Saturday, 22 August 2015

Copying, Creating Inspired Work or Using Tutorials by TheLittleMew

 Over the year it has become less easy for me to have any control over who copies my work and the way they give credit. In addition to this I have noticed that it can be confusing for people to know how to credit, if they should credit, if they are allowed to copy or if they are allowed to sell work inspired by other artists. I can't speak on behalf of everyone as we each may feel differently about how we want people to use our work but I put this together to give a clearer idea of how I personally feel about people making things inspired by me. Before getting into it I would just like to say that I am one of the luckiest crafters around - people usually always credit me, I have a strong team of supporters who back me up when I feel weak, and my followers are the kindest, most respectful and cute people I have ever met. I have never clearly stated how I feel on these subjects so I don't expect everyone to have been able to guess for any posts before reading this!

First I would just like to clear up my definitions of copied vs inspired.
Inspired: To make something inspired by someone is a subtle thing in which you quite often don't see the original source. You can be inspired by multiple things and collaborate the ideas you get into one finished piece. For example, last night I was staring at my bathmat and saw the fluffy waves of duck egg blue and imagined the texture of a soft animal with turquoise, blue and pink fur swirling like little waves. When you are inspired by something, there is a process of interpretation where you take an idea and evolve it or mix it with something else to create something new! To take it a step further to include fan art, I think even when you create your own representation of a character, like the adorable work of artist @birduyen,  it involves interpretation and can be called 'inspired.'  If someone does a drawing, painting, needle felt or food art of my figures or charms it involves a process of interpretation, so it is inspired too.
Copied: You try to replicate something as close to the original as you can.
If a tutorial is used to make something, it is also a copy as you are trying to emulate the end result of the tutorial. For example when I first started polymer clay I did my very best to recreate Lilacsprinkles' creations from her tutorials. I even took screenshots of her videos and printed them out to try to make pieces exactly the way she did. I failed miserably but my intention was to copy her work as closely as I could >.<

Inspired Work:
I welcome inspired work, where a level of interpretation - to a different medium perhaps - has taken place. You do not need to ask my permission for inspired work and I absolutely love seeing it. I may even try to buy it from you! An example is @cloverandflower's little pink dolphin which is so much in her own style that you can just barely see my influence.
Crediting Inspired Work:
If you make something inspired by me, like a drawing etc. please credit by saying something along the lines of 'inspired by @thelittlemew.'
Selling Inspired Work:
If you ask me for permission to sell a one-off piece in a different medium that is clearly inspired by my work I will probably say 'yes.' (Eg. +Puggy Craft 's unicorn picture). If your piece is vaguely inspired by me - meaning there's more of your style in it than mine - you do not need permission :)

A lot of artists feel differently about seeing their work copied. If I have asked for it, like during my 20k giveaway, it is like I have given permission for everyone to have a go at copying my work for that period of time. If I make a tutorial I am giving permission to remake those creations as many times as you want. However for non-tutorial creations and during normal times when I have not given permission, I would GENERALLY prefer that my work was not copied. That being said, there are a lot of crafters who just want to support me and share the love they feel for my creations by remaking them, just for personal use or even just to show me! Of course I appreciate that and I don't mind a one-off recreation of my work every now and then. The thing that actually makes me uncomfortable is when I see bulk reproductions of my designs, or someone making things copied from my designs for a long period of time. The reasons these things bother me is because 1). bulk reproductions make me think that they have been made to be sold. 2). My style is my most treasured possession, it is intensely personal and it has taken me a lot of time to develop the courage to share it with everyone. I have seen it happen to other artists that when someone had copied their work for an extended period of time they started to believe that their styles were just similar and used that to argue away any copying allegations. This is actually terrifying for me and I would hate to be put in that situation. Also people often don't read captions and just think whoever posted the copy is the original artist. And finally I think it stunts creativity and sends the wrong message to be given a lot of love for something that is not your own creation. If you can get so much love for things that you didn't come up with, why bother going to the next step!
Selling Copied Work:
Please don't sell any copied work unless you get the artists' permission.
As a rule, unless stated differently, if you make something from a tutorial it is for personal use only.
Initially I was hoping that people wouldn't use my tutorials to make pieces to sell. However, I realise that a lot of people who are just beginning on Etsy may need a starting point, and may need to begin by using tutorials for creations they wish to sell; they may also have made a bunch of creations that they've made using my tutorials and might not want to keep all of them. Also there are some creations that I don't intend to keep reproducing to sell. For these reasons I will allow all my tutorials to be used to create things that you can sell on your Storenvy or Etsy (of course this does not apply to mass production by larger companies). This applies only to my tutorials (and Alex, +PolymomoTea  has adopted a similar policy), please don't assume that all other artists will feel the same way! That also means that if Alex or I intend to keep selling an item in our stores, we will NOT BE MAKING A TUTORIAL for it until we are done selling it personally, and this probably applies to many other crafters!
Also keep in mind that people are looking for a Point Of Difference in your store, and if you are selling the same thing as everyone else, even if it's really good, people aren't going to specifically target your store to buy from. Try to come up with your own unique ideas to differentiate yourself from your competition! If I want a stitch bunny without question I will buy it from PolymomoTeaHouse, if I want a cupcake or a star I'm going to buy it from Ruth of Kawaii Studios , if I want a pearl bear I will buy it from Tracy @Rainbeow.
Crediting Copied Work:
If you are making a copy of one of my pieces that I have not made a tutorial for, chances are you're doing it just for personal use or just as a token of appreciation, which I thank you for. I don't mind if you use the word 'inspired' in this circumstance as I understand that 'copied' can sound a bit harsh, just as long as you personally recognise the difference. Also, please don't say 'inspired but in my own style' because the truth is, it's in my style (Alex has written more in detail about this on his Crafty Amino post). I understand that the word 'copied' is not one that people are very comfortable using, although I have started to use it for circumstances where I have copied another persons art. I do it to be matter of fact, to normalise it and so that I take minimal credit for another person's design.
If you make something from my tutorials, please just credit along the lines of 'made using @thelittlemew's tutorial.'

