“Is it Live, or Is It Memorex?” By Lisa Pavelka


(or What Distinguishes Inspiration from Copying? – For those younger than 40!)

An often-argued creative concept found in all artistic disciplines, is what distinguishes copying from inspiration? It’s a controversial and complicated issue with a lot of gray areas. For what it’s worth, I offer my take on the subject in the article that follows, hoping to give an insight on what I believe are the origins of inspiration.

Where would the art world be if Monet, who is credited as being the father of Impressionism, railed against his contemporaries (including Cézanne, Degas, Renoir) who followed in his footsteps, embracing this new way of interpreting subjects for their work?

Image 2As an artist, I don’t believe that something comes out of nothing. Everything I create is inspired by something; even when I’m not conscious of the origins of the inspiration. If I carefully consider some of my creations, I can recall something that has a hand in my designs and techniques. Perhaps the waves of the ocean, a sunset, or the pattern on a hotel curtain had a role in a creation. Only ego can drive the need to demand a work is truly and purely original.

Image 3That isn’t to say that the fine line between copying and being inspired isn’t easily crossed. As an artist who also teaches, this is a shaky area for many. Personally, do not dictate that once a student has compensated me for my knowledge and shared skill, that they are forbidden from putting the technique or design concepts into practice. That isn’t a universally accepted concept. I hear from my students, over and over again, experiences in which teachers told them they cannot use design concepts or techniques learned in their classes if incorporated in anything they teach or sell. I feel that if a student has paid to learn from me for my time and knowledge, they should be able to duplicate what I taught them for any use they deem acceptable. I do expect that they won’t take undue credit that it’s something they originated or won’t reprint or plagiarize any written material I hand out. Also, I’m careful to credit others when using techniques that I didn’t originate. If I don’t know who to credit, I am still careful to make it clear that I don’t deserve credit for concepts that I didn’t develop.

Image 11My hope is that those who copy what I teach, do so primarily as a means of mastering what they learned. Ideally, whether for fun or profit, students will go on to modify what they learned from me and modify it to bring their own voice and vision to their creations. Regardless, if I’m not ready to have others use what I develop, I shouldn’t put it out there; least of all receive compensation for teaching what I’ve come up with. A common technique used universally in the medium of polymer clay, is the “Skinner Blend.” This is the method for creating gradient blends with two or more colors of polymer clay, developed by Judith Skinner. It is one of the most widely used techniques in polymer clay. It has also been widely modified by myself, and others into more advanced polymer clay effects and techniques. As in the case of Monet, where would polymer clay be if Ms. Skinner, forbade anyone from using her blending method professionally or commercially?

I look, not only to nature, the imagination (which is feed by countless stimuli each day that accumulates over a lifetime) for ideas, but I also find inspiration in the work of others. I find it both within and outside of my chosen mediums. My goal is never to copy, but to create something that is “original” in as far as I use a shape, color scheme, or design concept I create. I don’t want my work to look like an imitation of someone else’s. I don’t think any true artist does.

Image 10Creativity is a slippery slope and ideas don’t occur in a vacuum. This concept is worth repeating if you’re an artist who has ever struggled with the feeling that your creativity has been copied. Ideas don’t occur in a vacuum! On more than one occasion I have experienced or had other artists share the phenomenon of learning that someone else was is doing the same technique or design concept that I (or they) “created.” This is disconcerting when it occurs before I have shared my designs and techniques publicly – in a show, on the Internet, for sale, publication or classes. It can be very humbling to realize that another person has simultaneously or even preceded you in discovered the same “new” technique/design concept as you have.

There is a theory called the “Hundredth Monkey Effect.” It explains that the same idea can mysteriously occur in multiple locations without a direct correlation between them two. There are several websites and even books devoted to this concept. Read it more at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundredth_monkey_effect Clinging too tightly to the ownership of an idea is a dangerous thing and can result in a great deal of personal unhappiness. Who among us doesn’t wish to be recognized for their creative innovation? Making this important to yourself as an artist, robs you of your higher purpose to create and can hold you back from personal and professional growth.

Image 12I’ve even been on the receiving end of being accused of taking credit for someone else’s concepts only to find myself having to prove that I developed, introduced or used a design/technique before the accuser. In some cases, it was clear that they didn’t copy me, but it can be uncomfortable to have to defend your work. Having been on both sides of this experience, the oddest example for me was hearing someone I had just met tell me about a friend who told her about a profound artistic experience at an adjacent tradeshow to the one she was working at. Coincidently, I happened to know the same artist personally as a friendly acquaintance. Both of us were demonstrating for the same company, at the tradeshow at the time of this occurrence.

