It’s Sharing When I Borrow

I loved Everything is a Remix.  It is so true, in ways large and small, that we justify when we copy and vilify when others do it.  Exhibit A would be an angry, red-faced kindergartener who is furious at her classmate because she copied her drawing, painting, construction, you name it.  To manifest possessiveness of intellectual property at that young age, it must be impressed into our DNA that creations, in any form,  are our possessions.  Even as a fully grown adult I don’t fall for the “Imitation is the highest form of compliment” excuse.  I still get really bothered with my friends who nudge closer and closer to some design statement I have invented for myself.  I’m not proud of that, but it’s true.  Maybe good ideas are just hard to come by and we can’t stand losing the corner on them, but there is something really visceral about being unique.

So I’m not yet sure how I’m going to do with this “It’s time to share everything” window of life.  On my creative commons license there was one choice that was a little more protective than another and for now, I checked that one.  I don’t know, I’m still feeling a little clingy about my words and my pictures.  In truth, I do realize I should be so lucky for someone to want to reuse something that comes from my writing voice or my eye behind a camera.

In the last Big Marker podcast, Jeff made a quick reference to copying being a cultural allowance in some parts of Asia.  I lived in Kathmandu, Nepal for five years before moving to Tunis.  There were plenty of pirated DVDs for sale there, but what was interesting and conflicting was the copying of handmade goods.  The Newari and Tibetan cultures within Nepal are such artisans in metalwork, claywork, and textiles.  I devoted the weekends of my five years in that country to learning the Tibetan carpet industry and started a custom carpet export business called Knot Monkey (website currently under design).  I began the company in the first place because I became friends with a talented, Nepali carpet designer who was making pieces I thought were more marketable than what I usually saw in the tourist shops.  The longer I spent in the design rooms of the carpet factories the more I realized how motifs are borrowed from ancient Tibetan designs through to modern fashion magazines.

Some rights reserved by Julie Bredy


To mix it up even further, the projects from different export companies are often woven in the same factories so when you go to check on your work, you can see, and be influenced by, the ideas of other designers and exporters.  It is a rich environment for inspiration, but I had to try and stick to what I felt was my style and not wander off in imitation of the next pretty carpet I saw.  I must say my motivation there was more to create something different for the market than to protect the concept of another designer.

On the other hand, sometimes seeing the competition allows me to lay their ideas to rest and feel affirmed that I am creating something different and true to myself.  But then someone copies me and I feel, again,  like they’ve taken my soul.