Wednesday, December 7, 2011

With My Compliments

Yesterday, a tweet I read directed me to a thought-provoking blog post by Jessica Hirsche on the difference between Inspiration and Imitation. I had no idea who Jessica was but I'm sure glad I've found her blog because that woman not only has heaps of talent, she's super smart and also freakin' hilarious. I still haven't read my new camera manual, but now all I want to do is read every blog post in her archives because that chick knows stuff.

Never one to stir up controversy here on the happy blog (I save that for my in-person life. No really, I do), I've shied away from posing SERIOUS QUESTIONS, or sharing BIG OPINIONS. Except that once. However, two topics come to mind after my reading yesterday. They are:
  1. Giving credit where it is due. If someone else's work inspires your own, then let them know. If you make something in a similar style, or copy a design, then say so in your Flickr photo description or blogpost so the original designer gets credit. Better yet, ask permission first. If you want to make something for personal use, permission will almost always be happily granted. I do it all the time in flickr comments. For example "this is so pretty - would you mind if I made something in a similar style as long as I credit you for the inspiration?"
  2. The expectation by some people that all of us sewists having nothing better to do than work for free. That the thrill of seeing our name in print is enough incentive to carve a week, 2 weeks or a month out of our busy lives to dream up original designs and then write up instructions, have them proofread and the project tested in return for, oh, lets say a $15 book? In short: working for FREE so that someone else can gain financially from your effort.
I have, in fact, been a willing participant in activity #2. But I only did it once and I'm not going to do it again (caveat: I will work for free for friends, who I know fully appreciate my efforts and will be grateful for my contributions. Mostly because that kind of goodwill usually comes back around boomerang style). Luckily, Jessica designed the perfect flow chart, entitled "Should I work for Free?" that is not only spot-on advice, but fabulously funny, too. Go on and read it, I promise you'll laugh (spoiler alert: there is one person for whom you should always work for FREE. That is your Mom). Oh, and there are some naughty words on the chart.

So, there you have it: Two Strong Opinions. Not a rant, just stating. So you know where I stand. I will not like you less if you choose to work for free, because that's your choice. I just don't appreciate the expectation. And it's something that is changing in the craft industry as people speak up (evidence).

However, I am always bummed when I see a blatant copy of someone's work that is not credited back to the first maker. Our community is small and we watch out for each other. It doesn't happen a lot, but often enough that it's on my mind. I've read in several places we should all chill out; imitation is the best form of flattery. Well, if you don't give credit it's not! It's kinda sneaky, actually. As a community, we share our work because we love giving and receiving feedback. It feels nice and it is nice.

Thanks for indulging me. I'll be back with Christmas makes tomorrow. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments, but really, I'm not looking to pick a fight, or enter a massive debate, or make anyone feel bad. It's just me and my laptop sharing a little brain dump with friends. And giving Jessica all the credit for it.

24 comments:

Amy said...

I wasn't familiar with Jessica's blog before but that was a great post she just wrote. Thanks for the link. I couldn't agree more.

Leah Day said...

Hi Krista - I certainly agree with both of your points. #2 especially strikes a nerve with me because while yes, I have posted a ton of information for free, I refuse to sign a book deal where I work for free (or close to it) as well.

However, I do want to point out something about #1 which is this: we are not the only creative people in the world.

Creativity has a way of happening spontaneously. The Eureka idea to piece a QR Code into a quilt was a great idea, but if you see it again it there is a great possibility that is also the original idea of another quilter.

What I mean to say is: we all have fabric, we all cut it up to make quilts, as designers we all know how to stitch seams and work with circles. If someone else came up with a circle table runner, are they ripping you off, or are they just playing with their accuquilt go?

So while it's good to say "give credit where credit is due" and I certainly agree with it, I also warn against the bullying and trolling that can stem from it.

The major point is this: if you keep moving, keep designing, keep inventing, then it absolutely won't matter if similar things pop up. There's always new ideas on the horizon.

Cheers,

Leah Day

Rene' said...

Great post Krista! Thanks for sharing the link to Jessica's blog and post...will definitely be checking it out. While it isn't anything that I personally have had to worry about, I have often wondered about the #2....seems to me "someone" is making a lot of money based on the volume of creative projects I see being made....sure hope it trickles down to the creative geniuses behind the original designs ;-)

Carol said...

Really good post Krista. I'm going to check out Jessica's blog.

Some people NEVER get the difference between Inspiration and Imitation. I for one, thank all designers that make their patterns available to me whether its sewing or beading. Maybe I could have thought up the design, but I never could have perfected it and wrote it down in a way that anyone would understand. Its just plain good Karma to give credit where its due.
Most ethical people agree.

Live a Colorful Life said...

Well written. I will definitely check out Jessica's blog. Thanks for taking the time to write this.

Alisa said...

I understand where she's coming from.

This kind of scares me though. Sometimes I don't even know where I was inspired from any more by the time I make something. There are a plethora of blogs and flickr photos that I look at and read and over time I just get ideas that I want to try. Sometimes I know where I got the idea from, sometimes not. I usually dream up what I want to make while going to sleep. I don't always remember where I got the original inspiration.

Kerry said...

Nice Post Krista, I want to say a lot of things but not all of them in a public arena, so I will say the lure of publication is not always a positive force for creativity

Patti said...

No doubt about it, I have copied others' designs. However, I hope that I have always remembered to give proper credit. I only make things for personal use or gifts for friends and family. Thanks for reminding those of us who are less original, to always give thanks to those who are!

