About Liana

My photo
Brisbane, Australia
My studio is located in Brisbane, Australia. For the past 10 years I’ve been enjoying creating jewellery designs from an array of mundane materials. Tupperware and knitting needles have remained a firm favourite. My designs have been published numerous times, graced the shelves of many wonderful galleries and stores and been worn by those whose aren’t afraid of colour and attention. All of which I am very grateful for. For several years I’ve also been fortunate enough to work with many businesses as a coach and workshop facilitator.

Search This Blog

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Big Business Is Bad, But What About That Local Designer?

I've steered clear of the whole copycat issue for a while. Frankly because it upsets me. I haven't enjoyed seeing numerous 'versions' of my designs. So I've just taken to ignoring it, perhaps giving into the 'what can you do about it?'/'ideas float' attitude. It all seemed a bit hard, and a whole lot unpleasant. But I'm thinking now that attitude is wrong. You shouldn't be OK with it. Sometimes you do have original ideas/designs, and why shouldn't you try to protect them?

Via Twitter I have seen a whole lot of designers being copied by big business,and a whole lot of people being outraged over it, for example. Which of course is right. It is outrageous and they should cease immediately.

All this has got me to thinking about what we, as a community, can do about it. Also unfortunately, to the sometimes double standard within our community. The design I've seen copied are illustrations and therefore more easily identifiable as copies. Craft/design/and plain good ideas, admittedly are less so. But It does seem that you are allowed to say something when big business copies, but not so much when another designer/crafts person copies. I think this in effect makes it a lot harder to fight the mass produced copies. If we can't even respect each others original ideas?

The Internet can be a minefield. It is an easy way to view and copy designs. The flipside is that is an easy way to prove when you created a design. Images loaded to Flickr, for example, are dated.

This is what I would like to see happen to reduce copying.

1. Not knowing is not an excuse. Take some responsibility and do some research.

2. Craft and design blogs/organisations/shops that elevate craft should not at the same time undermine craft/design by promoting obvious copies, or by providing tutorials of obvious copies. Again refer to step 1.

3. Say something about it when you see it. Be polite, because there is no need not to be. I know this is dicey because you may be wrong. Maybe they are the original maker, or maybe your idea of what is a copy is not their one (or a lot of other peoples'), but what is the alternative? Say nothing? Doesn't this condone copying, and in effect makes it harder for everyone to protect their original work?

When I did say something

Feel free to add your opinions, as I know this issue has a lot of grey areas.


sophiehillartist said...

Hi Liana - wow, a great read and I strongly support your views on this issue... I, this morning, had such an incident - and again, because of it not being a big-brand-company, it's slightly been swept under the rug. I'm not happy with sweeping it under the rug...

On a smaller crafter scale, I think it's multiple-voices that need to help deter such things, if more people email the person in question, the more likely that this person would rethink their method of design/inspiration and try to be as unique as possible.

It makes it difficult for people who have been well established and have spent a lot of time and effort on developing their label, brand, mark, design, concept - (in my case two years) - and then gather such a strong base of followers, lovers, buyers, appreciators - for then to have something oh so similar pop up - and have said base of customers question what is actually what...

At the end of the day, do they want to be know as "the designer that copied that other designer" --??

Great blog - going to follow you now!


Betty Jo said...

This issue is a mine field!!
Only on the weekend I had a market stall almost opposite another designer making lino and button brooches. Not exact copies, but somewhat exasperating all the same.
I read my comment on your earlier post about copying from 2007 and couldn't believe the co-incidence.......
"I found a person making eerily similar pieces to mine at a market recently. I seriously couldn't tell if they had copied or had come up with the idea totally independantly.
Of course they weren't telling.

In an ideal world, people who are short on original ideas should just stick to craft for pleasure,(nothing wrong with that) No need to profit from it and flood the markets with copied products."

Copying never goes away, but at the moment It's bloody everywhere, and it's making me furious!

Chelsea Wong - Find CW Designs said...

I suppose I am one of the lucky ones who have evaded this sort of thing. I don't have a strong internet presence, which is just a personal thing for me, so it is a lot harder for people to stumble onto my designs as they wander around the internet.

However I believe the primary reason I am not seeing doubles of my designs is that what I do, is hard to copy. I make wooden and steel jewellery by hand. I don't send my simple design off to laser cutters and have a beautiful product returned to me in 4 weeks time. I think if as a crafty community we go back to legitimate handmade crafts our originality and skillmanship is retained. I've had this discussion with many before in the past and have been told I am coming off as a 'snotty bitch'. But over the last decade I have been quite successful and I credit most of this success to my handmade status. What gets me irate is the new generation who lack the commitment to learning the art of working with tools, developing their skills, but instead sticks to simple bird/owls/feathers/clouds (you know what I mean), sends designs to a factory, and dedicates their time to manufacturing a handmade image. What you are doing is not handmade and it completely cheapens my status as a legitimate handmade designer. I do not mean any discredit to anyone, but claiming someone copied your idea of putting fabrics onto buttons or making simple bird necklace you are going to have a hard time proving it. And then I suppose you will have to answer to the thousands of people who were doing it before you.

