… disclaimer this post is not intended to call people out but only to share with you that I understand the heartache and frustration of having someone else take credit for your work.
This is an excerpt from my life about a year ago,
Setting- a busy November day at the height of the Holiday Season, my flea market, The Mermaid’s Mercantile was in full swing, I was across the street attempting to have a private conversation with one of my vendors.
The conversation went something like this,
Me- How could you do that? Don’t you understand how hard I try to make things for my shop that no one else has? I was up until 2 am making that little… and YOU were in the shop when I sold it, and then you run home copy it and sell it across the street in your shop for less money? I thought we were friends?!
Her- You’re not my friend, everybody copies everybody, it was just one thing and It doesn’t look exactly like yours, fine I’ll remove my merchandise from your store!
The conversation escalates quickly, shouting begins, I start to notice that other vendors and customers are looking in our direction from across the street.
Yikes! That little whisper in my head told me very clearly to wait until I was not so emotional, and that starting this conversation at the beginning of my event was not a good idea. Yep should have listened and waited but it’s too late now, she was mad and she followed me back across the street, continuing to shout in the midst of customers and fellow vendors, on one of my busiest days of the year.
This is a sensitive subject I know, it seems most people don’t want to discuss it on a social platform, and for good reason, but it is one subject that I have been thinking about and asking God about for the last 20 years. I do not want this to be a rant about unfairness, I hope to encourage you so please bear with me.
I was in my twenties when I first began making and selling my handmade crafts, I was so excited! I sold a line of earrings to several of the Nordstrom stores in Southern Ca. and not long after that I had an idea to put sand and tiny shells in a clear glass ornament and tie a gold bow at the top. This was so cute and simple, I could not believe that no one else had come up with it! I searched every store and catalog and went to every beachy seashell shop. Pinterest didn’t exist yet, and there were no ornaments to be found like the ones I had made. This was the early 90’s , Michael’s was not yet selling the clear glass ornaments, I really had to hunt them down.
I started making a bunch of these ornaments and called them Beachballs, I also dolled up starfish , sandollars and other shells in gold paint and glitter, I even paid to have an attorney file a copyright for me. I signed up for craft fairs and sold out. At this time my idea was very unique and I heard over and over again, “seashells on a christmas tree? ”
Coastal Living had not even put its first issue out yet, I had to explain to my customers that this was Christmas, California style.
Twenty years have gone by and I ended up selling thousands of ornaments to hundreds of gift shops across the country and my cute beach balls have been copied like crazy.
I have been blessed with many other novel ideas and sadly many other confrontations. I could write an entire book about this subject, and all of the injustice, not just to me but to many of my creative friends.
One very talented woman I know sent samples of her work to a’ friend’ who said, she was going to take them to a publisher. Well she did indeed take them to a publisher and they were published but this person claimed that it was her work! I’m sorry but of all the stories I have heard whispered around the craft fair tents, this one takes the cake!
So when things like this happen, I always ask God about it, my prayer goes something like this, “God??? why don’t you blast them? Why do you let them get away with this? This is MY idea! and it’s not fair! These idea stealers are taking all the joy away from creating things! What do you have to say about this God? What is the lesson here God? What? what ? WHAT? How am I supposed to behave when this Sh*t happens? (yes I do use the word sh*t sometimes in prayer and I think God is ok with it).
Heavy sigh… what I am about to say is what I have found to work best for me, I understand that each one of us has to find our own way and what works for me will not be the answer for everyone. I do believe in honoring copyrights and respecting your fellow artists and crafters, I absolutely do not think that it’s OK to copy someone else’s work unless they have given you permission to do so. I also realize that the world of creativity has changed a lot with the popularity of Pinterest , DIY bloggers and so many other forms of social media.
After the first time my work was copied, I proceeded to spend the next 20 years guarding my ideas and putting walls up, I opened my retail store in 1998 and would often work on projects behind the counter .. I would create these pretty little things with a scowl on my face, glueing and muttering, under my breath… ‘you think you’re gonna copy me? yeah well I’m gonna make this thing so detailed that no one in their right mind would ever want to copy it, go ahead see if you can… copy this sister!
My customers would see me creating and of course be curious and ask all kinds of questions, from what kind of glue do you use to make that, to where do you buy your supplies? Most of the time I would try to evade the questions, I even had a sign in my shop that said, No Photos Please.
Well I am relieved to say that a lot has changed , thankfully God is patient with me, I’m still some what of a nut job but I have a better attitude. Here are a few good reasons why I shifted from guarding my ideas like a hawk to sharing them across every form of social media I can find.
#1 , My passion is coming up with a new idea and perfecting it, after that the excitement is gone, having to duplicate the same thing over and over again was very tedious, it took over my life and I began to feel like a one man factory. I made and sold 3000 of these seashell letters after they were featured in Coastal Living. Even though I was so grateful the last few I made brought tears to my eyes.
