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Initially I wanted to post quite another QOTW today, but after reading a post of our colleague Antoinette Badenhorst in the "Gustavo Perez" topic, I changed my mind. Questions like: "is every possible shape already invented?" "Am I a copycat if I do similar forms than X, W or Z?", "shall I refrain from doing works when one could confuse them with other ceramists work?" etc. are significant for us. Take, for example, the pieces of said Gustavo Perez, and in comparison the ones of our South African colleague Andile Dyalvane. Is one copying the other? In my eyes: no, because Andile's pieces have something that makes them especially Andile-like. Know what I mean?

 

What is your opinion? Are we copycats when our work is inspired by, or looks similar to, work of others?

 

Have a happy and not too hot week everybody.

 

Evelyne 

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Is it round?

That is a challenging question. Picasso says real artists steal and I think then they reinvent.

But is there nothing new? 

3D printing

Extreme reuse of Pop culture images

I just try to focus on what potential mysteries clay can give me.

But how redundant are horses?or birds?or crackle pots.

 

Marcia

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There is a very different motivation behind deliberate copying of someone else's design, emulation while learning a new technique or process, and/or drawing inspiration from work you admire. The first I feel is inexcusable unless it's for your own personal use or to reproduce something that is otherwise irreplaceable, like an antique or ancient piece.

 

I think that if you are true to your inner voice as an artist, everything you make will proclaim loudly who made it even if the original inspiration comes from another person's work. Because of this, even if a room full of artists were all told to make a pot based on the same item shown to the whole group, each and every creation would still be unique.

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P S. Though I can see similar influences in the two potters' work, each is unmistakably their own. His is very geometric with very little color and hers has more hints of organic shapes and touches of red, orange, brown.

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Part of the training for art students is to copy work of the great masters - in many areas of life, not only art, it's how we learn. I see a lot of potters' work that looks very similar to that of someone else, but with differences. Techniques, skill levels, colours, glazes etc. etc. As long as it's not a deliberate act of replicating, for commercial purposes, another's work, I think it's fine to try out things that someone else has done before you. I've met many potters at fairs and at demonstrations, who are more than happy to explain in considerable detail, how they have made something, or achieved a particular effect, even sharing glaze recipes. These are confident practitioners who have spent years developing their skills, who know only too well that it would be almost impossible for someone to actually replicate their work. For my part, I know there's not a chance that anyone would recognise any of my work as a copy of theirs, as my level of skill is much too far removed from that of my influences!

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Sometimes two potters works can be so similar that it can be discouraging, it seems like everything has been done already.  I was taking a throwing class after I had my son I was  working at home and going in for critiques.  A friend of mine called me up and asked me why my work was in the Masters show at the end of the year.  I met her at the show and it sure looked like the work I had been doing lately,  I hadn't ever been around that potter and the only way he could see my work is when he soda fired it.  It was part of an architectural series I had been working on at home alone, the professor thought it was real unusual.  Kind of takes the air out of your bubble.     Denice

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Yes, I copy pottery! I have copied some pottery from the 1830s but most

of mine stop at the 1760 mark, towards the end of the French and Indian

War. I want mine to be indistinguishable from vessels in books and museums.

As for the Indian pottery copy's they range from 2500BC to

around 1760 as well. Not much pottery excites me after that!

Any modern pottery I make is influenced by vessels from those times.

See ya,

Alabama

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there was a man in the shared studio in florida who was terrified that someone would make the same kind of thing he did and sell it for less.  nobody wanted to, it was the same stuff he had been doing in the 1970s and looked it. and it never seemed to sell, same pots just getting dusty.  

 

he would never share a glaze recipe, either.

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there was a man in the shared studio in florida who was terrified that someone would make the same kind of thing he did and sell it for less.  nobody wanted to, it was the same stuff he had been doing in the 1970s and looked it. and it never seemed to sell, same pots just getting dusty.  

 

he would never share a glaze recipe, either.

Poor person, a lot of energy going the wrong way there, what was fillling his brain when it could have been doing something really special?

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The Kokopelli is a figure I frequently see in art.(paintings, prints, and pottery)

I try to create images for my slab pieces that reflect the plants and animals I see on my acreage and the area surrounding our

place. Even though I like to stick with I know and see, It's difficult to come up with images that are 100% unique.

 

Karen

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To me, the difference between taking inspiration from an exsisting item, artist or technique and translating it into your own style or using it as a tool to stretch youself in a new direction is not the same as copying.

 

Unless you are blind, deaf, and have lived a life apart from outside influence, we all take inspiration. Generally, the best artists seem to embrace a degree of give and take: exchanging ideas strengthens us all, even if we only try something a few times it still adds to our experience.

