Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Originality and Copying Ideas

Howdy all! I can't believe we are almost finished with this session. I have felt more rewarded as the instructor of this class than any other class in recent memory. I am going to really miss having this group to work with. I hope we can do more work together in the future, but if not I know I will have fun looking at all the creative ideas for pots you all will come up with when they cycle through the studio. Everyone has learned so much and done some really quality work this session. I am proud of you all!

Anyway, I had an interesting brief conversation with Jayne before class last night on a topic that has been rumbling around my head for weeks now. I have already touched on it in the post about Inspiration. Basically the question is how much we can take from what others have done and still legitimately be our own work. I think that at a certain skill level you can copy another's work exactly, detail for detail, so that there is really no difference in what was made. This is the extreme side of this equation though, and the intention is to make a reproduction. It does not happen by accident. So this is the possibility at one extreme of the continuum. Anything short of that intention to make a duplicate will have atleast some influence of the actual maker. So the question then becomes "how much of it is our own work?". I think it is possible to ask this question and believe that anything short of being entirely our own is illegitimate. That would be an unfortunate and limiting response. It would put the burden of creativity in the realm of needing to 'recreate the wheel' every time, or settling for a narrow focus of what you had already done on your own. If you think of art as being a kind of language, and the elements and details of expression as being like words, then it becomes clear that expressing yourself requires using words, phrases, concepts, and thoughts that are shared with others. You think for yourself not by comming up with your own language, but by making a common language perform the way you want it to. You can come up with new words, new phrases, new concepts and ideas and this can be exciting and even change the way people look at things, but for basic communication we are all fumbling around with essentially the same tool box.

So think of your art and your influences as being a range of expression. The more you know how to do the more interesting the statements you can make. If you don't even look at what other people are doing it is like sitting alone in your closet while the world passes you by right outside your window. I guess the point I am trying to make is just that it is nothing but healthy to expose yourself to other's art and to experiment with the ideas of others as much as you can. Take a theme or detail from somewhere and see what you can make of it. Actually try to copy some things just so you know how to do something new. This will be good for you!

This issue really strikes home for me because at one point when I was in school I had been asked where my inspirations came from and at the time my answer was based on the conviction that I was making it all up as I went. I had failed to acknowledge that I had seen so many pots of other artists that they had become a background through which I approached my own work. Now that I am comfortable with the idea of influences I can see that there is really very little that I have done that is entirely my own invention. I have learned some things from one artist, other things from others, taken some details directly, twisted and changed others a bit. The synthesis of all these ideas and influences manifests in pots that are somehow recognizable as my own. But even so, that is not so important. I am not concearned with having a 'unique voice'. That misses the point of why anyone does this stuff in the first place. I do what I want to do, and as long as I am having fun I will keep at it. Hope you do too!

Good luck as always!

1 comment:

  1. I am not sure if this is the place to ask this, but here goes. I noticed when I put the lids on my jars, that the opening to the jar is not really in the center of the pot. It isn't directly above the bottom of the jar, if that makes sense. I am not sure if it is that noticeable, except when viewing the pot from the top, but it bothers me! Do you have an idea of what I could be doing to cause this?

    By the way, I also enjoyed the last class and seeing everyone's projects.


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