The Sidetrack Cafe No. 4: What Happened to the Magic? (Part I)


Do you remember back to a time when there were magical love notes, original porcelain knitware vases, doily installations, and original Rosa Pomar dolls? Do you remember? (It goes back a bit). We do - and along with those other original handmade artists and bloggers who were there from those early days (circa '05) - we really miss the spirit of those days; we've really lost something special along the way.

I write this post, in sadness really; I'm reminded that in as much as the internet has helped handmade art, handmade artists and the whole handmade movement, it is also crushing the magic, the beautiful, the real handmade, the original.

I write this to those who don't remember, and maybe to those who have forgotten. I'd like to shed a little light. I'm saddened to hear today about an artist no longer making because for the most part a big company has stolen several of her designs and had them mass-produced in China.

I'm saddened when I hear that an artist has to write her lawyer a letter every time someone copies her work (which is very often).

I'm saddened when I see artists giving away their works on blogs that are only having giveaways to drive more traffic.

I'm sad when I see someone using my brand name on their site to get more traffic to their site via google.

I'm sad when I see companies staging as if they're "indie"; ripping off real indie businesses and then seeing these items in magazines (who don't know the back story).

I'm sad when I see an artist contact me to write about their "charity" when really they only want the press about their work.

I cringe whenever I see a newbie blogger (that has no background in marketing & blogging whatsoever) giving e-courses on "blogging" or "marketing your work" and I'm sad that many are buying it! I'm really sad.

It seems so many want a piece of the pie. Yes, they may have the flashy sites, and say all the right things; but I'm sad people are believing the hype.

It takes everything away from what the internet was supposed to and should be.

Personally, it saddens me too, that so many have copied our business model, Poppytalk Handmade. Not that we don't like competition, that just makes us better. But because so many are in it for the wrong reasons. You may recall my Copy Cats post from this past March. But in case you haven't, let me quickly give you the reason I mention it again, and why I'm sad.

Here's an example. One person who recently started up a market (like ours), emailed wanting to advertise with us (as many of them have); and when I gave her a bit of our "back story", and explained why we couldn't take her advertising dollars, her response was, "Oh, I'm surprised, I just thought it was something bloggers do". What? You want to start a market, after you just started a blog just because you think it would be cool to work from home? And you want to "buy" my readership (that I worked so hard at for 5 years to get) to visit your site that you copied from me?

Or even worse, as in one particular case, you want to buy my readership to visit your site that you copied from me after you participated in my market to see how it worked and then say it was "your idea" on your site? And in that same case, approach my vendors that I created years establishing relationships with, offering them free space initially on your site, creating a false community that seems successful just because there are people in it (who look like they paid)? That people is freakin' crazy and really uncool. It's unfair to the handmade community.  Yet, many (who aren't aware of the back story) sadly buy into it.

It took us years to gain a readership strong enough to even support such a venture, a readership in numbers that would be fair to the handmade community involved and yet, some think they can do the same after just starting a blog after two months. And now there are so many markets, so many it's dizzying. And many are buying it. That's even crazier.

I don't know what the answer is to all of this, and we probably can't control a lot of it (yet). But I would like the media, (eg. magazine editors, newspapers, bloggers) to take better notice what they are featuring in their publications. Is it from the original artist, or made from a company that copied that artist, with lots of marketing dollars to get your attention? I would love for the handmade community to come together as a force to be reckoned with! I think we as bloggers, big, little or small, should always give credit where credit is due (including images). I would love for the handmade community to not buy into all of the online marketing schemes out there; don't get me wrong, there are some good ones, but sometimes, even if they are "indie", "indie" doesn't always mean it's got your best interests in mind.

It's sad that Stephanie Congdon Barnes isn't making anymore, because we are all missing out on something magic. And I don't know about you, but I miss something magic.

xo
jan and earl

Parts II to this post is here and Part III is here.

P.S. Have you read my other Sidetrack Cafe posts?

Jan Halvarson

116 comments:

misshannie said...

This makes me so sad because unfortunately it is so true. Whilst I only created a blog a few months ago, I have been reading blogs for several years now, and there is no doubt that there are some incredibly talented, creative minds on the blogosphere. It is then simply not fair that all your hard work can be copied by an aspiring 'blogger' (whatever the heck that is!) in order to create more traffic.

Please do keep up the good work though; there is no doubt that your blog is a diamond in the rough.

Much love, Hannie
xoxo

Anna @ D16 said...

Jan, this post has me somewhere between crying and giving a standing ovation. Something has to change. We can't all keep following the ad revenue-based model that was established by print magazines so many years ago. Our content has to matter, our voices need to be clear, and we need to make absolutely sure we're supporting the artists and businesses we believe in.

Thank you for writing this.

'odd and old' Linda Dacey said...

hats off for sounding off!

anabela / fieldguided said...

I think you're brave for writing this post and I hope we continue to hear things like it. It's important.

Autumn said...

Great post. And, a great reminder that even though social media moves quickly, it doesn't give us the excuse (as makers, bloggers, advertisers OR buyers) to cut corners. The whole point of handmade is slow, real, personal work of quality. From me to you, and back. It's especially challenging for new artists and designers making their way through it all - trying to make an impact without copying or building hollow connections.

sandra said...

thank you for writing this jan! i've been struggling with copy cats lately and it seems like it's happening to too many of us too often. what has happened to stephanie is so so sad and i'm so sad she's not making anymore. thank you again.

hannah at honey & jam said...

while i'm not a big part of the handmade community online, i respect it so much and read the blogs/frequent the shops often. It saddens me deeply to read this. Huge companies ripping off small business is to be expected (although it is so so wrong), but for some reason it's so much worse to hear about other individuals ripping off really creative and inspiring works. blogging/creating should be about so much more than making money and gaining a "following".

i am so glad you've written this post. it's important to say these things.

UNIFORM natural said...

Thank you Jan for writing something that needs to be said and heard by everyone in the online community.
Thank you also for writing so thoughtfully and from the heart.

Treasa said...

Thank you Jan, for saying out loud what so many of us feel. we recently experienced a copy cat moment, and were devastated that a fellow independent artist would do such a thing. The more posts there are like this one, the better off the handmade community is :) thank you for publicly expressing these genuine concerns, and for supporting originality!

lesley [smidgebox] said...

jan, kudos for a really thoughtful + heartfelt post. yours is one of the first blogs i ever read, when i first discovered blogs about 4 years ago. i love your authentic, creative voice!
i thought of this on the weekend, as a vendor in a wonderful community-driven and original market, which continues to thrive despite the many many new markets -- which seem to pop up in droves every single weekend in vancouver! there is something to be said about things being precious, original, and few-and-far-between.
i have much more to say on the topic, but will leave it at saying that it makes me sad, too. thanks for shedding some light.

-lesley

PAWLING | print studio said...

read this three times already. thank you.

jen a said...

right to the heart of it jan. it feels like everything has shifted in the last couple years and it's painful to witness. i too have dealt with artists - some rather well known - whose work passes that line of inspiration and falls into lack of creativity in terms of lifting content - it's disheartening. but i agree, the more of us that continue to create original content and voice our dissatisfaction about what is happening - the better for everyone. thank you jan...

Jen said...

I remember when it was so simple and you could sell your handmade items and not worry. And then it wasn't. I felt I had to stop making and stop blogging about what I was making. I felt even though I had a following, I also had competition watching my every move. It wasn't fun anymore. It makes me super cautious to this day. Which stinks.
This is the best post. Thank you for writing it. It need to be said, over and over again.

sarah said...

thank you jan. xoxo

tara - scoutie girl said...

Hi Jan, thanks for this post.

I started writing a really long comment in response but decided I better post it publicly:

http://www.scoutiegirl.com/2010/12/new-magic.html

Eireann said...

