Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cheating Yourself

This morning I accidently stumbled upon an Etsy quilter who had copied some of my work and the work of another well known Etsy textile artist. At first I just wanted to chalk it up to a freak coincidence. Two people who had similar ideas at the same time. It happens. But when I looked at the whole shop, I couldn't deny that some of the pieces were blatant rip-offs. They had even used parts of the wording and phrasing found in my descriptions for their own. I was shocked.

I am not going to name names, or pursue this, as I don't want to use up my energy on negative issues.
But I will say this...

We all get inspired by others. It can not be helped. But inspiration should take the form as a starting point towards blazing a new direction, it should not be an invitation to trod down someone else's path. The main work and reward of being an artist is to tap into yourself and mine what treasures of your own you have to offer the world. That's your job.

It is of course wrong to take from others, and pass them off as original works of your own. However, in my opinion, it is even more morally wrong to never explore your own voice, to never dig down and find what gifts you can bring to the table.

When artists share their work, they are doing so in a spirit of community. There is an honor code and a sense of trust. When you take their offerings and try to prosper by selling them as your own, you break that code of honor. You cheat them but you cheat yourself more.

You will never know the joy of being in that zone, when creative ideas flow from you and time stands still. You will never know the thrill of having that kind of energy rush through you. You will never know what you could have accomplished, what new offerings YOU could have brought to the table, had you only done the WORK.

Learn from those that have gone before you. Let yourself be inspired by them, but take that inspiration as a light to help guide you on your own path. Don't be afraid. Discover YOURSELF, don't cheat yourself!

33 comments:

Diva Quilts said...

I love this post!

I'm sorry that this happened to you - and apparently - this happened recently to Jacquie at Tallgrass Prarie Studios as well. :(

On the other hand, thank you for writing this. I love reading all "my blog ladies" as I call them, for inspiration and eye candy, but I never understand why people follow trends, why they copy something they see (even with permission) why they don't go off and, as you say, seeing what THEY could have brought to the table.

(It's why I never buy patterns, either).

Anyway - thanks for writing this - and I hope that as a result, I'll see far less in the way of "trends" and far more in the way of "inspiration" from my blog ladies!

Cheers!

RosaMarĂ­a said...

it's a sad news, but the words in your post are very kind and real. I also believe that all people have some creativity, just a matter of search and explore in ourselves and we will surely be impressed by the results. Your work is beautiful and although they try, they can never do the same.

Gunnels blog said...

So sorry to hear that! And yes it´s very bad to do so. Very good that you write about it here on your blog! We all need inspiration, but we have to do it in our own style!

Stephanie said...

You hit the nail right on the head. Terrific post. So sorry this has happened. Why do other's take work and pass it off as their own? Sadly this will always happen.

Alissa said...

I have been seeing similar posts to this much more online recently. I know stealing happens all the time, but is there an uptick?? But your attitude about it is so good. It's true, they are cheating themselves. Hope that it doesn't get too you too much...

soggybottomflats said...

You are so classy and professional. Well done, Elaine

KQuiltyBee said...

Absolutely right. Sometimes it is hard to be original, I guess. NOT in anyone's defense, but I think sometimes the line between inspiration and copying is very fine. However, if you're going to SELL items, you better be sure to figure out where it is. Thanks for prompting this discussion.

nicolette said...

I’ve never read a reply to cheating and steeling like yours! Great job! You’re not only a great artist, you’re a great teacher and philosopher!

Cheryl Arkison said...

Some people's children! Seriously, how are people not raised intelligently enough to know copying from inspiration?

Then again, that's what I see when I see yet another wonky log cabin or Gee's Bend inspired piece. They aren't new and unique to the designers we are inspired from, but we certainly associate them with certain people. Maybe once you start seeing them everywhere, as opposed to rip offs here and there it isn't copying anymore?

I actually have a hard time now because I see so many lovely quilts on-line but I don't want to copy them, I want to do my own thing. But what if I really love the design? I ask permission and I would never, ever offer it for sale.

Keep going, you will always be an inspiration.

BlueRockGourds said...

Thanks Victoria!
I needed this! My neighbor who buys gourds from me, has just started her own gourd business with all my ideas and items. Right in my own backyard! All I can say is "tacky". I will forge ahead! Thanks! Wendy

T.Allen-Mercado said...

I sincerely admire the way you've handled this. It takes a true artist to turn what appears an obvious affront into a deeply empowering message.

kay susan said...

