Copying, originality and true Authenticity {making your way in the creative world}

This week has been an interesting week regarding authenticity.

I had been getting emails about a specific seller on Etsy selling an apron that looked exactly like my cream, ruffle apron.

Her apron looked like she had actually purchased my apron and recreated it except she had longer ties. Same design and fabric.

After many emails from other people I politely emailed her and told her about the similarity.

The truth is I have never contacted someone before for copying.  I have always let it go.  I just nicely pointed it out to her because it is one of my signature items.

The truth is I wish people wouldn’t point out the negative because it takes too much of my time.

I don’t go looking for what others are doing that are like mine.   I just want to make art.

I have a amazing group of artist friends and I have learned so much from them.

One of my friends once repeated something her mom had told her….”If someone is not copying you then you aren’t doing something good enough”.

I guess that is true.

I also know that doesn’t make you feel better when you get copied:-)

But what I learned through this and many situations similar is that you just have to let it go.  Things like this can take too much energy.

I understand that I did not invent the apron:-)

Now we come to this morning.

I received an email from someone wondering if  I had copied an Etsy artist.

Funny how things go.

I went and looked at the artist’s page. Her work is incredible.  She is in fact…way more talented than I am as a painter.

I could see some similarities but because I hadn’t copied this work  I wasn’t worried except for the fact that SOMEONE MIGHT THINK I COPIED.

THAT is what bothered me.

I went through her sales and realized that she had made her print first.

I knew I was not familiar with her work.

Our prints had a few common elements.

With magazines, blogs, facebook etc. I can feel bombarded with images and actually really try not to look at work in my own area of creating because I don’t want to be inspired by something and not even know it.

Have you ever felt like that?

So, let me tell you what I did.

I reflected back on the lady making an apron similar to mine.

I emailed the artist whose work was suggested was too similar to mine and told her the situation.

I wouldn’t want her to think the same thing.

{she has since emailed me back telling me she didn’t think our prints were too similar:-)}

Now I actually believe that the lady making the aprons probably didn’t copy me…not intentionally.

I know I am authentic.

I am proud of my work.

I also know that I am inspired by color trends, style trends, painting techniques etc.

I look at my work three years ago and look at it now and I am so proud of my progression.

I can’t wait to look back three years from now.

I know we are all inspired and encouraged by each other…but there is a line that should never be crossed.

I am not mad at the person that brought this to my attention.  I am actually thankful.

I am still pretty new in this creative world.

I have had my photos stolen and credited as their own…those kinds of actions I believe are few and far between and MOST people would never do that.

All I can continue to do is make the things I love with my touches all over them.

Recently someone mentioned that they loved one of my prints.  She thought I did a great job making them.  She also thought I had taken a course to learn to make them.

I politely let her know that I had made that look over a year ago…way before the class came out.

That made me really think that it was time to move on.  Time to make a new look.

Those are the things that push us.

When a look is becoming too popular we need to push ourselves to create the next look.

What started on Etsy two years ago and was selling like crazy is now mainstream in Potterybarn and Restoration Hardware.

THAT lets you know it is time to move on.

I believe the art community sets the standards and the styles.

We are so blessed to have all this creativity around us.

Our lives are so full because of the art that is at our fingertips.

Music, art, decorating, amazing writing.

I know it is an honor to create for a living.

I am honored if anyone is inspired to make something new because of something I made first.

I am so thankful for each of these situations because I become a better person and business owner each time I have to get out of my comfort zone and learn to deal with situations hopefully with grace and kindness.

So, the bottom line is we all are inspired by everything around us and we all love the same

I am thinking back to the 1980s when everyone that I knew had macrame’ wall hangings.  EVERYONE.  I don’t know what my mom ever did with her huge wall hanging but believe me…it has been sold long ago:-)

It was hot for a little while.

Now there are so many obvious trends.

Just make them so they reflect YOU:-)  Put your touches on them. Everyone should not be so scared to make their art.

I have seen artists almost claim rights to mixed media processes.

No one can own those.

I am probably not writing all of this as eloquently as I would like…but I know that these are subjects that are being talked about privately.

