September 6, 2010

The fine art of copying

They say "There's nothing new under the sun," Blog, and it's pretty much true.  It's a fact authors and artists of all stripes find annoying, because our creations can almost always be considered derivative in some way.  The best you can hope for is to develop a new, undiscovered twist on the thing that's been done before.  And really, that's okay.  I mean, if what you're creating is so great, the fact that someone else did it before you simply suggests that it appeals to a large part of humanity.

Better to go with it than to fight it, I say.  And that's what I love about the online polymer clay community, the beading community, etc.:  people share and copy all over, but they do so with respect, giving credit for ideas and techniques whenever they can.  Particularly if you are like me and don't sell your stuff, other artists will simply take your imitation as the sincerest form of flattery.

So, when I go out to galleries and artisan shops and the like, I do so with the unabashed goal of finding ideas.  I give them new twists or reinterpret them whenever I can, but if I love something someone else did, why not try to make it myself?  My case in point is this necklace and earring set I made yesterday pictured above (no polyclay here, just beading).  Check it out, and then take a look at the piece that inspired it to the left.

I saw this necklace at the Waukesha County Museum, in a little gallery they have there for local artists.  I'm ashamed to say I didn't catch the name of the creator, but I think she would agree that she could no more take credit for this style of jewelry than I could.  In fact, to the less experienced eye (for example, most heterosexual men), the similarities of the two necklaces might not even be particularly apparent.

What I liked about this piece was the assymmetry and the use of separate sections of bead work, a hunk of chain here, a ribbon there, some natural stones grouped together, some fabricated beads in a bunch.  So that was what I "stole," tweaked to my taste, in a different color scheme, utilizing the supplies I had on hand.

I think the people at Art Instruction Schools, Inc. would consider this counting as "any size but a tracing." 

Is it true that because I can reproduce stuff I don't always buy it?  Yes indeed it is.  But I don't think that's quite cheating.  I can't, after all, do everything (see the hideously embarrassing doll project), and my house is full of pictures, sculptures, and other art that I chose to buy rather than to attempt to copy.

Meanwhile, I can only hope that some of the stuff I've put online that I've made has been appealing enough to other people that they tried to make versions of their own.

One time I received an email from someone who liked one of my stories so much that she really, really wanted to write some fiction of her own using the same characters and setting (in other words, that genre known as "fan fiction").  I said, by all means--as long as she credited me with a link to my website.  I considered her request one of the most flattering emails I had ever received.

So that's what I'm getting at:  there's a nasty way to copy, and there's also a very, very nice way.  If you do it the nice way, all you're doing is proliferating something lovely...and that's never a bad thing, Blog.


  1. Thank you, Dawna! You are a fine example of someone who knows how to properly share and share alike. :-)

  2. That's a lovely way to look at it. You have a way of putting things in proper perspective.