Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I read Lorelei's blog about copyrights and wanted to respond, and realized as my thoughts went racing it would take a long time, so I found this article that pretty much sums up my feelings. Granted it is a bit of reading , but really worth it I think. Originality, in art, including jewelry, is something to me that is practically extinct. There are arguments everywhere about this. A style becomes original and distinct, and I would never think that I conceived something in the art or jewelry world that was new, nor do I think anyone else has, just maybe a little different and personal. My thinking tends to be abstract I know, but this is my own personal feeling. If you have studied art and art history, you will know this to be true. Of course everyone will always have their own definition for original. If it comes down to questioning whether we should be using a certain type of bead because others use it, and claim they like using it, what does that mean? Where did you learn or acquire your artistic abilities? Think long and hard before you answer that. Were you at all influenced by someone, or something? If you can honestly say you were not, you are a true original.

What do you think of this article? Please share a comment!


SharonP said...

Hi Sharon, I agree with you wholeheartedly and read every word of the essay you presented. We have all been influenced by something or someone, as is quoted in the Old Testament:

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. ~Ecclesiastes 1:9

To say that certain color combinations and styles are prohibited because they have been used before is preposterous. If this idea were upheld, nothing would ever be created again.

I cite a great example from the above article which says it all:

"Don't be afraid to borrow. The great men, the most original, borrowed from everybody. Witness Shakespeare and Rembrandt. They borrowed from the technique of tradition and created new images by the power of their imagination and human understanding. Little men just borrow from one person. Assimilate all you can from tradition and then say things in your own way.
There are as many ways of drawing as there are ways of thinking and thoughts to think." Giff Constable

When we create, we are a member of the "collective consciousness" (Carl Jung). We are human and we experience the same feelings and thoughts, we take from nature, God's true art, and create from it. We all have a unique voice and produce our art as we envision it. There is plenty of room in the Universe for our thoughts and creations.

Art is not confined to a narrow box with a narrow vision of what or how it should be. It simply is.

Anonymous said...

Great post, i'm off to read the article.
SharonP, I agree with you.

sharon said...

Thank you so much Sharon and Sandra! I'm glad I'm not alone in these thoughts! Thanks for stopping by! I value your opinions!

Deryn Mentock said...

Every single one of us is influenced by others. We're not born knowing how to make things but learn...from a book, from a class, from a picture...from others! Sharon P is right...nothing is new under the sun.

SummersStudio said...

Sharon, great article, one I will read again. Lots to process.

I lost my original long winded post. Maybe that was fate.

But the idea of originality reminds me of my many years in cancer research. And believe me it's a dog eat dog world in terms of originality and publication. But everything must rely on that which has come before. You can't experiment on people and you must use acceptable and effective methods. Yet originality does occur and with surprising frequencey. I think the analogy to art/originality is that many times it occurs when you use old ideas in new ways. In ways that are your own.

I look at some of my earlier pots and I see the influence of my friend Danny. But they are not Danny pots. No one will ever be able to create Danny pots. They are uniquely his. My pots now look nothing like Danny pots. Yet one of my favourite textures is directly inspired by a pattern that is on a bowl that I have, made by Danny. Yet if I put the 2 together you probably would not see it unless I told you. I used my own voice to create what I saw in that pattern.

Often when we are starting out on a creative path our work does not yet have a strong voice of its own. You must actively seek that voice and that's where originality comes in (my humble opinion). You need to go through a process, a critique even, of what it is that you want to say.

And there is also more than a bit of integrity that goes into it as well. Because it is hurtful rather than flattering when there is direct imitation.

So it is indeed a long winded post. Thanks, Sharon! This is a good discussion.

Kristin said...

What a great post and article! Thanks so much for the link, I hadn't read that before. Before I decided to be an English major, I very nearly got a bachelor's degree in art history, and my doctoral studies are in literature, history, and art, so I've done a lot of thinking about art and art history. You're precisely right, there is nothing "new." Although there certainly is innovation.

I think there are a couple of places where people get caught up. One is the obvious, "I am copying artist A's work because it's popular, or it sells, or whatever." That is very clearly wrong. Sometimes though we find ourselves (as Lorelei said) making things that wind up looking something like artist A's work, even if we didn't set out to do so. Maybe subconsciously we were influenced by them or maybe we even set out to make something similar because we admired their work. I've certainly made jewelry inspired by things I saw in magazines or catalogs (Sundance springs to mind). I don't sell those pieces though, because that would be an infringement on that designer.

