Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Finding your voice, and how not to be a douche.

I got all my applications in on time this week, with three more upcoming that I still have to submit. I had to go out of town this weekend, so I haven't even seen what my finished doll jar looked like out of the kiln. I did get to see images of my new cups though.





I was browsing Twitter on a long car trip Saturday to pass time, and a lot of clay people were in a bit of an uproar over a blatant copycat on Etsy. I'm not entirely sure, but I get the impression she was a newbie that hadn't found a style of her own yet, and copied the designs of an artist she was a fan of. Since they both sell their work on Etsy, the copied pieces were quickly discovered, the original artist was notified, and a letter was sent to the offender. Thankfully, she immediately shut the shop down. Problem solved.

Now, I've been giving this kind of thing a lot of thought over the last few weeks. I look at a lot of other ceramic artists work, and I definitely get inspired by it. I like to think I get inspired without feeling the need to outright steal anyone's style or designs, though I may dabble in a technique just to try it out and add something new to my repertoire. Even then, I still feel a little nervous trying something someone else is doing, because I want to be sure I can make it my own. My Josie cup (the "Fuck You, Feed Me" cup) was made because my studio instructor, Rachel, did a sgrafitto demo, and I tried it out (with her encouragement) on that cup as well as a tile. It's my own original artwork, but it's a technique heavily attached to her work, which makes me a little uneasy. It doesn't look like the rest of my work (except that I have a habit of drawing Josie on just about everything. She's on t-shirts, cups, tiles, paintings, plushies, and even some handmade cards. It's like she has her own merchandise franchise.) I like it, and I might incorporate the technique into my work in little ways, but I'd feel uncomfortable if I started doing an entire series of black and white sgraffito work. It just isn't me.

I was happy to see someone link to a post on Kristen Kieffer's blog this morning about this very topic. It's excellent advice, and any young/new artist could benefit from reading it. It makes so much sense, in fact, that it seems like it should be common sense, but I think everyone still falls prey to being entranced by the work of other artists sometimes. Now, I'm not saying I'm going to stop obsessively trolling my Google reader list and Twitter for delicious new ceramic art to drool over. I'm not going to stop experimenting with techniques I'm inspired to try either. But I feel secure in knowing that my work is influenced by my own experiences, passions, and memories, and no one elses, and that is what makes it mine. When I'm in the studio, I draw from so many things in my life besides ceramic art to inform what I make, and no one is going to have the exact same interests that I do. I may still be working on a style that's completely my own, but I know I'll get there if I just keep making. And I know I won't be putting up any work for sale that looks like Kristen Kieffer's, or Diana Fayt's, or Ayumie Horie's, because I love and respect their work too much, and they worked hard to get where they are and find their own style.

I think so long as we all keep that mutual respect in mind, and draw from our own lives more than from other people's art, we'll all get there some day. And if we don't, we can expect to get a lot of strongly worded letters from a lot of angry artists. That's definitely incentive enough for me!

5 comments:

JUDI TAVILL said...

So great!

Heedless said...

Yer right on...most people can tell the difference between technique exploration and copying...

I have been looking so if anybody is working in a similar way to me...and I haven't found them ...if they are...

artgirl said...

Very well said. Its entirely too easy for people to copy work thanks to the internet. Its definitely a double-edged sword. There are a few artists on Etsy who really irk me because they are copying one or more artists. Its important to discover your own creative voice.

We Blog Artists said...

FABULOUS post...
I agree...you have to experiment to come up with new...but there is a fine line.
Esti sent us over from Pintameldia...
HUGS
Char.x

Emily Dyer said...

Always an interesting topic! There is always that starting point with a new technique that it is not totally incorporated into your own work yet and is pretty derivative, but that is not the work you put out there to sell in a public marketplace. Wait until you make it your own.