I saw a post the other day
on a maker's blog. They were in pain over work that had been copied from their own:
this is a theme in the world of internet creation,
one that has happened to most anyone with a good idea or a beautiful design.
Sometimes it occurs ten times over, sometimes the 'it'ness of the copied artist creates a picture quite like a line of parasitic ducklings following close on their trail, always striving to make what they've made, use language as they do, live life in a similar vein to theirs in the hopes of experientially touching what makes them lovely.
I would imagine the satisfaction never comes: how could it? We are so rarely satisfied by emulating as human beings. There is always something hollow in the 'lookalike' pieces, no matter how excellent the technique or craft.
It's the soul that's been snuffed out. It's a xerox no matter how fine.
In the best of circumstances the copier merely stops to dance at the edges of the originator's work on their way to the artistic language they will come to know as their own. They merely test and try. It's very normal for the first works. How many people who want to make a living doing art live in isolation from the hotbed of inspiration that the internet provides?
How many people learning the technical aspects of a medium have not tried to mimic the very pieces that made them love it in the first place?
This is learning, this is the mind of a beginner. This is not the mind of greatness. Too often it seems to be the norm.
I've heard tales, read stories about the small-time artists whose idea gets lifted by large corporations, a beautiful and original idea mass-produced, leaving the original maker sometimes without a legal leg to stand on and out of income that would have fed their children, housed themselves or their shops...
those are the ones that really chill my bones.
Those are the situations that make us all shudder, this I know.
This post is not at all addressing that level of fuckery.
I cannot even fathom the discomfort a maker has to work through to heal from that kind of violation. I hope I never have to.
What frames my post tonight is the idea theft that goes on between makers on a smaller scale, the business of being deeply inspired and then going on to make money off of that inspiration; selling it cheaper, making that xerox copy in whatever medium.
Making that knockoff.
I have friends who are deeply passionate about being protective of one's work and I see validity in their fierce approach. I love their colors, the way they seethe when these injustices happen because any way you cut it the practice sucks, but it's never ever going to stop.
Does that chill you to read like it chilled me to write it? There will never come a day when the makers who for whatever reason choose to copy stop doing so. And after that wave there will be another and another. A body could get mired in despair just thinking of the ocean of it all.
I feel joyful, hopeful and grounded about what I want to share with you.
This manifesto has been my way of life for the better part of the last two years and it is greater than the fear of being ripped off
but bear in mind I still observe that fear in me: I just choose not to invest my time in it.
It's a rabbit hole, that fear.
A few years ago one of my most prized and lucrative leather designs, the hand-drawn koi necklace that shipped off to nearly every single continent was copied completely and totally by an artist on Etsy and I found myself sitting with the discomfort completely empty of grace for the woman who intruded on my happy oblivion.
There was a blog shitstorm.
Of course there was: I was throwing my energy out hard and jagged.
And yet something wonderful happened because of the whole shebang: I mourned the loss of my design, the loss of my designer's innocence and then I just got back to work.
I went deeper. I dug into the loam just a few more inches and found inner resources to harvest.
I don't think she followed and it wouldn't even have mattered if she did, because the question had already formed itself
and I loved it (thanks, Rilke):
"What if every artistic hurt is a call to go deeper?"
Of course there's no guarantee that others won't come and pilfer the newer and earthier stuff you're pulling out of your guts, but that shouldn't be what it's about.
You've got bigger fish to fry, artist friend.
Here's what I came to live as my creative religion - I write it here in the hope that you can gather something of value for your own path. If it lights a teeny spark in your heart I'll be so excited for both of us!
Stop keeping track.
Stop keeping tabs.
Stop feeling like there's a finite amount of everything for everyone, that someone else is going to steal your cheese if you turn your back.
Consider for a minute the glorious possibility that there is more than enough for you in every way you could be nourished, body and soul.
Open to the more expansive things in life and let them open you day after day until you're nothing but rot,
which you most certainly will be.
You are going to die.
Can you even begin to understand how finite that makes your life?
Without fail you are going to stop breathing, your heart will pump no more blood.
Your most valuable commodity is time and you're going to spend it building a moat around what equates to beautiful clouds? Your ideas?
Jesus, Girl Self!!
Do you really have time for anything less than a true and deep enjoyment of these flying years?
Dig deeper and keep going below the surface! Leave the pack mentality and make the most beautiful expression of yourself that God allows, that your fingers and muscles and bones support.
Spend your days in prayer and gratitude.
Praise the One that made you.
Wonder at the world in all its complexity.
Study the things that interest you.
Give your time to worthy causes.
Celebrate this one stunning moment that is constantly blossoming
like an infinitely large crocus.
Get quiet and still as often as the day or night will allow.
Lie in your hammock and feed peanuts to the jays.
Seek the very bedrock of your existence and the very height of human potential.
Be a pioneer of this one small perfect awful and wonderful life you've been given.
Let life empty you and make you a vessel for the greatest expression
that your unique footprint can muster.
Anything else shortchanges everyone.
Now get the fuck to work.