What are your thoughts?


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  1. Michelle Rose Jorgensen

    Jeanne, Just some words to consider;

    Nothing is original, we all are inspired by something else. We are all connected… just create, it will be your own, even if it looks like someone else’s work, they in turn might have been inspired from the same thing, somewhere out there, as you were. Yes, there are those who outright copy our work, who then claim it as their own. {They know who they are, and they have to live with themselves.}

    My advise, be true to you…and put your art back where it belongs.


    1. jeanne Author

      I always love your insight. I know you speak from a place of deep knowledge and creativity!

  2. Kate @ Songs Kate Sang

    Oh, dearest Jeanne. I completely understand.

    I stopped {temporarily} selling my cards on etsy… until I get the same thing figured out. I was making a ‘butterfly tree’ that I loved. I thought it was so creative, so beautiful… but it was someone else’s design. I had no idea. I felt so horrible. Now, I am overly paranoid that what I create someone else has created… lol. I’ll get back on my feet. One card at a time. Right now, I just enjoy making them for my friends.

    I am praying for you. I know it can make your stomach hurt. Don’t fret. You always act with integrity, so just keep walking forward. Do the right thing and you are all set.

    With much, much love and hugs,

    1. jeanne Author

      Oh, I have done that! I have thought I had the most amazing, original idea and then find out someone else has already done it:-) Get back on your feet! I know there have been a million birds painted…but I will paint one too:-)

  3. Flower Patch Farmgirl

    Not even 15 minutes ago, while eating my turkey sandwich and reading a “new” garage sale copy of Gourmet magazine, I read the following words, “…from a black-eyed pea soup that could stir a jaded Frenchman…” Now THAT is some bangin’ similie! I loved it. I wanted to use it as my own. Of course, I won’t. It had me thinking about many of the same thing you write here. He doesn’t own those words just like I don’ t own mine. We’re all inspired by different (and sometimes the same) things. The power to create is pretty amazing. We can choose the order of our words, the perfect adjective, the length of our straps, the technique that makes us smile the biggest. In the end, there really is nothing new under the sun. Things happen by accident and sometimes, unfortunately, on purpose. It would chap my hide if someone took my words and used them as their own, but I can’t control that. All I can do is lay it down and keep putting my heart into what I’M doing.

    Just my $0.02.

  4. Deborah Carlson

    Flower Patch Farmgirl said it so well..I agree…totally!
    Love your designs Jeanne and I have a question to ask which Ill send in an email now…xo

    Deborah xo

  5. Michelle

    Jeanne, everything that we say do and create is a product of our collective life. All things seen, tasted, smelled and touched or experience impacts us. Your beautiful creations are a product of a life lived well. Continue to live with authenticity and be proud of your life and your creations!

    Prayers and thoughts are with you.


  6. Jamie

    This is such a Tough Subject! I’ve struggled with it for a long time. Here is what I has worked for me in the last year. As a Creator of Jewelry or Artist (not sure I still consider myself a artist) If I think something someone else has created looks similar to my own, than I step it Up! I sit down and try to Create something ALL New, I move on basically. In my opinion, that is what a Artist does, Creates New. I know my mind is always spinning with ideas and I have had several times I will stumble upon something someone has created that I Swear the design was in my head already. I Don’t create it, I move on and come up with something else. I will say, with the more your Designs and Name are being put out there, the more you will have people who see it and are Inspired by it. I try to look at it now, if someone feels that Inspired by my work, go for it, honestly, what can I do? I won’t stop Creating and putting it out there and I can’t control who see’s it and who decides to recreate it. Another thought, the people who buy your Creations aren’t just buying your work, they are buying a little piece of you. I know it sounds weird but they know who you are and they Love your Work for the Talented Artist that You are, they know where the work originated. We can’t control what people think or feel, personally, I wouldn’t take your painting down, because, you know in your heart and mind that you didn’t copy anyone else. Just my opinion, I have a feeling this won’t be the only time something like this happens, stay true and stay strong, your work is Beautiful and you are Genuine. Hope this wasn’t too much, just my thoughts. Jamie

    1. jeanne Author

      I feel like you have known me from the start of my creative business. I love that you commented! Thank you!

