Thursday, June 24, 2010

My latest project needs your input

I have given a lot of thought to this post. After all, this project has been over a year in the making. However, the angst I am feeling about the project is one I would like for you to share your input. So, if you have never commented before, or if you are a lurker, please take a minute to let me know how you feel. Loyal commenters, I know you will give sage advice.

Back in the summer of 2008, there was an article on Green Collages (pages 54-5) in Somerset Studio Gallery magazine. My friend Kathy gives me her old issues after she takes out the articles she wants, and this one got my attention. If you read my blog at all, you know I am a "green" crafter.

Well, this wasn't exactly the green I thought it was, yet it was. These are wall hangings, but the gist of the project was to find what you have around the house and SEW it to a paper substrate. Just because the end products were green, was an added hook to sell the article, I'm sure. Tags, postage stamps, bingo and flash cards, rubber stamping, all got sewn together. The idea was to take what you have, turn it into mini collages, sew them together, and make a bigger piece without using any glue. I fell in love with this idea.

Next, a few things happened that I documented on my blog and a few I didn't document.

On September 21, 2008, I received a HUGE box of postcards. I kept thinking these might be useful in that sewing project. Of course, I put the box aside, waiting for inspiration.

In August of 2009, I started making a few elements for Christmas quiltlets. All were sewn. Paper sewn to paper to paper.

On October 5, 2009, I showed a few of the elements I had made using the technique from the magazine. You can see I have made quite a few elements using old Christmas postage stamps as the focal point. All were sewn.

On October 14, I showed some things I was working on, using old Christmas cards and book pages sewn to felted sweaters I picked up at the thrift store and felted.

Also, around Oct 14, I started making Christmas quiltlets using those same elements, but I was never pleased with the composition. I continued to sew these quiltlets, but never posted them. By this time, Christmas had come and gone, and I was making the elements and such for Christmas, 2010. By putting these aside, I was hoping I would like them better as they grew on me. Needless to say, I've reworked this one and it is now gone. I had to include a lot of layers, but that was an added bonus.

In December, 2009, we UHU Gluers learned that the contract might not be renewed between Saunders and the people running the blog and passing out samples. Even though we are still listed on the official web site, have never been told otherwise, I see it is down for maintenance and we have had no contact with the company. So, even though Saunders has not contacted any of us, it's pretty clear, we no longer will be Gluers, or privy to their glues. So sewing was a viable way to make projects without buying a lot of glue.

On May 5 I showed (above) what I had also been working on (mostly off, but sometimes on) that incorporated all those scraps I've been saving without using any glue.

I even began using the same technique to be included in my Hands AB. I documented this first on May 19.

Having said and done all this, I learned about a class that was being taught called Remains of the Day by Mary Ann Moss. I swear, I had no idea this was even going on until I saw a sidebar icon one day on Brian's blog. I clicked through and was surprised to learn that what I originally thought was a concept I stumbled on myself, after getting there circuitously from the magazine article, was something someone was actually teaching. Now I had no idea this class was being taught, nor had I heard of the woman until it was too late to turn back from these things I was making.

Over the next few days or weeks, I want to show one set of signatures each day that I have made for friends birthdays. I am not trying to copy or infringe on anyone, even though it appears I am making a similar project. Mine differs considerably though, because I have NOT YET made a single cover for these book signatures that I hope to have finished sometime this week.

So, what are your thoughts about this predicament I find myself in? How would you feel in a similar situation? Is the way we get to a completed project more or less important? Does learning someone else is out there selling a product/service that you thought you had come up with make you feel like a fraud? Do you feel that you have "stolen" their idea when you learn they are teaching it? Please give me some input here. I don't ever want anyone to think I "stole" or even borrowed their idea.

BTW, I am still making these and hope to have an actual finished one soon. At least all the signatures are made. Now for the covers.

Today's blog of choice is a website called Toxel. Each day this site features something incredible from around the world. You might read about some pretty awesome bookcases one day, and an entire apartment and car made from paper, another day. Each post expands to its own page and more photos, so if you ever get bored, just pop on over there and you'll find yourself having conversations with people you don't even know. Yep, it's a great and informative site.

Please don't forget to help with my dilemma today. Your thoughts are very important to me.

24 thoughtful remarks:

MosaicMagpie said...

