Sunday, August 19, 2012

What separates inspiration from imitation?

SukiSuki Sheep

I have been thinking about this topic for a couple of weeks now. There is a very fine line between the two. It is a very important topic and also highly sensitive.

* How do measure if something is inspired or imitated?

* How much does a design have to be different in order for it to be regarded as insipiration and not imitation?

* What would you do when another crafter approaches you and asks to make something similar to yours?

* How do you respond to someone if they say they are inspired by your work and then make almost an identical copy?

*Does making minor changes count as not copying?

* What rights do you have if you feel your design has been copied?

* Is it reasonable to ask publicly if something is a copy or not?

* What can be done to protect your designs?

These are questions I was faced with when I recently had an unpleasant experience with another crafter, who in my opinion has a problem differentiating between inspiration and imitation.

This crafty crafter first began contact with me by telling me how much she loved my sheep and might have to get one for her best friend, who was in hospital. But then asked if she could make one similar instead. She promised it would NOT be for selling and just a one off. I even offered free shipping to her friend who was in the UK. This was ignored. From the very beginning I told her it would have to be different and in her own style. And to my surprise her next response switched to saying she would check with me that her sheep would be different enough to sell. I was so confused and till this day the sudden switch was never explained.

 So when her sheep was completed I was quite shocked with the similarities. But politeness took over me and I said it was fine, as it was a little bit different. I asked if this was going to be given to her best friend in hospital and she replied that she's keeping the pink one and making a BLUE sheep for her friend and will make more for craft fairs!!! This was the point when I kindly asked her to just change it a little bit more to make it look more like her own style, as I felt they were too similar. Especially since she was planning on selling them!

She refused to change a thing saying that they only looked similar because the followed general characteristics of sheep! She insisted that her sheep was now her design.

Wanting to make sure my eyes were working properly I asked other crafters what they thought and they all agreed it was far too similar.

Despite me not agreeing it was different enough to my sheep, the other crafter went ahead and published her sheep on her business page. This stirred a reaction in the crafting community. I also posted pictures of her sheep on my page, asking what people thought. There have been very mixed views. Some people think its a copy and others disagree. The crafter did not respond well to comments about them being similar or people saying that hers is a copy. I was then accused of telling people to write on her page. I would do no such thing! The moment she published her sheep she made it a public matter.

Here is a comparison of what the other crafter created, after being "inspired" by my sheep, and my SukiSuki sheep.

Comparing sheep

There were some comments saying there is only one way to make sheep. This collection was kindly put together by a very neutral crafter, taking no sides, but just wanted to show there is NOT only one way to make sheep. This made me sigh and laugh at the same time.

Many ways of making sheep

I have never seen any other sheep plush that look like mine - until now!

She used the same fabrics, fluffy and fleece, the same colours, pink, blue and who knows what other colours she has, and used pretty much the same body shape and gave the same horns. Only the eyes and ears are different.

Which leaves me to the question of what separates inspiration from imitation? Apparently this crafter believes very strongly that her sheep is not a copy.

It is one thing if she is making them for personal use but it is an entirely different matter the moment she made them for selling. I feel she crossed the line. And she is selling these at craft markets.

If she was just going to make a sheep this similar, why on earth did she ask my permission in the first place??!

This is certainly not the way to make friends in the crafting community. I have been fortunate to meet other crafters who are kind, warm and supportive, value originality and would never dream of doing such a thing!

I can see there are differences and I admit, it is not an identical copy.  However, this crafter should also admit this is neither her design. 


  1. Hi, Marianna,

    I'm so sorry you have to go through this situation.
    I think the collection of photos comparing yours and that person's sheep, and the many ways of making sheep about says it all...
    I totally agree with you.
    But if there is no copyright of the design I'm not sure what can be done to make this stop... :/
    It's a really rude and freakish affair.

    1. Hey Mafalda,
      So its not just my eyes then? :) Actually at first she said she wanted to just use the tongue but then did everything else but the tongue!
      Thanks for the support! :)

  2. Firstly can I say I know from personal experience how devastating it is to see something that you imagined and created being copied and sold as something origional.
    Secondly, I can see the person directly copied you and attempted to alter the design.
    Thirdly, in the alteration of design the copy cat lost all of the character in the creation, the personality and flare has gone and it basically just isn't as nice looking as yours - end of story!
    Once final note - imitation is NOT the highest form of flattery, compliments and customers coming back time and time again is the highest form of flattery. Imitation is cowardly and unimaginative. I can guarantee this copy cat won't have the same kind of fan base as you and her sales and the relationship she builds with customers will not compare.
    I have not bought from you but admire your work as a fellow crafter. Your unique designs are what inspired me to 'like' and 'follow' your page.
    Don't be disheartened, carry on regardless :)
    Laura x

    1. Hey Laura, I agree with you, I do not feel imitation is the highest form of flattery at all. I was flattered at first when she told me she was inspired by my sheep but flattery was not what I felt from the outcome.

      Sorry to hear you had the same thing happen to you too. Did you do anything about it?

      Copying happens everywhere and all the time which is a shame. It does seem there is a split between those who strive to be original and those who are happy to copy. Of course it is only natural to be inspired by others, but the problem is when people do not know the difference between right and wrong or cannot see the similarities because they have problems with their eyesight.

      It is not the easiest thing to speak out about, especially when you are made to feel like you are the bully. But I think it is really important to speak openly and be as honestly and not sit back silently.

      Thank you again for your kind words and following my page.

    2. Hi Marianna,
      I initially put an update on my page stating that I had seen something the same as an item I had made. The person pm'd me apologising saying a friend had seen mine and asked them if she could make her the same thing. I just told her to leave it on her page. There was no point in getting her to take it down.
      It happened a further two times with different things I have designed on different pages (a few of my fans pm's me to notify me of them). I was very upset about it but as was pointed out to me your fans can be very loyal and they are not stupid. Customers know what is origional.

      I am a strong believer in karma - it will come back to bite those who copy!

      Laura x

  3. Hi Marianna,

    I just read through this and find that there are so many cases of imitation rather than inspiration out there now :(
    I can never understand how people can copy and not feel horrible about what they're doing. It baffles me!
    I hope it's some comfort to know that your sheep are MUCH cuter, and as said above have so much character, whereas the imitation sheep seem quite 'flat' and empty.
    I am proud to say I now have an original SukiSuki sheep and I love him lots! No imitation sheep could compare! :)

    1. Thanks Rebecca for your kind words! I am so glad you love your sheep! :)

  4. I am pleased I have read this! Very disturbing how people can do this with a clear conscience. Lack of morals among other things!! Never mind hun karma will reward your hard work!! Thieves never prosper!!

    1. It was just the way this crafter went about the whole thing... It's not very nice or honest behavior on her part. Thanks!