As I sit down to write this, my stomach is full of butterflies because sticking my head above the parapet makes me nervous. I would much rather hide away and avoid confrontation than get involved in anything that could lead to negativity or drama. I am hoping that as I write about this, by the end, I’ll be feeling not-angry.
We received an email today about a copier… the email said they’ve come across this page that has copied our jewellery.
As soon as I saw what page it was my stomach sank, because we’ve been contacted about them numerous times. I had a look and was horrified to see that it’s a couple of our actual signature pieces. (I’ve removed references to the specific pieces because I’ve been told the person has received emails, and we don’t want that to happen.)
I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve been copied, but I think this is one of the more blatant cases… the thing is, most original designer/makers these days are copied. Normally by hobbyists, sometimes by huge companies and, thankfully, those latter cases usually hit the headlines.
When it’s a hobbyist or other small business, though, it’s incredibly hard becasue talking about it can make the original designer seem unprofessional. It’s why we never, ever talk about it. We don’t put it on our page; we don’t enlist people to post-bomb the copier’s page… we don’t even contact them anymore.
I’m finding that hard today, though, and part of me thinks that this particular copier is so brazen precisely because we’ve never said anything. Part of me wants to email them, but what would it achieve? If someone isn’t above copying, they’re not above denying it.
I spoke to a few friends about it, though, and a lovely lady called Emma Boyes – she runs a gorgeous papercutting business called Emma Boyes – Paper cuts – was telling me about something she heard from Rob Ryan (who she lovingly calls the godfather of papercutting): he is probably copied more than most designers, and he’s come to the conclusion that he can’t let it get him down. He just wants to work all the harder to get his name out there so the copiers can never overtake him.
This afternoon, husbandman and I were talking it all through, and I found myself saying “I won’t get bitter; I’ll get better,” and a lightbulb went on. And that’s how we’re choosing to respond to this.
I’ve really decided – committed – to taking a pledge, and am calling it “The Better Pledge”.
I haven’t taken a plegde since I was a kid watching Blue Peter, and it’s one I want to take seriously because this is a reflection of our business and, beyond that, how I see myself as a person. I can either rage and cry and feel wronged, or I can forgive and press on and use it to become better. This is me committing to not becoming bitter; to not seeing other jewellery-makers as the competition; to not allowing it to bring me to a standstill… “better” for me means wishing the person well – genuinely, no matter how hard that feels – and picking up and designing new things, and not worrying and knowing that if we’re being copied, it’s because the copiers look up to us, and if someone looks up to us, what we’re designing and making is worth something. There’s reason to rejoice in that.
Throughout the day, I’ve found my mind has wandered back to it, and I find myself shaking my head in incredulity that someone wouldn’t be too embarrassed to do that. I find anger rising up again, and then I remember that I’ve taken the pledge, and my focus shifts. It shifts away from the copier, and onto joy and forgiveness and feeling incentivised to run our race.
I think I wanted to write about this because so many people have been – and are going – through this very thing. I wanted to tell you that you aren’t alone… being copied makes you feel impotent, and alone. But if we use it to become even better, we are so far from impotent, and not alone. In fact, if you want to take the pledge with me, do let me know.
And I want to say something to any copiers out there who may read this. I’ll use the words of my lovely friend Jen from My Paper Cut Heart: “Why, when we all have our own lights to shine, do some people still insist on stealing a little of someone else’s light? Making both lights a little dimmer in the process. Let people know that they have their own light inside of them waiting to be seen and that the world needs that, not a replica of someone else’s.”
A business cannot and will not thrive based on copies; it just can’t. It will bring in a bit of cash temporarily, but it will ultimately cripple the brand and its reputation. Have faith in your own imagination and designs. If you won’t do it out of respect for others, do it out of respect for yourself. You have beauty in you – let it out.