Monday, April 20, 2009

Water Skimming Wings

Photo Courtesy RIVERTAY -

How do you know if something is original? There's an old saying, "you never step into the same river twice" - how can we know if we are dipping the same water from the stream that someone else has dipped before us?

It’s happened to me, I create something and I believe it’s unique to me. I will be looking on Etsy, or at websites or blogs on the internet, and I find out that someone else is already doing it, making it, and has been for quite a while.

I started making wings in polymer clay primary colors, to use as charms. One day I was on Etsy and saw someone else doing it, except all of her wings were black, no colors. I was shaking my head thinking I was being copied, when I realized hers were on Etsy several months earlier than I started making wing charms.

So, am I copying her by accident, when I didn’t know she was doing something similar? Are our wings different enough that I can comfortably keep making mine, now that I have discovered that someone else is making black wings and I'm making colored wings?

Some things are pretty easy to decide, and it’s not as tricky to answer the questions. If I saw a beadwoven necklace made by someone in a certain color combination and pattern, and I reproduced it exactly for my own sales, that’s not a puzzling head-scratcher, it’s definitely copying someone else. But what if that design was in a beadweaving magazine with a how-to for making it exactly – does that mean it’s available to be reproduced as-is and sold as my own design?

Carl Jung, the famous psychologist, coined a term known as Collective Unconscious, a part of the mind of a society or a people that’s a product of sharing ancestral experiences, separate and apart from the personal subconscious that belongs to each human being. He said, “The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity.”

The Collective Unconscious goes hand in hand with the concept of synchronicity – two or more events unrelated to each other, that occur spontaneously in a meaningful manner, but unlikely to occur together by chance.

Photo Courtesy Positiv:

I think of the Creativity of the Collective Unconscious as being the airwaves of creativity, available like a radio broadcast, to those willing to tune in and get the messages. So if, in our culture and society, we associate wings, and things with wings like birds and angels, as a good icon and something positive, is it so unlikely that two people will create charms, separate from one another but using wings as the image? No, not really.

Photo Courtesy of Positiv:

Certain images and symbols are going to reappear often, like spirals, heart shapes, circles. Creativity and spirituality are often two sides of the same coin, as we tap our minds and hearts for expressions to put into the fruits of our hands.

If there’s a key to being original and fresh in our creativity, I believe it’s looking inside our own experiences and framing our own words of expression and visions of the world. Carl Jung says it this way: “Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.”

Let us all hope for a vivid personal awakening, no one can express your individual special personal vision but you.

Make Visible What, Without You,
Might Perhaps
Never Have Been Seen.
Robert Bresson

Thoughts about Creativity and Originality posted by Lynn Davis - ExpeditionD - Wings Created by Me - Photos courtesy FLICKR


peacockfairy said...

What a great post Lynn!

sharon said...

Thank you for this wonderful post Lynn!

Joan Tucker said...

Lynn, This a tough issue. I hate to be copied but as you explain we all doing it unknowing all the time..

I taught a writing class and all of us were trying to write and work with Jung's concept of a common well.
Five of the group ended up with the same images, same season of the year, very amazing similarities.
Artist and writers are dipping in to a great well and they touch on similar riches.
Thanks, Joan Tucker

TesoriTrovati said...

Such an interesting post. I love the way that Llyynn looks at the world. There are those that will copy no doubt but how you chose to use the materials that you have at your disposal and the creative way that your mind works is what sets you apart. Wings, swirls, hearts and more will always be prevalent in art and adornment, they always have been. So take comfort in knowing that you will use these in ways not yet imagined and that is where true creativity sparked by inspiration will live.
Thanks for sharing these profound thoughts that I will consider to ponder. Enjoy the day!

Stories They Tell said...

A nice post, Lynn-- thought-provoking indeed! I think we unconsciously take in ideas and images around us which then manifest in our work when we're in a creative/spiritual state.

SummersStudio said...

