This post will be part 1 of 2 parts
Metal clay as a material has limitless possibilities for design and innovation, its only limitation seems to be its expense. I’ve seen so many gorgeous examples of work here on the internet that inspire me and that often leads to a flight of design ideas and new possibilities. Why don’t those come to fruition? I’m afraid to be accused of “copying”. How can I use this wealth of inspiration I see here on the internet to develop a style that is truly my own.
I suspect I'm approaching the topic as an art historian might.
Early 20th century artists and craftspeople have shared skills and worked in smaller groups, guilds and geographical locations and, as such, they could train/imitate/copy and still keep one another accountable. Forgery was frowned upon and could get someone booted out of their "school", guild, or even lose their apprenticeship.
A totally ruined career unless you were:
a :) talented enough to get a bunch of others to defect with you or
b :) could afford to move to another country and set up shop.
Mass commercial enterprise and the "net" have totally changed the rules of the art and craft world.
Everything is fair game and people are trying to "copyright" age old processes and designs in order to make their mark.
A whole industry has evolved to share information and I contend that it leads to a kind of stagnancy when we come to developing our own creative processes and style. Pictures, published materials and experts running workshops set the trends. Seeing the beautiful work is inspiring and can give rise to new and innovative designs and material use. More often, I think, we flock like sheep to copy the latest trend.
I’ve wondered whether jumping on these trendy bandwagons might be really inhibiting my own evolution of a personal style.
Most alarming is the trend for big off shore manufacturers to "steal” and use imagery, usually that of a craftsperson who makes each item by hand, only then to reproduce inferior quality items to sell huge volumes of these items. That`s new. It makes us all throw up our hands and mutter, ”Why even bother?” if someone’s just going to rip it off.
Is it wrong to copy or imitate?.... and how is it fair that someone can take “your” idea and execute it, promote it and sometimes become much more successful than you were?
These quotes about imitation are cliché but they underline the fact that this issue has been around for a long time:
“Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery - it's the sincerest form of learning.”
― George Bernard Shaw
“Parrots mimic their owners. Their owners consider that a sign of intelligence.”
― Marty Rubin
Our inspirations are the sum of our parts, our physical and genetic makeup, where we live and where we have traveled; how we view the world and its beauty, its underbelly and all the wonderful natural idiosyncrasies. Originality is the stock and trade of most artists. Some artistic visions are truly revolutionary, many are original but few exist without studying or at least having been exposed to other artists’ work. It’s a pretty difficult pill to swallow when you’ve worked really hard to evolve a particular design and technique, perfect it and then see that same design mass produced or replicated. With the advent of internet selling the problem becomes exponential. So many artists scrambling to have their work rank high on the almighty Google search criterion.
Ideas and trends evolve via inspiration, imitation, and sometimes outright copying. I think in the fashion industry it is somewhat expected. There are thousands of books, CD’s, tutorials, and
industry publications. Being published and selling one’s methods is often a big or bigger money generator than selling one’s creations. We should not be surprised when people copy our work when the environment that surrounds us has a business model that promotes and encourages this. Trends are highlighted, hot selling items and people are “featured”, magazines encourage DIY and expect artists to publish their process.
Historically, artists considered imitation to be a sign of respect. I suspect many of those who teach and publish books subscribe to this view of imitation. I think learning is really important. One of the people I most admire is my grandmother, known for her fabulous recipes and baking; her motto was, “I’ll tell you the basics, and how hot the oven has to be but the rest you have to figure out on your own”.
She was an inspiration. No tutorials, just her voice in my memory and her handwriting in the margins of cookbooks I inherited. I’ll never make cakes that look or taste the same as hers did, but she inspired me to learn.
Here are a few web based perspectives on this issue:
I’m hoping this is enough info for us to have a bit of a discussion and entertain any comments on the subject then move to the next part in this series that will focus on where we can “find” inspiration and innovative creative processes.
Visit Kathy on etsy at MostlySilver and MostlyStoneware