  7. Jennifer Rizzo

    I think in blogland there is a lot of inspiration going around, but I also think that there is a lot of blatant ripping off. There is a fine line between being inspired and copying. Some of the worst offenders are the big companies. I believe Jeanne, that you are an authentic person and I know that you are true to your own style,talent and design. Keep your art up. I know you haven’t copied anyone. I think that if 3 people painted a bird on a branch, it would still be a bird on a branch, but all would be authentic to the artist’s own work and totally different.

  8. Lee W

    Hmm. Such a difficult subject. There’s been a lot going on lately about it. I think, like most things, nothing is ever really new. And yet, in the same breath- things are new to us all of the time. With the bombardment of media these days, we see a million images and who knows what sticks in our heads and what doesn’t? I say if you know you didn’t copy your art, then put it out there. Aprons are hard, because they’ve been around for so long. Not that they can’t be original- of course, that goes without saying… Again, tough call. I think it never hurts to *politely* point out to others what your feel is copied. That being said, your followers will know quality when they see it- and buy when they want it!! Bravo for handling the situatioin is such a generous fashion!

  9. Jenny Nielson

    I am very new to selling my stuff an d I have been so worried. I have been painting, drawing, and doing everything creative I think I came into this word with a caryon in hand. I took a she art class and now I have friends want to buy them. They are my own designs but they are her techniques. I did talk to christy about this but I would never want to take credit for her. So so hard. Thanks for sharing! Maybe when I sell stuff I could put inspired by (whom ever).

  10. liz

    . . . being innocently influenced by our world is truly a beautiful thing . . . staying true to who we are and creating original art that comes from our heart is also a very beautiful thing . . .

    unfortunatly – the negative side of all of this will always be there . . .

    I say – focus forward . . . on what God has blessed you with . . .

    xoxo – liz

  11. lisa orme

    This is such a tricky one… makes one afraid to present, display, or sell their creations…..We are all “inspired” if you will by one another….look at our blogs, the need to collect and create, we all LOVE the same things, old watches, old paper, ruffles and flowers……but each creation has your own heart & soul poured into it and that shows….whether we want it to or not that makes it original and your own….Did we get the original concept from someone or something else…..probably but when one recreates it and stays true to themselves it shows…you can always tell your product Jeanne, it shows what a beautiful heart created it! If there is no inspiration and it’s just a quick knockoff, that also shows….

    1. jeanne Author

      Thank you, Lisa. I know you have known me for awhile. I also know you are an amazingly creative women that sees so much because of your shop. There are also trends in art that almost have so many creating similar things. It really makes me want to do the out of the ordinary. Be looking for it:-)

  12. Julie Parmer Hosley

    Oh sweet girl…you are a bit silly. I love that you edited this post from the original one…and that you decided to continue selling your print! I totally agree, we all are so blessed to have so many incredible things in this world that inspire us…as artists, it’s what we do with that inspiration that matters most. xoxo

    1. jeanne Author

      Not silly…just sharing my heart and hoping others join in:-) I work things out by writing about it. So grateful that I have a place to do that.

      1. Julie Parmer Hosley

        I meant that in a nice way. : ) When I commented…I had just read the last email you sent to me today. Talk soon.

  13. jackie

    Hi Jeanne, what a subject! I have struggled with this one, because my designs were stolen some time ago. It wasnt until I starting teaching and saw my students work, I realized God has given me a gift. Long ago apprentices followed and imtitated (copied) there masters to learn their craft. I think we have lost a bit of that today because of this worry. I say own your talent and grow, you hit it on the head, when you expressed you enjoyed your progression from the last three years. A true artist evolves, finds roots and continually grows, a phony tries to capture their sunlight but dies in the shadows. You were a true gift and I was honored to take your class at Nada Farm. I walked away with a new recharged vision, I have been struggling with this since my designs were stolen. My roots are slowly growing again~thanks for touching on this taboo subject. Blessings ~jackie