#2 It is very challenging to make a profit from things that are handmade, beautiful things take time to make and it’s hard to compete against a world full of manufactured things. Some people are great at running hand-made business, I am not one of them, but I do love art and purchase almost exclusively handmade goods. Here a few photos of some of the beautiful handmade work of my friends.
and this is my favorite apron from Holly Loves Art.
#3 Knowing the source of your creativity sets you free!
I heard a story about a musician who had a near death experience, he described his visit to Heaven, an Angel took him to a choir of heavenly souls singing praises to God. The musician said to the Angel, “Wow they are singing one of MY songs!” The angel replies, ” no, they are singing one of the songs that WE let you hear.”
This musicians testimony stopped me in my tracks, I had another convo with God that went something like this,
Ok God, if MY ideas have really been YOUR ideas all along, then I am not going to worry about it, I am going to use the gifts you gave me and share them, It is up to you to bless my efforts or not, so I’m just going to create my own little show on YouTube and share all of the things that I have been hiding away…. and so it began, I started my DIY YouTube channel 10 months ago and out of all the things I have tried , (there have been many) this is without a doubt the most enjoyable ever! click her to see My YouTube channel.
My heart did a 360, and I let go.
You are probably thinking, ok good for you, but that’s a lot of work, how do you make a living from doing that? Well YouTube has a revenue sharing program, and many new doors have opened for me because of my YouTube vids. watch ABC’s special, The YouTube generation.
Video is a powerful tool, it has helped increase traffic to my blog and my online shop but above all it brings me joy, and to read in the comments that you all are feeling the joy with me, is the what drives me.
If you are considering making some videos too, I would encourage you to try, it’s a way to connect on a more personal level.
Years ago I read an article in which consumers were surveyed, they were asked to rank what motivated them to buy one product over another, the #1 motivating factor for buying something was not price, or location but relationship. People want to purchase something from someone they consider a friend. I think the best thing that has come from blogging and the internet is that you can interact, and people like you and me can create their own platform, and we can support each other, build relationships, collaborate, and mentor each other too.
Focusing on sharing the best of what I have to offer is my answer. I never want to return to my old mindset, through sharing friendships are made, doors open and with hard work, the bills do get paid.
There’s still a ton of work hours, one video takes about a week to film edit and produce. It’s not a get rich quick solution either, I am juggling my finances and other responsibilities like most of us are, however I must say that this new way of looking at creativity is quite the contrast. I went from, praying that nobody will copy me, to hoping that I come up with an idea so awesome that it goes viral and people from Solana Beach to New Guinea will be picking up their glue guns and making something that came from my glitter filled brain.
What do you think? I know it’s a hot button topic and I do want to hear your thoughts, even if you vehemently disagree, so go ahead, please comment below.
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Debi! Youre wallpaper is WAY funny, but super cute. Super YOU!
After reading your entry, I was reflecting a little… I feel like you have always been sort-of ahead on trends. I remember the summer that I was working in the store, and you were just starting to brainstorm about ways to start teaching your crafts to the general public.
When YouTube blew up, you’d already been looking for ways to capitalize that outlet before everyone else. Some people have more foresight into what has potential to be popular down the line. That just happens to be one of your many gifts, my friend!
I hope you are well. I’ve been thinking about you and the shop. Be alert for a personal email or call from me in the next few days.
Your creativity is amazing! I have greatly enjoyed your work! I tell all my crafty friends about your stuff! I could never take the credit for yor ideas and do not see how anyone else could!
Here is your blessing- you have an amazing talent for both coming up with great ideas and then being able to bring them to life. What a gift! I think you’ve found the best answer, take joy in your gift and don’t worry about the thieves. Your joy shines through all that you do,especially your videos! Personally, I think karma will take care of the thieves. So keep creating, live in joy and be happy.
What a great blog! It’s been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! You do such a great job of being creative and I’m glad that you share it with everyone. It’s frustrating to have someone copy you but it’s great that you have taught, and will continue to teach, so many novices. It will surely outweigh the frustration of people copying you! Who doesn’t love a teacher? Thanks for inspiring us Deb!
Thank you for posting this; you gave me allot to think about. I am relatively new to blogging (less than a year) and enjoy and get such inspiration from all the social media outlets. I think your videos are a riot! and informative!
Being on a fixed income I am always looking for ideas to do what I can afford rather than buying buying big ticket items that I can no longer afford. Anything I post, and see posted, I take for granted that someone will like and do too.
Something I do, even if I am trying to copy you, will probably not be exact, simply because my talent is not the same as yours. You have been doing things longer than I and are just better at it. You may be able to afford better tools, paint, materials than I but I can be as happy with my version.