Much of this echoes how I feel.

The difference between 'now' & 'then' seems to be thoughtfulness (or lack thereof), to some extent. I was there when it all began, and it was exciting. And part of that was that it offered a thoughtful alternative to other ways of consuming and interacting inside capitalism. People were (and still are) doing things they loved and making connections with others who did the same, and doing this in thoughtful ways, so things seemed to come about more organically, with less obvious focus on the money/selling/competition. While I am very much pro-being honest about the fact that we are indeed selling things, I am also NOT in this only for that. I'm in it for things that are orthagonal to people coming in and taking ideas from the community without a sense of how the community formed, without a sense of the ethical, responsible positions this community has taken with regard to its members since it began. And I'm in it because of the way this community allows me to make my work in a way that reflects my values (which aren't necessarily the same as others who also make things here; which aren't necessarily reflected by other economic systems I'm part of; and which are definitely not reflected by makers or large companies who take others' work or ideas to make a quick buck). I'm in this because of my commitment to making beautiful things in a way that does as little harm as possible to the world and the other people who I share it with. I'm in this because of my commitment to own few or no throwaway objects. I'm in this because of my commitment to things I find truly useful and/or beautiful, not faddish. And I show that commitment by putting my money where my mouth is. Which means (because I haven't got a ton) that my buying is limited. But it also means that the things I do buy, I love, I treasure, I know about (I know who made them! Where! Why! How!), and I value and use for a long time.

Down and Out Chic said...

The atmosphere of the blogging community will not go back to the way it was in 2005. That's a given. The grassroots movement of handmade is being re-defined everyday and artists and crafters everywhere are simply trying to find the best avenue for marketing their product. Your frustration and your sadness are valid but I think we have to be very careful about judging motives so quickly. I've never taken a blogging class and I don't plan on taking one, but I do have an art degree and I am in marketing professionally. Does that mean I need to start a class? Probably not. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that the handmade and blogging community is going to have be more diligent in choosing what markets they participate in, how they spend their advertising budget, and where they receive their inspiration. It'll be different for everyone. Your post has made me sad, but I'm not sure if it's for the same reasons.

t a n y a said...

Jan, thank you for your honesty and candidness about your own experience and for reviving the conversation.

Your description of the magic being lost is spot on.

As you alluded to, inspiration is one thing and copying is another. I am accepting of the idea we are all influenced by what’s around us. But as one who has been copied from, I have always (and will continue to) make the effort to be respectful of other’s business models (this includes workshops/classes) and proprietary ideas.

Susanna said...

Why is this so surprising or tragic? This is what happens when you establish your own culture based on deceit, theft, exploitation, and barbarism.

Don't be surprised when that culture of deceit and theft comes back to exploit you.

I find these "woe is me" posts hypocritical, considering the people you're complaining about are simply reinforcing your own culture of theft and exploitation. Deal with it.

Tansy & Co. said...

Yes Jan it is sad, very sad. I just came back from participating in the Toronto One of a Kind show. The one thing I hear that irks me to to no end is what great "Ideas" you have! They are not ideas people they are my designs, MINE. I work day and night trying to create and invent new and unique designs to sell and keep myself in business. I had the usual contingent of (I hate to say it but it is so often Asian shoppers), who touch and whisper ask me inappropriate production questions and make notes right in front of me and I want to scream at them. We carry on because we love what we do and we can't be stopped. I just try and move on ahead of them, working on the next thing before they do and hoping the customers that do love what I do will continue to understand and support unique, handmade works by original designers and I keep educating them along the way too. It's my job to let them know how this works. Thanks for writing this wonderful blog that enjoy almost everyday, it keeps us inspired.

daisy janie said...

Thank you for speaking plainly and passionately about The Magic, Jan. I am so loyal to my fave blogs that I barely notice when a copycat blogger or site comes along. Poppytalk and a few others are like old friends: I know exactly what I'm going to get, we've all been around a similar block, there's no pretense to garner my attention - instead, I just enjoy their comfortable company! (hope that makes sense!) I appreciate what you do a great deal!!!!

arounna said...

thanks jan for writing this post - it's important for us to be reminded that there does need to be magic and that the things we make does come from our hearts and that this business is not a big money making thing and that we do it because we love it and it makes us happy.

stephanie is a true talent and it does sadden me too. I know how it is when you work hard to develop something and it gets taken away and used on someone else's blog and they claim it as their own.

I hope that as much as these things sadden us that there still things out there that will continue to inspire - like you do for me.

decorativity said...

Jan,
Thank you so much for this thoughtful post. Poppytalk has long been one of my favorite blogs because of its uniqueness. I feel the same way about the Handmade market and I hate to see it suffer.

Forgive me for rambling, but this post reminds me of questions I've had for a while. I actually was wrestling with some of these things as I went to bed last night (who needs sleep?). As a new blogger who would like to turn this into a business, I wonder about balancing the good sides of the online "community" with the dangers. I love networking and marketing myself now that I've found something I'm passionate about sharing, but self-promotion is not generally in my nature. In the blogging and indie craft world, it seems necessary to self-promote and trade information as a way to generate business, since we're all independent.
But what I struggle with is when does self-promotion go from acceptable to icky? It seems so easy to only comment on sites you think will pull traffic to yours, or to make sure your brand name and links follow you in absolutely everything you do or say online...how do we tone that down while still supporting each other? How do we draw more traffic to our sites in a way that respects others?
Carrying this further, the internet often seems so vast, and even on indie craft sites, ideas abound. It feels like there are 50 to 100 variatons of the same handcrafted product now, where a few years ago there might have only been 4 or 5 "originals." It makes me wish I had been blogging more in the "early years!" How do we keep our ideas pure, especially for us newbies that are entering an already-saturated market?
I realize most of these are rhetorical questions with no easy answers. Thanks, though, for causing people to start questioning!
~Carla

Darren said...

I come brand new to this, following a link through Twitter, but you seem to be conflating three ideas:

1) People copying intellectual property.
2) People misbehaving in terms of marketing, promotion and so forth.
3) People mimicking a business model

The first is, obviously, wrong. The second is lousy and sometimes unethical. The third is capitalism in action.

In truth, I'd be most worried about #1. In my experience, people who take shortcuts rarely win the day. As for #3, that's life for innovators. There will always be a lot of copycats for good ideas. If there are no copycats, it's almost certainly not a good idea.

●• Thereza said...

very sad indeed... i've been around long enough in the blogosphere to know the back story. it seems nowadays we see it happening more and more.
when are people going to realize that
there is no easy route and it's honesty and hard work that usually pays off in the end....
thanks for writing this.
Thereza

patricia said...

What an excellent post Jan! Thank you for writing so openly and honestly about this. You've put into words what I've sensed for a while.

Elsa Carpenter said...

Having read this post, and other posts on copying/appropriation, as a newbie, I have to say "HELP!" I want to make things, and blog about them and possibly even sell them, but everywhere I turn, someone is already doing what I want to do. I have spent years closely following the handmade community, supporting it, feeling passionate about it, but I feel stymied and that it's impossible to actually join it without stepping on someone's toes. I've wracked my brain for original ideas, and have none. Not a one. Not a thing that someone else isn't already doing. It would be helpful if there was someone who was willing to take newbies in hand and help them come up with something original. I think that some of the people who copy are like me, they want to access that magic but they have no idea how to do it. And it's terribly frustrating, and easy to feel jealous, and that might just be the slippery slope down to copying. People see what you're all doing, how you're managing to make a living, and they want to do it too. They don't want to work their crappy jobs with bosses who make them do crappy menial tasks. They just want to create. I'm not saying that this excuses the copying that occurs, by any means, but instead of harping about it, it might be useful to come up with a way to help people like me who are really tempted to copy. What stops me from copying is that I know in the end, I will be found out to be a fraud, my goods will be found lacking any magic and all my effort will be for nothing.

