Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sources of Inspiration

Artist Patsy Adams recently sent me an e-mail with photos attached of some jewelry exhibits she had visited at the British Museum in London, England. The jewelry is remarkably beautiful and contemporary in design, but was probably created between 150-500 B.C. Amazing!
Her pictures reminded me that inspiration can be found in many places, and sometimes the best place to look for it is in the artistry of those who have gone waaaaay before us.
One of the challenges that many of us who create original works of art may encounter is finding legitimate sources of inspiration for our own artwork. You know how it is: sometimes you feel very inspired and great new designs seem to flow effortlessly from your hands. All too often, however, there's just nothing in the noggin. You may scratch your head for hours, desperate for just one good idea... and out of that desperation comes the temptation to simply copy someone else.
This is not a good option, however. For one thing, copying someone else's designs is not artistically satisfying. Wearing a piece of jewelry that is a direct copy of something you saw in a store catalog or on the Internet will never make you feel good about yourself--quite the opposite. And if you make commercial gain from a copied design (by selling such jewelry, or tutorials, etc.), you make yourself vulnerable to lawsuits that can strip you of everything you own. Just defending yourself in court can cost tens of thousands of dollars, never mind the stress and wasted time.
Copying someone else's copyright-protected designs is a really, really bad idea!
So, what to do? Fortunately, there are many wonderful sources of inspiration available to us all, most of them free.
Perhaps the original source is nature itself. The next time you feel uninspired, take a walk. There are literally millions of ideas out there: colors, textures, line, form, values, and shapes. Even the urban landscape offers thousands of great ideas to jewelry artists; look for structures, connections, textures, lines, unique materials and shapes in the buildings around you. For instance, could you use cement and iron in your next jewelry design? Why not?
I recently found several ideas for bracelets and earring designs in a catalog of lighting fixtures (I kid you not); many more ideas, in fact, than I can ever utilize. I find ideas for color combinations by going through design magazines such as Veranda or House Beautiful. I do look through jewelry catalogs as well, to keep current with trends such as the popularity of certain stones (turquoise seems to go in and out of fashion) or styles such as big pendants or chandelier earrings. But I don't copy other artists--or at least, I try really, really hard not to. I don't want to repeat someone else's work, I want to create my own. When I see a great jewelry design that I wish I had come up with myself, I just tell myself that, with a little effort and creativity, I will come up with something even better.
And you know what? I always do.

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