What a shock it was to hear the story retold as it had happened, only it had happened to me! While on a break, I went to the other trade show with a friend. People stopped me to admire work I was wearing. I made it with a new technique I had developed. They though it was a completely different medium and not the one I was using to replicate the look. I went back to the booth where I was working and shared how my “faux’ technique fooled many people at the other show. I shared this story with a group of eight people.

Image 14This group included the artist who then went on to tell my story as her own. Later, I saw another artist credit her for the technique in a magazine article. If you’re wondering how I handled it, I decided to let it go. I concentrated instead on developing the technique to take in new and exciting directions. Having done otherwise might have had a crippling effect on my creative ability. My energy was best spent in moving forward in my work and not feeling the need to salve my ego over setting the story straight. This person has to live with their lie, knowing they need the credit belonging to someone else to feel accomplished.

Image 13Of course, this is different from when your design concepts are copied and sold for profit in an arena in which you compete for your livelihood. Companies like Wal-Mart and Target have found themselves on the loosing end of lawsuits where they had taken the designs of independent artists, culled from buyers attending shows and had them reproduced – en mass – without the permission of the artist.

I’ve heard it said that sites like Etsy and Pinterest are nothing more than idea factories for other artists. If I have a problem with anyone using my techniques or design concepts for themselves, then I should not be putting it out there to begin with, knowing that in all likelihood, I’ll never be credited or profit from my concepts. Success as an artist for me is acknowledging that my “original” ideas all have their beginnings in something, but for me, it’s important that something is merely and influence and not a mold for me to duplicate.

Image Credits: All images by Lisa Pavelka, copyright to the artist.

Inspiration Credit for Lisa’s art:
Image #1- Inspired by Karl Faberge
Image #2 – Inspired by Karl Faberge
Image #3 – Inspired by 1960s Optical Pop Art
Image #4- Inspired by Dichroic Glass and Ocean Waves
Image #5 – Inspired by Mardi Gras
Image #6- Inspired by William Morris
Image #7- Inspired by Periscopes

12417893_10208843026693269_1781609695090555594_nLisa Pavelka, a Colorado native who now resides in Las Vegas.  She is an award winning artist, designer and author. Although she is well versed in several mediums, she is best known for her polymer clay expertise. Having worked with the medium professionally since 1989, she has focused her creative energies in taking polymer clay in new directions; especially in the areas of mixed media applications.

As a polymer clay pioneer, Lisa has tackled everything from jewelry making and home décor to scrapbooking and altered arts to name a few. She has shown the crafting world there is almost nothing that can’t be done with polymer clay, whether it’s coming up with new techniques or covering the back of a van.

Lisa is author of three books including the award winning best seller: Polymer Clay Extravaganza (North Light Books), and DVDs—Gifts from the Heart & Hand (Page Sage) and Claying Around with Lisa Pavelka(2007).

Finding My Lost Creative Mojo in Time to Help Relief Efforts in Fort McMurray

EtsyAwards_Productslide_CountrySharing news about my own work feels very strange to me. I’d share this story in a heartbeat if it was about another artist. But I’m biting the bullet and sharing a story for my local paper. I now understand that people are sincere when they say “It is an honour to be nominated”. It really is an honour! I joined Etsy in March and applied for their “New Talent” award. I’m one of 60 Canadians in the contest.

Since the demise of our magazine “Metal Clay Artist” I lost my creative mojo. I floundered in my studio not really doing much more than organizing my supplies. That was until my friend, Alabama artist Kathleen Nowak Tucci quite literally kicked me in the butt! She invited me for a visit and had planned activities to spark my lost creative mojo. Etching aluminum caught my attention. I started by etching images my kids drew and I was hooked. Of course metal clay will work it’s way back into my jewellery line…I have ideas to pair etched aluminum components with metal clay pieces. But that’s going on in the background in my studio. Right now I’m trying to establish a business with my etched jewellery.