Julia said...

thank you for this post, jan, i agree that something needs to be done about this theft and unfairness, and talking about the problem is a very good place to start.

BaldyLocks said...

Thanks for writing this. I have had my complete posts scooped many times and posted on another site making it look like I write for them. Sometimes they even alert me to it as if I would find it okay that they took my writing, swapped out the photo putting someone else's in and making it seem like we are working together.

I have also watched one of my favourite online artists continuously changing her style to get away from all the others that copy her, to eventually leaving the site completely. Somehow the internet makes stealing not look like stealing.

This is the very reason that I keep all my best work off the net... which is too bad. I work too hard on them just to let them be copied in a day.
~Closeted Artist

susy said...

I don't know, Jan.

I'd love to agree with you (I usually do.) But as someone who started as an Etsy seller, and now makes her living doing work she loves on a larger scale... and as someone who has also blogged since 2005 -- I cannot agree totally.

Yes, It galls me when I see a large company co-opting someone elses' idea without permission. (There are many that do) or, when I read an "indie" giftguide chocked with finds from large retailers - the usual suspects. ehhhhhh.

But then, I just don't read those blogs or shop at those stores moving forward. I use my vote.

If I stopped to get upset, I would lose out.

Business-wise, entrepreneurially, here is room in this world for all of us. And believe me, I would love for my brand to get big. And I actively have tried to grow it. I'm not going to lie.

But that doesn't change that for me, it's about doing things that *I* can live with... and hoping my audience and supporters - many of whom have encouraged and supported since my first days on Etsy -- find it meaningful, or interesting, as well.



Most Importantly...and lastly...
I read something interesting the other day, and this might be helpful:

Instead of thinking of what you are against, think of what you are FOR. Then, do that!

Chin up, babe! You're an innovator, and you will always be. This is a special place, so don't lose heart. : )

xx Susy

Susannah Conway said...

Awesome post, Jan, thank you for putting your heart out there. The internet has turned into an animal that seems to eat itself every day - "inspiration" morphs into copying which turns into blatant plagiarism. I've had so many of my images copied or used without proper credit (images not being credited - or, worse just linked to 'we heart it' aaggh - drives me nuts) -- I've even seen my photos edited and passed off as someone else's work. And as for my e-course being copied... chunks of text have been taken from my website and used by others *three* times (that i know of, anyway)

but all of this is to say - we have to believe in our own work, fly the flag for handmade/creativity and continue to *innovate*. Work and ideas that come from the heart will always touch the lives of the people who need it - that sort of magic just can't be replicated xo

trinlayk said...

particularly to Elsa Carpenter, but also other "newbies"...

established artists often have used copying (yes even Leonardo!) for SKILL BUILDING, once the skill is developed, we've all spent significant time developing our own style...

Once we've developed our skills and style to be something Our Own, THEN we can think about selling our work.

for example: there can be 1500 artists knitting baby sweaters... maybe they all learned knitting from the same book, and started with the same sets of patterns...but EVENTUALLY, they develop their skills to the point where they are designing their own sweaters. All the sweaters are knit, all are made from yarn, all have 2 sleeves and a head opening.... but once the skill/design skill level is built up. Each one of those 1500 baby sweater makers is doing something, hopefully, that is significantly different tan the others.

It's possible, but the big investment is TIME, and SKILL BUILDING. It's the people selling knock-offs/copies who are often rushing in before they are ready.

(and sometimes they just want to cash in on what's currently popular, without investing time/skill building to do it.)

Sharon said...

Bravo.

alyson said...

Jan, I hardly comment here, but what you've written is SO great and inspiring. thank you. it's so important for people to hear that things just can't be established - that you actually have to earn what you work for. wow, what a concept!! it kills me that people don't seem to understand that. so again, thank you for posting this. I hope it sheds some light, maybe some new *magic*.

Marthaamay O_o said...

yes, I also agree with what you said.

Although to post a creation online, whether it's a photograph, craft, tattoo or anything you have made, is the first step to getting your work stolen. I do this all the time too, and there is not way of tracking where your image of your creation is getting saved to. Or printed out at. Or shown to another company and people who are going to rip you off.

I don't know a solution.

jan said...

Thank you everyone for all your amazing comments and support. It means alot to me to hear from you.

xo
jan

Jessica said...

Bravo, bravo!

Anonymous said...

her photo is private... what company ripped her off?

sfgirlbybay said...

so well said, jan. i hear ya. what also saddens me is when i'm asked to feature products on my blog, that i either don't believe in, don't feel are a good fit for my readers, or those that are simply are being pushed down my throat with the assumption that i actually have the time, or the space to feature everyone. i wish i could - i barely get to feature all the artists i love and admire. there's only so much time in the day, and i am only one person.

and for the copy cats - seriously...where do they find joy in that? i don't get that at all. inspiration is one thing. copying is not that.

perhaps everyone needs a humanity check.

xo, v.

Amanda said...

Thank you for writing this post, Jan.
I too find myself gobsmacked when I see people who have been doing "whatever" for a couple of months and all of a sudden they are an expert and charging people money to learn from them. It baffles me that people buy into this stuff.

I don't think small artists can do anything to take on big companies other than to just keep doing what they're doing. It's really sad that people give up doing what they love because of others. If it's what you love, then why stop?

I had a nasty experience with a very big company simply over the use of a name that I was using before they were but they took me on and I had to back down because I didnt have the money to take them on. It simply wasn't worth it.

Don't even get me started on the whole photo stealing thing. The number of blogs out there being praised for "great work" when it's other people's work is mind blowing.

There are always going to be people who steal and copy. The people who matter are the ones who fall for it. They are the ones that need to understand the importance behind the work that goes into the art.

Thank you for writing this. Your work for the handmade community is amazing.

Stefanie said...

As much as I love this post, it leaves me with a lot of questions. I've been following you for some time now. I love your blog.

My question is, I know what I shouldn't do, so what am I supposed to do?

Mostly, I am curious about marketing myself. What is the right way to approach bloggers about your products? I don't have much experience in this and don't know how to go about doing this. What are the "rules" or some sort of Code of Conduct. Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks!

Katie Company said...

They say that copying is the greatest form of flattery... However when you put your hard earned time, money and heart into something-business model, product, blog etc, it is a slap in the face.

I will admit I have saved, printed and downloaded till my hearts content with the sole purpose of learning, inspiring or for the sake of something pretty to look at. I can’t say the same for other people/companies who are looking to copy.

And yes, I think we all have looked at something and said “I could make that”. Integrity stops most of us from turning around and making on profit on other people’s ideas. I think we should be asking “Where has the INTEGRITY gone?”

Cheaters (or in this case “copycats”) never win.

This post is sad but true. Thanks Jan for being so honest.

Kate - lover of things fancy, fluffy and fine! said...

Yikes! I love blogland just because I love pretty and it's my daily does of eye candy. I also love ETSY and shopping local and the whole philosophy of small.
Note that I have a wee blog that I share with friends: no gadgets our buttons or stores featured. I blogroll all you beautiful creative artists so my friends can also see your inspiring words and work. I try to give credit to each find (photo) I repost. I swear!

Please keep on doing what you do. I will weep without my eye candy. Your blog is so lovely....

Rachel | buttons magee said...

So well said. I couldn't agree more.

Marisa and Creative Thursday said...

thank you for this Jan.