The internet has made jewellery making too easy. You can draw a simple design, email it to a laser cutters etc, it arrives at your door, you post it on etsy and hey presto! you are a designer.

With things being as simple as that, it is no surprise that local crafters are being ripped off left right and centre. It is not tolerated where I live in Vancouver. You need not be polite when telling someone they are ripping you off. Stand up for your art!

Liana said...

Yes Sophie I think it does often get 'swept under the rug' because it is easier to fight some faceless big business. There are no consequences for that. Everyone is with you on that one.

I like what you said Chelsea about it not happening in Vancouver, and to stop being so polite and "stand up for your art!"

That's right Liz nothing has changed. It is actually getting worse, and yes we should be getting mad about it. I'm taking Chelsea's advice!

Up In Annie's Room said...

Well said Liana, I hope this copy cat has retreated from the scene. It is unfortunate that this seems to be happening more and more. There are shades of grey when it comes to some things (buttons are a really good example used by a previous poster). You can't really get cross when such a standard item gets used in the same way you use them. But your bangles are very unique and I have to say that I really find it hard to believe that more than a couple of people would have come up with them truelly indipendantly. I know I would never have thought of them in a million years!! I definately think any concerned crafter/ designer should speak up for the sake of themselves and the "copycat", much better that stewing on it and letting the negativity own you. BTW I hope you dried out ok after YDM and I got a cracker email the other day about the evils of "short shorts" I'll have to send you lol....

Grand Purl Baa said...

Hello Liana
It is a tricky one. I have had my designs made directly from my pattern book and then sold on ebay in the name of the maker, without any reference to me or my book.

At first I was cross but then I thought well I could spend my life policing everyone around the world or I could ignore it and get on with doing what I do and trusting that my original work can never be repeated.

Sometimes though I am of a mind that there is no such thing as a new idea anyway and that all ideas are variations on other older ideas. There is so much textile art being produced today, knit art, crochet at. I have found evidence of very similar stuff created in the 70s documented in books. If I looked hard enough I might find evidence of similar stuff much earlier than that.

I have and wear often two of your pieces. I love finding it in gallery shops when I visit.

Best concentrate on your own creative expression. You have a gift. Those others will come and go in a flash. Honestly they aren't worth your energy.


annadee said...

Hey Liana, How are you? I'd love to get back to Brizzy to see you again soon and you know my spare room is always available if you were thinking about a visit to Melbourne. Have you seen the blog 'Ask Hariette'? She recently posted about this issue and she has some good advice.


love Anna

Simple things said...

First of all, congratulations for your work/art pieces! I've been seeing it since the beggining and love your creativity!
I tottaly agree with you and we Chelsea "the new generation who lack the commitment to learning the art of working with tools, developing their skills" I work in jewelry design and make all my things. Sawing acrylic/perspex is lot harder, rather then just send it to a be cut by a laser... And I wouldn't like to see my work copied either. There are hours of work involved. We are workers/artists, not just spoiled children that want to make some changes to go out at night!
We need to speak the words and
show to the world. Globalization is good and is bad too....

Liana said...

yLoani you are right, it isn't worth stewing over although I do think it is important not to ignore.

Great site Anna - thanks. Harriete is saying so much about this issue and about standing up for your art. We need to do more of that and not be so afraid to.

Liana said...

Hi Emma. This post isn't about any issue I'm having with any one right now. I have been copied and it has affected me, but this is more a community issue, I feel, which of course I'm a part of.

Yes so true globalization is good and bad. I believe it is time to stop using the excuse that 'you can't stop it' and 'everyone else is doing it'. It is up to us as individuals to act with integridy, and if more of us do that, the 'everyone else' will surely become fewer.

Anonymous said...

Hi Liana

I'm glad you've written about this. I strongly believe in the rights of artists and have recently written about the similar topic of the role of bloggers in respecting and encouraging the enforcement of makers' copyrights.

Only last year I saw poorly made copies of a well-known Australian jeweller's range at a market; I was pretty shocked at the disrespect and sheer audacity, so I contacted a gallery who represented the original jeweller and they took it very seriously.

I think it's up to each artist to protect their work (though where I think it's happening to others, I will do what I can about it!), but it certainly does take some effort and the willingness to enter into some degree of necessary conflict.

But you're so right about there being no reason to be impolite about such things, for the 'ether' idea is so surprising that sometimes it could just be true! If in doubt, seek advice from the Australian Copyright Council.

Thanks again for raising the topic.

Happy making!