I have heard the phrase there are no new ideas, only old ideas that are reworked. I am sure if you tried to duplicate the other artist's work it would still look as if you had completed it. Every one see things in their own way. Color combinations, stich patterns, thread choices, and image placement will all factor into a personal creation that is truly unique.

Liverpool Lou (Anne) said...

Hi Elizabeth, I understand how you feel but these things do happen, people have the same ideas round the same time. I do know it's happened with more momentous discoveries and/or inventions though I can't think of any specifically right now! You must carry on with what you are doing and I think put a little note on your blog that all these creations are your own. I don't think that's totally necessary but it may make you feel better.
I mean I actually invented the Craft Robo you know! Well I had this idea some time ago that it would be great if you could get a machine to cut out any shape you wanted out of paper or card but not being an engineer I wouldn't know how to go about it but was sure someone would. It had already been invented by then but I hadn't heard of it :-/ So there you go!
Anne xx

Jennifer Pearson Vanier said...

Just because you see it in a magazine does not mean by any stretch that the person being featured is necessarily to "originator" of that idea. It really just means she or he has put themselves out there and the right people have noticed that work and published it. I have an extremely gifted friend who turns everything she touches to pure creative gold. she has never been published nor cares to be.However, there are lots of articles featuring work that could be considered similar to hers. She creates art quilts to die for. She doesn't "copy" anyone. she doesn't "follow" patterns either. She might, as we all might see something that triggers our own creative journey, and may use techniques that other's use etc. If you read enough craft/art magazines long enough you will readily realise that regionally trends ebb and flow at different rates. All that really changes are the shapes and colours. Occasionally you pick up a new idea or tip, as we all should to bring to our own creative table. Unless you are trying to "copy" someone else's work, I think most of the time the elements will be different as well as the ultimate feel of the finishes product. Just Mary Engelbriet is known for her cute pictures and signature checkered borders years ago, doesn't mean we cannot use a checkered border on anything we make. Keep creating and be proud of your work. There is so much giftedness out there that we never even get to see. It's great that there are resources to share the work of other artists but , essentially gluing, cutting, sewing and creating are personal outlets we all bring our unique voice to. Being conscious of other's people's work is good and respecting their own voice is important too but we shouldn't over-think to the point that we cannot create ourselves.
After all, at any given Christmas sale around north America, you will see repeated crafts that have been "borrowed" from various national craft magazines. You will notice that not all crafters are created equal and each piece has its own voice. Also something so popular in one area may not even be known in another and then someone "discovers" it, brings it home, shares it and voila! A new trend.

Tess said...

Go for it hon, what you create with your hands and your mind is uniquely yours e ven if it seems to be something someone else is doing. If you want to be sure you do not feel like you are copying Don't take the class you spoke of. If you want to learn how to make the book covers, anothers idea, take the class. What she teachs may not even be anything like what you are doing except for the sewing. Go for it and have fun. I got the idea for my word weaves from an old somerset studio magazine from years back. A new technique learned and I had fun doing it. I say keep at it and I can't wait for you to show us more of YOUR creations.

La Dolce Vita said...

oh I had this same problem with a swap that I am doing with a friend! I used a doll hand on the front of the box, since my project was called ladys hand... implying her writing and sewing work, it looked so much like Seth's work that I finally took it off and had to approach it in a different manner.
I think that sewing is so big right now and you should do whatever you want, great minds think alike and I happen to believe that we all share those brainwaves! great documentation... btw! but you don't need it those of us that know you know you would never copy!! xoxox

Chris said...

We all interpret 'ideas' in a unique and original way and no one could ever copyright an idea!!
That said it is difficult sometimes when you create something and it seems really similar to someone else's work. The key word I think is 'similar'. I mean I could draw a frog... n you could draw a frog... each on the same day but each different.... does that mean either of us copied of the other ???

I think you should just go with the flow and not worry too much... create your art you way and enjoy doing it and sharing hun.


Chris xx

Christy said...

If you went about recreating page after page with all the same or similar papers and colors and composition as Mary Ann then I think it would be a problem. Sewing pages together is not new. Creating books is not new either. I do not think Mary Ann would consider your project to be a conflict with the course she is teaching. If so let me know because I know of a few other artists who have been making these types of books for quite some time and some before Mary Ann started her class.