 

Copying is more deliberate: intentionally duplicating intrinsic qualities of another persons work for the purpose of siphoning off of their income or fame, or as a form of spite. Intentionally imitating a work should be limited, at most to the class room (with credit given where due). Its not flattery to undermine someone else's concepts by adopting them outright.

 

I guess for me, I try to follow my gut. I wouldnt want to produce work that is merely an echo of someone greater, or even worse: torment someone who's work I admire by knocking them off. No one likes plagiarism.

 

For the most part, if you pick a single element, it's been done already. It's a matter of creating your own combinations to turn it into something that is your own.

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I had posted this the other day on the thread about Perez in the Aesthetic forum, so I just moved it here since it fits the QOTW better.

 

Using techniques or forms etc. established by others is not "copying", in my view, if one is taking it in a different direction or exploring it further and bringing something of one's self to the process. There is hardly anything really-really new, and if there is, it does not stay contained to the originator for very long. I think one's intent is the key. Is the intent to deliberately crank out a similar thing so as to ride a coat tail to garner accolades for a certain style, or is the intent to absorb and build upon a style/technique (like Perez' cut & press), to improve one's own craftsmanship or expand one's own creativity?  

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I don't think it is possible to copy someone else's work at all. We all have access to different glazes, kilns and clays so the chances of a piece being exactely the same are pretty low. I also think that once a potter finds his own style, it is very hard to find the exact same thing in another place.

 

However, now that everybody shares picture of their work, it is not unusual to find similarities. Not so long ago, I realized two of the potters I follow on Instagram make the exact same kind of pieces: sgraffito designs on black slip over white clay. Is it a coincidence? I don't know.

Sometimes it is easier to be a bit lazy and copy the style of someone else, rather than trying to do something new and look for your own ideas.

 

But also, does it really matter? As long as the pieces we make are useful to someone, why should no one else be doing the same? I wonder if we are concerned about copying because we are too woried about someone else copying us, our own creations! There's something about our ego here I think. A potter I was working with always had me closed the door in case the other ceramist of the share spaced would steal her ideas. Well, no one cared about her ideas, they all had a very unique style!

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Thank you all for your interesting and varied answers to this week's question. It really is hard to determine if something is a copy or an extrapolation or simply a new form out of an old and already existing one. I have seen pictures of real copies, 1:1 copies, and that's not fair toward the one that invented a form or design. But most of the time it is only that we see something that's touching our heart and we want to explore that design, form, shape etc.

 

Keep your ideas about this topic coming!

 

Evelyne

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I can think of several kinds of copying:

 

Emulation

When I see a pleasing form or technique, I think about how I could/would incorporate the idea into my own work. This sometimes requires that I practice "copying" it. My results will always vary. Yours will too.

 

Reproductions

I'm sure Alabama can confirm that it's really not easy to copy another's work exactly, by hand. There will always be differences in materials, skill levels, firing conditions, etc., to take into account.

 

Mass production

Automation (and 3-D printers) make the task of making a quantity of good-enough copies which can be sold cheaply a temptation even for the original artist. So, for me, the question would be: who am I making these for? Someone who cares about the time and effort needed to make it, or everyone else? If a Rae Mug could save the world (or even just purify water), I would want everyone to have one as cheaply as possible.

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Fore if you at someone work and try to copy it precisely then it is a fraudulent reproduction.  However if you take ideas from someone else s work and use them in combination with your own ideas it is your artistic interpretation.  It is extremply hard to be completely original.  A turned piece of pottery is basically round but did you discover a round shape or did someone else centuries ago?  In most cases aret is a combination of other people ideas from before we were even born mixed together in a way that pleasing to ourselves.  If there was no coping there would very little of anything today.

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Well I think anyone actually coping work knows it and likely knows they shouldn't. Bugs me when a potter cops a type of pottery as theirs then gets upset if someone else does as well. Literally they think because they copied it first in their area it's now their exclusive domain.

 

One other thing that really bugs me is when a potter does a tutorial and then later complains that folks are using and selling the output from the tutorial. That is absurd beyond words. When doing a tutorial only use common forms and only teach techniques that you consider fair game.  

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When I was a younger potter, many of my peers were concerned with their ideas being appropriated. I think this may be a condition of being 'in the field' rather than being 'of the field.' After some years of making, one becomes more dedicated to clay as a field to be perpetuated, preserved as well as added to, knowledge to be passed on and shared.

 

I had a friend who kept his unusual way of decorating to himself until he died. Wish he were here to see that several, perhaps many, potters came upon the same idea on their own. There have been many documented instances in science of near simultaneous new discoveries.

