At Maker Jawn, as in any creative space, taking credit for an idea is a nuanced statement. How different does an idea have to be from somebody else’s before it is considered appropriation or “copying”—a favorite accusation at Maker Jawn?
At the Rodriguez library, it’s a very popular project to build houses out of cardboard and fill the house with miniatures. There’s a group of 4 or 5 girls who consistently come in and build new things for their houses every day. A pattern has emerged where one of the girls will come in with a new idea, such as a mirror made of tinfoil, and the other Makers there are so inspired by the idea that they want to make one of their own.
This can be very frustrating for the originator of that idea, because kids recognize the value of originality, creativity and skill. An older girl who comes to Rodriguez even told me that she had started the miniature house trend, but that she’d stopped making them because it wasn’t fun after everybody else started doing the same thing.
Platitudes like “Imitation is the highest form of flattery” can sometimes be effective, but sayings like these resonate more with the people who adapt ideas rather than the originators. To an originator, claiming their ideas as their own and barring others from “copying” them preserves their sense of creative identity.
My belief is that we share the same space, so naturally ideas will influence each other and the lines of ownership will blur. One solution to this apparent problem is to continue to encourage the kids to make something, no matter what other people’s work looks like. Even if two people make a miniature couch or tissue box, those couches and tissue boxes will look very different.
I tell this to the Makers in our space because I believe that if they are encouraged to create beyond their boundaries, they can take their idea, expand upon it and make it even more exciting and different. Once their grievances are aired and they’re focused on making something new, this puts to rest any concern about “copying.” Let’s push our own boundaries instead of regulating other’s!