Metal Clay Artist Magazine had subscribers from all over the world…including subscribers in Fort McMurray, Alberta. I went through our list and tried to contact some of them to see how they were after the huge forest fire that took over their city. I actually found a few who had the same cell phone number as they had when they signed up for the magazine. They were happy to chat. At the same time that I was reaching out to artists, I found out I was in the running  for a $10,000 prize…but it is a “vote for me” contest. I’m currently in 7th place out of 60. I could win it if I had help. And in turn, I could help with relief efforts in Fort McMurray. Many of you know first hand how rocky things were here after the magazine business collapsed. Your generosity and that of my friend Kathleen are inspiring me to shamelessly promote the Etsy contest as I’d like to “Pay it forward” with the prize. So please… “vote for me”.  https://etsyawards.com/ca/Finalist-33/SassyandStella

fireFor background information on the situation in Fort McMurray, Alberta Canada: 1. http://globalnews.ca/news/2679437/fort-mcmurray-wildfire-pet-owners-desperate-to-save-animals-left-behind/

2.http://edmontonjournal.com/business/local-business/insurance-losses-from-fort-mcmurray-fire-could-top-9-billion-analyst-says

Local Artist Wants to Help Fort McMurray Relief Effort as She Competes for $10,000 Prize

Froese LeBlancJeannette Froese-LeBlanc is thrilled to be one of 10 Canadian finalists in the New Talent division and she is eligible for the “Community’s Choice Grand Prize” with a cash prize of $10,000. Voting is taking place online via: EtsyAwards.com in the “Canadian New Talent” division. As her votes come in, Jeannette is dreaming of ways she could use the prize to help with relief efforts in Fort McMurray.

For the past seven years Jeannette promoted the work of other jewellery artists in a magazine she produced called, “Metal Clay Artist”. It was distributed in 67 countries and it was a growing business. “Technology made it possible for 8 people to work in 3 different time zones! It was marvelous! Our editors and designers were located in Canada, the UK, and the USA. Unfortunately, our distributor declared bankruptcy and took ours and many other print magazines down with them. We’ve moved online thanks to our fabulous artistic community and site sponsors.” The new site for jewellery artists is called Creative Fire.

“After mourning the loss of the magazine for about a year, I slowly started to get back into my studio. But I wasn’t going anywhere with my work. A good friend of mine from Alabama invited me to her studio and taught me some techniques for etching aluminum. I haven’t stopped working in my studio since” remarks Jeannette. “It’s funny how even our creative muscles can suffer and get out of shape!”

Prior to starting a magazine, Jeannette was an artist and a school art teacher. “For years I worked in silver and metal clay. But aluminum has changed how I work and how I view patterns. The process takes many steps from setting up the image on my computer to masking the metal, etching, cleaning and polishing. Each step is very different and seeing the pattern evolve is very interesting and often leads me to new ideas.”

When asked why she named her studio “Sassy and Stella” she says, “I know online well as I’ve visited hundreds and hundreds of artists’ sites over the years. But I also knew no one ever spelled my name right so I needed a simple online address. Everything I wanted was taken. I spent weeks trying new names. I asked everyone I knew for suggestions and was just about to give up when my friend’s rescue dog “Sassy” came in the room…followed by her other dog “Stella”. On a whim, I tried their names for an online shop and ‘bingo’ I could get an online site! I think the name really works for my jewellery line, plus, Sassy and Stella are two very cool rescue dogs!”

“Winning this prize could certainly be a game changer for me!” said Jeannette. “There are things I dream of for my studio work that are out of my reach. But instead I want to help someone else. My friend in Alabama was generous in so many ways and I would like to pay it forward. I have so many ideas of how I think $10 000 could help others. I named my studio after two rescued stray dogs…so I think it is quite fitting that I find a way to help some of the animal shelters in Fort McMurray. Many people had to leave quickly and some couldn’t make it home to find their pets. Some pets ran away. Others had to let their farm animals loose as there was not enough time to transport them. I can only imagine how tight resources are in that city to help animals. The prize money could go to some shelters to meet their immediate needs.”

“I also know that there are artists in Fort McMurray are who will be affected by the down time for their businesses as the city recovers. I recently talked to a jewellery artist from the area about getting art supplies in the hands of artists, art students and teachers and hiring them to give free art lessons.  A lot of the area children could benefit from art therapy.  Creativity helps with stress and depression and there is a lot of healing to happen in the Fort McMurray area. This prize money could do a lot of good there.”

etsy finalist sassy and stella dot comTo vote for Jeannette Froese-LeBlanc: https://etsyawards.com/ca/Finalist-33/SassyandStella

Hot Topic: Copy-Cats

copycat
Image credit: www.mostlychelsea.com
cop·y·cat
ˈkäpēˌkat/
noun: copy-cat
-(especially in children’s use) a person who copies another’s behavior, dress, or ideas
-denoting an action, typically a crime, carried out in imitation of another.

