Sometimes you gotta yell into the void.
I know we all struggle with people knocking off our designs. I know lots of us end up working with similar themes and shapes and that sometimes we end up in the same place. But then, then once in awhile this shit just gets under your skin in a way that makes just getting on with your day impossible without venting. You know what it was, it was this:
"Comes with 24 inch brown waxed linen cord". The maker of this set of pieces started following my Instagram account, and I sometimes briefly check to see if new followers are stained glass people... because this happens (I used to automatically block all stained glass makers, but I felt weird about it, so now I only do if their work feels too close to the bone). My first thought on seeing this photo first on Insta, then Etsy, was... well, whatever, triangles and diamonds, what are you gonna do. This design was a total fluke anyway, I just made a bunch of shapes on a random afternoon while chatting with my old studiomate Annie. I took exactly two photos of two versions of it... and then sold about 230 sets of them. But it was bugging me, that this person made the same number of pieces, using three of the exact same colors, in a very similar scale. And what bothered me more was that she priced them the same as mine, which: my prices have gone up over the years as my level of craftsmanship has become more refined. I'm compensated for the thousands of hours I've put into learning a skill, and I don't need to belabor the point, but this is early work for this girl. But you know what made me completely lose my temper? "Comes with 24 inch brown waxed linen cord".
Anyway I emailed her, the most diplomatic of all the diplomatic emails I've sent over this type of thing. No response.
While we're at it (images on the left are mine):
Light Turquoise, Champagne, Dark Champagne, & Clear (maybe/maybe not Seedy Clear). I use a Plum in the other version of this set which may or may not be the same as this.
This was two different people, I'm sure there are way more of these around now. Both of these people followed my accounts, the maker of the top right on Etsy, and the bottom right on Instagram. The first one, I think, after exchanging several polite emails, was a matter of working in somewhat similar themes, and perhaps not realizing that he'd seen my work (although, again, he was following my Etsy). I believe that it was an honest mistake and he'd probably seen my work in passing rather than intentionally copying it, but the fact that his set contained the same proportion of segments (1-4) suggested it was related. He ended up removing them and we had a pretty productive & long conversation in which we both tried hard to not accuse each other. The second photo was from a hobbyist-turned-seller who was experimenting with stained glass - the comments on the 3 or 4 photos of these pieces indicated she was planning to open an Etsy shop to sell them. It really bugged me, and I posted about it on my Insta, and we had a rather nasty back and forth about it (after she edited the original comments about making them to sell & lied about it). It was a learning experience.
This Instagram follower seems to be a hobbyist. Still, fuck this.
I'm not even sure my purpose in writing about this, I guess it's more or less just to vent. These photos are embedded in pngs, so they aren't even searchable by google image search; my intent isn't to embarrass anyone. But back to that little detail, the 24 inches of brown waxed linen... that's the thing that screams intentionality to me. It's the description in nearly every listing in my Etsy shop. Maybe this person has never trained professionally, gone to art school, written a paper in college. This person hasn't thought about proprietary ideas. Most hobbyists, and those who sometimes develop into craftsmen, haven't when they start out. And to some degree I'm sympathetic: I've ended up in the same creative place as other people on occasion - even though I can diagram my design process back to an individual idea relating to my own work, there's been at least once I can think of where I'd sold something remarkably similar to something I saw elsewhere later (I make it a point of not following stained glass people that I don't know, and I only scroll through others' accounts to check for things like the above), but I was deterred by that. I stopped selling those things immediately. The gall of literally copying someone else's work and posting it online is unfathomable to me. And even more frustrating is that there is so little recourse. While proof of publishing and Implicit Copyright protect intellectual property and images, fighting against infringement isn't easy or cheap. Even within systems like Etsy and Instagram, filing and defending claims is time-consuming and often futile; and having dealt with registering a copyright, that's not even remotely feasible for a small business with many changing designs. So we are left with the options of emailing people directly (very time-consuming; it takes a loooong time to compose an email that sounds un-accusing while, you know, accusing; also trying to educate about what constitutes copying is exhausting), or doing some sort of social media callout, which... doesn't go well.
*This post will likely be updated with Cacti in the near future!
*** Cacti update from the future! Mine on the left, a husband & wife team of etsy sellers on the right. Notice how similarly the shots are framed…. I emailed them when an instagram follower sent these to me, & they seem to have removed most of these listings, although they haven’t responded to my email. I’ve seen a fair amount of copies of my cacti designs, but these are the most egregious for sure.