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I submit the following, as evidence that if we aren't copying, there is at least someone out there who thinks like us.  You'll see there is a definite theme here.   

 

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/97601516900646693/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/103934703869890247/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/412431278351067833/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/255368241344576035/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/249738741808377405/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/264516178083674426/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/426856870906675250/

 

This does not mean each is a copy.  But, let's just say that I spent a few hours last weekend making mugs with teabag themes, and I am not surprised that a quick search of pinterest turned up a similar theme.  Even if my specific inspiration was a print. And my decoration doesn't actually look very much like these examples.  Or, the original print for that matter. 

 

Brandon Sanderson had a character say something interesting about what talent people value most in one of his books: "Given two works of artistic majesty, otherwise weighted equally, [and created independently] we give greater acclaim to the one who did it first.  It doesn't matter that you create.  It matters what you create before anyone else." The cynical character goes on to say that novelty is the talent people value the most. 

 

Do we copy?  Maybe a better question is: does it matter? What value will our pottery have if it is a copy of someone else? You can't copy novelty.  

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If I know someone who wants a teabag mug, I'll make them one. But it will be MY teabag mug, even if it's done with a Sharpie!

Will I throw, carve, bisque, glaze, fire a teabag mug? Well, maybe I won't sign it.

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Well I think anyone actually coping work knows it and likely knows they shouldn't. Bugs me when a potter cops a type of pottery as theirs then gets upset if someone else does as well. Literally they think because they copied it first in their area it's now their exclusive domain.

 

One other thing that really bugs me is when a potter does a tutorial and then later complains that folks are using and selling the output from the tutorial. That is absurd beyond words. When doing a tutorial only use common forms and only teach techniques that you consider fair game.  

That is a very interesting comment.  Yes I look at numerous tutorials and very often copy the method they used.  But I never copy the piece exactly. Usually I will incorporate ideas I pick up from several different artists in a way that I think complements both of them yet does not create an end piece which strongly resembles either of the artists. 

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I agree and when it comes to a theme like having a picture of a tea bag on a tea cup or a bird on a rims and such I think these are so common as it not remotely coping unless its an exact match and even then it very likely is just a coincidence like you said. Pottery has been around for eons and very few of anyone's ideas are going to be original.

 

It seems to me Dennis's approach is the proper way to approach being inspired in general but I think a tutorial should be completely open game and folks should not do tutorials on protected processes or forms. Your just setting yourself up because the vast majority of people doing your tutorial would be shocked to find out that you expect them to then not use the output in any way they see fit.

 

I'm not talking about demonstrations, obviously no one should copy your demonstration but tutorials should be fair game and folks giving them should be encouraging and nurturing about people doing their tutorials and learning and helping them add something to their arsenal of forms should be your goal. If you are doing a tutorial then I think it should be for the right reasons and that's to help new artist develop.

 

For the record I haven't done any tutorials. I do watch videos but haven't done ones that takes a particular piece all the way through a process and I doubt I would do so and then add an exact whatever it was to items for sale but I can certainly see how a potter would feel its OK. A lot of forms in tutorials are so basic it would be pretty damned hard to make many changes.

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A most excellent question!

 

My feeling is this:

 

All of us absorb things from the world around us, sights, sounds, smells, textures, etc. As artists our job is to percolate those things and release them back into the world in a way that shows our own creative interpretation of it all.

 

I think directly copying someone's work in order to sell it yourself is wrong. I go out of my way to bring my own vision to the pieces that I make. If I see one of the local potters making certain shapes or forms at our local art center gallery I tend to go the opposite way so as to not to copy their work in any way. They need to make a living and so do I if we all make the same stuff we only hurt ourselves.

 

I am currently teaching a series of classes on design for pottery. I show them how to make a simple form, plate, box, vase, etc. But the focus is on putting designs and artwork on their pieces. I created the class series because I get told all the time by other potters oh I can't put an image or design on my pieces I'm not an ARTIST. So I designed a series of classes to show potters that yes they too are capable of putting images and designs on their pots. I stress using their own sketches (not likely), photos and copyright free images.

 

I got asked during the first class aren't you worried that teaching us how to do this is going to affect your sales? I told them no becasue each of us has a different things that we are attracted to. I like boxes, pugs and pastel colors, you might like bowls, frogs and bright colors how is what you do going to affect what I do? That got them to thinking about what forms and patterns they like.

 

At the end of the class I told them, I hope you all enjoyed the class and will take the techniques I have shown you and push them even further and make them your own. I really hope they do, I am in fact excited to see what they come up with on their own as they explore their new knowledge.

 

T

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