Exciting New Tool for Metal Clay Students and Teachers

13116516_10153627138506636_1460845564940822998_oaSo often, we are asked if we know of a metal clay teacher in a certain area. All too often, the answer is “no, we don’t.” When this happens, it’s not necessarily because there isn’t a skilled teacher in the area. Instead, there hasn’t been any easy way to keep track of metal clay teachers in many years. Thanks to a joint project between Creative Fire and PMC Connection, metal clay students and teachers now have a much easier way to find each other.

The teacher map on the PMCC site is based on a past project by PMCC president Jennifer Roberts and designer Scott Benton of Cmpreshn, Inc. During the Summer of 2014, Roberts was a member of the Dallas Animal Shelter Commission. Looking for a way to help convince the Dallas City Council to give more money to the shelter, she sought Benton’s help to find a way to prove to the council members that people all over the city used the shelter services more than the council believed. The map at fund- das.org was born and the pair were able to collect and present valuable data to the Dallas City Council about the location of DAS customers and the shelter services they relied on.

“We talked at the time about finding a way to adapt the technology to help put metal clay teachers and students together,” Roberts explained, “but we knew that the teacher map would need some added functionality to really be useful to students looking for teachers.” The new map combines the intuitive map interface of the fund-das site and also allows teachers to list contact information, website addresses, skills taught, certifications and other information. It can also be navigated in a number of ways. Benton, the architect of the map, described one of its key benefits. “Gone are the days of slogging through a list of teachers by state and looking for your city. With our map, you can search by zip code or navigate by using the hand tool and zooming in and out.”

There is an added bonus for teachers, who can list up to five locations. “We know that many teachers work from a home base, but also travel to teach.” By creating one main teacher profile and allowing teachers to list up to five locations within that profile, we can send potential students directly to the resources for those classes away from home. With the ability to edit and delete locations, teachers let students know exactly when and where they will be teaching.

Creating a profile is easy. Head to PMC Connection and get on the map today!

 

Are You Covered? Talking Insurance for Artists By Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

index1So as Monday’s go, today has pretty well lived up to the reputation of a Monday.  I innocently called the insurance company we’ve been with for 16 years about insurance needed for a craft show….and after an hour’s worth of questions about the shingles on our roof and the equipment I had in my studio…(I have a sewing machine, a sander/grinder and a 5 amp kiln)…my home insurance coverage was cancelled.  Awesome.  Why put me though all those questions only to cancel my policy? Was she just curious?  Maybe the agent I was on the phone with wanted to start her own home jewellery making business?

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Sample of one of the pieces of equipment used in my “manufacturing business”.

I’m sharing my story as it may serve as a reminder to check into your own insurance coverage.  Asking about coverage for a show–a show I may or may not get into–led me down the worm hole of studio insurance.

In retrospect, the questions I consider to be quite silly about my “manufacturing equipment” have made me realize that I was not insured by the right company.  We assumed going with a company that bore the same name as our bank, meant that it was part of the bank.  I’ve since learned that it is a company “associated” with my bank.  And while we saved money going with a large insurance company, we were a number and they were unknown to us. Continue reading…

Showing Up and Playing By Catherine Davies Paetz

JustShowUp_ChristinaRosalie1The other day I was at Trader Joe’s, checking out with my bags in hand. The cashier asked if I wanted to enter a drawing to win a gift card–a “reward” for bringing my own bags (as if saving our planet isn’t reward enough, but that’s another story). I almost said no, because I fill out a ticket every time and I haven’t won yet. But then I thought about the saying, “You can’t win if you don’t play,” which I often use to encourage people who ask about entering a show or submitting work to a book or event. So I filled out the ticket again.

