A Tale of Two Men
A couple of weeks ago I found out that a ceramic studio/shop in Amman was copying my designs. It felt like a kick to the gut, and as someone who’s dabbling lately in the ways of denial I tried to pretend it wasn’t happening. But being very new to denial and avoidance I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
In an attempt to make sure I wasn’t imagining the infuriating similarities I showed a photo to two people who know my work best. Their reaction was the embodiment of how I felt.
I’m so angry about this. But not a tiny bit surprised. This is not the first time a man does this to me and my work. The first time was in 2006. I was much younger then and just starting out and he blatantly stole my work in ceramics and replicated it until he was able to fill up an entire shop with my creations.
He stamped his name on the bottom of pots and no one questioned how his style suddenly changed from doing nothing more than replicas of desert inscriptions to the work I was producing at the time.
When that was happening I took up crying and website design. I felt so lost and so robbed and had no recourse. But I was only 23 and I had a world inside my head much bigger than any life I lived on the outside, so after hours I started work on love on a bike. The first version of loveonabike.com was created using an ancient program called Frontpage, best known for its use by the Nabataeans in the 2nd century AD.
It’s really easy to think the love was the product of some wealth and inspiration. It’s neither of those things. It started out, with help from my mom, as a desperate act to find purpose and to reclaim what was stolen from me so easily by someone with a lot more power than me - someone with an established reputation who’s adored locally and beyond. Stopping him was impossible, but to stop creating things because I was screwed over would have been just as ridiculous.
No matter how much we might fight it I think people are built to move on from things, at least not think about them daily. I rationalized it in my head by thinking, he stole one thing from me, I’m capable of so much more.
Thirteen years have gone by. There have been so many setbacks since then. But with a bit of perspective and hope each one carried within it the possibility of being more than just a setback. The more I made, the more enthusiasm there was for my work, the more I made, the better I got.
And then another man came along and stole my work again. He follows me on social media. Hi?
If people don’t have within them an ethical compass that guides their actions there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. I am deeply aware of this. Name and shame, some will suggest, but there’s really no point. Some might say this is flattering. It’s not.
The only foolproof way to stop people intent on stealing is to keep all the ideas locked up in my head. That’s obviously a terrible idea and not really a solution.
The first one stole the best 23 year old me had to offer and now you are attempting to steal my best of 2018. But I’ve already moved on. You will never keep up with me, because to model your work on someone else’s will always put you behind.
I’m motivated by an obsessive love for this craft that has been with me since I was a little kid (see below). You might succeed in stealing a finished idea, but what you can never take from me are my hands and mind, which carry within them memories of every brushstroke and every thought and will always come up with new ideas to build on the old. That history can’t be stolen.
And like the last guy, the legacy you’re creating with your work is one of blatant theft and appropriation, nothing more. And you, like him, are profiting off of the hard work of many others. I know that chances are you’ll keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll keep getting away with it. Still, something had to be said.
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