create me a copy, no please don’t


When I was a child there was this fabulous ad campaign (and successful too… suffice it to say that it is still very memorable so many years later, the dream of all ad copywriters/designers) for an audio cassette tape. In the ads the great Ella Fitzgerald shatters a glass with her recorded voice, and claims “you get higher highs, you get lower lows…” with this facsimile of her voice. Here’s a commercial from the 70’s.

Tim Zaman, a Dutch researcher, has found a way to create very high-res 3D images of some of the paintings of the masters, which are then printed out with astounding results. The copy is so detailed that it recreates even the subtlety of brush stroke and color. This is a fascinating and exciting technology, which you can read more about here.

I must confess… several years ago a friend convinced us to “pick a painting, any painting” (I chose a Matisse), and he arranged to have it recreated somewhere in Asia. I was curious, and must admit that when it arrived a few weeks later I found it quite beautiful, but clearly not the original. In any event it sits rolled up, somewhere, whether because my respect for the original creator/creation is inherently stronger than my desire to own its facsimile or because I simply didn’t like it enough to find the wallspace for it, I’m not certain.

My creations are far less grand, and with no real goal, yet they bring me great satisfaction. Among other things, I knit and I code, burying my head in functions and variables or wading my way through knitting patterns whose own code can be equally baffling. Both are a form of zen for me, a problem solved filling me with joy, the feel of beautiful alpaca or handspun wool on my fingers soothing and centering, sensual.

Recently I accompanied my daughter to a store which—as a college student on a budget so tight it crushes—she loved. She bought a few kooky things, that looked to me to be straight out of the 70’s (is there a pattern here?)… wildly printed pants, etc. which looked great on her, and all for a price that was ridiculously and gloriously low.

Well, actually, scratch that last adjective. There was no glory here. Literally everything in the store was a copy, an unauthorized facsimile of someone’s else’s creation, recreated on the cheap. All was synthetic, prints were stamped on and seams hastily stitched. While I understand why a young girl might not care as much as I do about quality, at least not all the time, I’d rather be naked than wear such things. I couldn’t wait to get home and wash my hands.

On the back wall there was a large display of knitted scarves and hats, an explosion of colors and textures (see my photo, above). From afar they were beautiful, but up close they were dreadful, bereft of the softness, the lanolin high of alpaca and cotton, bamboo and merino, lame representations of what I believe knitted items should be… works of art, links to nature and our very human need to be warm and to provide and be provided for. The problem is that knitting one of those scarves with “real” yarn would probably cost about five times that amount, making the real the luxury, the fake the easy, more affordable choice.

From afar the copy may well look the same, but touch, and listen, smell and taste and you will see what has been lost in the process.

Does this cheapen our world? Yes, without a doubt, but maybe, just maybe, as time passes we will come to value quality and integrity in all aspects of our world even more than we did before the deluge of its imitation. Yes, it is quite possible that all of creation is imitation, but when it is done with love and respect it soars above that done merely for profit.


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