The Truth About Copying

Below are my personal views on copying and imitation - I hope they encourage and aid you in your creative journey! 


While copying pertains to creativity and needlepoint in general it's especially relevant to canvas painting. This post is from the Online Canvas Painting Class. Learn more about the class and canvas painting here.

In my experience when people talk about “copying” they can mean anything from being inspired by an idea to directly and exactly copying a piece. 

As directly or exactly copying a piece to sell is illegal, I’d like to focus on the grey area of being inspired or imitating an idea for personal use (I’ll address copying as a professional later in this article).

I believe “copying” for personal use is a matter of personal judgment. 

I believe that there is nothing new under the sun. We are, and will always be inspired by the artists and craftswomen who have come before us and by the artists we love and admire that are creating today. Those artists in turn are inspired by each other and by those who came before. 

My hope and desire is to see the creativity of the women I love, and those in my community to flourish joyfully! Being inspired is a necessary part of this flourishing. 

I’ve personally seen a lot of negativity around the idea of copying which can lead to a sense of fear…what if you paint/stitch/finish something that looks like “so and sos” and everyone says you copied them (after all you were inspired by them!)? I believe that if you are worried and concerned as you create, this will impact your ability to create joyfully. It’s hard enough to get over our fear of messing up, our fear of wasting time, our fear of ruining expensive materials, to add to it the fear of judgement! 

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and I’d love to think that’s true. 

Copying As a Designer and Industry Professional

While I want to keep the same attitude and posture that I expressed above, I do approach copying a bit differently as a designer. I have little to no experience of the legal side of copyright but there are a few personal rules I follow. If you are hoping to sell your work I hope you find this helpful!

1. As a designer I try to avoid taking inspiration from the needlepoint industry (i.e. what other designers are creating). Copying is simply bad for business. It keeps you from being unique and from standing out amongst the crowd. It keeps you from being innovative and an industry leader. It keeps your sales down - if you release a design that is the same or similar to someone else’s design then you are directly competing with that product. On top of that, everyone who already bought the one product is very unlikely to buy a second - yours.

This fact ALSO keeps me from being upset and intimidated when others copy me. I actually find it much more nerve-wracking (and I hope that it lights a fire under me) when another designer/business owner comes out with a great new idea and I think “why didn’t I think of that!”

If your competition is busy copying you, they aren’t busy coming up with the next incredible idea that will take the needlepoint world by storm. So don’t get discourage or distracted…YOU go come up with that incredible idea instead, while they’re busy imitating.  

Instead of finding inspiration within the industry, look outside of it! Some personal inspiration favorites have been brands like Anthropologie, Rifle Paper Co, and the quilting industry as a whole. 

Now, funnily enough there’s a good chance that you will overlap with other designers when looking for inspiration outside of the needlepoint industry. For example: a couple years ago I came out with multiple e-patterns featuring bows. Flowy feminine bows were all over popular brands like Anthropologie, Love Shack Fancy, and worn in the hair of many fashion influencers. Unsurprisingly bows started showing up on needlepoint canvases. However, my bow designs still sold really well. They were trendy but they weren’t inspired by another existing needlepoint design and as such they were unique to me.

2. If I ever directly copy a design or design element I make sure they are antique and copyright free (In other words, I will directly copy a flower embroidered on a colonial bedspread but I would never directly copy a flower from a Rifle Paper Co painting). 

3. I avoid popular/pop culture logos, illustrations, brands, lyrics etc. Partly because they’re not my personal aesthetic. Also, they’re not unique to me as a designer and I want to create a brand and aesthetic that is unique! 


I hope this has been helpful and gives you some food for thought as you begin (and continue!) your creative painting and needlepoint journey.  

Xo Abby

To learn more about canvas painting click here. 

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