I for one love the collective, encouraging nature of the handmade design community. If I had the wallet for it, I'd buy only handmade. As an avid bargain shopper, I dig through thrift shops, reusing what others toss out. But I also shamelessly purchase from big chain stores such as Target, Old Navy, Wal Mart, etc.
This article on abbytrysagain and the links within really encouraged me to consider how I "vote with my dollars." In the most recent of a growing list of accusations hurled at big companies, Urban Outfitters was accused of stealing the designs of etsy seller tru.che.
The response on abbytrysagain made me consider my responsibility to research what I purchase, and especially what I design. I surf blogs daily, and try to create as often as possible. It is very easy to unintentionally "steal" or come up with ideas independent of exposure to other artists work, and find that someone came up with the same idea two years ago.
Ideas are shared, they evolve, they catch on. I've discussed this recently with some of my friends. I went into Starbucks and lo and behold, their new Petites Collection includes whoopie pies and cake pops. I told my friend Bowen that whoopie pies have been very trendy lately. He laughed and asked where I got this stuff. It made me think that unless you really research, people don't know where these ideas came from. Some designer/blogger makes the pies, they catch on and more people try out the recipe, they are showcased in event photography and eventually big retailers jump on the bandwagon.
I wondered if Starbucks had asked permission of Bakerella for using cake pops, and if they were Bakerella's original idea. Does Starbucks owe her money? Should they have asked? I researched online to see if anyone else had a problem or questions about this. Bakerella hasn't posted anything about it on her blog. She has published a book: does that mean anyone can sell Cake Pops now?
Many questions. Lots of gray area.
All I can do is try my best to be conscientious, shop critically and always give credit where it is due.