I understand to horror you went through but I just think that once we put it out there, if someone likes it, someone will ‘copy’ it….let them! I couldn’t do 3000 letters in record time without medication!
I am thankful for those who have gone before me for you have lit the passion in me.
Hallelujah, sister! I’ve actually cried over this and it stopped me in my tracks this last year. It’s a hard thing to get past. You said it perfectly!
Thank you for sharing. I too had people copy me and then claim it for their own. It was annoying. But whether you call it God, which I do, or Karma as many do, it comes around. I leave it to the future whatever happens and will trust that I will be blessed as I share.
hey what is your fb page
Otter, there is a link on here, just click the FB icon, it’s the same name, Debi’s Design Diary. 🙂
Well said. Thank you for sharing your heart. It is a good reminder where all ‘our’ gifts and talents originate from.
I burst out laughing when you said, “God??? why don’t you blast them?” Awesome. 🙂
I love how open and sincere you’ve been here about your ideas, and how you’ve decided to turn around your own thinking … and the benefits that change has brought. I think that all of us can learn from your experience.
I vehemently disagree! Just kidding! I know exactly what you mean about guarding your creativity. But I’ve learned how to share without feeling like I’ve given away my best stuff! I realized how much I’ve grown when I co-worker was talking about wanting to start a YouTube channel but someone told her not to share her ideas online because someone may steal them. After my eyes got finished rolling around in my head, I tried to explain to her that she can still share because there are NO NEW IDEAS – JUST DIFFERENT SPINS!
I agree that YouTube has been a wonderful platform. I think that is where we became friends! Who knew?!!
I enjoyed reading your blog. I appreciate what you said about all the ideas being God’s to begin with. I came to that realization when I was grappling with the idea of tithing and that all my money is God’s. He just is allowing me to be the steward of it. It’s not a far stretch for me to apply it to the jewelry I make. I lay out the beads and never know what they are going to become. I always feel like it’s God’s hand guiding mine. Thanks for the article. I haven’t done my first craft show yet but will do my first event at the end of the month. I haven’t had to deal with copy cats yet but I may have to in the future and you’ve given me the tools to handle it. God bless!
Wow! You are AMAZING!
This is such a fantastic post. First of all, I think God is absolutely fine with me dropping a bad word in prayer – He knows my heart after all. If I am thinking “sh*t”, there is no hiding that from Him, so why try!
This issue burns me up inside. It has kept me awake at night. My first experience with a business wanting to purchase my pendants wholesale went like this: she bought some to “try out” on her customers, then figured out how to make them and now sells them in competition with me. Ouch. I became closed off after that, for quite awhile. Now, I feel like there is so much to do and create. I am with you on loving to perfect an creation, but then despising mass producing, so I end up moving on anyway. Life is too short for that kind of thing to steal my peace and joy. Not to say I don’t still let it when it happens, but I let it go faster, and have learned not to contact the person for several days. My words have gotten me into some nasty situation. I don’t approach things until I am calm!
All that said, people who steal things suck. On the other hand, just because someone else posts something on their blog that I have shared on mine, doesn’t mean they copied it from me. There are over 4 billion people in the world. The chances of that happening are 100%.
This is the longest comment I have ever written. This topic is on my mind. I don’t like who I become when I get all stuck in the anger of being copied.
That is what I have to say in this moment.
You are saying what I have been feeling for a long time. The gifts that I have are my gifts from God. I can’t hoard them. It really comes down to how you look at life. So when other people “take” someone else’s idea and make it for themselves to make a profit I see them utilizing the fact that they haven’t been given that gift but want to be able to benefit by it. Some of us are teachers. Some of us are students. A good teacher can show the way and show us how to let go of our possessive nature. This is an excellent article.
Simple Abundance…..love your attitude and energy Miss Debi!
Thanks for your open blog about copyrights. I have stressed, obsessed and lost sleep over all of that also.
You made it very clear where the real purpose belongs, and it is in my heart to create new ideas, and be able to have my shop that my customers love to visit ….if I’m copied, so be it, I will continue to focus on my end goal…my passion.
Thanks so much , Just For You!
Turn the other cheek, grab a glue gun and carry on! (that was said with LOVE, no attitude at all)
People have grabbed ideas that I have embellished from other’s creativity and inspiration. I liken it to (because I’m PollyAnna-esque) a long paper chain of ideas, inspirations and creations – each linked together by the hearts of the artists. Now if someone steals, well, they have to deal with themselves and their maker.
When IT happens there is a strange feeling in one’s gut. I choked a couple of times. But then I thought, “I have peace, I know peace and getting involved in this thievery BRINGS ME UNSETTLED, HORRID, feelings. I chose JOY.
I take a deep breath, ditch my pride, and go on. Trust. There is MORE for all of us.
