Melanie Lambert – As I continue to build up an inventory of listings in my new Etsy store, Tupelo Trail, I’m inspired daily by the work of other “curators” on the website. Etsy encourages new shop owners to find other artists whose work is similar and join groups for encouragement, insight, and idea-sharing.
This is great, right? Of course. It’s one of the many benefits of an Internet-based business. The problem for me is that I see all of these beautiful items that are the same style as mine and I want to make them. I want to duplicate them. I love how they look and the ultimate challenge for me is to replicate them exactly. Can I do it? Probably. Should I do it? No. And not for the reason you’re thinking.
Besides the obvious point that stealing someone else’s intellectual property is just wrong, copying art exactly makes my item, frankly and plainly, less special. As a curator, as Etsy refers to me, I want my items to be unique, to draw attention because the shopper has never really seen anything like it before and can’t get it anywhere else. In this day of electronic sharing of everything, especially with all of the DIY tutorials on sites like Pinterest, being “handmade” doesn’t necessary also qualify something as “one-of-a-kind.” I decided quickly that I would allow myself to be inspired by someone else’s work, but I could never make an exact copy and pass it off as my own design.
The other problem with surrounding myself with so many amazing artists, all with different styles and items, is that my mind tends to wander. ‘Oh, look at that pretty INSERT RANDOM OBJECT HERE. I could make those,’ and with that thought, my mind starts plotting all the steps to make some new project I’ve never attempted, all of the products I’d need to buy to make it happen, how I’d market it, and why people would love it. This is an almost daily occurrence.
In my first month as Chief Executive Crafter of Tupelo Trail, I’m reminding myself constantly of what that means. With this role, I get to make all of the decisions, but all of those decisions have to center around staying true to my brand. Establishing a brand is hard enough. Logo design, taglines, color schemes, all have to come together to tell your audience who you are and what you’re selling before they even see the first product. Straying from that brand and then trying to get back to it is even more challenging. If all I’ve ever sold for years is home décor and then all of a sudden I start selling cupcakes, people are going to get confused. So with everything I’m doing in these first few months… gathering supplies, choosing projects, accepting custom orders… I’m taking two seconds to pause and think ‘Is this Tupelo Trail? Is this my brand?’ And I have to be strong enough to say “no” when I need to and not be tempted by a quick sale or passing trend.
Now don’t get me wrong… I’d never tell someone interested in starting an at-home, internet-based business not to check out their competition or not to look to others for insight. But, I’d caution that fellow entrepreneur to be mindful of the fine line between inspiration and duplication to ensure that your brand and your products stand out in the worldwide crowd. Whether it’s picture frames, music, copywriting, paintings…everything you create is art and it’s your art. Make sure people recognize you in it.
Melanie Lambert is the Founder and Owner of Tupelo Trail, one of Etsy.com’s newest handmade craft shops. She lives just outside of Atlanta with her amazing husband and is excited to share her Southern inspiration with the world.
Photo Source: Melanie Lambert/Tupelo Trail. Used with Permission.