Well,I have to say, no matter how you describe it, it's still a VERY BAD thing to do. It does happen not infrequently on Etsy and they do have a mechanism for reporting infringements like this, although I do not have experience of it. I have admired your work for quite some time - but no way would I copy it and put it up for sale. (I might make a bit just to keep for myself to look at now and again though!)I guess it's a risk we all take.

Jackie said...

So sorry to hear that this has happened to you. You are right that all of us should act as inspirations and not pass things off as your own if they are not. Credit should be given where credit is due and inspiration should be found within!

Allie said...

Good post! But I would urge you to at least contact etsy management and let someone know. I know very few designers who haven't, at some point, seen their own work being passed off as someone else's on ebay or etsy - these folks are taking money right out of their pockets. Yes, the thieves are hurting themselves - but if someone is relying on designs as an income, it hurts them more. This whole theft thing is why I've been hesitant to start my own design business. I wish we had an "easy" button to turn these folks in!

Janis said...

Again you take my breath away, this time with your grace under fire. Beautifully written - it should be required reading for all Etsy shopowners!

Hey Harriet said...

Firstly I am so sorry this has happened to you. This is very very bad!

Secondly I am so impressed by the way you have handled the situation. This is a brilliant post and I really hope that the person involved will read it. And learn from it.

Thirdly I hope that this doesn't eat away at you too much. Keep on keeping on! Your work is unique and beautiful and you need to continue creating your art regardless! xo

Michelle | Cicada Studio said...

As with everything you do, this was handled with style- and by that I mean your optimism, insightfulness, eloquence and class. Can't copy that.

You're a true original.

Amy C said...

oh Victoria, you are such an amazing individual and I love all of the true words you have written here.
I still can't help finding any situation like this really sad.

please sir said...

I'm sorry to hear this has happened to you...and it stinks because it seems to happen one way or another to other great Etsy designers out there. I think you are doing the right thing by making it known on here. Hopefully said copier will find themselves!

kelly said...

This is a lovely post -- you are a very classy lady.

I respect your decision not to "out" this person and your attitude is admirable.

Karen said...

Your eloquence in how you are handling this situation is to be admired. You write beautifully and inspirationally.

I have to admit that I copy a lot of people's ideas, but never to sell or to profit from. I love to quilt but my creative talent ends with my ability to sew. The creative part of designing patterns eludes me.

Carol E. said...

What a gracious response to a rotten situation! I applaud your wonderful outlook.

henny said...

Great post! It shows how big and wonderful is your heart and thinking :) I hope the "person" who cheat herselfwill be ashamed!
Have you reported this to Etsy? You should..

Fer said...

Never a truer word said, and I hardly feel that I can add anything to this post - except to say that I truly admire your spirit.

I suppose you think it couldn't happen to you, but there are unimaginative people out there, who don't seem to have a conscience either.

Keep up the good (nay excellent!) work.

karen said...

In this post you have expressed beautifully how I feel about this kind of situation. Be very proud.

Jackie said...

Very well said. Beautifully put.
I try very hard to be original but sometimes I make something and then have a few moments of panic when I think I may have sunconsciously regurgitated something I've already seen on the web. But I would never sit down and copy someone else's work. Techniques are available to everyone but its what you do with them, your own signature,that matters.

Kickcan and Conkers said...

I'm sorry to hear about this, it's something quite common I think. A wonderful post however, I'll be back.

Valerie said...

Well said!

Diane J. Evans said...

What a classy and elegant way to express yourself on this topic -- I, too, am sorry that this happened to you. It should never happen to anyone, but, sadly, it does. May you continue to produce the wonderful pieces of art that flow from that incredible mind of yours -- you ARE one of a kind!

Diane

Mrs Moen said...

I am so sorry this happened to you! There is a looong stretch between getting inspired by and copying other's work, and at this time and age - someone will know! You sure have a great way of looking at what happened though.

Caron said...

What a generous and loving attitude to extend.

Threadhead said...

You are right on!

Buddy love quilts said...

I am new to blog so hang in there with me. I just came across this post.
When I was young,(16-17), I had to finish an art piece for final exam. I stole an idea from someone else. My final grade 99. The feeling it left me inside.... Guilt, empty. I even walked away for art for years! I told myself that I wasn't good enough to do anything on my own.
In the last 7 years, I have come back to art in the form of longarm quilting. I told myself that no matter how good I was, it was going to me. If its my idea, its me, if its a pattern, then I tell someone its a pattern or if I got the idea from ...., then its so and so....
I turn 50 in a few weeks and I am proud of the work I do! And I forgave myself for cheating ME out of 26 years of art!
The person that did this to you will never know how bad they have hurt themself by doing this.
Believe me, I know, I lost 26 years.