Thursday, April 15, 2010

Snow Leopard Network Monthly Blog- Topic: "Copying"

WATTO Distinctive Metal Wear belongs to a fabulous network of artists that can all be found on Etsy. Each month there is a blog topic. Artists from the group give their views on the topic so check out their blogs (see addresses at end).

So, here are my thoughts on copying. This is a REALLY TOUGH subject. What is copying really? Is it using research from other artists, designers, or brands to become inspired for your own inspirations? Is it studying other brands/artist points of view so as you can better understand your own point of view? Is it adapting color palettes from other's works into your own?
Well, yes, some could say that is copying, on the other hand with a world of constant visual connections via internet, television, movies, print media and so on, what really is unique after all anymore?

Having worked at several large creative corporations, "copying" or "research" was a huge part of the corporate world. Of course we took precautions not to do something "identical" and certainly could not cross the lines of a "patented" idea. Coming from a fine arts background and strong ethics, I had a very hard time with this for a long time. Finally I realized everyone was copying everyone else and it was all part of "the game" when it came to product development. For fine artists of course this is much more difficult as you cannot "patent" a painting and though you can copyright it so that it is not copied exactly, I believe there are guidelines that if an item is changed by 30% it is not a copy. (Don’t quote me on that) So, it can still feel like an invasion if someone changes your design only 30%.

I don't like it. But, in reality, if you look backward in time and study the masters, weren't they in some manner "copying” from one another? Isn't that how movements such as Fauvism and Impressionism derived?

Also, haven't you had an idea before and thought, "Wow, this is so cool, so unique!" Only to see someone else has done it already? And, if your art is trendy at all as ours is, using pop culture icons, can someone say that we copied them or can we say someone copied us?
I guess what we all have to keep in mind is to be respectful of one another. Don't blatantly take someone's ideas and copy them exactly forming your whole line of products, series of works or branding to look so similar that it's hard to tell you apart. Don't we all want to have something that is unique? Sure, go ahead and be inspired, but then change it to fit what flows out of you naturally. And, if others try to copy you, you know who you are and what you are about and that will shine through more than those who are just copying for copying sake.

One last thing I learned in the corporate world (this is for those of you who have a brand or line of products), always stay one step ahead of the competition. There will always be people who will copy you, so continue to grow and change and develop and you'll continue to succeed. And, if someone does copy you, try to remind yourself that copying is flattery in the finest sense. Then you could always go after them with your lawyer!

ArtJewel designs-

Andes Cruz -

Jewelry by Natsuko -

Beth Cyr -

Tosca Teran -

Tamra Gentry -

alisa miller -

Thomasin Durgin -

Susan Moloney -


  1. Great post! Excellent point made about Fauvism and Impressionism, and it's interesting to hear about the corporate perspective.

  2. Wonderfully intelligent post, Mary. I love your last paragraph which I totally support! Passionate in our authenticity, growth is what keeps us positive and sane! :)

  3. I really enjoyed reading your post Mary. It's very much in line with many of our team today :) Well said.

  4. the corporate view is really interesting - i wonder if much of that as to do with what makes great marketing and not all 'art' can be marketed well! ha ha! and i think "we" do all want to have something unique, but apparently there are those that don't - so its rather confusing!