Today some members of the Handmade Division are talking about the question, “How do you view the topic of copying?”. This has certainly been a hot one lately, both Metalsmith and Jewelry Artist magazines have recently published related articles, and it’s pretty well saturated the virtual craft community.
I believe that art is derivative by it’s very nature, it comes from the human mind and spirit and therefore artists often have similar ideas – sometimes simultaneously, and sometimes separated by hundreds or thousands of years. Art builds on itself over time because artists are inspired by art and one another and this eventually leads to major art movements.
Of course intentional copying happens as well, and to keep this short I’ll define a copy as a near to exact replica of an object, not a piece made in a similar manner or style.
If you’re a person who consciously copies the work of another to call your own, then you’re a fraud and you already know this about yourself. No one likes a copycat, and no one should be a copycat. On the other hand, if your work has been copied and you spend valuable studio time contemplating and complaining about it (been there), you could be missing out on creating your next big work. Keep moving forward.
If your art/craft is your business and you are losing money as a result of someone ripping off your designs, that’s clearly a problem that should be addressed. But so often the issue seems to be one of ego, of an artist wanting full credit and recognition for having had the idea first. Completely original and innovative ideas are painfully few and far between when it comes to art, most of us will not have one in our entire lifetime. Lets get over ourselves and focus on making great work.
*4/16/10. A friend sent me a link to this wonderfully written, insightful post from Michael deMeng about art and the sharing of ideas. I love his positive, supportive, and embracing attitude, I bet he’s a great teacher.
*4/18/10. Wow, this has caused quite a stir! I have written another post on the nature of original and innovative artwork.