I hate to see any designer's work being copied or for anyone who has worked hard to develop a specific style and build their reputation have that reputation be sullied by another person's copies. It just seems unnecessary. There is room for all of our creative voices out there. And in finding that voice, we truly can become original artists (even if there really is nothing "new.")

However, part of the joy in creating is seeing each other's work and being inspired by it. We are all influenced by each other and creation should be a collaborative process. But we also have to honor each other's visions and value our own. It seems to me that sometimes we get into trouble because we think that if we could only designs "like well-known artist A" then we would be successful. That's a trap. It is faith and belief in what *we* create that will make us successful.

I don't know if that all makes sense, but I sure appreciate seeing your thoughts, and all your commenters' thoughts on these issues.

sharon said...

Deryn and Leann, Thanks for your thoughts and I truly value your opinions! It is reassuring to know I am not the only one to feel this way. I am not worried about copyrights too much , unless it is blatant, and even then I couldn't see claiming anything artistic as property of mine! There is room for everyone. I'm not worried about infringement. To me, there is so much more out there than jewelry and the blog, it is not about me, me, me. Deryn posted the other day about doing a day of work for habitat for humanity. That is indeed honorable and humbling and it made me feel a little inadequate, because I often think I should be helping someone, somehow, and have been trying to be more consciuos of that lately. That is what life is about. Life is bigger than the blog and jewelry, and to worry over infringement is not really apart of my thought process, and I am assuming at this point that I can feel free to learn from all of you, as you can from me. The blog is another creative outlet for me, and a place to learn and connect friendships! Jewelry, in esscence means little to me, faith, family, friends, and health, are everything. I don't mean to be dramatic, but that is the truth.

sharon said...

Thanks Kristen for sharing your thoughts and knowledge, your opinion means a lot to me!

Christine Damm said...

I'm slowly working my way through that wonderful essay-- there is much food for thought there and I don't want to gulp it. But here's what is true for me-- while I'm working in that true "ecstasy" of creation, what I'm doing, if I'm paying attention to the Muse, has a rightness to it. I don't think about anything else. Now, when I'm done, I might have to look and see if I'm infringing on anybody's artistic turf as far as posting it for the world to see or to sell on Etsy. But don't, don't ever let that fear hold you back from creating and creating what you feel and know in that moment. That moment is sacred and no one should keep you from it. So there-- heavy, yes but I think true. I agree with you, Sharon. Follow that Muse.

2ifbysea said...

Oh Sharon! You have hit on a hot topic for me!!! Back in March I got a nasty email from a fellow jewelry designer accusing me of "copying", which I did not nor would I do. This person was calling me out on a "technique" & closure that I used, that they had also used. Well, excuse the heck outta me but open up any bead magazine these days and you'll see "techniques" repeated from one artist to the next, from one page to the next. If they had thought before they spoke, they may have considered that if for even a second I had copied their work, why in God's name would I be publishing it on my blog for the world to see. I mean really!!! You cannot be in the creative world, have your things published for the world to see, post pics on your blog, list in your various online storefronts and expect to be "the one and only" artist doing this or that. It's self-absorbed, arrogant, unrealistic thinking!!! Excuse my rant! I've been needing to say this for months now. Thank you for the forum to do so. Sharon, if you feel my comment is not representative of the point you are trying to get across, please feel free to delete it.

sharon said...

Cristi, and Christine, thank you sooooo much for your honesty, and I will say that I knew in my heart I was right, that's why I made the post. Each person is their own and I haven't seen anything or anyone I've met blatently copy someone. Unless you live in a box, someone is influenced or you are doing the influencing and SO BE IT! I never thought that I would touch a nerve like this, but seems everyone got to vent, sometimes we need that!

Cristi, I'm in 100% agreement with you and MORE POWER TO YOUR RANT. What happened to you is unacceptable to me.

Heather Powers said...

I think it comes down to intent. If you see a design and then go out and buy the exact same beads and create a piece that looks too much like the 1st design, you are copying.

As someone who works hard to inspire designers through the Art Bead Scene, I find it discouraging to see those who are looking too much like someone else. It's not about techniques, those are out there without copyright. But borrowing too much for someone's design sensibility is a common problem. Influence is great, but it needs to be processed through your own creative experience and should be something different than what influenced you.

I think it's really easy to say there is nothing new under the sun and not be accountable for our actions. But think of the artist who sees her work copied again and again by those who are visiting her blog, flickr and etsy shop on a regular basis. Doesn't she have the right to say please stop? Why is she the villain? Lorelei isn't saying she is the only who can create a certain type of jewelry or use a certain bead. But there are designs out there that if I put them side by side I wouldn't know which one was Lorelei's and which one was the other designer. And these aren't random happenstances, these are people who visit her blog, make comments and see her work on a regular basis. It's not like two people came up with the same design at the same time without knowing, which happens all the time.

