On the way back from Handworks, editor Megan Fitzpatrick asked me a question I get a lot: “Does it irk you when people build your furniture designs and fail to credit you when they post them on social media?”
Answer: Not at all.
For me, the reward isn’t that someone praises my design. The reward is that they were inspired enough to pick up the tools and build something. Building something from nothing – that’s as rare as squirrel disco.
I freely give my original designs up to the world. Make as many as you like. Sell them. Adapt them. If you are a builder, then you are OK by me. The only way you will tick me off is if you try to sell my plans – freely given – to others. (There are a variety of scammers who do this.)
Why don’t I care about my intellectual property? I do. I just think that the Internet is a smart enough place to sort out truth from falsehood. Say you build a Roorkhee chair or stool from my “Campaign Furniture” book and claim the design is yours (ha!) or as an “historical pattern.”
The Internet will expose you.
Neither of those projects are directly from historical examples – I developed the turning profiles myself and grafted them onto historical examples. I know this truth, and anyone who knows how to use Google Images does as well. So if you start trying to hawk these designs as your own, you will soon be walking through the woods with your pants around your ankles with a trickle of blood running down one leg. That’s the way the Internet works (yes, I’ve had a beer this evening, why do you ask?).
So what should you do if you don’t want to be a jerk? Acknowledge where you got the plans, idea or even inspiration. Doing this doesn’t make you less of a woodworker or a designer (craftsmanship matters) and it makes you a better person.
Here’s an example from my own work. The chair at the top of this blog entry was inspired by a chair I photographed in Stratford, England. The version above is significantly different than the antique (especially the crest rail). Yet, whenever I discuss this chair I mention the Stratford connection.
Right now I am building the fourth version of this chair and it doesn’t share a single dimension with the original. The seat is different. The legs are octagonal and have a totally different rake and splay. The armbows are far more complex and shaped compared to the original. And the crest looks nothing like the piece I saw at Stratford. There are at least a dozen other differences I could list here.
If I were selfish or stupid, I could claim this as an original design. That would be foolish. When you compare the original chair to what I am building there is a clear connection between the two that anyone could spot. I could make all sorts of excuses and say that my new chair is nothing like the Stratford chair, but the photos don’t lie.
And neither should you.
— Christopher Schwarz