  14. Lisa

    That’s funny, just a an hour ago, I found out somone here in my same town copied the way I do may craft that I have been trying to build as a business. She is a friend of a friend that I met a few months ago. We decided to become FB friends, and today I saw that she had exactly copied the way I packaged my little candy bars….I was kind of heartbroken 🙁 We live in the same town and I am trying to earn some extra money, so it kind of crushed me…but, it’s true, I’m sure there are very similar things being done out there, and there’s really no way to prevent someone from copying. I decided to mention it to my friend (the one who introduced us), but I won’t say anything to her directly, she knows what she did and I just have to take it as flattery, as you said. I’m sure I have been inspired by someone else too, w/out even realizing it. It’s tough when we are all trying to create unique work and stay true to ourselves. Thanks for sharing your experience with this.

  15. Jennifer Rizzo

    I was just reading back through all of the comments and it seems to me that there is a lot of this feeling going around. I am so glad you posted on this Jeanne and I don’t think you are being silly at all. In fact, I’ve considered posting on this myself. You are so brave to bring it out into the open and start an honest discussion.

  16. Dore

    Hi Jeanne,
    I have been inspired by many out there! you are one of them with your hands and bird art, I did copy it!! YET I also changed it making it my own and giving every aspect of the creation a new language of artful feel, yet you inspired the piece and seeing your piece recalled a sweet story of an experience my young daughter had at the time with a bird that hit the glass and how she felt she saved its life! so your work inspired me to make one but one that was better for me in the way it told a new story for our hearts!

    I the other day created something and then saw it on a program, and was in shock wondering how they knew I created this, only then did I realise my great idea, great creation was not my idea but someone eles…I really thought that my idea for this piece was so new and nver done to only see that there are many great creative minds out there, and NOTHING on Gods planet is ours, nor are we the creator of it. There is always going to be someone doing it, and has done it long before us:)

    Jeanne you know I will walk through a Walmart to the drug counter for cold meds or sorts to then have to wait, so I will walk the aisles to waste time, I will bring to my daughters attention that even a ruffled tote will look like a creation of yours of sorts :)You see Jeanne, nothing belongs to us, and we have to always be prepared to move our ideas to the next big idea, staying one step ahead of the trendy game of copies. Perhaps the apron sighting is a message or hint that you too will have to move on to your next big creative idea, always being ready to market a new idea that catches on before everyone is then creating it.

    I have stopped worring what people copy, and what they steal from you! ( creative arts and idea’s that is) I had a retail shop up North and I would have artist come in who would take expensive items I have ordered off the wall and quickly trace it, I would just smile and allow it, this is where your rewards will be, you can copy, trace, take pictures and recreate anything out there, but there will always be someone that wants yours more!

    Blessings to you and your successful journey

  17. Christina

    I have only recently come across your blog, and I have to say I love your designs. I see this topic a lot, and it always confuses me a little and makes me nervous (because I too love too create, and am inspired by all the things I see), although I also know what it feels like to be copied. I think it’s situational as I have seen someone truly be copied as in literally every piece of jewelry that was created showed up in another persons store in the same color, design, order of beads, I mean it was a literal copy of each piece (and there were several), not just similiar. I agree with what everyone seems to be saying, that there is nothing new under the sun. Your making an apron, already been invented, your using ruffles, been around forever, you also use rosettes, also been around a very long time. I have seen aprons and hand bags with ruffles and also rosettes in stores and on the runway. So the originality is really that the ones from your shop, were created by you, because you must have a love of those particular things, (vintage, ruffles, rosettes, hand bags, birds, aprons, etc) and this is an item that you choose the fabric, the exact design (how many ruffles, how big the rosette, size, color, closure, pockets, etc). I love photography, and I struggle with the fact that I think every picture has already been taken. How many different ways can you take a picture of the Eiffel Tower, you can’t. They have all been done, every angle, perspective etc. The difference is they are not my pictures, I wasn’t there when they were taken, nor are the same people in the photo. If I take a picture, it’s my design(choices) even if it has been done, it’s my experience, and so it is original to me. So ya, that is my perspective. I might have just convinced myself 🙂

  18. Trish

    It is very rare that you see something that is truly unique. Most artistic/craft/fashion creations are similar. There are only so many ways to add a ruffle. I have seen your bags and aprons and they are beautiful, they are also very similar to many others that I have seen. I think this is do to what I just stated above and also do to copying, etc. In the end, it can’t matter. If you let it bother you too much it just creates a vicious cycle of accusations (some false) and paranoia. I’m sure the person who accused the other shop of copying really believes it to be so. But I don’t know it that is the case. You have to just keep creating, evolving and growing.

