April 27, 2009

Product Playtime: Open Inspiration

I wanted to write some more about finding inspiration in the works of other artists, and how to use that inspiration ethically without copying. I once wrote a post about simultaneous inspiration, and how it often happens with my friends and fellow beadmakers Gaea, Diane, and I with our beadmaking. So I felt like I was repeating myself about how artists work with trends and sometimes come up with similar ideas, and how the exciting and challenging part of art is how to take these trends and ideas and things that inspire you, and use your own voice to express them. I still hope to write a bit about *how* do do that, but it is hard for me to put into words. It's a rather intuitive process for me; one that I have engaged in for years, so it is a challenge to actually describe it. I shall continue to try.

Anyway, while I was pondering this subject, I found myself inspired by another jewelry designer who was working on the same blogger outreach program with me, using the new Brown Lava beads from Rings and Things. While I was working with my own Puffed Square Lava beads, I recalled a pair of earrings I saw on Margot Potter's blog, using the same beads. I loved the way she wrapped the contrasting silver wire around the beads. As I was trying to figure out a way to attach my beads to the faux suede cords on my necklace shown above, I remembered the wrapping and decided it might be a good solution for me too! While the technique is similar, and the inspiration was certainly from what I saw Margot do, I think that my application of it turned it into something entirely different. Margot wrote about a creative process that she compares to musicians "riffing" off of each other in the great post she wrote about copyrights and copycats. While I cannot speak for her, obviously, to me this is an example of what she was describing. I saw something, took note of it, was inspired by it, and figured out how to use it in my own way, creating something both new and inspired by someone else. I try to acknowledge these bits and pieces that inspire me, and the sources, whenever I can. And I think that constantly adding new inspirations and mixing them up in my own way is what has helped me create and evolve my style over the years.

By the way, I fired some more of the keyhole pendants shown in the necklace above, in some new colors, and listed them in the Etsy shop. Gave them a new name too, Openwork Escutcheons, just to be fancy. Please visit the Earthenwood Etsy shop to see them.


  1. Wonderful post - inspiration is an important distinction to make.

    Also *love* that necklace!

  2. Gorgeous design and perfectly stated! Thanks so much for joining in inspiring and enlightening folks about design and internet etiquette.

    I love the new keyhole beads! I have a small collection of rusty keyholes, I find them so intriguing. As if they're portals to possibilities.

  3. Lovely Post! I love the simultaneous inspiration post as well.
    I have a friend and jewelry designer, who though we make different components, mine ceramic, hers sea glass, we sometimes pick up the same finding or stringing material and put it to similar unconventional uses. Then when we meet up once or twice a year and see eachother's work we decide great minds think alike!

  4. Those fancy key holes are awesome!

  5. It's dangerous for me to read your blog, Melanie, because I _want_ all the stuff you make. Many compliments on the Openwork Escutcheons! I enjoy how you've got a visual vocabulary of your own. It's worked out so completely that I'm sure I would spot one of your creations in any crowd. (Last but not least, your wrapping the lava onto suede is sure a neat wrinkle.) :)

    (@Rings_Things on Twitter)

  6. found your site through @Rings_Things tweet! very awesome work!


    (@dani29 on twitter)

  7. I feel much the same and have been thinking about the issue of inspiration related to other artists lately. I have been talking about it with a couple artists too. I myself am so often inspired by the very very talented jewelry artists i see here on the net, but always use the inspiration as a jumping off point from which to create my piece, not as a final destination. It is important to have your own voice in your pieces.