Sonia said...

first, thank you for this long, sincere & well put article, Jan.
I'm not going to repeat what has been said here already, but I do think what is common sense ...
- copying an artist's original work/design is SO NOT right
- a big firm stealing an artist's original/design is not only wrong, it is unbearable & humiliating. But who can afford to get a proper copyright on each & every design made ? It's so impossible to deal with that. It's like an elephant against a mouse. I'm not pessimistic, but it's the sad reality.
People need to be educated about what is right & what is wrong to make, in the handmade community. I have many friends who are artists, and I'm so disgusted each time they tell me their work has been copied or ripped off. I feel so awful for them, it's not fair. Like for you & your wonderful site, it's taken them years to find ideas, innovate & perfect their designs. It's too easy to take shortcuts & copy shamelessly.
All this makes my blood boil.
Thank you so much for this very important discussion, Jan.
oxoxo

chairsmith said...

A fascinating and insightful read, by someone new to the world of blogging. I wondered if you had come across ACID (Anti Copying In Design)? Although a UK based initiative, it may be of interest to some of the makers you feel so passionately about (http://www.acidtrading.eu.com).

stephanie congdon barnes said...

hi jan,

thank you for your thoughtful post. i miss the old days too. ;)

i am sorry the link to my situation is no longer available. i hope that people understand that i'd like to keep it private for now, so that i can deal directly with the company. i really had no idea that posting about it would garner so much attention and fury. that really wasn't my intention.

when i was making handmade things, i always tried to keep my head down and work hard. i felt that if i made things that were meaningful to me, made with quality materials and with care and attention to details, then people would recognize that effort and spirit and want to purchase them.

i didn't pay much attention to what others were making, but occasionally someone would alert me to something that was similar. most of the time, i took this as a sign it was time to move on to a new idea.

as a creative person, i would much rather spend my time exploring a new design or concept than fighting with someone over ownership of an idea.

i know many people feel more strongly about the copycat issue than i do, and i respect their feelings of frustration as they struggle to make a living. my point is that it wasn't until i discovered this company had had duplicates of things i had made manufactured in China (along with things made by other artists) and then represented them as handmade, that i became truly upset. it just really flew in the face of all that i was trying to do. that was when i began to feel powerless and became disheartened and decided to close my shop

as people ask me what they can do to help, i say simply, think about what you buy. buy less. buy more meaningfully. frequent blogs and shops that feature truly handmade goods.

authenticity is actually not that hard to recognize. we can't bring 2005 back, but maybe we can bring authenticity back.

Re:Design Technologies said...

jan + earl, i love the time and energy that you put into your amazing blog, the handmade market and caring for your contributors. your skill and direction, spoken and unspoken, always stays with me - what works, what doesn't, can we get some fresh photos in now please ;)

you are the real deal and you care. that's what keeps a loyal and authentic community behind you *regardless* of your competitor's unethical actions toward your work.

thank you for inspiring me to be a better maker and a better giver. you show us limitless possibilities by sharing the best of art, design and humanity every day. i hope that you will in turn be inspired to extend to new heights of awesomeness that said unethical competitors cannot dream to reach. xo, penelope.

Kari said...

The rip off artists and users who suck up other people's work for their own gain are exhausting.

And there seems to always be more of the same waiting in the wings.

Sadly too few in the blog/magazine/design business seem to care about the artists who make their sites possible.

Why bother nurturing and sustaining artists when it is more financially rewarding to feed off newbies and share profits with copycats.

heather smith jones said...

Jan thank you for voicing this post and sharing the universal frustrations we all experience when this happens, to others and ourselves. Hopefully talking about it and increasing the public awareness on the issue can help. And as Stephanie commented when the copying happens to us individual artists, then perhaps it is time for us to move on.
Thank you Jan for being open and honest here. You are an original!

Anonymous said...

I hear what you're saying and I sympathize with you too. However, at the same time I also feel that people have been creating the same things at the same time as other people since the beginning of time. It's a strange sort of phenomenon that similar ideas work through different groups of people or individuals all at once-- like a group consciousness of sorts. It's just that now, thanks to the internet, we all know about it when someone is creating the same thing that we are. How many times have you had an idea only to see someone else carry it out, (and then think later: 'I should have followed through with that!')?

Here's the thing... artists have always been inspired by the world around them, it's just that now a big part of that world includes what we see and hear and connect with on our computers. And we can't turn our inspiration on and off at will. It's tricky.

I'm not sure what the answers are! :) But I do agree with Stephanie Congdon's post about authenticity above. I feel that if you develop a relationship with the person that you are buying from then you will know whether or not it was made from their heart (even if by chance there are some more people out there making the same thing). Thank you for your post- it leaves me much to think about!

Krystal said...

This was very interesting to read and I feel like you were super brave to write it. I can see, from what you wrote, that the climate now must be really frustrating to someone who has seen it change. And it will keep changing...but what does the blogging community do? How do we find the originals and the sources? Are there any solutions? I think that there are people copying ideas, but at the same time - I think they inherently love what they do and want to be creative...I think there are people who copy accidentally and those who do it blatantly - I would guess the blatant ones are the minority of copiers. I think with EVERYTHING available to people on the Internet, it's hard not to step on someone's toes - or a lot of toes. I don't know, I'd love to hear solutions. I'd love to know if any of the artists who are big now didn't find some of their inspiration through others in the early stages of their careers, you know? It's a confusing world!

... said...

Thank You Jan for writing this. Well said & needed to be addressed. Specially creating a false community. I've turned away from some blogs in the last year due to questioning what they are truly about and stand for. The comments in this post are a good read & a pause for thought.

prac, schmac said...

WOW are you really deleting any comments that criticize you? Maybe you cant stand by your "business model" so well after all.

prac, schmac said...

additionally, i will continue to comment on this and other posts no matter how many times you delete them like a coward.

Anonymous said...

I think that it IS sad that Stephanie Congdon isn't making things anymore.

But it's sadder for her than it is for the rest of us.

I think it's kind of ridiculous to just quit what you have been doing, and doing well, just because someone copies you.

To Paraphrase what Boris Lermontov said in The Red Shoes:

It hurts more to have to steal, than to be stolen from.

jenifer lake said...

well said jan. i couldn't agree more with you. it makes me super sad to see so many well respected, amazing artists retreat b/c of this. i know so many of them from "way back when" in 05 before, i hate seeing so much of this around.

Ward Jenkins said...

Hey prac, are you adding to the conversation, or are you just criticizing the blogger here? I think that Jan (and other bloggers, for that matter) exercise their right to not publish any comments that they deem not worthy of publishing.

prac, schmac said...

i contributed a civil, constructive comment that 100% added to the conversation.

I WISH I had it saved, maybe Jan does.

I'm sure what she didn't like about it was that I suggested (with respect) that "poppytalk" didn't invent the curated handmade market model and that competitors exist, because otherwise how could stores such as Macys & Dillards or CVS and Walgreens coexist.

God forbid people cease to stroke her ego, I'm sorry but I can't stand cowards.

Ward Jenkins said...

"i contributed a civil, constructive comment that 100% added to the conversation."

Your opinion, of course.

Calling people cowards on their own blogs is definitely not going to make people warm up to your side. What you're doing is actual cowardice right there.

Melody Chalmers said...

I've been thinking about this post all day, and I've come back to it a few times, reread the substance of it and followed all the comments...

And I have to say that a lot of it smacks of elitism to me. And a lack of generosity of spirit.

Trinlyak makes some valid points about how people who create might start off copying so they gain the skills they need to develop as an artist, but that those newbies shouldn't sell any of the copies that they make. But if I had to guess, I'd guess that she doesn't live on her own, and work a minimum wage job and is able to afford materials for her chosen creations. Did she stop to think that perhaps, while learning, these copiers sell their goods so they can make back a little of the money they've spent on the materials. I know that's why I copy. I don't make any profit on my copies, but they do give me money to buy more yarn so I can make more goods because I enjoy doing it. Isn't that supposed to be part of the magic? To enjoy what you're doing? To immerse yourself in the act of creation? To be able to knit a washcloth and then sell it and know that you made that money by the sweat of your brow, and didn't just shuffle more paper in your dead end job. Making these things gives me hope. Makes me feel like I have some purpose.

