Friday, 10 February 2012

Not okay

It's very easy to be influenced by the things you see online. I personally follow about 400 blogs, all of them inspiring in one way or another. Yet I read different blogs in different ways. I know it's good business sense to know what other bookbinders and paper artists in my community (Etsy, blogs, Finland...) are up to but I conciously avoid viewing their work with the thought "I could do that" floating at the back of my head. I am interested to learn new techniques but I very rarely come across a bookbinding technique I haven't heard about before, and even when it happens, it's usually not something I feel would fit my own work. My point, however, isn't copying techniques from others, it's copying Ideas from others, something much more sacred to me. I cannot understand how it is okay to take someone's technique, aesthetics, choice of materials and their entire process, and present it as your own in a commercial environment. I do believe in being inspired by others, honestly saying how I got this great idea from reading X's blog so I decided to build on it. I'm a firm believer in giving credit when credit is due. Naturally there are things that cannot be traced back into a specific artist. Everything has been done before, it's just a matter of doing it again your own way. I am not the first person to make books or matchboxes but I do believe I have a distinct style in my work. So do all the other professional bookbinders I know. Heck, all the artists I know have their own style that I would recognize anywhere. That's what makes artists, their style. And I think it's a really, really mean thing to steal someone's style and ideas. Style takes years and years to develop, good ideas are hard to come by. When someone snatches it from you, it's not a nice feeling. All the hard work you put in your art is now pretty much worthless, someone else is trying to make money on your ideas without doing any of the brainwork themselves. I don't really worry about losing money - I don't think we share customers; the difference in the quality of work is pretty apparent. Luckily the quality of my handiwork is something no one can take from me, and it's hard enough to imitate that I find it difficult to believe that someone with the adequate skills would bother copying anyone's work. But I do feel offended by the fact that my ideas are copied and sold as someone else's. It takes the joy out of creating. It makes me doubt if there's any point in using all the time and effort in creating the things I do, if it's treated with this little respect.

There is of course also unintentional copying but it's usually less obvious, merely (subconsciously) taking influences from someone else's work and adding them to your basic stuff. I'm not a big fan of any type of copying but I think it's possible to honestly believe something was your own original idea when, in fact, it was something you saw and later forgot seeing. However, when your conscience is nagging about something you're about to do, it's generally a good idea not to do it.

Personal use is a different matter. I have no problem with people making their own version of something for their own personal use. Actually, I think it's awesome whenever people make stuff by hand. If I see something I like, need, and feel my crafty abilities are sufficient for, of course I'd rather make it myself than spend big bucks paying for it. And even if it's not about the money, I'd rather have something I made as long as I don't feel like I'm counterfitting stuff. "I could do that" -goggles are only for viewing stuff you don't make to gain financial profit. It's not the same to copy a lovely color combination from someone's outfit and use it on you book covers than to copy the colour scheme of another artist and use it to create the same type of art they do. There is a line what's good kind of inspiration and what isn't. It is a very hard line to draw but I think any artist with a little bit of self respect has a pretty good idea where it is.

Sorry about the long rant. I just think these are important matters. I'm a foolish girl for hoping people would treat each other better but it's a foolishness I'm not ready to give up.


  1. Hi Kaija. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I know how awful it is to stumble upon your own work under someone else's name. For me, it has made me reconsider how I present and share work, both online and out in the real world. I'm sure it has all been a good learning for me, but it is tough and like you, I wish it hadn't been necessary. With my best wishes, Annie x

  2. apologies necessary for the said things that definitely need to be said and you said them very eloquently. I'm sorry you have been made to feel this way and totally understand the frustration and certainly takes the wind out of your sails. Your work is so beautiful and must keep making it....we need your authenticity....the others who are appropriating your work will fall away. Cheers to you! Patti

  3. These ARE important matters and you've expressed them well. Maybe someone who didn't get it before will read this and see the error of their ways.

    You do such beautiful work - it always takes my breath away.

  4. I've noted a matchbox project in the blogosphere and wondered initially whether it was something you launched. It did make me think of your work, particularly your fabulously glorious advent matchboxes. I think you've just got to keep doing what you're doing. I have something very similar happening in my professional environment at the moment but it's not about a tangible thing I produce it's about how I deliver training. I got feedback from my trainees about this issue just recently. Made me feel like I was on the right path.

  5. Your rant is absolutely valid and I'm sorry that this happened to you. It's so complicated...I've talked to many an artist and teacher about this in the age of workshops, Etsy, blogs, etc. The consensus I hear is do what you do - the very best you can do it. Others may imitate or be inspired by, but they will never be you. I know teachers that give their every "trade secret" for that reason. They want to encourage artistic development and know that ultimately, no 2 people will ever produce the same. Dunno if that helps, but thanks for putting your thoughts and honesty out there.

  6. excellent point very well expressed and I couldn't agree more. I know how much time and commitment it takes to build a 'style', a concept. You put your whole self into it. Whatever you have seen, whatever inspired the writing of this post you can be sure that all genuine artists.....with a conscience.... are standing right beside you.

  7. Kajia,those who copy your style will never have their own style,they will not get the happiness from creating.i think your excellent amazing designs are art,your work is a way to express your feel and share your thoughts with people who can understand you and appreciate you. I have followed your matchbox project from the start,and I know you have accumulated a lot from creating them,and finnally your own unique style of matchbox and books.
    Just keep creating more art works,try more,not give up. I think it is the best response to the copier. You have told me before through the e mail,and I am encouraged by your words,so this time you should keep making and creating:)

  8. of course you are right. well said.

  9. Never be afraid be flattered you are the Artist they are the imitator. Since you are the origin of the idea you are always one step ahead.
    By the time they have imitated your idea you have left it in your creative wake long ago.

    I never post new or current work I have no problem posting older work which I have finished with.

    If I want to talk about current work I never reveal technique and will only show small parts of my work in progress.

    Its hard if you are using social media to market your work you may want to rethink this if the lifting of your ideas becomes a big problem.

    You can also add a snippet of code which stops people pinning your images if this is problem.

    I completely sympathise with you Im not perfect either and often feel really insecure about using the internet as a platform for showcasing my work but the risk IS minimal and shouldnt cloud the otherwise wonderful experience that it provides us creative souls.

    Helen :)


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