Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Or so they say. It’s really hard to look at it from that perspective. In fact, before I can get to the point where I feel like people copying my designs is a positive experience, I have to work through a lot of other feelings. I can’t even list them all out, but suffice it to say, they’re all negative. I’m trying. It is going to be a battle of my emotions versus my sensibilities, but eventually I will get there. Thankfully I have a small and very supportive group of women that I’ve formed connections with in my group, Contemporary Quilling, and they have made this feel a little better for me.

You might be asking, what is she talking about? Well, I guess the answer to that is multi-fold. Lately I’ve been noticing that people are copying my work. I’ve also noticed that some are trying to pass it off as their own design or idea. One even commissioned a piece that I had designed a year ago. Another was from my area and though she made sure I knew she’d copied me (after the fact), no one ever tagged me or linked me the image of my lobster that ended up in a local business. I consider that far too close for comfort, especially when I’m running a business, have overhead, and pay business taxes.

Every time I see something that took me countless hours to design on someone else’s page or group or feed, I want to claw their eyes out  discuss with them the merits of attribution. Seriously. If you lingered around on my website or Pinterest page long enough to work out every design component, the least you could have done is sent me a message, or better yet, mentioned me when you posted. A brief little “This is my recreation of Stacy Bettencourt’s “Rising Phoenix” or “This is my attempt at Stacy Bettencourt’s signature “Scrollwork Cats.” But they don’t, yet they gladly take all the glory as though it were them that sat at a work table for 20-30 hours painstakingly measuring and proportioning and designing. Actually I take that back, the ones I am talking about in this post haven’t. But I have had dozens of people gracious enough and ethical enough to do just this. I had a wonderful, enthusiastic new quiller from Russia contact me about making the old version of my cats. When she had finally made a couple she was so excited and she tagged me in her post on Instagram with a heartwarming “thank you, Mainely Quilling!” It meant the world to me. I have had a cake designer/decorator contact me just in case she used one of my subjects for inspiration. She never did but at least she made the effort. I was absolutely thrilled! And there have been countless others that took the time to get in touch with me. Ask me questions. Tell me how much they appreciate my work and how it has inspired them. These are the stories I want to be telling. Not the one I AM telling today.

The reaction I get when I confront these people is always the same. I didn’t know it was you. (Lies) I found it on the web with no mention of your name. (Lies). It was just for personal use. (Who knows, but is this really the point?) I know most are lies because all one has to do is go to Google images and type in “quilled phoenix”. You will notice that the very first image is my “Rising Phoenix” piece. You will also notice that it is not only watermarked but it links back to me. These aren’t anonymous images no matter how much you lie and say they are. The image below is a google image search of “quilled phoenix” – my phoenix shows up in 1st position and then a little further down. Both images link back to my website or Pinterest page (which in turn links to my web page). Not so hard to find me as they make out. And I know this because I get inquiries about the phoenix on a weekly basis. In fact, I have another one commissioned for later this spring. It’s a popular piece and one that brings me an untold amount of traffic.

Last night not only was my phoenix copied (and mutilated), but when I complained about it on my Facebook page, another of my group members tried to make me feel better about it and in the same breath told me she, too, had copied my work (an owl) “but had only shown one other person” (who happens to be one of my group moderators). So I have no idea how to feel about that, but it really feels awful  and awkward knowing that she and another woman were sharing photos of work of mine that was copied and all so secretively. I have to question the motivation behind that. All I want is a little respect and to build trust between members of the quilling community. This sort of thing just serves to negate that. Why was it okay to exclude me from that and then tell me if not to just make matters worse? It’s things like that that just cut me to the bone. They shouldn’t, but they do because I am a sensitive soul and I feel everything so deeply.

An hour or so later, I had just started feeling less angry about those two things when a new group member was added to CQ. Her very first post was… you guessed it… a copy of one of my pieces. What hurt the most was the lies. And she told several, all of which are verifiable.

First she said that the cat she posted was “inspired by” a photo she found on the internet. Just some random photo apparently. I love being reduced to the status of “just some photo.” Let me contradict this by saying that my signature cats, the ones that have gone viral, have been pinned upwards of 22,100 times EACH on Pinterest. The most popular cat pins, the ones with pins in the thousands, are all watermarked and all link to my website. Then she said that she had used the outline of the piece but everything else had been altered to make it “her own”. Well if you can kid yourself about this you can kid yourself about anything. The cat was a clear reproduction and I haven’t been able to find a single image of my cats on either Google or Pinterest that don’t have my watermark or signature on them. So her opening statement was a lie. Then when I posted a picture of the cat she had clearly copied then lied about, she lied some more by saying she hadn’t copied that particular cat, but another watermark-less gray cat with a ball of yarn. Well I made that cat too and I can’t find that one anywhere that isn’t attributed to me. So another round of lies. Oh well. If that’s what makes her feel better. I did several different google image searches for my cats. If you do so yourself you’ll notice they are pretty distinctive. You’ll also notice that every single one of the bears my watermark and they all lead back to one of my pages. In fact, I spent the better part of my morning trying to find ONE SINGLE image on the internet that was of my work that DIDN’T lead back to me. I found NONE.

So what do you think? Did she use the gray cat as the reference as she insists, or did she use the cream calicos? Did she use the outline only but make all the rest her own or does it look like she pretty much copied the whole thing?