Instead of trying to embrace people who are learning, your attitude is shun them. To make them feel bad for trying. For calling them out as copiers for all the world to see. What on Earth gives you that power? How about you use some of that power for good and try to pass some of your knowledge and experience along... for free... to someone who would love to have it? Wouldn't you rather be known for your generosity and kindness than your ability to write a great rant about the lack of originality in the handmade community?

The tone I get from a lot of the comments by the more well-known creators/bloggers is that they're mad that other people are copying, not just because they are copying, but because they're taking business away from them. Did you stop to think that's maybe where the magic got lost? In yourself? When you attempted to profit from your creations?

Looking over the people that have disagreed with this post, I sense a divide, and if I had to guess, I'd guess the divide occurs along the lines of the people who create, and the people who buy the things that you are all creating. I buy as many handmade things as my budget can afford, for myself, my household and as presents for others. But I feel like I'm always an outsider. It doesn't matter what I do, I'm not embraced by the community since I'm just a buyer.

I like Stephanie's attitude towards this, that although she's stopped creating (and since we aren't on the inside and don't know exactly what's going on, maybe she's just creating something different now) she still "...would much rather spend [her] time exploring a new design or concept than fighting with someone over ownership of an idea." Looks like she knows she's a creative person and is willing to move on to explore a new way of creating. Are those that protest so strongly on here protesting loudly because they have only one thing to produce, and can't, like Stephanie has, move on since they're all out of ideas?

Oh god! What a rant. But I do love a good debate.

jan said...

Stephanie,

Thank you so much for commenting, and I hope you didn't mind me using your incident as an example. but it sort of was the straw that broke the camels back.

What you said about "thinking about what you buy" is the best advice.
and something we should all really think about more and take responsibility for.

Melody C. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
cez jarlyn young said...

i am really glad that i have read this. i have been a follower of your site and has been tremendously inspired. that's why im really thankful that you have shared this. and really saddened that other people don't have respect for others hard work.

Tamar said...

Oh wow Jan!!! amazingingly written and so so true!!! I have such a problem with copy cats, it depresses me and me makes so mad that I've lately am just trying to ignore it, I use to write emails and be very nice about it but always get horrible replays, not worth it!
much love
Tam

jan said...

It's good to see some lively debate here.

Some of these comments could be from some of the people we've eluded to; and we have not deleted ANY comments unless it's a duplicated comment.

eg. melody chalmers or melody c. (which shows it has been deleted).

:)

Non-blogger said...

eh- maybe I'm just grumpy today, but I don't care who was here first. By "here" I mean the internet and by "first" apparently I mean five years ago.

I don't understand people who want to set up their little Handmade club with their own secret handshake and not let anyone else join. And even though newbies can't join you, they're still expected to abide by the same unwritten rules about blogging ethics and marketing 'handmade' ethics and what it means to be a True Artiste.

Although I can understand the longing to belong to a "community" where it's so easy to tell who is Good and who is Evil. (Indie = good. Incorporation = evil. Blogger since 2005 = good. Blogger since July = evil.)

pardon me while I puke.

The internet is up for grabs, and so are all the ideas that the original attention-seekers couldn't resist posting on it. Everyone is welcome to their own little piece of the pie!

...and no one has to stop creating just because they've been copied by someone else. that's lame.

andrea said...

Somebody asked way up there.. what do copycats get out of it.
I had a an ex-partner who built up his photography business around photos that he stole from me.
And what I told myself, and what I tell myself now, and what mom's tell kids everywhere - is that he just wanted to feel special.
That some people have gifts. And the internet is another amazing place where people with those gifts can show the world the hard work, talent and love they have for what they do. And some people... I think sometimes some people just want to feel special so badly, that they think that just taking a teensy little copy of something so special.. couldn't be so bad. And they get to feel special if even ONE person thinks they did it themselves.
We have all looked on with complete soul crushing envy on talented peoples talented works. I'm not condoning any sort of copying, or imitation, or anything else.
But the internet gives everyone this heroically democratic place where you get to prove you're special - and sometimes I think that pressure is just so much, that people succumb.
I have sympathy. I don't think it's right, I know the sting of seeing my work represented as somebody else, I know the sick feeling of "but.. that's.. mine..".
I know the panic of hoping somebody doesn't think you copied them, because I do believe two minds can have similar thoughts born of similar lives and experiences. I know the rage, and the sadness.
But I have sympathy.

MagicMarkingsArt said...

Wow, what a powerful and heartfelt post as evidenced by the response. You have given all of us food for thought as we struggle on a daily basis to create, market and sell our handcrafted items. Each of which was created with love through our own imaginations with our own talents and by our own hands. A passionate life that of which can never be obtained by those who make their livelihoods copying others.

A cyber hug of thanks for your great business ethics.

jacqueline said...

Dearest jan, you have written this so well. I couldn't agree more that something needs to be said and heard that we need to take better notice of what we are featuring.

I'm a ventor at your lovely market and i've been feeling your love, energy, time, care and support sent my way all these time. Thank YOU so much lovely jan + earl...truly thank you!

Have a lovely merry happy day and love to you and yours!

Thank you Jan for writing something that needs to be said and heard by everyone in the online community.
Thank you also for writing so thoughtfully and from the heart.

andrea said...

AMEN. thank you so much for writing this, jan. it's brave and honest.

xo

rawbean said...

Wow! You have no idea how much this post means to me. One thing that has bothered me for awhile about the internet in general is it feels like nothing is special anymore. Everything is quickly mass marketed, watered down and forgotten. It really is sad.

I remember back in architecture school (in the late 90's) we learned about this thing called globalization and how it would affect design. Basically we talked about how as more communication and connections happened around the world, culture and individual identities would be lost. Design is based on culture, so as they blend together....design seems to have less impact and meaning.

I echo many of the comments here. I started my original blog back in 2005 as a good way to tell stories and keep connected to my friends. I remember having a blast but people thought I was weird. Now blogs are everywhere, it saddens me too. Again, not so special anymore.

My only hope is that a lot of the followers will give up when they see that the market is saturated and move on, and that the people who really care, will stick around, grow and become "unique" again. Hopefully that's not wishful thinking.

Anonymous said...

while i mostly agree with you, and love seeing the lively debate here, i have to say that i wish this post had been less about losing the magic and more about the magic that's still here.

Margie Oomen said...

jan , if you didn't live on the other side of this great country I would find you and give you a giant hug right now. I really appreciate your wisdom and experience in these matters.
thank you for caring with such a great heart and mind

hkpowerstudio said...

Jan, it certainly has never been simple for artist or truly authentic creators of any kind to keep their work from being ripped off! But, everything happens more quickly with the internet at our fingertips making it so easy to "Spread the wave". I have to step back and not participate from time to time. I choose very carefully what I will and will not share online, on flickr, on facebook, on twitter, on my blog and soon on my website. This is unfortunate but I think it's a necessity for anyone creative, you just have to keep a part for yourself and you have to be willing to let other stuff go. In the middle though, there does need to/have to be a way for people who are dedicated to being entrepreneurs! Geeze, life is not a get rich quick scheme. Life is about the experiences you make for yourself and those you choose to share with people you care about. That's it! I'm tired of cheaters looking over my shoulder and looking over the shoulders of my very talented friends! I'm gonna say that again, I'M TIRED OF CHEATERS~WHERE'S THE TEACHER WHEN YOU NEED THEM? What can we do as a creative community to sound off about this? We need to bring a Fever pitch to our voices, together!

Juliette Crane said...

thank you for sharing. i'm saddened too, but trying my best to stay afloat of it all.

-juliette

Erin Wilson said...

Thank you for everything that you do here.

