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Monday, December 11, 2017

Often copied

handmade by Naomi Shiek for a Jewish wedding, traditional design
Whenever I see an artist write about copycats and forgers, I get this ugly feeling in my stomach. I feel angry on their behalf and on behalf of anyone who purchased the fake not knowing what true art they were missing out on. Also, I don't like to see ugliness online (who does, right?). It's why I struggled with posting this. I wrote this post after several of my works copied one afternoon and quickly wrote out my frustration. I've since seen more of my designs replicated and I AM NOT FLATTERED. So I'm going to be a bit negative here, then post some pretty photos. Be warned.


Etsy's ketubot landscape has changed since I first started selling there 5 years back. I was one of the first to offer papercut designs, and there certainly was little competition. Now my ketubot are only a few of many. Which I think is great really, but less so when I see sellers taking my designs and redrawing them. I can guess a client probably asked them to do it. I'm sort of ok with it if they build on the original layout and elements - I certainly never laid claim to the tree silhouette - but I don't appreciate a badly-drawen copy. My design is mine and looks this way because of my unique skill. Other artists (should) have their own way of drawing and cutting, their own aesthetic, and those won't ever overlap mine. My skill costs money. It doesn't make me conceited to say that. Intellectual property has value, and copying another's work has none.
In The Studio In Progress photo of Naomi Shiek papercutting the handamde custom order ketubah Stargazing
You know, I get the temptation. I browse artists I admire online as well, liking their photos and making notes to myself on how they structure a layout or depict a flower or play with gestalt. It's a well of talent and information out there! But copycats take another direction altogether. I browse Etsy. I google my brand name from time to time. And I see ketubot up for sale that are either straight up copies of my work or worse - based so blatantly on my designs that they might as well not have changed those leaves to circles because who do they think they're fooling?! (I say 'worse' because the nonchalant attempt to cover up the theft is an insult.) There's a specific seller who clearly shifts through my online albums and copies my old orders - shame on you, loser - and it shocks me every time. It upsets me if I see they made a sale, honestly.

Taking an original design and simplifying it is not "an homage" or "an interpretation". Neither is taking one of my large scale ketubot and cutting a smaller section of it with less textural details. It's copying. I even saw my name tagged in a photo of someone straight-up copying my design, and when I asked them what they were doing they said it was a "one-time commission" - of my papercut. The blatant chutzpah is...bewildering!

I've had potential clients who sent me photos of other papercuts and ketubot they've seen. You won't find a copy of another's papercut in my galleries, because it's my job as an artist to take these inspirations and create something new. After all, my style is why the clients even considered me. I always say to them
I can't replicate what's in your mind's eye. Instead I aim to surpass it!
I think it is our duty as creators to create from within ourselves and challenge the client. Well, more like a purpose than a duty, no?

NOTE | If you read this and find yourself feeling defensive, there's a good reason for it. Embrace the shame, learn from it. STOP. Find your creative spark. Excercise it. Create your own papercuts.

Here are four of my designs I find copied most. If you browse online you'll probably be able to point out the copies as well:
CHERRY TREE BRANCHES
TREE OF LIFE
TWIN TREES
BLOSSOM POND
for original design 
with the personal touch your ketubah deserves,
come to WOODLAND PAPERCUTS 

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