Fabulous post Lynn and a topic I think about often. In my world there are only so many ways to make pots or buttons or beads. I think you are spot on with suggesting we look inward to find the voice of our own personal expression. Certain images are universal. That is why they appeal to us cross culturally. That is what makes them compelling. But the way that we put them together is what makes for our own unique expression.

Thanks Lynn! You always make me think and inspire me to look at what I do in different ways.

rosebud101 said...

Great post!

Erin Siegel said...

Beautiful post, Lynn! We are all like leaves on a tree. We originate from the same source, we just see the world from different points of view! Our individual points-of-view are unique.

EmandaJ said...

Great post Lynn,

Originality is found within. There are those that think anything they see is up for grabs to copy or recreate. I have this issue with my college student in their essays. It's a very sticky subject.


Andrew Thornton said...

Thanks Lynn for your take on things.

I agree that there is a deep well in which we all sip from. The waves are crested with the archetypal imagry Jung discusses.

Having been in the bead and jewelry industry long enough, I sort of resigned myself to the fact that if you put something out there, there is the possibility that it'll be copied.

As a frequent contributor to magazines, I am fully aware that I may spot my design on someone walking down the street. I am happy that I could inspire someone to make something and do such a wonderful job on my own project that it forced someone to sit down and make their own. But I think that's where I have the sticking point... for me, it's about an exchange of ideas and energy. I like the idea of people making things. I think it puts good juju in the world. To make things. However, when those things are sold without giving a nod at the original source, it just isn't good times. Someone worked really hard to make the piece in the first place and then a wonderful team of magazine people made it available to be seen. So, I think it's just good practice to always give credit where credit is due.

Now, coming from a family that gets knocked off left and right, it really hurts our feelings. We work really hard to make our designs and when we get ripped off, it's like someone saying they don't respect us. They take the food out of Azalea's bowl and prevent her from going to college as easily and force us to work that much harder to try and stay afloat.

marcy said...

I loved this post. It makes you think, and it gives you a beautiful visual concept as well.


LLYYNN - Lynn Davis said...

Thank you all for your comments and insights, please keep them coming, I'd love for this to be a dialog with many ideas coming - it's a subject that's often on my mind.

nina said...

wonderful post, wonderful artwork, wonderful quotes. and lynn, you (and many others) already know how touchy i am about this very sensitive subject. i think that andrew (with whom i shared yesterday, creating, coincidentally) says how i feel very well. blessings to you for continuing to bring this subject to light. xoxo

Gardanne said...

I agree Lynn it is very clear to me that copying a piece of jewelry and then passing it off as ones own work is very unethical, I personally don't know how these people sleep at night.
But I have a problem with the gray areas, where there is a fine line between a technique and a design. If I take a class to learn a technique, lets say making resin charms, I will want to use resin charms in my work.
Am I copying another artists work that uses resin charms in their jewelry?

TheLaughingmoonNYC said...

Wow, I got goosebumps. Since I am just starting out everything is new to me now and I am using what I learn. I am not sure if I have had time to really turn things into my own. So, I have been torn about what is original, what is not and what can I take credit for. This helps put it into perspective. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great post Lynn!

kvk said...

Hi Lynn - just found this post via Andrew's blog. Really excellent! I'm with you on the 'collective unconscious' thing.
I've been working on a new series that I'm very excited about. The first pieces had just gone out to my 'test gallery' and I was eagerly awaiting feedback. While taking a web-surfing break, I came across a jewelry designer with remarkably similar components - I was stunned. A few days later - another artist, same sort of thing.
I know my design came from me and not some subconscious hidey hole. Like your wings, I had to attribute the similarities to the collective unconscious. Can't explain it any other way.
In some ways the 'c.o.' attribution feels a cop-out and then I wonder about continuing with the components. I've decided, my version is from me and is worth pursuing. It's all about coming from a heart-centered place and being authentic in spirit and practice.
Thanks again for the thoughtful post.
Kathy Van Kleeck