I was taking in the One of a Kind show in Toronto last week, and saw some lovely product I thought I recognized. I asked the vendor if I had seen their work on Poppytalk, and they were pretty happy to tell me yes. And I was pretty happy to buy their wares.

It cemented something for me that day. I've said before that one of my goals is to make it here someday. Now I knew what it might feel like.

All this to say that there are some things you can't copy. Can't copy integrity, hard work, and style. Thanks again for doing what you do.

Peace.

shellie said...

wow i have been thinking all day about this post as well. First off i have no formal art training...never took an art class or went to art school but i have been painting and drawing for a long time. So after the birth of my baby and not working anymore i decided to try to put my art into action. So i bought lena corwins book printing by hand and some books in her suggestion list and started carving linoleums and prints and yes 5 months later decided to sell my cards on etsy...i dont know but some of the posts here make me feel bad about how i started my shop. I have been carving blocks for a little over two years now....so is what i do not valid...my blocks are my own original drawings from my own sketches and whatnot i have created over the years and current ones...stealing is never cool and in fact there is someone on etsy who hearted something i have and then later curiously had a design on a card and cahier as well in their own shop...but did they steal or were they inspired...i dont know...but its different enough...i also have a blog that i started when i started my shop...i recently had a giveaway where i asked people to follow me because that is the most i would ask someone...some giveaways require so much work it is not worth it. But is that wrong too? of course i would love people to follow because they love my blog or my shop but i am also trying to promote myself as well in a way...although most of the posts have nothing to do with my own shop...so what to do? Also Im sad when i hear someone gave it up because of theivery but hopefully this is said in desperation and fustration with the situation....i think melanie chalmers made some valid points as well....anyway i always look forward coming here...its one of my favorites!

Erin said...

I love the craft blogging community. I haven't had the opportunity to really get involved in it until recently (I was in Kenya for over a year) but as soon as I started trying to join "the club" I got the sinking feeling that I'd missed the boat. Unfortunately, this post just added to my depression. My blog is doomed because I'm too late - I've been trying to find my own voice but I guess that's not allowed because on the way to finding it I may be accused of faking my "indie-ness"? ...my trueness? ...of being a wanna-be. Yes, it's true, I want in! But, I am willing to work for it.
Hating big companies making money at the expense of the little guys is, of course, understandable and I'm all for calling them out and informing everyone (the crafters, the bloggers, the admirers) when it happens. But there's got to be a way to still let people who want to join the community feel accepted.

lisa s said...

jan and earl... bravo bravo bravo... this is such an important post and something that needs to be said. and you said it so well. so heartfelt. so honestly. and that's how it should be handled. respectfully.

and it is wonderful to see how many people are troubled and bother to read and comment and respond thoughtfully.

there is no easy solution to this, but the more we talk about it and try to discern what is and isn't OK [even if that varies widely] the better off we'll be

hugs to you and thank you again
[miss you - i'm sorry i've been so absent]
xo

Alexia said...

I think this is a very thought provoking post. I remember the "good old days" and they were exciting times. But, I have to say, I am very excited about the future. Things are evolving, and as creative people, don't we want change? What becomes of us if we rely on a steadfast and tried formula (even if we were one of the pioneers) and don't grow or change to meet the changes in the marketplace? The flood of people making things is exciting. This, to me, signifies a cultural shift towards what is, in essence, a positive thing. Intellectual property and creative ideas are impossible to truly protect. Unless we take ourselves out of commerce and make simply for the love of making, we will always be vulnerable to copying. That being said, downright plagiarism and theft are horrible. But I think we are dealing with some grey areas here too...

trinlayk said...

Shellie: as long as you are using your own drawings and designs: YOU ARE NOT COPYING...

you just used a book to learn the method, pretty much the same as anyone in a printing class in art school would have learned.

If someone is copying, not just a method (which is often so old as to not be patentable), but another person's designs/compositions... THAT is a serious serious issue.

Leililaloo said...

This post really grabbed my throat while reading..it makes me feel equally sad as I does Jan, and so many others.

It also makes me feel hopeless and powerless….that’s why I do understand completely that if this happens to you it can make you want to stop creating like it did with Stephanie.

~If you create from your heart your heart can be broken~

I hope someday Stephanie(and all the other great artists with a broken heart) feels like creating again.

You all got me fired up to start creating myself. You are the important, inspiring examples of integrity and quality that help keeping people like me, who started way after “05, on the right track…

~thank you for writing this Jan

Katy said...

Wow. I am standing up and clapping these hands at you. I have only recently started my own paper goods business (and blog)and what it comes down to is this...

I do it because I enjoy it. If it makes me any money then so be it. I blog because it's actually a bit like therapy!

Thank you for showing me what the good ol' days were.

Anonymous said...

Jan,
Wonderfully written post. You completely captured feelings I have been wrestling with for a while now and expressed them in a thoughtful way.

As someone who has actively been selling on Etsy and at craft fairs for the past five years I have come to the decision that it is time to scale back. I'm not going to close down shop completely but it is going to take a back burner while I pursue other interests (and means of income).

This past year while participating in both the Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn and then the Boston Bazaar Bizarre I noticed how the entire mood has changed. What was once a truly cooperative and communal experience has become nothing more than a bunch of disconnected people selling eerily similar wares and trying to compete on price.

It saddens me to know that the indie market has run it's course to some extent. I will still support local and independent makers but I believe at this point there needs to be a certain level of 'research' done to make sure we are getting what we pay for.

stephanie levy said...

Wow, what a great topic and very interesting debate here. Thank you for posting on a topic which obviously gathers some very emotional responses here Jan.

I have to say that Susy's (Susy Jack) comment stood out to me as perhaps a good way to find a positive outlook on this all without everyone sinking into a mass depression.

Find your voice, focus on your individual talents, and keep plugging away with your own unique style and gifts. It's a big universe, there is room for everyone, and the cream always rises to the top.

Love to all - xo - Stephanie

RPotter said...

“Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe quotes and

“Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business.”

Tom Robbins quotes

I say Keep Calm and Carry On...those who copy in time fall by the wayside bc they lack the passion and joy that comes from ones own ideas.

Kat Greene said...

While what you are talking about in this post is very sad and disheartening I think it is a really important for readers, artists, crafters, and "indie" businesses to understand. I see what you are talking about every day and it's something this community needs to be openly discussing more and more so we can keep moving in the right direction.

Amy said...

I understand what you mean, and I'm a little sad that it came to this for Stephanie. But I love her spirit as well -- and it's something that those big factories over in China will never ever replicate.

I agree with what Susy (susyjack) said earlier. I've seen so many copycats and blatant plagiarism this year, and I think that the trend isn't backing down. You're an innovator Jan (& Earl!) and like you mentioned in your post -- you have worked so hard for your market, and it shows.

Amy@Pikaland

For those who think that they can come in and take a chunk of your business, well they're in for a rude surprise because businesses don't work that way. Indie businesses and artists tend to take things personally because they've poured their blood, sweat and tears into making their wares. There's nothing wrong with that; except that it makes some artists very protective of the ideas that they've released onto the world, to the detriment of their growth.

The push and pull of indie businesses is a very interesting thing: on one hand the artist needs to survive on what they've made, but by putting their idea out there, they've become prey to copycats, and therein lies a vicious push/pull cycle. The same things goes to business models.

I'm not for copycats, but I think as the world moves faster and faster (and so are the copycats), our task is to innovate and bring to the table what others cannot. If we (as artists and business people) continually strive to be better and experiment with our work, copycats will be left in the dust. But if we choose to stand still or be paralyzed because of them, then the copycats would have won. And we can't let that happen -- we need to innovate, move forward and continue doing what we do best. Karma can handle the rest.

