Spinning, Knitting, Crocheting, Organic Gardening, Living off-grid, and chasing sheep - because- I'm, like, NOT SANE!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Get away from that....IT'S MINE!!!

Nothing miffs me like a copycat. I’m an artist, and a human – if you cut me, I’ll bleed. So, when I’ve had the rare but potent occasion of happening upon someone who is CLEARLY copycatting my work, it boils me over just like everyone else. When someone buys my roving, then the following year I walk by their booth and see very similar colors on a stretch of roving with the same exact name on it as my colorway, I get angry and think about throwing a rock or something. Sometimes, I get over it and sometimes I don’t. I don’t understand a lot about people in this world but what I do continue to learn is that some are gold, some are true, some are fickle and the very few but easiest to remember royally suck. And while I’m preaching (not really but I tend to steer clear of fevered opinion about ‘the issues’ here on the blog so it does seem like murky and possibly baited water I should say that if you don’t want a rant, I’m bound to piss you off today. Even if you do, you might find yourself calling me a pig before we’re through. Oink – already!

So, where were we? Oh yes, me – fuming, pouting in the corner stomping my feet saying mean people suck. There’s no disputing that being pirated by a copycat of any form is really infuriating – and it is a reality as well. People will make up a blog name VERY MUCH LIKE yours and purposely try to ride the reputation you’ve built through your hard work. People will buy your product only to take it apart with a fine-tooth comb and try to duplicate it. Some people will buy a pattern and change a minute few things and call the works their own. I’m not trying to say this doesn’t happen. But, I am the eternally optimistic Cancerian who stands off on the sides saying (in her worst southern accent), “C’mon, ya’ll, be nice!”. I do that because I believe that most people are and that most who aren’t wish they were. I know this even in the face of evidence that the people who do suck continue to make life cruelly challenging for the many more that are good. I’m also optimistic because I believe in chaos. Chaos, my friends, happens! So, sometimes a situation can seem clear but, upon careful thought, your certain accusation of copycattery falters in the wind. Sometimes (she ducks because the robocops of copycat hell are chunking boulders at her now) it is AN ACCIDENT! I mean it! If you are an artist who sells your work, you know of which I speak. That idea that you fostered into an actual material palette before you – that you adored and cooed over and just knew was the deepest expression of your most beautiful inner self? And, when you are brave enough to put it out there, you find something so very similar but still distinctly different and you know that though your unreasonable self is hurt, maybe insulted, really just disappointed that humility had to hit you on ‘this’ particular thing – your rational mind knows that this is just chaos at work. Two very creative people (or more, certainly) can create a very similar object of beauty – totally apart and separate from each other and with no malice intended. It happens. Art, though, is emotional. The delicate balance between feeling bold enough to make something totally original and offer it up to the uncertainty of other people’s perception of it (also known as the realm of the manic) and getting over ourselves and not becoming the Voldemorts of the art realm (otherwise known as total ownership over that which cannot be owned – the creative mind) is delicate.

bmw 011Last summer, I got this ‘great idea’. It was a good idea. It still is. The idea came when I was making the ‘Black Magic Woman’ batts – a great black background to play with sparkling color on – it was inspiring! Then, observing our chickens feathers in the sunlight, I changed the idea to an’ Auraucana’ batt to reflect the gorgeous green and black metallic feathers of our rooster. That got me to bird watching and I have a fond affection for black birds and darker birds of all colors. So came the Raven batts and the Peacocks as well. Finally, I had a collection. I loved them all and named them the ‘blackbird series’. All was well. Then, I happened upon a fiber company’s site and was looking at their spinning kits for socks – where I found a ‘raven’ series. While their colors are much different than mine, and there is no doubt that neither of us was trying to duplicate another, I shivered at realizing that other people might THINK that is what I was doing. I’d never even seen their fibers before and had already been making mine for upwards of half a year. I felt kinda stupid about my idea for a while – thinking it couldn’t have been such a bright idea if someone else thought it too (because I do have an ego, you know). It was all silly, I finally concluded. I mean, can only ONE fiber person in the world make a bit of fiber that is inspired by a black bird? The whole notion that someone can own an idea even if it is interpreted differently is bothersome. Being bothered is rather innocent. Being accusing is far more damaging. Ideas can be similar and still be entirely unique. This, in the paradox of how strange is the experience of being human, is harder to remember when you feel your work is being infringed upon than the other way around. The batts and roving mentioned may share the idea of blackbirds, but the similarities stop there. This is because there really is no such thing as an ‘original idea’ because apart from pre-meditated copycatting (which, strangely, is generally accompanied by one being stealth enough to evade any legal recourse anyway), all ideas are original. They are things that we perceive and because of that, they are related. They are original in how we apply ourselves to the process of creating them.

