Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why Copycats Fail

I am often awed by how much common ground I have with my brother-in-law who is a research geneticist. We both work in silence and seclusion. We both toll the inner landscape in uncharted territory, intending to bring forth something unknown or unseen yet. We share a near obsessive curiosity about the natural world and what makes a living creature live.

I do not make my stoneware clay owls by technique alone. I am looking at each one in my hand for that precise way that a poke or press creates a living expression.  Some are stern, some sweet, some perhaps a little stoned.


My owls appear in OneClayBead as an owl soap dish:

and here as a handmade owl casserole:

If you reach inside yourself, you may discover a place where owls take shape. On the other hand, if you look at my work to see how I did it, and reproduce it by technique alone, your copy will be lifeless. And this is why copycats fail. It is why true artists have work similar in structure and form that has a life all to itself.

This is a discussion started on Artisans Gallery Team and continued on the blog of Nicolas Hall.

If you have thoughts or experiences with copycats, you are welcome to comment.


  1. Lee,

    This is SO right on!As with so many aspects of life, the soul of creativity comes from reaching within. . . not looking around and imitating what one finds outside of themselves.

    I love this post for it's utter simplicity and truth. It speaks volumes. . .

    Thank you!


  2. Beautiful owls, each one truly unique. Technique alone does not make a good artist or creator. Wonderful post.

  3. Last month I was falsely accused of copying and even though I knew for certain that I did not copy, it hurt and continues to rankle.
    Your post explains why.....our work is so personal and comes from deep within. Even though I make toys, it is a pure form of self expression and each creature, no matter how many times repeated carries something of myself along with it. There are many creators out there....perhaps we sometimes overlap with our ideas, but the execution will always be different. That is what handmade is all about, individual self expression. My accusor did not acknowledge my polite response and lengthly explanation of my creative process regarding the item. I wish I could just forget about it, but it just bugs me that anybody would think that I copied them or needed to steal an idea. Ideas are easy, it is the execution into a finished item that is the challenge.

  4. I know that your work is very personal to you, Eve. You have no reason to copy. One litmus test that I use is whether the piece is question fits with that person's body of work, and whether they can show a progression of change leading towards the piece in question.

    Most of my copycats rip off everything- the piece, the price, the concept, pieces of the description and the tags. There is a potter on Etsy who copied my turquoise flower bowl from a series I call Farmhouse Morning. It was a crude, ugly imitation from a "series" called Country Morning. Only there was only 1 bowl in the series.

  5. Great post, Lee! I love these little owls. Like Eve, I have also been (brutally) falsely accused of copying. I love what Eve said at the end of her comment, "Ideas are easy, it is the execution into a finished item that is the challenge." Execution, your unique style, even your business sense & the way you build your brand, your follow-through... these things all help distinguish you from others and are things that a true copycat cannot keep up with. Artists are innovative, copycats aren't. Artists grow in their craft, copycats sit back waiting to see what's going to be next. There have been a bunch of shops popping up who make items like mine, some with incredibly similar wording, style, photos, etc., but it doesn't bother me that much for the reasons I just stated. I love what I do and I think that's reflected in my work, like you said about your owls. If you put heart into something, it shows. And that can't really be copied...

  6. inspired by and copy are worlds apart... you are so right that copies lack soul and energy... it is unconscionable... i feel almost sorry for those who cannot tap into that place where visions come forth and are then made manifest... almost - because i really think it is a horrible thing to do...
    but then...
    actions send out ripples, karma brings them back...
    your body of work speaks for itself...

  7. I had a similar situation as Eve, I feel your pain Eve. I know of several other folks accused of copying, those accusing have been down right nasty, not only on their own blogs but in comments on other blogs. And those folks work was completely different, I couldn't understand it. Sad that folks belittle or make underhanded comments about others, there really is no need for that.