You are darling. And yet I can see you gettin’ your hair all frizzed up, too. Boy can I! But the truth is the heart of the matter. If our hearts are pure, then we will bring towards us that purity. Everything else, we sweep up into the dust pan at the end of the day!
…and I absolutely ADORE your creations!!!!!!!!!!!
Great post! I think that as bloggers, we write craft tutorials expecting readers to try the projects on their own. But when those projects/crafts are republished and distributed as someone else’s idea…that’s when it hurts! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Thank you for sharing. I love your creations and I am so happy that you have a “glitter filled mind”. God made you that way, which makes me really happy cuz now I’m assured….there is glitter in heaven!!!
<3 your philosophy "sharing the gifts that God has given you" Laura
I am speachless. You have inspired me in so many ways and now this post. Thank you – this was much needed.
Thank you so much for sharing God’s response to your prayers…it is an attitude and heart changer. I must say your story brought tears to my eyes and peace to my soul. I’ve always known what God shared with you as I have been through the same process with Him. I still struggle with the old self now and then when the tempter whispers sweet nothings in my heart “It’s yours, you created it” and then have to speak out loud..I have only what God gave me and others as well…If I don’t share He’ll find someone else that will! Added to this I will now always think of you and your story.
I also want to let you know I just found your Blog today and am so grateful to be here…you are so talented and genuine…I am truly inspired. I am looking forward to following all your postings!
Thank you Dorothy! I am so glad that you have found inspiration to keep creating and sharing! I like what you said about god finding someone else to share if we don’t!
Thanks so much for your kind words! sincerely, Debi xo
Hi im sorry that happened to u and do understand your feelings, But copying is the way we all learn and today the top designers have a line come out and bingo its sold within a week from a knock off store …please just keep creating and dont let those people bring u down , they have no creative talent like u do … maybe say to her ” it makes me sad that u have no original ideas of your own , guess im just born with a God given talent” or something to that effect…
I enjoyed this very much because I to have been there. Unfortunately, when you don’t have the money to buy copyright or patent an idea, I wonder what you should do. I do a lot of writing online and thought, like your friend, if I write about my idea, it gets published, it gets dated, it’s online sure and people will see it, even those that copy it but wouldn’t you have a better leg to stand on if you have proof/date of when your idea came to be?
I guess that’s what I’m asking; If you write a book full of your ideas, isn’t that protected in the copyright of the book itself or do you have to go out and buy rights to every item listed in that book? I’ve never been too clear on copyright law.
Thanks and thanks for being you. I just think you are awesome!
I found you by a comment you made on Houzz. I saw your YT about CeCe paints. You are awesome. I love this post, you are a great writer too. And so cute. God will bless you because you have His favor. I have been an ASCP user and I appreciate what you say about buying American. I will look for CeCe paint because of you. Thank you so much for all you do.
thank you Karen! I can’t remember what comment I made on Houzz but isn’t it funny how we connect in this world now with all the social media. xo Debi
I just try and remember what my Grandma always said “Imitation is the highest form of flattery” and go on my merry way
I realize you wrote this months ago but when I saw the title I just had to click and read. What a breath of fresh air! I’ve been struggling also with this issue and I get so irate when I see my work copied without credit. My heart pounds and my blood pressure rises and I’m ready to pounce! I’ve heard God quietly say to me, “Let it go, I’ll take care of you”, but man-alivin’… that’s hard to do!!! Your profound words were confirmation on how I need to stop harboring those ill thoughts of resentment. They are stifling my creativity. Thanks Debi… you’re an amazing person.
Kim so glad this was encouraging, thank you for you comment, it was wonderful to hear your words! It took me years to learn this and my hope is that I can encourage others with my experience. I know that most creative people face this issue sooner or later. xo Debi
I thought you were writing about ME. I have tried so hard to be like the “new you” and have gotten better but still have a LONG way to go. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story.
I am so happy, that I found your article. This particular sentence, resonated with me: ” These idea stealers are taking all the joy away from creating things!”. Thank You. I am going to share the article on Facebook, although, I can only hope that some might get the point. My concepts just get better, because I move on and I am also in the mode of travel, that I create primarily OOAK, unless it is a pattern with variations. Cali Wild Violet Creations on WP and you can see some of what I do..Thank YOU..so much for making me feel better (selfish, but honest) about myself and what I do in life.
What a great article and subject~! I’ve felt that crushing feeling of ‘protection’ of my designs and ideas…I too let it go. And the feeling IS great. Now I have started making infographs about some of my techniques. yeppers. I’m showing people how to make their own. Lots of folks are appreciating the instructions. AND it has actually helped my sales. Yes, people see the energy that goes into the things I create and they have more respect for my process…and they buy. Those who end up trying my techniques have become good friends…and though the techs are simular…the end product is always different. Just like we are all different. 😉