This post has been whirling in my mind for a couple of months now. I have never known whether to voice my concerns, or be silent on the issue. I have commented on other people's Facebook posts on copycats, but it has happened to me so many times of late that I feel I can no longer ignore it.
While I wont name names, Im hoping that people out there who kindly follow and even purchase my work will be able to distinguish between my work that has been made with love, attention and quality, and the work of other people that has been copied.
I first experienced copycat makers a few years ago when someone I met through markets began doing some work that was very similar. Silently I was peeved but didnt ever say anything. How could I prove that my work was done before hers? I carried on regardless but kept an eye on her work from afar.
Late last year there was an occasion when something was made that closely resembled an item I had made and sold - again I wondered if my work was the original or if it was simply a coincidence that we'd produced very similar items.
Last month I stumbled across a direct copy of one of my music necklaces at a shop - actually copied by someone who was having a stall next to mine a few weeks previously...The sad thing is though, the necklace was made poorly with bubbles and dodgy materials, and yet the price tag was double what my necklaces sell for retail! I was actually physcially shocked when I made the discovery, and had trouble carrying on my conversation with my stockist. I still cant believe the audacity of someone who so openly copies another artist's work - do they think we are stupid? Do they think we wont notice?
I have spent hundreds of hours researching my glues, findings, wood and suppliers. I have made things but rejected them because of quality and because I want to ensure my work is going to last. I have given away pieces for free to people so they can test their quality and longevity before I sell them. I dont charge very much for my work because I want it to be affordable. Each time I sell a piece I get a thrill because people like it enough to part with their hard earned money. I build relationships with my suppliers and in turn my stockists...
Some pieces I love so much that when a person buys it I want to chat to them about the history of the piece, where I got the image from, and maybe how they could even keep in touch so I can follow the progress and development of my piece (of course I dont, people would think Im totally loopy! But sometimes it feels like a child who has left home!).
Anyhow, today I feel totally bewildered by yet another copy - a person using vintage illustrations and making brooches and necklaces. At first I thought it was scrapbook paper, but I now recognise an illustrator's work and know for certain that the image is vintage. It makes me sad on one hand to know that person is unable to create their own ideas, but angry that they continue to copy. It isnt as if we live in another country from each other.
I'd heard on the grapevine that this was happening when a stranger found out I was the being behind Otter and Wombat, and congratulated me on my beautiful work at this particular shop...I was polite and told her that wasnt actually my work, and that I stocked in a shop across the road from there, but thank you anyhow. What I should have said was that the work she complimented was a copy of mine and that I was being under-cut!
I dont know peoples...do I hang up my files and give it all away? Do I fight for my craft and speak to my stockists and retailers about what is happening? Or do I develop my work into something even more unique and await the next wave of copies? At the moment it makes me all very sad...... sniff.