What does being copied look like?
It's been quite some time since I tackled the ugly topic of copying. I suppose I have developed a tough skin over the years as I have watched my style (a style I have developed over the past 11 years) be appropriated and emulated by many people. What can one do when their style is imitated? Not too much. And I realize this. I also realize that now and then it is possible to make things that look like other's work when that was certainly not the intention. I have been there myself. I have made things inadvertently that are similar to someone else's work because we may have owned the same stamp or used the same technique in exactly the same way. It happens.
But when someone makes pieces that are identical in every way to mine I am completely within my right to speak up. And when that person has a history of following my work very closely I have no doubt that their actions are intentional.
Let's take a look, shall we?
The blue pair on the left were made by me over four years ago. The green pair on the right where made recently by someone who has copied me. Coincidence? I don't think so. You see, this person has a history of closely following my work. She has written to me on two occasions: the fist time she was asking if she could copy a necklace I made since I was no longer selling on Etsy. The second time, which was only in September, was her asking me if I would mentor and give her advice on where to sell her work. She has also very recently purchased from me. I had ignored her in the past, as I do with most people who I feel are emulating my work too closely. I try not to be distracted with such people because it is upsetting to me. It was only by accident when I was looking around on Pinterest the other day that I came across a board that was filled with my jewelry and a photo of my mold making process. Also on that board was the work of someone making pieces that look very much like mine. I clicked and it led me to an Etsy shop where I saw the earrings shown above.
The rest of her shop is filled with jewelry that is very much done in my style. Some of the designs are identical to ones that I have made for years. Since I sometimes use objects that are readily available to the public to make molds I realize that there isn't much I can do when someone tries to do the same thing with it. But when I alter a texture or stamp into something new, something completely my own, I will speak up. And that is what I did. I wrote this person a very calm email asking them to please stop making two designs of earrings that are in their shop. They are even making ear wires that are the same design as the ones I have made for my work for many years. It is painfully obvious that this person is trying to make work that looks just like mine.
What did she say? Nothing. I haven't heard from her but I have heard from her lawyer. You see, apparently it is I who is in the wrong! She hasn't done anything wrong, according to her lawyer, but if I go public with her client's name then I may be sued for slander. So let me get this straight...this person is concerned that if her name gets out as being a copycat it could hurt her business and make her look bad and that would be MY fault. So really, it's my fault that she copied me in the first place, by that logic.
Anyhoo, a quick look around the internet and I easily discovered that her lawyer is more than just a lawyer. She is good friends with the copycat. She is a potter. And she makes jewelry. And that jewelry looks remarkable similar to my style. Imagine that.
I was pretty amused to discover that this lawyer has a shop on Etsy that I was already familiar with. In fact, I used to think that her shop and the shop of her copycat friend were actually the same person since their styles are so identical and they live in the same city. But nope! Mystery solved. They just work together, share molds, emulate other people's work, have no imagination...
The lawyer said that what her friend did was not copying because she used a brass stamping that is commercially available to make the mold from which the earring pieces were derived. By that logic it could be said that a jewelry maker who buys commercially available beads and findings can copy the work of another jewelry maker simply because they were able to buy the same supplies. We all know that is not true. It's what you do with the materials. And what you do with the materials makes it yours.
What gets me the most in all of this is the lack of artistic integrity. Why in the world would any artist would want to make things that look just like someone else's work? For the life of me I cannot figure that out. I suppose that is the difference between an artist and someone who simply knows how to make things.
Back to the issue at hand. This copycat is concerned that I am going to name her publicly and potentially harm her business. I don't need to do that. She has done all the work herself. When she chose to make jewelry that looks identical to mine she opened herself up to being discovered. Anyone who knows my work would spot her a mile away, and they already have. People know who she is without me having to say one word as to her identity. I guess she didn't really think that one out.
All I have asked of her is to remove the two earring designs in question. That is all. Instead of doing that she has gotten her lawyer friend to threaten me and try to make me feel as though I am the one who has done something wrong. What am I hoping to gain from all this? I don't want to sue her. I had no intention of outing her and humiliating her. I just asked that she stop making the earrings in question. But instead she had to have her lawyer friend threaten me. That is not the actions of an innocent person. And I won't be bullied into not defending my work!
One last note, the lawyer has actually given me permission to use her name. Her exact words are: "I am quite comfortable with my situation (sorry, not even a little bit ashamed) and if it makes you feel better, you can use my name and complain about me to whomever you want."
Her name is Marsha Taubenhaus.