Making things for a living is hard work. Designing new things is particularly hard work. Ideas come all too often, turning them into reality is much harder. But sometimes it clicks and the vision in your head turns out just so on the fabric. You love what you have made. You show it to other people. They love what you have made. Great joy!
You show it to lots of people. Either on the internet or at shows, galleries, exhibitions. Lots of people love what you have made. Some people buy what you have made. More joy! Some people want one without having to pay for it. So they go home and make one for themselves, more or less the same. Well, fair enough. Inspiring people is good, although I (we designers) would rather they were inspired to make something original, not something pretty much the same as someone else made. But they are making it just for themselves, so no harm is done.
But here’s the thing. If you make something, as far as you are aware, that is totally unique and original, and you plan to sell said item, you really have to be sure that it is original, not a copy or a derivative of someone else’s work. “I didn’t know designer X had done something like that before. I didn’t intend to copy.” Well, yeah, that may be true, let us give the benefit of the doubt; innocent until or unless proved guilty and all that. Accidental mistake. We all do it. Really, we all do. But we don’t want other people to think that we have copied. This is really bad in the professional designer-maker community.
It still happens to me sometimes. A couple of times I have started on a new piece of work, full of excitement. I get half way through and suddenly get a sinking feeling. It is too much like designer Y’s work. So I go and check designer Y’s website and see. Have they done something like this already? Bugger. So I scrap that one. Not because it wasn’t a great idea, not because I have copied, but because I want to be original, it pushes me harder to create something really new. Yes there may be similarities to designer Y, but I take care not to be derivative. And if we simultaneously produce something too similar, I would pull mine back, out of respect to designer Y’s more established status. And because I don’t want designer Y or anyone else to think I have copied. And I have to keep an eye on the textile world to see if there are things already around like the thing I have designed. If they are first, then they are first, whether I like it or not.
The design world feeds on originality, new ideas, new interpretations, new directions. That is what it is all about. That is what makes us designers not just makers.
So when someone makes something that looks just like someone else’s work, they are not just cheating the original designer of that item, they are cheating themselves. Don’t they want to be original, new, exciting, innovative, not derivative? Where is the challenge in that?