{twiggs} said...

i really loved this!!! often i do not read huge posts and also try not to write too much on my blog either, because time is always short. but this... this is brilliant, amazing message, and so calling for attention! i read it through the very last word and found the message so important... i am a blogger myself and i am always thinking about the right thing... am i doing the right thing... am i being fair to everyone... thank you for posting this for us. thank you. twiggs

Anna Denise said...

Ahhhww man! I just tried to post this entire rant and then my browser crashed. Well, perhaps it's for the best.

What I wrote was that this post struck a chord with me. First off, the post shows how passionate you are about what you do and the handmade world. I love that, it is why your voice on the web is a strong one and this authenticity has made you one of the bloggers I and many others admire.

But your post made me feel bad. Being someone who has just started a new blog (a spinoff of my personal blog), showcasing art, artists and bloggers I love, reading your post made me feel like I was doing something wrong by wanting to 'join in the fun'.

I personally feel there's enough love to go around when it comes to blogging, and I think that the most authentic voices will get the most attention anyways. As a newbie I admire people like you who have an authentic voice (and have worked hard for this, as you said) and I will strive to work hard and put all my energy into working on my blog until I get there.

I know you probably didn't mean anything against bloggers with a good set of morals, but it still made me feel somewhat excluded and unwelcome. I think there's still magic here. I am inspired by the magic every day. I wasn't there in the beginning, so it's all new to me. But I hope to be part of the magic I still see. And your blog is part of that magic. I want to thank you for that.

Love, Anna Denise

PS: You can just delete my first comment if that one did come through somehow.

Stefanie said...

I just wanted to point out that one of the commenters who doesn't care for the ideas behind this post has a tumblr filled with images, none of which are credited in anyway or have any click-through link. Not only is this unfair to whoever's work it is, but now I have missed a chance to learn about an artist that grabs my attention.

There's such a difference between getting inspiration from something you've seen and totally changing it to make it your own. I know there can be a little gray area in some of this, but taking images (or work) from others exactly as it is without giving credit where credit it due or trying to pass it off as your own work is totally wrong.

mette / ungt blod said...

Thought provoking post.

Im very much so saddened by copy cats and wannabes, but i also think this is the wrong way of approaching the turn this place you could call the blogosphere has taken.

Like other commenters i feel the tone is too exclusive and, well, elitist. Nobody owns the blogosphere or the mood of this place. Its magic is the fact that it is created by everyone who participate and there should be room for newbies finding their way in 2010 as well as old cats from 2005.

All you can do is create great content, be true to your self and stay on your toes so you are open to changing.

ronnie said...

Although this conversation concentrates on copying and appropriation of work/styles or business models of indie designers/ crafters as found in blogland - the problem of copying and copyright extends to all areas of the blog/web/real world.

As a fine artist I've experienced the full gamut of possible rip-offs: - I've had work stolen outright - where another artist has removed my signature and plopped theirs to my work .... that is deceit and theft (it's also rude, nasty, and a shock to the personal system) - I've had artists copy exactly what I'm doing (and again plop their signature to it - oh and take my artists statements as well, in order to peddle the work idea too) that is deceit, copyright infringement - aka theft (this is rude, nasty and shows a distinct lack of personal creativity) - I've had artists/designers/ magazine stylists et al take inspiration from my work and conjure it up in their own image .... and that, when done creatively and with clear conscience, may be evolution (occasionally such folk also mention their seed inspiration - and that can be quite flattering)

theft is theft and it should never be tolerated

inspiration is how the world goes around .... no 'new' idea emerges or exists in a vacuum... (and lets not get started with the debate about whether indeed there is such a thing as a 'new idea'....)

I'm always going to be an artist - so I'm always going to have the problem of uncreatives stealing my stuff... I'm just going to do what I've always done - get on with my work in the studio....

thanks for your passion poppy folk - it's indeed inspiring

cheers from oz (aka australia)

ronnie x

Dawn said...

I always find myself quietly expressing these same thoughts to myself whenever I'm flipping through magazines or browsing through new blogs. I thought I was the only one who thought the magic was beginning to fade.

Scrolling down your list of comments here I see so many bloggers who were there from the beginning - I think I nearly started to tear up just to see all their names together. Even though I haven't met many of them I feel like I know them from all the years I've been following their work.

I have been around the blog world long enough to know who a lot of the original artists were and it saddens me to see so many newcomers and BIG businesses stealing ideas left and right and with such ease.

One thing that has helped me to determine copycats from the real thing are dates. I pay attention to when something was posted and if I feel as though a thought isn't original I make an conscious effort not to support that artist or company. I always try to do my "research" before gladly supporting a brand, artist, company, you name it.

Lastly, I am so happy that popular sites like Poppytalk bring up issues like this because I certainly could not grab the attention of so many readers and make people aware of such an issue. So thank you for bringing this issue into the spotlight. I really believe that little things like this will help us grow closer together as a community and possibly find solutions.

Chantale said...

Oh my Jan, well said. What saddens me about these people? Is that they truly and absolutely believe their made up online personas. Even more sad, people who have no idea what is true or not and believe this crap. But it's business as usual for everyone and I see so many who need to hype each other up in order to get attention for themselves as well. It's people using people and thinking that this is 'true friendship'. I've seen ppl using others for their own gain with no shame or regret. I am honestly repelled by it all.
Thank you for calling it out like it is. Because there are true designers and artists out there who don't get the attention they deserve because they are too busy working very hard and/or fending off the copycats.

tangled sky studio said...

what goes around comes around.
some of us are creating magic and connecting to people across towns or across oceans and some others are creating mischief. i wonder how much joy can come from reproducing someone's idea or image more cheaply and selling it as your own. so sad on both sides. thanks for the thoughtful post...

beth

Angela said...

Hi Melody C. - I really hope you read this and keep in mind that what I am about to state is not an attack or even criticism, because I say this with respect and kindness... but copying is wrong.

Here is why: when an artist presents a unique concept for a product and starts selling it to make money it is their design and their hard work and creativity that is being marketed. When you copy that product/concept you essentially are piggybacking onto that other artist. It takes time and hard work to come up with new, fresh ideas. It is not fair for someone else to market what is essentially the same exact thing, without the effort of coming up with the original concept. You then over-saturate the market, creating less demand for the original. You can't justify copying by saying oh, I only sell the copies to cover the cost of my material. It's still copying, and it's still being sold and thus weakening the demand for the original product/hurting that artist.

Now, that being said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being inspired by someone's product and coming up with a fresh new twist on it. And a market with lots of product choices is a healthy, good thing. But direct copying with only a few small changes is just not fair, and as artists and designers we should respect each other enough to not do that. It doesn't matter how established you are, or not.

I can't tell you how many times I've come up with awesome concepts, only to see another designer beat me to the punch and market it before I even start creating a finished product. And when that happens, I respect their concept and push myself harder to come up with unique ideas. There is always room for new creativity... but copying just dilutes the magic of originality.

Hijiri said...

It is very sad indeed... thank you so much for writing your heart out, I think it's been heard and I think the magic came back a little by your post. I know you guys work so hard and just wanted to thank you for your warmest support for all the handmade artists, it's been my pleasure working with you guys and I am always so happy to be a part!!!

JSW said...

Unfortunately, this is the nature of business. As Darren had stated in a comment above, "There will always be a lot of copycats for good ideas. If there are no copycats, it's almost certainly not a good idea."

It's horrible that there are people out there who have no ideas of their own and simply survive off of the hard work of others. However, the onus will always be on the buyer to either choose an item that is handmade or buy a cheaper, mass-produced copy.

I am neither a blogger or artist, so I don't claim to understand how disheartening this must be, but I believe that other consumers, like myself, are learning to make more informed purchases. More often than not, you can tell when someone truly loves what they have made and when someone is simply ripping off an idea.

