddenly show a totally different style of stuff. Some of the shows that I do I’ve attended for 10+ years. I know what sells best at each type of show. I have a few different “collections” of jewelry that I sell. All use sterling, copper, stones, beads and are all handmade by me, one at a time. But, the complexity of the pieces vary, from simple wirewrapped stone pendants and earrings to bezel set stones that I’ve cut and polished myself, therefore I have very different price points ($10-$200). And I’m not going to take my high priced items to the local church craft bazaar because I know they’re not going to sell there. But I am going to take lots of my lower priced items there because I know they will sell. And, at the end of the day, I want to sell my stuff, not just haul it around from show to show. So you, as a metalsmith, may go to that church bazaar, see my work and say oh, there’s another beader selling beaded jewelry, there’s nothing original in that. But, unless you‘ve attended one of my higher end art fairs, you may never know that I have a totally different style of work.

    I want to add that I’m not sure that I like etsy or the whole indie craft thing as some like to call it. I think it’s kind of lowered the standard for artists and this comes through at the shows too. It used to be that the bigger shows attracted true craftsmen/women. At one of my shows last year I had a booth next to a woman who was selling crocheted cupcakes (!). I was amazed that she even got through the jury process. At another show I was next to someone who was selling “upcycled art” made out of empty tuna cans and plastic cool whip containers Maybe some call that art. I don’t.

    I hope that you don’t feel I’m trying to criticize you. I’m not. Your work is beautiful and unique. And if someone is using your words and your photos and your designs exactly as you are, then I would agree with you that is copying. BUT, someone would have to go to that great extend before I believe it would be intentional copying.

  12. coppersilverstone-

    No offense taken whatsoever. I understand where you are coming from and certainly know that there are many, many artists and consumers out there who disagree with me. (They love to let me know.) :)

    I do have to say that I totally agree with you on the art/crafts shows. I love them too, meeting people in person and hearing live feedback on my work. If there were more here in my local area and the ones further away didn't have so many overhead costs, I would do more. Despite its problems, Etsy has been my lifeline thanks to its low overhead and the access it provides to a global market.

    And, just to be clear, I don't think that different lines or collections of work in any way constitute a lack or "art" or indicates copying. I hope my post didn't sound that way. I began as a beader and up until several months ago, was still selling beaded work at a local consignment shop. Same reason . . . different demographics and settings require different kinds/price points of goods. And of course money must be made if we are to continue doing what we love.

    All in all I would say we see eye to eye on several things, and the rest, though we may disagree, I do respect your point of view and appreciate you taking the time type it out and share it as thoroughly as you did.

  13. Rosy...YAY for your passion and for putting it all out there! And I love your engaging presentation!

    This is a hot topic. No doubt about it, copying is hurtful...I've had my income diminished by it more than once. In the long run though, I really think the person who copies suffers most and on so many levels.

  14. so eloquently stated.

    you already know how i feel about all this bs (only you and bad ass wendy said it better).


  15. oh! I didn't have your blog in my list, I was going to miss this post! now, I'm going to get some more coffee & start to read:)

  16. you make me smile!!!
    LOVE your passion lady!!!
    have a wonderful weekend JJ
    love and light

  17. Very well said! This is a topic that I tackle every now and then, when I can't take it anymore. I usually receive a fair amount of support but there are always the ones who declare "there is nothing new under the sun" (and accuse me of being arrogant and full of myself). It's a cliche that makes my skin crawl. As you say, it is easy to see a person's history, their artistic journey, when they have their business online. It is easy to see when they suddenly change their entire style or have no history whatsoever of making things in a certain way. As an artist we KNOW when we are being copied. It is a gut feeling and a feeling that should be trusted.

    Anyway, very post. Thanks!

  18. That would be very *GOOD* post!

  19. i enjoyed reading your comments. i agree that there are tons of new ideas and i try my best to have them. i too get upset when i see work "that is inspired" by mine. i will say that i have tried very hard for 12 yrs not to have an identifiable "look". I have always made things that are vastly different from one another. i choose to do this so i don't get locked in to any style. i want the freedom to make what i want when i want. sometimes there is no progression, just a giant stylistic leap. this is how i keep it interesting for me.
    ps- love your work. quite exceptional.