To be fair, once I said something, and after some bizarre verbal wrangling, she eventually gave me credit for the design. That’s all I ask. I am actually happy to be a part of people’s learning curves and do whatever I can to help them discover the joys of quilling. But give me a little credit. Be open and honest with me. Be upfront. Don’t assume I am stupid enough to believe that you only used the “outline” of my design when you used the whole thing. This woman seemed sincerely contrite after our conversation and I know that it was a learning experience for us both. I believe (hope?) that the next time she uses a design she gets in touch with the designer. I also believe (hope?) that she will be more accurate when describing how much of the design was hers versus how much was the original designer. I hope that this woman and I can move forward and establish a comradery. I don’t want this to be a pissing contest. I can get over it but I need to be given a chance and a smidgen of respect to do so.

Every time I turn around I see more of the same thing. Just before the copy-cats appeared in my own group, Flo from France hacked my Phoenix. She posted it in at least two groups (one of which I am a member of) never once giving me credit for the original design. Hers is on the left, mine on the right. When I called her on this she told me that the image of the phoenix she found had nothing on it to lead her back to me. This is a crock of bull debatable because I have done a google image search and every stinking time this phoenix appears in the collection it is somehow linked back to me whether through my Pinterest page or Instagram or web site. She did eventually make a note on her post that she was inspired by my design but only after a stupid Facebook battle. I will never engage in one again because it just doesn’t do any good. Again, to be fair. Flo not only eventually credited my design but messaged me personally to apologize. This took a lot of guts on her part and I admire her for it. I don’t know what it said specifically because it wasn’t in English but I got the gist of it and I appreciate it and I am more than willing to move on. And just like with my copy-catter from above, this woman probably learned a valuable lesson on attribution. I want peaceful relationships with the quilling community but that starts with mutual respect.

A couple of months ago I was on another group that I frequent and a woman posted a copy of my Cardinal with Shiny Berries – stating that it was her first paid commission piece. She never attributed me or my work or design. What pissed me off about this one was the fact that she charged for it AND recreated it down to a missing berry that actually had a story behind it. After confronting her she then gave me credit for the design. But why couldn’t she have just done it to begin with? Do you see the missing berry on the upper left-hand cluster? Well the reason for that is I ran out of 1/8″ red strips and had to leave it blank. How interesting that she was so lacking in creativity herself that she incorporated a flaw into her copy?

A few weeks ago a quilling friend of mine sent me an image of someone who posted a copy of my Labrador Retriever Trio. And, like all the rest, there was no tag back to me and the piece was clearly copied. And, just like the rest, it wasn’t of the same quality that I strive for in my own work. Mine is on the left, her’s the right. You can see that she must have printed mine out and tried to work over the top as the dog on the right has a wonky mouth and tongue, and the front dog has a clipped ear. She also left out the space between the tail of the rear dog and the back of the right dog. I don’t consider floral pieces “unique” so I was more annoyed about the quality than the copying on this one. But still. Why not tag back?

In the end, there is little I can do about any of this if people want to be sneaky, underhanded assholes impersonators. I am sure I will continue to see more of it as time goes on and hopefully at some point I will be able to see it as a form of flattery and not blatant disrespect. I will, however, regardless of getting into the right frame of mind, be continuing to post images of everyone who does this to me. Thanks for listening to my rant. I am going to be working towards a new way of looking at this even though it may be a slow and painful process.

What I will say is that I do not now, nor ever in the future, give my permission for anyone to copy, reproduce, reproduce with alteration, distribute, redistribute, or use, any of the images of my artwork found anywhere on this website or the internet in general.

If you want to use something, give me a least a tiny shred of respect and courtesy and email me. I have a conveniently located and functioning “contact me” button on this website. It is also incredibly easy to reach me on Instagram and Facebook. I’m not the one hiding out and lurking in the shadows. I am proud of my work and if you enjoy it enough to want to use it for something (personal!) please contact me first. I can be quite reasonable most times.

My art is for sale. If you would like to purchase something you see on my site, or want an entirely unique quilling made just for you, please contact me. I have some listings for original artwork and prints available on my Etsy Shop, and can always create a custom listing for you. Do you have any comments, questions, or suggestions? Please feel free to let me know what's on your mind. Or, you can contact me directly. Please visit Quilled Creations for all your quilling needs. They offer some of the best products on the market including premium quilling paper, high-quality tools, kits, and much, much, more.

1 thought on “Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery”

  • Hi Stacy!

    Beautiful post. I has just finished off writing a blogpost on the same exact topic last night. You are correct. Imitation is NOT flattery but simply theft. Plain and simple. There is no grey area. Ignorance is not an excuse!

    Even before recreating, they need to ask permission because your designs are your intellectual property and protected by the copyright law. Anyone who is recreating, regardless of the reason, is infringing on your copyright.

    Also know that social media companies (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) take copyright infringement very seriously. They will take down the image that is the infringer’s and even ban them from not only your page but from the actual website. What I do is simply ask people to remove the images they are using because they are in copyright infringement. If they don’t remove it right away and start listing excuses or even getting confrontational, I don’t engage with them but take it straight up to the company and inform them of the person that is doing it. If they continue with their behavior, they even can get banned from the website for life.

    So don’t feel like you are alone and know that you have rights and the system the companies have set up is working very quickly and efficiently.

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