I think Mary Ann's class is something you take when A) You want to learn specifically what she does or (and the more likely) B) You are a fan of her art and you want to take a class from someone you admire. And of course C) You see this type of project, like it, but have no idea how to go about making one so you take a class like Mary Ann's to get all of the ideas and insights that she provides.

My guess is you are in the clear here.

Roberta said...

Just wanted to let you know that Mary Ann Moss started teaching her on line classes in stenciling and she started teaching her sewn journals after many of us (her students) asked about her journals that she was making for her trips abroad with her sister. MAM was blogging about these journals that she was making on her blog so she decided to make a class out of her technique. She doesn't claim to be the end all for her sewn journal technique and if you take her class she encourages her students to sell their journals on their blogs or etsy stores. She EVEN advertises on her personal blog (Dispatch from LA) if you notify her that you have some up in her shop. SO do not feel like you are in any way infringing on anyone's design concept. Another collage artist, Patty Van Dorin (River Bend Ranch)also offers her version of a sewn journal on-line course, using a caledar and has an on-line class as well. Patty is also a very generous art journalist and doesn't claim the technique...she also offers instructions to her version of making a sewn art journal as well as one using security envelopes which is another popular green technique that both women like to use.

So I guess I guess I'm a bit confused as to your actual question here? Are your going to offer an on-line class and you are worried about infringing on someone else's techniques? I don't think that is an issue really unless you copied their assemblying, etc. exactly and since you haven't even put on your cover, I really don't think it is an issue. It simply sounds to me like you are assembling your own personal journal and were originally inspired by the "green" idea of using old papers and ephemera. It's almost as if you are saying that no one can use the term "collage" in our art work or journals because we didn't establish the technique. Hope this makes sense. AND I would also encourage you to take one of the classes from either Mary Ann or Patty because you will learn even more about developing your own peronal collage style. Hope this helps, fondly, Roberta

Halle said...

I'm in agreement with your other comments you've received... Just because your technique may be similar it doesn't mean that you are stealing the concept. Obviously you've been working for quite some time like you said to get to the point you are right now with the journals. Sewing paper and fabric isn't a new concept and can't be claimed by any one person as the creator of the idea. It wasn't trademarked, copyrighted etc.

Take my book purses for example. I saw one years ago and thought it was super cute. Finally last year I decided to figure out how to make my own. I certainly am not laying claim to the concept but it's not going to stop me from making them and showing them off!

Karen said...

Awe Elizabeth, I can understand how you feel my lovely. I completely agree with what my friend Chris has to say...not that I can draw a frog haha! We all learn by example and it could be that someone had the same book as you did and, over time, progressed along the same path. You carry on with what you are doing as you are unique in the way that you create your own art. Does that make any sense? HUGS XXX

rikae said...

Hi Elizabeth,
is there anything new under the sun? I don't think so.
Go ahead with your project, enjoy what you are making as it will have your style and "mark". even though someone else has a similar concept and has market it into a class.
Art evolve just like everything else, from the individual and the collective unconscious.
be happy,

FlipSyde said...

I read your blog daily, and I am ALWAYS inspired - I often star your posts because I know that I can draw inspiration from them later. I also look at numerous works of art on other websites, in books, in museums, in magasines....everywhere. I bet we all do. I don't think it makes our work plagarism, All ideas have to originate someplace, no matter if someone else has already tried it or is engaged in a similar project.
I didn't invent impasto painting - but I certainly use the technique. Im not sure that any use of an existing artistic technique is 'copy catting'.

Terri said...

I agree with all the above post. Very good points. I can't tell you how many times I have made something only to see it in a magazine later. Even my shoe project was begun because we had a similar project at Paperwhimsy. I asked the owner permission to create my own shoe template and she was fine with it. My template is different, but really, it's a shoe, so how different can it be? And for you, the same thing, it's a book, with elements sewn on a page, how unique could it be? People have been sewing books like this since I was a kid, and that has been a while!
So, that's my two cents.
And, my final advice, "go with what feels good in your heart".

Anonymous said...


I am not really anonymous.... I just can't remember my blogger log-in and password. Yes, I know, how can I get that blog up and going if I can't sign on? But, I digress....

I agree with everyone else. If you look at enough articles and books you will find things that are very similar yet VERY different because everyone's sense of composition, materials and favorite, comfortable colors and use of images is different. There's another artist named Jane Eileen Malone who does amazing things with fabric and paper and a sewing machine. Her work is uniquely her own, as is yours.