  19. Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co.

    I’ve been thinking about authenticity for awhile now. I’ve considered writing a post about it, but even that’s been done before. We are all inspired and influenced by everything we see and do – people, places and things. It is amazing how the brain stores and processes all that information. When we create something, it is the result of all those influences, some which we don’t even remember. How can we ever know where an idea truely originates? I don’t know the answer and it is certainly a complicated issue when it comes to business. Just look at the whole facebook situation. Thanks for generating an interesting discussion!

  20. Trish

    I do have to add to my previous post and say that the apron from the other shop does look EXACTLY like yours. So much so that I think that there is more than mere coincidence. However, there is nothing much that can be done except to keep pushing forward.

  21. Vicki

    I think we are all inspired by each other. We are all trying to bring that inspiration in our own homes, through many different media. I think staying true to who you are, creating original works is all you can do. I’m sure you’ve seen many bloggers out there that try to recreate what they see in the Pottery Barn catalog. If it were me, I’d check out the similarities, take a mental note and move on. Continue to be happy… continue to create!

  22. nadine johnson

    Where does it stop ? I recently took a on line class and PDF’s were to be down loaded with verious sayings . The instructor asked us not to use her WORDS or should I say Sayings . Confusing to me because I see the same sayings on art work of others.
    There was a artical in one of the magazines Summerset or Crop Paper that read. If you change it 20 percent then it is yours !Really where does it STOP ?

  23. Leah C

    “To thine own self be true”…that’s what my wise mother always said to me:) One tricky topic you wrote about today, huh? I think it just comes down to respect…respect for each other. Does that make me naive? Probably. But, I agree with you, Jeanne, that most people wouldn’t do this sort of thing intentionally. As for the ones who do, well, they know who they are and shame on them;) I, for one, KNOW that I have a true Jeanne Oliver original ruffled apron…and I LOVE it!! So thank you for the beauty you create 🙂

  24. teresa sheeley

    I have been thinking about this situation, not just yours but so many people; and have wondered if possibly Etsy itself is the problem with a lot of this. Meaning it is so completely oversaturated that duplicates and copying etc., is just spiraling out of control. Yes it’s a great source for a customer base because of the traffic, but can also be harmful in many ways too. We live in a world now of easy access and easy exposure so literally nothing we do artistically is safe. If it is put out there it becomes accessible. Etsy may to be just another fad that will start to die off eventually because of things like this happening; it takes the allure away that’s for sure. I have thought many times to pull the plug on selling there because of the problems I have encountered with forgeries. And honestly I try to move on and go another direction with art only to find myself not being authentic because I end up not doing it for myself; but instead trying to find a new trend and try to find something that will please people enough that they will buy it. It’s exhausting and that is what art should never be about.

    Rambling, sorry I will stop now. 🙂


  25. cathy

    Your work is absolutely beautiful, Jeanne. And, while reading your post, it appears God is walking this artist journey right beside you! The timing of the email you sent about the apron was followed so quickly by someone sending you a similar email that, to me, your story has God’s fingerprints all over it! Humbling, yes…but in the best kind of growth way! He is the ultimate and only original artist and the sequence of events could be Him gently reminding you to grab hold of His hand and simply focus on yourself and Him 🙂 Your incredible work speaks for itself…you ARE the real deal. Let Him worry about the rest. xoxo

  26. Sheila R

    I believed you touched on a subject that can be a bit tricky. I believe we all inspire each other through our creativity. But stay true to oneself, infuse yourself into your work and be respectful of others.