Making and Asking for Tutorials from Copied Work:
I think everyone already knows this but it's not OK to make or ask for tutorials from another artists creations unless the original artist gives permission. If they do give permission, they deserve to be credited :) Another thing that happens to me and other people is that we see people asking others to 'make this' or 'you should sell these' on our posts. I think people honestly just don't realise that we read ALL the comments on our pictures (and videos) or don't realise that it's kind of rude to ask someone else to replicate the artist's creation for them.

Copying or Being Inspired By and Not Crediting:
This still does happen for a bunch of reasons, some of which I'll mention:
- Language barriers
- Young or new users who don't yet know the ropes
- Crediting on earlier posts
- Hoping that the original artist doesn't see it so copier can get away with selling or taking credit
- Copier believes there is enough difference between original and copy that noone will say anything
A lot of social media users don't realise that regardless of watermarking, your art is your intellectual property and is protected. Taking and using someones intellectual property without crediting them is not copying, it is stealing.
My biggest pet peeve is when I see someone unflinchingly take credit for another artist's work. Sometimes I have asked a crafter, 'Is this inspired by so&so?' and they will say 'Yes' in the comments and just carry on. You can now edit your captions, so when you admit to a creation being inspired by someone, just edit your caption to credit the original artist - even if they don't have an IG just write that it was inspired by them. I will always scroll through an account before following and if I see that there is copying without crediting it is a deal breaker. If you have already credited on earlier posts, it's actually a good habit to credit on each new picture you post so that there isn't any doubt for people looking at it who the original artist was - As this can be annoying it will also help to people to focus on developing their own style! Make sure you credit other artists correctly by tagging them in the picture/caption or both so that people who like their style can get to their page easily.

I hope this sheds a bit of light and I don't expect anyone to be an international mind reader who knew exactly how I felt about all this because this is the first time I really talked about it. I also understand that it's confusing that I say that selling copied work is not OK but then I sell fan art - It all depends on where you draw the line between inspired vs. copied, and as I further develop my own style I am moving away from selling fan-art, especially in the cases where you can easily buy licensed merchandise (although I still enjoy making it from time to time). If you ever see people doing things that you feel are unethical, like copying without crediting, give them the benifit of the doubt - when I first started crafting I actually wanted to sell things that were copied from other people! We all make mistakes and the best thing you can do is educate everyone around you PRIVATELY and in the kindest way possible, so that they can learn without having their day ruined :)


  1. Thanks for writing this all out. It can be hard to understand the intricacies between copying versus being inspired sometimes, let alone knowing whether you should copy. Up until recently I remember thinking that it was an endearing thing to copy a piece or make something inspired by someone as long as credit is given. Kind of an homage to someone you admire. However, when one actually talks it out out loud, one realizes how terribly that action can come across to the original creator, not to mention getting personal recognition for someone else's IP.

    1. Hi Aridesh - Wow thank you for your comment, it really gave me a bit more insight to another perspective. I have changed my post a little bit to take into consideration your original impression, as I'm sure many others share your initial way of thinking and I don't want to be ungrateful to those who just want to express their appreciation. Thank you so much! x

  2. Thank you, Amba, for sharing your thoughts. It's helped me to start researching tutorials so I can credit the original artists. Your words are sweet and I looooove and admire all of your work! -work_of_artsy

  3. Very good insight into inspired and copied. I definitely agree! I am very new to clay work and am still at the experimenting stages, seeing all these wonderful work from various clay artists is really inspiring! I definitely think that individualism and creativity is priceless and credits should be given to the hard work put into each creation. Keep up the great work and looking forward to many more superb creations from you!

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  5. Amba, I have literally read this post three times. It's amazing how similar crafters (who sell -- particularly) think alike. Just the same, I have discussed with Alex as well how I will not make a poro/elemental chibi/chubble tutorial because it is something I would like to continually sell in my shop.

    I don't know if this is alright to mention, but there are also, what I personally believe, are different "types" of people who craft. We obviously have those who craft to craft, and don't wish to sell. We have the crafters to who craft for the sole purpose of selling. And then we have a majority of crafters (which I believe is the majority) who love to craft to craft, but it's nice to sell as well to get a little cash on the side. I can literally go on and on about this, but the point is, it is so frustrating to see people copy work and sell as their own for the SOLE purpose of selling them. I am very fortunate that I have had some great people ask me for permission to sell the works I have shared via tutorials, and believe me I have over 100 tutorials by now which people have used and I am more than happy to see people use the tutorials and sell their work, but it always leaves a better taste in my mouth -- and heart -- when they ask for the reassurance.

    Always a supporter, and looking forward to learning more from my fellow friends.

  6. i see, this article was very helpful. So, that means if i ever to have made something that i would like to sell but looks sort of inspired by you, i would ask you over email and show a pic of my work first?


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