When is it a good idea to copy someone?

The other day I posted a Picasso quote over at CraftFail that I found over at Make & Meaning, (in the article “On the Care and Feeding of Ideas” by Sean Ragan)

Remember Picasso: “When you make a thing, a thing that is new, it is so complicated making it that it is bound to be ugly. But those that make it after you, they don’t have to worry about making it. And they can make it pretty, and so everybody can like it when others make it after you.”

It was applicable to craft-failing because oftentimes our craft-fails are born out of an idea that we have never executed before. Before it can be perfect, it has to be brought into being, and often times, copied and redone until it is perfected. The first draft is usually just that… a first draft. I am usually guilty of stopping my projects at the first draft stage. I’m a novelty junkie, so I like to make something once and then move on, thereby cheating myself of all the good things that can come from repeating the process, refining it, and riffing on it.

This reminds me of this video where Ira Glass from This American Life talks about creating and closing the gap between taste (you have good taste!) and what you can create (why your creations fall way short of your good taste). If you don’t like watching videos* check this page for the transcript and you can read what he says.

One way to help close the gap between your good taste and your cruddy execution of your ideas is to look at work you admire and imitate it, copy it, dissect it, riff on it. Beginning artists are encouraged to copy the masters. Why? Because it helps them learn the principles of creating a good work of art.

Jeffrey Veen | UX Week 2009 | Adaptive Path from Adaptive Path on Vimeo.

This video has another Picasso quote in it:

Good artists copy.
Great artists steal.

This topic has been a hot one in indie crafting circles for years and years. Is it okay to copy someone else’s project? What’s the difference between copying something and “being inspired” by something? What did Picasso mean by this statement? Check the video for a little more info on the Picasso quote and a discussion of copying.

I also came across another interesting series of blog posts by an indie designer who I really admire, Outi from Outsapop. She has a series of articles about “Forgotten Design” which are built on her thesis of: don’t forget design when you are making things.

To make reconstructed and recycled fashions truly fashionable you cannot forget design. No matter what materials or techniques used the finished product must have the design appeal. Too often crafters and recycle fashion labels just make stuff from recycled materials, but they hardly ever qualify as recycle design.

I admit, I am often guilty of this too. I get a lot of joy out of just making things. Sometimes I create things with a design in mind (yes, I even use my sketchbook first!), but sometimes I just go with my gut. When I get to the end of the project, I rarely want to actually use the thing I created because it just isn’t my taste. I know, I made it, but it’s not my taste. Why is that? Hmm, perhaps because I didn’t inject any design into the *ahem* design.

One of her posts discusses why it can be a good idea to copy high-end designs in your art and craft: High Street Imitation.

*I don’t usually watch videos online when people post them, so I excuse you if you don’t want to watch these ones!*

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