Caroline Hancox said...

well said

karkovski said...

Aaaaarhhh...hmmm...well I agree and then not so much.
I've been here since 05 too and miss those days as well - I posted MY sad feelings last year:
http://karkovski.typepad.com/karkovski/2009/11/looking-back.html
but there should also be room for new bloggers because there are so many awesome people out there and I see a lot of people just sharing their work and ideas as well. Which is the spirit of blogging to me: Sharing. And I don't care if you've been here since 05 or just started blogging. We might not have this tiny tight community any more where we all know each other but I don't think any one has ownership though of spirit or magic and every one has their own reason to blog.
Did you read Kerri Smiths take on plaigiarism?
http://www.kerismith.com/blog/what-to-do-about-plagarism/
Or do you remeber the Jim Jarmusch quote passed around blogland a while ago?
http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/sf/inspiration/how-do-you-keep-things-original-074336
Anyways...keep up the good work...your place is special. Not because it's 'old' - and I do remember you starting out - but because you have your own great style and some wonderful people on board.
Hugs,
Kristina

tremundo said...

I hope magic can continue to exist in the individuality and hopefully the persistent passion will pull artisans through whatever challenges come along....might mean totally changing direction for a short time.

I've been an online artisan since 1996 and have a great variety of experiences of copying and blatant "rip-offs". I refuse to cave in and will continue to pursue my passion!

Dawn said...

I miss those early magic days, too.
Thank you for expressing thoughts that have been swirling in my head lately.

Love your place here.

lovemeboutique said...

Thank you for this post. Running a bricks and mortar store (and being here most of the time), I do hear the occassional "I am going to do that!" "I am going to make that". For the most part I choose to believe those comments are in the "this inspires me to create" vain and not in the "rip off" vain. But just this morning a woman actually said to my face "I come in here to steal ideas." Seriously!! I said "that is not something I want to hear. As an artist and a proprietor who supports artists, that really upsets me." She was taken aback. She assured me that this means that she is inspired. We talked about her choice of words and her intent and she followed up with "but I don't have the money to buy it but I can make it." I believe my message might have been lost on her. I carry an artist who I had to contact recently b/c I found a similar product in her town using a super similar name. She said to me: all I can do is keep my head down, do what I do best, and trust my customers to see the authenticity. I hope she is right. I can hope that consumers are that savvy. I hope they are atleast savvy enough to see that the felted ornaments hanging at Winners last week packaged in plastic which read "handmade felted ornament" and sold for $4 are perhaps handmade but in no way made by an artisan but by a kid in some factory overseas. I think your post is about education for artisans and for consumers. In this global village, we need to be conscious. It is my hope that if we all talk about it and write about it, perhaps we can continue to educate.

Веси said...

You nailed it for me. I was wondering what is the matter with my RSS list, I found myself removing blogs everyday. I felt it was all the same and mostly games and giveaways and... well, basically marketing.

I personally made a blog to create a community of knitters in my town, but then the community was totally overtaken (and taken apart, and trampled on) by someone much more, shall I say, pushy. But I must admit, the basic idea is alive, and they are doing the stuff I'd imagined doing, only in a very different way. More practical, and less romantic.

So I'd say the magic is leaving us for practicality. If you think about it, this is what happens all the time.

Someone comes up with something brilliant, then they get pushed aside, often even without a percent of the further profits.

The best way to make ideas and products last is to make them profitable, did you know? And if a single crafter can't do it because he or she has only two hands and really wants to make everything with those two hands, than someone else will. And if you don't or can't sue them, they'll get away with it. It's sort of survival of the fittest, you see.

It is sad, but evolution always is. In the end the handmade-looking teddy bears multiply much faster in a factory than in someone's home studio, right?

I know it is perverse, and I don't like it either, but this is as far as I've got on this.

If you really believe in an idea, and you really want it to be true, you have to keep at it, and never give up on it, even if you don't make a profit, even if people laugh at you, even if they want to watch you burn for it. But you already know this.

The only question that remains is, who will not give up when the magic is gone? Who will keep coming up with new magical ideas when it is all back to reality?

These are the people that the next generation of crafters will be able to look up to. The rest will be forgotten.

Lisa said...

AGREE, AGREE AGREE!!!! Massive thanks for writing this! As an artist, I have encountered these same things time and again. Let's get back to an age of authenticity and integrity!

Stephanie said...

I am so sad about Stephanie's work. I love her designs. I find this all very disheartening.

linwood avenue said...

amen! the part that troubles me is when new artists, create a blog and supply the reader with so many false accomplishments and bragging. then people follow them because the readers think they are the new best thing. when really it is all smoke and mirrors. (kind of how reality tv stars are famous without having done anything worthy of that praise). it then leaves the struggling and honest indie crafters feeling less than worthy with their meager followers and traffic.

can't believe i read this today, because these thoughts have been swirling around my head since i woke up!

shanners said...

i do really enjoy your blog, but i'm sorry, isn't blogging meant to be fun??

that's what i'm here for...to have fun!! it's my place to share things that i find and want to share with others. i'm not getting paid to do it, i just do it. there are so many wonderful things to share, and it would be a shame to not share them. my "sponsors" aren't even sponsors at this point, and who's to know what's to come, but it's free advertisement i have offered to my friends to promote their business, and i think thats the case for many bloggers...

i enjoy your blog, but really? the ideas that you share, and where you page is now compared to where it began, and where you talent has taken you, is a compilation of everything around you....your daily life, the people you know or meet, other blogs (gawd forbid!), artists, crafters, etc...

lets not pretend like everything we see on blogs or everything people have made, is 100% their idea...that's just life. you've been inspired by others and should be so happy to know that others are inspired by you...what an honor! you should be proud!

Valerie said...

I'm not an artist, I'm a crafter.
I don't have a famous blog, I have a little blog for which I don't even try to advertize... so I'm out of this for most part. But some of it i get and yes it makes me sad.
It's not only online or related to blogs, we just see it here in a even more stricking way than in the real world but the point is the mankind is sick for money & power. This is more than ever what rules the world, and it is so pathetic.
What you describe starts at a small scale...
I have an online acquaintance who regularly "steals" my sources & my finds and then pretends all nice & beautiful like an angel that she's a genius who finds great stuff. Not even once mentioning where she got this from.
She even supports both artists & befriends their copycats !
What for ? to be seen. to increase her audience. to be told she's great. to be the queen... of a quick sand kingdom (?!)
I can face myself in the mirror in the morning and that is what counts to me.
Little birds was one of the first blogs I started reading and Stephanie's creations were magic, I so regret this and want to assure her of my support.
Thank you for this post.

Tara Hogan, INK+WIT said...

Jan, you have been a voice and inspiration for years! I have been following you since 2005 or 06, don't remember but there was magic then. People were humble, eager to help, not ready to trump each other. We had a raw movement of all kinds of creative people. You pioneered along with decor8, Apt Therapy, Remodelista, Bloesem, and a few others who have stayed supportive and kind, true and real. Some bloggers and even designers heads have exploded, too fast too soon or over time and sadly forgetting how and why they started. Businesses, especially large ones have ripped into us smaller businesses and claimed to be Indie whilst just planning on making more money. It is so similar to the government and their crap rules on small farmers. Ugh. I pray it shifts.

Krystal said...

Ok, one minor thing you said has been lingering in my mind - you said you hate to see when someone uses your brand name on their site to drive traffic...To be honest, I had never thought of certain names on my blog driving traffic. I have been linking blogs if I ever use any of their material...so that is bad? But good? I'm not sure I understand that.

zarah said...

this is so sad :(

jan said...

Krystal - what I mean is there are sites that will list a post with your name as the post name, but then they sell things, that have nothing to do with anything.

What you're doing - having links on your site are good. It's just the other way it doesn't work out so well.

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