At some point, we have to stop running to the courthouse every time someone makes us feel bad, or we allow ourselves to feel bad – depending on your personal philosophies. There’s much talk of copyrights, trademarks, etc. of colorways in the fiber world. I am sad to see that this is the reference point we might reach for inspiring good behavior. If we are to police the copycats, don’t we lose to them in the end? Will not we make the whole realm of fiber love tainted by the arguing and diminishing other fiber lover’s excitement of the craft by bickering and rule-making to the point wherein we are just paperwork and not artist? Most people will tell you that when they see clear evidence of someone actually working hard to copy someone else’s idea – they will not buy from them. Sometimes you have to choose your battles wisely, that’s one thing my grandmother taught me. She also finally convinced me that I am a freak magnet but that is for another day. Surely, common sense and decency will prevail. You can’t shame people into being ethical. All you end up doing then is shaming the seemingly innocent and warning the malevolent in advance so that they can deflect detection of the offense they intend to create no matter how much they are shunned. But we also should maybe be a little less eager to assume that what we imagine is actually fact.

Totally off-topic and further substantiating that I’m not a real writer, there were some points brought up in the comments of the last post that are rolling around in my brain. Carol was kind enough to console me in the process of deciding which ram to keep a ram and which to make a loved and fussed over eunuch. Rest assured, she is right. The whether on a fiber homestead does live the good life. Most vets and sources of farm living information will confirm that a castrated male is, in general, much healthier and lives a longer life than an intact male. They eat better, are able to be with the herd year-round(which is very important to sheep because they are herd-dependent and need the companionship of other sheep) and their wool will not be affected by the hormones that afflict a breeding ram. I say afflict because even our good and loving Rufus will change his personality for about 1.5 months a year when it is breeding time. It’s like he has a dual personality and the fumes of female hormone seem to transform him into a real grump. Our method is done 4-8 days after birth and is complete and sterile. A simple band is placed around the testicles and circulation is cut off. There is a pinch that bothers the lambs for about an hour, then they literally forget about it. No blood, no open wounds. The skin just dies and falls off and within a week, they are all healed up and the better for it. They go on to be gorgeous, kind, and gentile friends.

Lin mentions that castrating before the age of maturity increases urinary tract infection risks but I have found that urinary problems in many male mammals that have been ‘fixed’ from cats to cows is generally caused by dietary imbalance. If you are feeding your sheep only heavy grain, they will be more prone to bowel and urinary tract infections. Grazing on fresh grass, roots, and bark (or good hay in the winter season) and the supplementation of herbs and mineral salts has kept our sheep in good health. I’ve yet to find a vet that recommends waiting until a ram is an adult to castrate and the entire idea seems counter-productive to me. Firstly, the methods used have to be much more traumatic, painful, and the risk of infection is greatly increased. I’ve seen far too many scenarios where farmers castrate an animal after he has reached adulthood and he only goes on to act like a sexually frustrated but helplessly impotent male. Anyone whose been fortunate enough in the two-legged world to experience knowing one of those will likely attest that any measures taken to avoid proliferating that are paramount to creating a better world.