I've been chatting with a few Moonie friends recently about this topic so I figured I would make a blog post about it and see what kind of discussion there is to be had in the community.
I've noticed recently a few really fancy looking cosplay props popping up online. Some of them are SO well made that to me they look like copies of the actual RPG toys made by molding from the originals and casting in a new material. A few of these listings say things like "handmade" which would make me think that at least if they are cast copies then the original version was first hand sculpted. If so, that's really awesome, because I can barely tell the difference! However, it seems more likely to me that many of these lockets and items popping up are actually made from molds that were taken from the real toys.
I think there's a difference between hand making an item and taking a licensed product, making a mold, and casting a version of it to sell. I am bias here because I do hand make cosplay props and I do sell them. Fundamentally, we are talking about selling fanart here, which I know gets people all riled up in some circles - but let's put that aspect aside for a moment and talk about bootlegs. What is a bootleg?
To me, a bootleg is a item that tries to be the original but fails - because it isn't. If you see something that's a bootleg or a knock off of some official thing, you can usually tell because of little things like the colors being off, or the packaging having strange things on it. The goal of a bootleg is to be like the original so that you will buy it because it's "close enough" or maybe you might even think it is an official product (like those sneaky Crisis Compact bootlegs and those darn Artbook bootlegs! >,<)
I would say that most fanartists, though striving for accuracy, actually take a decent amount of pride in their little flairs of creativity with the items they make. I know that I like to make items that are accurate and pretty, but also have a touch of my style. I don't typically make molds of my items because I like to do them each as a custom, a special order for the person requesting it. As I said, I think if an artist hand sculpts and item, makes a mold of it, and then proceeds to make casts of it, that's okay. It's a bit like selling a print, in that way.
Maybe because I am an artist I take a little bit of offense to the idea that someone might make a mold of an official item, cast it, paint it and sell it. Is it nice to have a near-perfect replica of an expensive and hard to find item? I'm sure it is! But something just bothers me about it. To make the 2D analogy, it's like tracing. Maybe it is because I hand make the props I make that I feel like it's not the most honest way to do prop making. I do feel like that practice comes pretty close to how I'd define bootlegging and at the very least should not be called "handmade." Maybe "hand painted replica" instead?
I know my bias is obvious here, so how do you guys feel about this kind of practice? Do you think that there is a difference between hand sculpting custom cosplay items and making molds of official merchandise and then making copies from that? As a cosplayer, would you rather have accuracy over a personal touch? As a collector, do you think a replica or cast can take the place of an official item? Under what circumstance?
Looking forward to hearing your respectful conversation on the topic. ^0^