Friday, 24 May 2013

Creative osmosis?

As you know, I have been a little behind with my bear making schedule of late (thanks to Polly!) but that doesn't mean I haven't been paying the bear world attention.  I'm always busy behind the scenes running the Guild of Master Bearcrafters and am happy to say, it goes from strength to strength, now boasting a membership of over seven hundred international bearcrafters ... amazing!

Naturally, when creative people are drawn together by a common passion, debate can be lively  and our private members' forum is well attended on the Guild.  Lately we have been chatting about the age old topic of inspiration vs. copying, to try and pinpoint where one ends and the other begins ... an important issue for anyone who works hard to create a unique creative identity.

In all my years of bear crafting, I have never found a definitive answer to this question, but I do think it is an important question to think about.  My own view is that the best kind of creativity seeks to employ inspiration in a unique and original way.  To my mind, copycats are fundamentally lazy ... I mean, if you can make a half decent copy of someone else's work, you could probably use a little more imagination and effort to make something original, then enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you accomplished something individual to you.  The bottom line is, a direct copy of someone else's work made without their permission, will not flatter them - it is downright exploitative.

However, I do wonder if perhaps it would be fairer if, rather than immediately being indignant when a bear similar in style  to our own arrives on the scene (I'm not talking overt copies here), we should perhaps be a little kinder towards the maker?  I remember years ago my sister and I set ourselves a challenge to make a bear from two shades of the same fabric.  We chose the fabric together and decided an approximate size, but that was as far as our collaboration went.  We each took our fabric home and created a bear without further discussion.  

This was the result ...


I made the bear on the left, my sister made the bear on the right.  As you can see, they 'bear' a strong family resemblance (as do we, lol!)  but we didn't design or make these bears together.  I think it's fair to say this pair of bears turned out remarkably similar anyway, don't you?

Generally speaking, most bear crafters start their design career from the same traditional style of teddy bear, ie they all work with the basic body, head, limbs and five way jointing design.  From that original bear, alternative styles, techniques and creative expressions evolve over time.  Perhaps, just like a creative osmosis, we absorb information simply by looking at other bear crafters' work and because by nature we are creative, elements of that information sometimes process into our own work.  In almost 20 years of bear making, I have noticed it is very rare that anyone comes up with a completely new design which has never been done in one form or another before.

So, for what it's worth, my view is (and it is just my personal view, there will be many other alternatives) the most important thing for both new and established bear crafters, is to try to retain an awareness of why we are taking the creative path we have chosen ... is it to be unique in our work, or is it simply to make bears for sale at any cost?

To achieve a signature style takes time and is probably one of the most rewarding aspects of design.  Drawing inspiration from the world around us is inevitable, but applying that inspiration into original design should be part of a natural creative process, not a deliberate ploy to profit from someone else's hard work.

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