That experience got me thinking more about entering, submitting, and the whole jury process for artists. Woody Allen said, “80% of success is showing up.” I think that goes hand in hand with “You can’t win if you don’t play.” Many people don’t even try to submit work because they don’t think their work will be accepted, or they fear rejection. But in order to have any chance of being accepted, you have to show up and play. Continue reading…

With These Hands by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

 

I make jewellery.  No wait.  I MAKE jewellery.  workingThese days my hands are never clean looking. Normally I don’t really care what my hands and nails look like. But recently while out to dinner with some friends I felt like the “one of these things doesn’t belong.”  Each of my friends had such nice nails.  Nicely painted nails, clean hands.  We were sharing sushi so I felt the need to announce that my hands were in fact “clean”.   As I said the words, I realized that I wasn’t ashamed.  The public announcement was to put the other diners at ease.  I am actually very proud of my raggedy nails and the permanent black stains.  To me it is a sign that I am working in my studio.  I am making jewellery. Continue reading…

The Bird Who Won’t Go Away by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

 

P1230866In my opinion there are energies and forces all around.  To declare that we are separate from nature or that spirits don’t exist is to close yourself off from the wonderful vibrations of life all around.  A few years ago I learned about “spirit animals” from a jewellery artist.  I thought it was a fascinating idea.  I didn’t discount it, but I really didn’t understand it either.

Well that was until I started to have a bird follow me around for the past year.  My new friend is a great blue heron.  I started to see one every day last spring.  And in some form or another…I see a heron nearly every day.  When the first heron showed up, I was still mourning the loss of the magazine my husband and I published.  I missed the daily contact with editors, writers and contributing artists. After spending six years working on a business that was lost, not due to any errors I made, I was devastated.  The carpet was literally pulled out from under me.  I feared for our house, our finances and my family.  Our readers rallied and through contests and fundraisers they helped us recover most of our personal loss.  They saved our family. I started this site (Creative Fire) as a way to say thank you back to our community.  But I was lost.

heron logo stamp I used to be an artist.  With two little kids and the magazine, my studio was neglected.  Even without the magazine I found it really hard to get back into my studio and to get back to work.  Stresses and distractions crept into my life and making jewellery became less important.  To help me get out of this rut, a dear artist friend invited me to visit.  After making jewellery with her and enjoying some wonderful sunsets on her front deck–I declared out loud one evening that I would make jewellery.  I knew it was a long shot to make a living at art.  I had been there before.  But I was in love with the etching process she had taught me.  Ideas buzzed in my head.  I couldn’t wait to take some of my children’s drawings and to etch them into jewellery.  “Maybe that would be my new line.  Maybe I’d get back into my studio and work.”  Just then a huge heron flew inches from us making the most awful heron croaking sound.  Every day for months I saw a heron.  It didn’t matter what town or even what country I was in…I saw a heron.  Even in winter I’d see a a heron on bumper sticker or a photo online or in a magazine…every few days I’d see a heron.  Usually just when I ready to fall off the path to starting up my studio again.  It was almost a reminder to keep going.  Out of curiosity I looked up spirit birds and learned that herons show up when your life if out of balance. They remind us to follow our heart and to be determined.

Well I’m determined!  My new line is called “Sassy and Stella”.  (If you would like the back story on why I named my studio after two stray dogs from Alabama, click here.) I have a long way to go and a lot to learn about running a full-time jewellery studio business, but I’m excited at the possibilities!

Are you curious about your spirit bird?  Here is a simple chart.

Photo Credit: Heron on a beach in Florida, USA by Sandy Bowman.
Heron drawing: Sea Martini

sassyAnother of my animal friends, Sassy the dog from Alabama.

P.S. Thank you Kathleen!

 

SPEAKING IN TONGUES by Jennifer Roberts with Scott Benton and Mark Roberts

 

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NO MATTER WHAT YOUR BUSINESS, at some point you will likely have to engage a professional to help you with something. Traditionally, this has meant accountants and lawyers for most. In the past ten years, we’ve added design and technical professionals who help us create websites, manage social media, and conduct e-commerce. Continue reading…

Thinking of Selling Your Work Online?

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At some point, every jewellery artist wonders where they should sell their work. Several of my artist friends sell their work in big shows, with big travel and booth costs. But their work is at that level. Collectors all over the world love and buy their jewellery. I’m not at that level! I dream of that level.

Right now, I’m thinking that I’m making a big step to put my work online! After years of promoting the work of other artists through Metal Clay Artist Magazine…I somehow stopped making my own jewellery. Editing and publishing an independent magazine that was available on newsstands world wide was a big job. We had a great team and did an excellent job. But I put my “all” into the magazine, all the time. My studio gathered dust, then it gathered junk. I reclaimed it this past summer. I started to make some jewellery! Continue reading…