Imitation and Inspiration

Updated Version

I was recently made aware that some of my work was being copied. This is the first time that this has happened to me, at least that I am aware of, and I wasn't exactly sure how to handle the situation. 

The item that was imitated was one of the mobiles that I make. A few months ago, a friend of mine asked me to help her make a mobile for her new born baby, and since then I have been pretty busy making similar mobiles for other mama's to be, and I am even selling them at a store in Penticton. A friend of mine contacted me to let me know that a local blogger had made a mobile that looked identical to the mobiles that I make, and included a blog post that detailed exactly how to make the same mobiles. Needless to say, I was pretty choked.

I have since talked with this blogger about the incident and we have straightened things out, but I wanted to share a few of my thoughts about it, since I imagine this is something that happens to people in the creative field all the time. In fact, since telling people about this incident, several of my friends have told me their own similar stories.

Photos by  Rebecca Siewert

Photos by Rebecca Siewert

I realize that we live in an age where you can learn how to make just about anything on Pinterest or Youtube, and who doesn't love getting crafty and making their own things? However, there is a difference between doing an "Ikea Hack" blog post, and a blog post where you create something that was originally created by an independent artist and then detail how to make that exact thing.. A lot of artists are trying to make their work and their passion projects their livelihood, and a blog post that states how easy it is to do what we do cheapens the work. What you don't get to see is the hours spent in the studio, and all the prototypes that were made in order to get to the final finished product. I think this is something that just doesn't really occur to a lot of people, who maybe aren't professional creatives but love a good DIY. You see something cool, and you want to make one too, because making stuff is so fun! Just be aware that it is important to know your source, and to give credit where credit is due. 

Ideas come from all sorts of places, they don't just come out of thin air. They come from a place of interest and creativity. When I'm working on paintings, I spend a lot of time looking at works by other abstract painters. I study things like brush strokes, colour combinations and compositional strategies. Then when I start painting, I might experiment with applying some of these techniques to my work. I don't try to make the exact same works, because they've already been made, and that would not be a reflection of me and the work that I do. This is the difference between inspiration and imitation, and that's what stealing like an artist is. Ideas are always inspired elsewhere, but you have to put your own spin on them in order to make them your own. You alter the idea until it becomes a new, unique idea that represents your thought process and your interests. 

While this was an unfortunate situation to find myself in, I am grateful that two good things have come out of it; the first is that I learned how I would approach this situation going forward, were it to happen again. My initial reaction was to write an angry blog post about the incident, which in hindsight was perhaps not the most mature move. In the future, I will address the issue at the source. And the second good thing is that this will force me to work even harder on my mobiles, and come up with a new way of designing them that is more unique. I am looking forward to that process.