Carry on and have fun. It sure looks like fun!


Dianne said...

I asked the same question when I started blogging. The answers I got were similar to the comments here. I've heard "there are no new ideas" and agree that, no matter how similar the technique, each artist's work has their own signature style. And, after all... isn't that how we've learned since we were children, as well as those that came before us... by example?

Mar said...

with the internet covering so much ground
there is going to many overlapping persons with the same process going for them

same concepts and they might even be occuring (SP) at the same time...
i know how you mean ..feeling fraudulent about having the same bright ideas and after you thought you were about the only person utilizing the concept...only to find out someone else is either published or (now) teaching it on line...
i say do not obsess over it...

they got lucky to be at the right place the right time
figure out all the different programs necessary to offer an on line class
and congratulations to them for making it happen..
and say...
should you wish to teach this very same subject matter on line
i would say GO FOR IT!

i see so many of the exact!! same subjects being is the 'project' that is going to draw the person in
or the artist themself who someone chances to admire or wants to learn their particular twist on that particular technique

everyone does it a different way
the very same technique will be executed in 11 different fashions by 11 different artisans
so even if it looks the same
it isn't

a different substrate will be used
different methods to achieve a certain look...
on and on
process is process
what is achieved is individual...and if a person is copying outright..that person is only fooling their self...
you already know all this...and i think i transcended into a totally different subject matter...but it overlaps
bottom line
don't obsess over it and keep doing what you do...
i know you respect copyrights!
and i know you value ..original...
there is no way an individual can research each and every stroke, every texture pattern or sewn line to make sure they aren't duplicating something

i am not sure how to end my thought i am just ending...

The Polka Dot Closet said...

Imitation is the best form of flattery! If it does not have a patent or trade mark it can be used by anyone. If you don't want anyone to imitate your project, don't show it to anyone. There is only so many projects out there to think they are all new is preposterous. They are all old ideas we just add a new twist and a piece of ourselves.

Gracefully Vintage said...

Thanks for stopping by My Creative Space- You are great designer- love the layering look-and how Clever to sew the binding.. Karryann

Julia Dunnit said...

Late to the party I know....sorry. How's this for my two penny's worth:
sewing is a generic craft; what you sew to what is entirely imagination dependent. I think the fact that it hadn't occurred to you to get online and make some money from it proves my point - for this project, it's your method of choice. *whispering now - this may sound a bit contentious......quite ooften when you see any project online, you can pick it visually disect it and work out how it was done. It's not the way it was done that's being sold, it's the idea, the nerve to do it, and often, very often..a kit full of elements to use.***

Brian K said...

Elizabeth, the internet is a very large place and sometimes a very small place in deed. The same goes for art journaling. We are a relatively small nitch in the art community. I've taken Mary Ann's wonderful classes she is a wonderful teacher and I am sure even she would say "go ahead Elizabeth!" She is a wonderful teacher and she is soooo supportive and kind.

One of the things I have found about taking classes either online or in art journaling groups is that each person puts their own personal stamp on it and each person makes personal choices in a specific project and each may use the very same items and each looks totally different and new when finished. That is what I love about art journaling. The same goes for "techniques" I've seen it dozens of times, an instructor teaches a technique and every single person in the class does it differently, and individually. They turn out beautifully!

Who cares who did what first, Elizabeth, it is YOUR idea, express yourself. I find our art journaling world is very supportive and kind and wonderful! Express your wonderful self!


~*~Patty said...

20 VERY thoughtful remarks!
very well said too, couldn't agree more!

Dawn said...

Well hunny I read this long post and then I read some long answers and I think you are a complete origional. How would craft magazines sell if we were too scared to use an idea and some magazines actually give you the stuff in free to coppy a card exactly so I would say it's an idea your working wth and they are no way the same.

Look at my blog recenly I have made a shoe and several others have used the very same template but I haven't copied them or they me at all we have just started at the same place and moved with our own creativity from there.

Now I am off to check out this brians blog sounds interesting

Love Dawn xx

Dawn said...

Don't know where I got Brian from I am loosing it lol xx

Melinda Cornish said...

I wouldnt even worry about it....what you do it uniquely your own even though you got inspiration from something.....I love your journals and havent seen any that look like what you do!!!!!