PinkGranny said...

I have seen other blog posts that address the issue. It is amazing that people copy without giving credit. I know when I make something and post it on my blog I try to give credit to the designer, book or downloaded pattern by linking to the original book or inspiration. To gain financially on someone else's hard work is on the scale of fraud we have seen in the business/banking industry. Smaller scale but nevertheless, it is stealing from someone. Your post and Jessica's are very good to bring up awareness for this topic again. We need to look out for each other and to be ethical with our own work. Thanks for posting this.

MariQuilts said...

Great post and interesting read,Krista. The thing I always find interesting in the quilting world is the similarity between patterns...each one having the words designed by....on them. There is usually a strict copy write thing as well,yet so many look like they copied each other. I'm just saying...

Kirsty@Bonjour said...

Thanks for pointing me in the direction of Jessica's blog, I didn't know it existed. I had seen her absolutely awesome 'Should I work for Free' poster before, and would have printed it out except I couldn't get it for free (jokes, jokes). It is very important to give credit where it is due, although I agree a line has to be drawn somewhere as even the smallest thing (I saw a yellow sweatshirt and thought it might be nice to make a yellow cushion) can influence but it isn't always 'relevant' to credit it, if you know what I mean. I actually don't think it takes away from anyone's design to show where it's influence comes from, and in fact I find it really interesting to see where folks draw their inspiration. I always try to document the same (I have a quilt inspired by bathroom tiles in a roundabout way, etc). It makes me happy to know that crafters are looking out for each other in the big wide www. - hopefully if people keep cracking down on those who plagiarise, eventually it will become a less common occurrence.

bearpaw said...

totally agree with the 'giving credit for inspiration' points above, it is only polite and can also make the original maker feel honoured (I know I do when someone is inspired enough by somethign I have made to 'copy' it). Off to read this hilarious rules thing now - better be funny Krista!

Flying Blind... said...

Obviously I want to write something sarcastic, like we have the same Mac and ikea drawers as Jessica, who copied who? - I have never posted pics of ours or seen her website before!

I agree that not giving credit is really not on, but also agree with Leah that it is also easy to come up with very similar ideas unwittingly... Any similarities between quilts/quilters, living or dead is purely coincidental xxx

Katy Cameron said...

ROFL, LOVE that diagram!

The not working for free is one I frequently come across in the photography world - there are some amateurs who are ecstatic to have their work published for free in a magazine/book, for the exposure (excuse the pun), their name in lights, notoriety (okay, I'm speculating a little here ;o) ) while there are pros getting extremely frustrated that they can't get paid anything like a decent rate for their work. I'm not against a bit of photography work as a second job (heck, I make bears as a second job) but undercutting others for preening rights is just, well, wrong.

As for crediting, I'm all for that too, although there can be coincidences in design - I see that more in the teddy bear world right enough, as there are infinitely less ways to create a head, body and 4 limbs than there are to make a quilt block/entire quilt, but really, pretending that you didn't see something doesn't do much for your own credibility in the long run...

Michele Pacey said...

A very interesting post. I think about this stuff a lot but will keep my opinions to myself for now. Let me just say this: I think it's important to talk about these things and, thanks for having the discussion.

Nina Lise Moen said...

Well put, Krista!

Angela said...

That was an interesting read over at Stash Books by Suzanne. I imagine that people are frustrated with the way things play out sometimes. I've been frustrated with publishers myself at times. Sometimes I think the whole industry is growing too quickly for its own good. Everyone is always looking to the next fabric line, the next project, the next big author... On a side note, this is always why I feel quite justified having sponsors on my blog. I put HOURS into my work and it's frustrating when some feel that it's not enough, there's not enough for free, there's not enough giveaways, there's too many giveaways.

Hmmm...you can tell where my mind is these days. lol

**nicke... said...

her chart made me crack up! "make it rain bitches!"

felicity said...

Interesting. Especially the Stash Books development. thanks for sharing!

Leanne said...

As I learn about the quilting world, I struggle with this concept of what is someone's original design and what is inspired by something and what is just using an age old quilt block a new way.

I agree that we need to try to support each other and give credit whenever we know that we have been inspired by another. But I also agree that sometimes people "unvent" the same idea - that term comes from one of the greatest modern knitting gurus, Elizabeth Zimmermann, who suggested that there was nothing new, we all just were rediscovering what people who crafted before us had figured out.

And I firmly believe that we need to value our work and be proud to require fair payment for it.

Thanks for such an interesting post.

Lynne (Lily's Quilts) said...

OMG I missed this, brilliant post, you are the coolest and so is this post - off to tweet everyone to tell them to come and read it.

Christina said...

I am on of those "chill out" people, but only because I think of all the other things that could be possible. Like someone creates something, on their own, and doesn't realize that someone else has created something similar or just like it. I don't read many blogs anymore, or ever visit Flickr, for just these reasons. So many times I don't even know i've been influenced. I just create what pops into my head, not realizing that maybe i've seen it months back and forgotten about it. So sometimes, people do create without a source of inspiration, but end up creating something just like their "neighbor". Food for thought.

Carol Browne said...

This discussion reminds me of this post - http://www.austinkleon.com/2011/03/30/how-to-steal-like-an-artist-and-9-other-things-nobody-told-me/

As a novice quilter, I'm no where near the design-my-own-quilt-stuff, but there are the same concerns with photography. BOY HOWDY. YIKES!

This was a great read this morning on my way to work. Thanks!

pinksuedeshoe said...

Off to read some more. Great post and thank you for all the links :)