When artists rip-off other artists…

Let’s talk about integrity. For so long I have seen people talking about having their designs or work ripped off by other designers/makers. It is rampant. Especially since Etsy has become so popular, everyone is using it and has access to the most unique ideas around. Sometimes Etsy acts like a strange kind of feedback loop where they feature something interesting, people like the idea and start making similar items, Etsy thinks the idea is trending, features it more, and so on.

Even larger stores and their buyers use Etsy to get ideas and watch trends. Some big stores are now creating relationships with artisans, purchasing wares, making deals. This is ideal for makers who can reproduce a lot of similar products in a short time frame, with a short lead time. A nice deal with a big store can really jettison a maker into a great place where they are able to make money doing their thing.

However, some of the big stores who have been shopping Etsy just use the ideas they see. They rip-off the artisan look and mass produce them. They co-opt the idea, the form, the look, the language used to describe the product, and use it to make their manufactured goods slightly more meaningful and current. This is wrong and does not go unnoticed, but these stores are not in direct competition with someone who is making unique, beautiful, handmade, artisan goods. If you want cheap stuff that looks like the good stuff, go the those big stores and purchase away.

What is worse and particularly disturbing is when artists rip off other artists. I always look around the web to see what everyone is doing. Anyone with any business sense does the same thing. To check out trends, to check out the competition, to get inspired by those you admire most. Face it, everyone knows what everyone else is up to. It is very difficult to go under the radar anymore. You think you can make something cool that is based on something you saw that someone else made that is cool? Nope, people will notice. I see people make pottery decorated with small black dots, or large black dots, or in a certain shape. Or, I see a certain grouping of pots in a certain glaze color, or a neat idea to make things with a certain kind of line, etc…  I like them, but I don’t make them, mainly because I follow my own voice, but also because IT HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE AND IT WAS NOT MY IDEA. Also, did you know that I FOLLOW MY OWN VOICE and I know that my best ideas are the ones that come from me.

When someone reproduces someone else’s work, or some version of the work, it usually looks stiff and clunky. Making the same shape, but just in another color, or using the same design motif but just on a slightly different shape, is wrong. If you did not come up with the idea, it is wrong. Now, do not confuse, no one can say they invented the bowl, or a pitcher, or a cup, but if you do not have something fresh and unique — that is a conversion from the original — that separates it from every other bowl, pitcher, or cup, DO NOT MAKE IT. It is not your idea. Do not make a version of someone else’s stuff. It is not ok to say you are putting your spin on it. If you did not think it up because you saw someone else do something similar, it is not yours to rip-off.

Inspiration comes from within, not without. Now, we know that absolutely nothing is new, so we seek ideas from various places in our lives. But, here is the test: After seeing something you really like, admire, or think you could do better, do you go have a try at it yourself? WRONG! That is not the way to make unique things in this world that are not rip-offs. Or… after seeing something you really like, admire, or think you could do better, do you open yourself up to your own, personal, INTERNAL VOICE that opens to your own ideas that blossom from within, and convert that inspirational something you saw into SOMETHING ELSE? Then you are doing it right.

Here are just a few original works that I created by following my own voice.