Thanks for all of your comments on this post. It is clear that many of you feel passionate about the challenging issues surrounding copyright. During this time of fluent information sharing and the collaborative nature of the online craft community, it is only natural that these issues surface. I respect your opinions about my HandMAYde is Better series this week and while I welcome the debate, I hope that all of you know that as a maker and designer myself, these issues are important to me also. Each of the posts from this week has been updated in response to your concerns.
If you would like to read the full post along with the comments, feel free to read on. I am going to get on with sewing and making things, because I don’t think we are going to find any answers today. What I hope to provide here is a supportive place for inspiration, instruction and resources. Thanks.
I’ve inadvertently started a controversy. Thanks, twitter. First, let me talk about my thoughts for doing this week of DIY knock-offs, and then let’s draw the line between art and craft. And we can open up that copyright can of worms too. Let’s lay it all out here. And let me also say that I almost never see things in black and white, so I’d love to hear your opinions and I’ll probably agree with all of you.
Really, I am truly a person who likes to make things myself and I don’t have the money to spend on expensive things (like $120 pillows). When I see things in a catalog, I do often think “I can make that”, but I usually choose to spend my own time trying to make things I’ve never seen before. For me it’s about creativity, it’s a personal challenge, and it’s my work. I still don’t consider myself an artist and I’m guessing that many of you don’t either.
I know that many of you who read this blog just really love to make things, but are looking for inspiration and ideas and may not even consider yourself to be creative. That’s what I aim to provide here — inspiration — so you can get the fulfillment of making something — whether it’s your design or not. So there’s an important distinction between art and craft. Is it your own, original idea? Then it’s art. Did you follow a pattern? Craft. I respect people for making things and don’t want anyone to feel like they need an M.F.A. to make a handbag.
So yes, you are welcome to find inspiration for your personal projects from stores, catalogs, art, etc. Does this de-value the work of the artist? I don’t think so. I think it moves it along, spreads it around and keeps it evolving. Does sharing a how-to for making a copy cross the line? Again, I don’t think so as long as people aren’t selling the knock-off.
Someone on twitter mentioned that it’s not fair because my site sells ads. If you want to see my income spreadsheets, you’ll see that I don’t earn a living from these ads, but can’t justify all the time I spend on this blog without them. I struggled with this ad issue for years, but finally chose to have ads for independent businesses. This is my personal choice and I respect those who choose to have more or less advertising on their site. I really don’t want to judge anyone’s personal choices and I thank you for not judging mine.
If you can’t afford an $88 necklace, but you can make things, why not do it? But I’d love to hear your opinion. And art is not created in a vacuum. We are influenced by a myriad of sources, both consciously and subconsciously.
Now, another thought about this week of knock-offs is that I have become too familiar with the story of companies knocking off the work of indie designers. Do I think it’s malicious? Yes – but maybe no? My guess is that there is an over-worked, underpaid designer somewhere trying to make a deadline who just takes the wrong shortcut. Now, I do think some companies may incorporate this “borrowing” into their design practices on a regular basis and honestly, no one can stop them unless it’s a flagrant and complete case of plagiarism. And that stinks all around.
Then there’s the Etsy seller who is just ignorant about copyright issues, but may respond politely when you ask them to please stop selling your designs. I speak from experience. People have used my patterns and my designs in both small and large-scale situations. I see it differently depending on the case and I’m always willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. Does someone selling my superhero capes at their church bazaar warrant the same disdain as someone selling my design on fabric being sold on a large scale to major fabric retailers? I don’t think so. There’s just a lot of gray here, in my opinion. Gray, gray, gray.
What do you think?
Update to this post: I just wanted to make it clear that I support handmade and have promoted handmade artists on this blog for four years now. I think copying someone’s work to sell is wrong, whether you are copying from an independent designer or a large company. These projects were meant to be inspirational and for personal use only. I’d hoped to encourage people to make things — to look around in stores and realize that they can do it — more about empowerment and less about copying. And honestly, none of the (really nice) guest bloggers intended to use designs that were created by independent designers. You should check out the sites of the designers and buy something directly from them: designer of the Primal Cuts dish towels, Girls Can Tell, and the designer of the Merit Badge Necklace, Fort Standard.
I agree that there are some valid points in the comments below. I apologize for offending anyone — I can assure you that was not our intention. I hate controversy here and I just want everyone to be inspired to make stuff, which is what I think the handmade community is all about, right?
Obviously we won’t be doing this series again. So, enough of that. Have a great weekend and go make something!