31 Jul 2011

Copying, when will it ever end?

I was recently killing time during an idle phase by browsing all the wonderful goodies to be found on my favourite site, when I decided on a whim to search "wand" in the Woodworking section. I could not believe how many I found, a large proportion of them from relatively new sellers. Most of them are quite elaborate, with turning and carving, crystals, leather wrapped handles and suchlike, which bear very little resemblance to the wands I make. A few are quite similar, but the sellers have obviously made an effort to follow their own creative path and made subtle differences in style, such as leaving bark on the handle or burning a design into the wood, as well as making sure their listings are easily distinguishable from mine. But there was a noticeable amount of what can only be described as direct copies of my style of working, and I counted no less than nine individual sellers offering these wands to the public. Nine folks who haven't the imagination or artistic flair to actually come up with something of their own. And one of the bastards even has the gall to title their listings "Natural Wood Wand"!  Another uses a photo background that looks just like mine. I also spotted a seller who said they included paperwork that sounded suspiciously similar to the info I send out with every item, and it crossed my mind that some of these unscrupulous sellers might even have been customers of mine. I was curious to see that the vast majority of these copycats had only registered on Etsy within the last few months and also that most of them hadn't bothered to add any information about themselves in the personal profile... which led me to think that maybe they really are just blatently copying my work and have no background or interest in paganism or Witchcraft other than as a money making opportunity. I don't like people disrespecting my religion. It's a serious spiritual path, not Harry fucking Potter. It's not a "lifestyle" to be picked up when it seems fashionable then dropped when it's no longer convenient; you can't stop being a Witch once you've made certain sacred vows, even if you don't make them in front of a corporeal audience, and one of the most basic tenets of any spiritual tradition or religion is to act with honesty and integrity... which I take to mean as including being true to your own muse and not stealing someone else's ideas. Judging from the quality of their work, most of these people don't even have any talent or expertise in any kind of woodworking, as almost all their items are shoddy, poorly finished, hugely overpriced crap, only fit for the fire... I wouldn't want my stuff to be mentioned in the same breath as any of it. Hell, I've been making this shit for over 25 years, which is probably since before most of them were even a glint in their Daddy's eyes!

I think what makes me the most pissed off is that these sellers are ripping off the genuine pagan community and I just hate to think of the disappointment buyers must feel when they open a package containing one of these efforts. I have the experience to be able to tell from a decent photo what the surface of the wood will feel like and how well made a wand is, but most people simply don't have that knowledge and buy on trust. To have that trust abused must feel extremely unpleasant, and I'm grateful I don't have that kind of deception on my conscience. Wands of this type look incredibly simple to make, and they are. But it takes practice, experience and bloody hard work to be able to make them well. I'd got more or less immune to seeing rune sets looking as if they've been hacked up with a chainsaw and never seen sandpaper, but oddly I'd never noticed the wands before. Thankfully, there is still a solid core of well established, talented and skilled individuals making pagan related items to sell on Etsy, all of whom have a huge respect for what they do and practice true pagan ethics. But these stupid kids (and from where I'm standing, anyone who looks younger than 30 can be classed as a kid!) who think they can pick up some rotten old stick off the floor when they're walking the dog, wave a bit of sandpaper at it then fondly imagine they've crafted a magical tool fit for someone else's solemn religious ritual and actually expect them to hand over their hard earned cash for it... they just disgust me.

And no, I'm not annoyed because I think these "rivals" will adversely affect my sales. After all, I only noticed them today by accident. I went through exactly the same thing on eBay three years ago and it made no difference at all to the amount of items I sold or the amount of money I made. (Which incidentally, doesn't get frittered away on frivolities but is relied on to make up a good chunk of the mortgage and help put food on the table) I only stopped selling on eBay when the copycats started to copy and paste huge chunks directly from my listings and copy my photos and titles, and the admin team gave me no support. I like Etsy and I respect what they're trying to do, but I'm starting to think the site might be outgrowing its ethical and artistic standpoint and attracting sellers who will ultimately drag it down to eBay level. I suppose I won't know for sure until I need back up from the admin team whether or not they treat sellers more fairly on Etsy than they do on eBay. The standard of craftsmanship and quality of the goods on offer has noticeably dropped recently, and I no longer feel quite comfortable displaying my items there. I don't want to have to move on and start from scratch again, but there are other hand made marketplaces out there that are still small enough not to have this amount of poor quality rubbish creeping in. I'm going to have to give it some serious thought.

And now I've had my rant I'm going to put the whole business completely out of my mind. Having my ideas ripped off actually bothers me a lot less than you might think and I hardly ever give it a thought... but for some reason it really touched a nerve today to see such outrageous attempts to be something they're most obviously not. Copycats are never worth wasting too much energy on, and if I ignore them hard enough maybe they'll all just disappear in a puff of smoke! LOL

The Original Natural Wood Wand Shop, making and selling top quality magical tools since 1987 and online since January 2006... often imitated, never equalled... the original and still the best.