  27. Leslie

    I love this post and am happy to have stopped by. I am beginning to paint and create and doing my first show in October. And yet…I am scared. I have been taking tons of classes bringing my inspiration to a whole new level. So I have struggled with my art and selling it because I think…am I copying? But then I think…NO. I have put MY own words and touch and flair to my designs…it is all such a fine line.

    Also…I have taken classes where I am told I can’t copy their word phrases…yet they would be something I have heard and seen in dozens of places and I myself have used them in my own journals years ago.

    I say we do have to be careful and not copy others…but to be inspired and then make it our own…that is good.

  28. deborah@applesinwonderland

    i agree with so many comments here. just a little story to add–several years ago i was painting regularly but too scared to put my work *out there*. then one afternoon my husband and i were in a artsy town north of where we live. my husband, walking in front of me, stops dead in his tracks and points to a painting. a painting that looks remarkably like one hanging above our fireplace. one that i did years ago. one that the public has never seen. that’s when my husband nudged me to really take my art further and to show it. i couldn’t be mad, but it was certainly strange. and in some ways–validating.

  29. Lana

    I just saw this post…after I had posted about that lovely ruffled messenger bag I had purchased from you…
    I had posted it on my Fav Friday page w/ the photo…
    but in all my years of training of being a journalist, I knew that even the photo deserved your by-line credit.
    I emailed you too to let you know that I had featured it so you would have peace of mind that I wasn’t misrepresenting your line as mine…I say all that to let you know, I respect your art, talent and the time and patience it took to create it.
    I might have seen ruffles on other bags, but, I wanted to experience owning one of YOUR creations, in part to HONOR your accomplishment and your talent. I was so overjoyed with it being delivered that I wanted to have my readers meet you!
    Words do hurt sometimes, they even can be accusing. but you have to know that YOUR authenticity is just that…the REAL THING. That is why I am a return customer. I love my designer’s work and effort.
    When you have that sort of following, nothing else, even words should ever wound your sweet heart.
    Thank you for putting yourself out there. I am inspired but will still purchase from your lines because I wouldn’t appreciate my work on me as much as I do yours. There are a lot of us out there that feel the same way.
    Never doubt that what you have is a gift…and part of that gift landed on my doorstep today and brightened my day. 🙂

  30. Alicia @ La Famille

    jeanne, i love that you wrote about this because i think it’s something that all etsy/handmade sellers struggle with. i think there’s a BIG difference between someone that comes up with an idea, designs it, makes it, and then sells it opposed to someone who sees an item and figures out how to make it, then sells it. a copying thing happened to me back in november…right after i opened my shop. someone emailed me and told me another blogger had written about an item in my shop…well, she had. only the post was about an item i made, and how she copied it (yes, she used the word copy), and made one for herself. then at the bottom of the post, she gave info so that her readers could order them from her.

    i was so crushed, because i had JUST opened my shop, and this was my biggest seller so far. (i’d sold like 5 of them :)) so, i prayed on it…i didn’t want to email her while i was mad. and then i did email her and told her i was offended. she was very polite and stopped selling them immediately, but still…it’s just not cool.

    i do also know that there’s really nothing new under the sun, but in the same breath i think we all, as shop owners, need to not use other sellers’ items as inspiration, but use other things we love…like vintage papers, nature, books, styles, etc.

    anyway, that’s my opinion…glad to get that off my chest!! 🙂


  31. Brandie

    Just wanted to tell you how wonderful I think you are. This is such a great post. Anyone that works in the creative arts can identify with this. We are all inspired by not only what is within us but what surronds. There is not a whole lot that is truly new and unique. A new spin on an old concept sure but at the end of the day we are all doign things that have been done before in a way. With my clothing I try to come up with things that feel fresh and beautiful to me but know that it is not a new concept. Clothing designers are all doing a variation of the same skirt/dress/shirt/pant. In my photography I am learning to let go more too. To not look to much to what other’s are doing or at least not to compare myself with others. What I see through my lens is different than it might be for someone else even if the end result looks similar to someone out there. Blatant copying is wrong but I won’t apologize for having the same idea as someone else without knowing it.

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