Or, what happens when looking at Etsy too much gets your brain stuck in an ‘I can make that!’ rut.
This is a difficult topic for me to write about, but I’ve been thinking about it lately and feel like blogging about it might help me to clarify where I stand. As a crafter, perhaps even a ‘fabric artist’, I’m terribly passionate about making sure fellow crafters and artists are paid fairly for their work. Not only for materials and the time it takes to make something, but also intellectual property rights.
The craft-web is full of gorgeous, one-of-a-kind, innovative creations that artists are rightly asking high prices for. You should be paid for the effort you put into making that hand-knitted sweater, as well as for dreaming up the design and innovative construction. When you buy a handmade item, you’re paying for the intellectual as well as physical labour that went into creating it. However, as crafty people, it is also in our nature to look at something and wonder how it was made, or if we could perhaps make something similar. My student budget doesn’t allow me to spend hundreds on beautiful handmade dresses, but often I can create that look for myself using materials in my price range.
To put it bluntly, sometimes I can copy something that I can’t afford to buy.
How do I feel about this? I have no troubles looking at a site like Anthropologie and knocking off a skirt that costs $300 with my own thrift store fabric, but when it comes to copying the ideas of a fellow craftsperson- a small-business operation- I feel rather differently about it. I know mass marketers of fashion are always copying new designs from emerging artists and that fact makes me angry, so am I any better when I use my crafty knowledge to re-create a garment I can’t afford otherwise? I would never sell the item, or make the process known for others to use commercially. The result is a one-off creation for my own personal use. It doesn’t make me feel fantastic that I have ‘stolen’ someone else’s idea, but cross-pollination of trends and ideas is part of what makes the internet such an interesting place, and a vital source of inspiration for a girl living in a backwater town.
As much as I would like to think of myself as an incredibly cutting-edge, imaginative designer who makes clothes that are completely unlike anything else that’s out there, I know that’s so far from the truth it’s laughable. Sometimes I just have to think, ‘Gee, I wish I’d thought of that’. Being a moderately crafty and resourceful person sure helps when I can’t afford amazing clothes!
Is this a dilemma every crafter and fiber artist wrestles with? At uni, when writing essays for my Media/Arts degrees, I always learnt to ‘acknowledge my sources’ – is this something we should do in our crafty lives as well? I’m not sure I can come up with a satisfactory answer to this, but I’d love to know how others deal with it.