We are part of a creative community, and I hope we can talk about these things in an encouraging way. Lorelei didn't call anyone out in public, it would be nice if she wasn't made the bad guy for stating her feelings on this subject.

sharon said...

Heather, I welcome your comments and if you read the posts above, I was not the only person who felt this way. But that is why there is free speech! I will repeat that I have yet to meet someone who purposefully copies someone else. And so what if they do? Maybe a direct contact to that person through a private venue would be more appropriate. I believe what I said, and in the end this is so small to me in the bigger scheme of things and why we are here. If someone copies me, so be it. There is not much I could do about it. I believe things usually work themselves out and I believe this is not a competition, but it certainly has been an eye opener and revealed some true colors.

TesoriTrovati said...

This is such a hot button lately. I have been reading as much as I can about it from all differnt perspectives. The truth is that I find something important in all of the writings. And the fact that we are all having this dialogue about it is very powerful.

I understand about the idea that a style is your own but techniques and materials, etc are not unique. But I do agree with Heather Powers when she says that there are those who will go out and purchase the exact supplies and replicate down to the last jump ring. That is wrong. I publish in magazines frequently and it never really occurred to me that someone would do that, becuase I never would. But a pair of earrings I had in a magazine were copied identically by a person who worked for the publication. She not only put a similar picture on her site but was taking orders for it. The only saving grace was that she did mention that I was the one who submitted the original design to the magazine. But it still made me a bit twinge-y in my stomach. She was selling them for about 1/3 of what I sold the originals for. Admitedly, it was not a totally unique design, but her copy proved that it was totally easy to replicate. I now think twice about what I submit and how I submit it.
When I have clients I frequently bring out books/magazines for starting points. When asked if I can make something they see exactly I tell them no. Why would they want something that is exactly like another? This is the reason that I only make one of a kind, never duplicating anything exactly as I have done it before.

Margot Potter wrote a really insightful post on this a few weeks ago ( I really appreciated her idea about a jazz riff. Musicians play on each others notes all the time, but the real musician will modify, enhance, tweak and expand on the original measures. That is true art. I would rather be a Marsalis brother than a Milli Vanilli, if you know what I mean!

I believe that there is room for a wealth of creativity in the world and that we can all be part of an inspiring community. I especially liked this quote: "I have little interest in teaching you what I know. I wish to stimulate you to tell me what you know."

Now let's all go out there and stimulate that creativity that is so innately a part of each one of us and tell each other what we know!

Enjoy the day!

LLYYNN - Lynn Davis said...

Chiming in here, with a short post of a few thoughts. When I buy a magazine for inspiration, I don't intend to reproduce the exact article unless it's just for my own pleasure and wearing, and not for sale as my own. That somehow feels wrong to me, in my own mind. Two things come to mind - in talking with others who are creative, there is a spirit now that says "I won't post my work on my Etsy shop or on my blog, because if I share I will be opening up to exact copies, and I don't want that to happen" or "I won't submit that article because I fear my work will be copied" - when that happens we are ALL the losers, because we don't get to see the fruits of those people's hands. The second thing is folks change their entire way of making (a couple of people I admire and have spoken to come to mind) because they feel their original work is so constantly reproduced that no one can distinguish it from the work of others. Again, we ALL lose because the work we have enjoyed seeing is no longer being made, and only the copies by other, over and over.

There's an aspect of respect. If someone painted a painting, and I liked it, and make a reproduction to hang in my own home, no one would think that was a problem. If I do it over and over, and sell that painting's image as my own, would anyone say it wasn't copying and taking something away from the original artist?

Well, this wasn't such a short post after all, was it?

This is one of the reasons I make my own beads, because the uniqueness is ensured. If I took another artists' bead (like Heather's, I'll pick on her) and made something very similar to sell as mine, wouldn't that seem wrong?

This is a sensitive issue and those who haven't been touched by it personally don't know how much it hurts when it FEELS as though your work has been "taken" by another, no matter the spirit.

Okay, a really long comment - Sorry!

sharon said...

No need for apologies Lynn, I appreciate your input and respect that.

Mari Aparicio said...

Great post!!! As a lawyer and friend of many artist I agree with your statement.

lilibulle said...

a bird is singing, it inspire me, a butterfly on a flower it inspire me.. all is inspiration.. look leonardo da vinci.. without birds he had never tryed to do a plane!! more to say but my english is so bad, sorry.;


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