More thoughts on imitation, inspiration and insight.

8 Mar

In which I attempt to organise my thoughts… into neat, manageable compartments very unlike my fabric storage system.

Hello everyone! Hope you had a lovely weekend ! After a week sitting at the sewing machine for school I took a break, went for a lovely country drive and planted a fig tree. Sometimes even I don’t want to look at the machine for a while.

So thank you all for leaving such insightful comments on my last post. I’m glad to hear lots of us crafty types are wrestling with this problem, and it’s not just me feeling like a dirty copycat. The main points I got out of this were:

•  As long as you are not claiming ownership of an idea to sell, or hand up at school for assessment, being ‘inspired’ by other’s art is not a bad thing at all.

• There is no harm done if we were never going to buy the item in the first place. Imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery!

• We very rarely copy something outright. We see a neat idea and tweak it, or else it ends up evolving into a new beast altogether. Hurrah for creativity!

• In the merging, mingling, tangling stream of inspiration that is the internet fashion world, it is almost impossible to define the origin of any one idea. The items we love were probably inspired by someone else, and it is only a natural evolution that we ourselves are inspired in turn.

In the end, whether you feel good about copying someone else’s idea is a totally personal thing. I know I don’t, but I also feel rather proud when I can ‘reverse engineer’ something and discover how it works, how it was put together, or how I could improve it. You learn so much! Like re-creating a recipe you loved in a restaurant or digging around in computer code, you begin to understand much more about construction and the design process – which in turn fuels new inspiration.

I found this fantastic post by Peter of Male Pattern Boldness discussing the idea of sewing as protest. I identify so much with this. I sew because it gives me the option to ‘not buy’. I sew because then I can decide how I should look and how I should present myself in the world rather than some corporation. I don’t want to be told how to look, whether I am ‘in’ or not, or that I am unwittingly supporting a system that promotes sweatshop labour. Working out how something is made gives me power. It makes me self-sufficient. It makes me recognise the effort (or lack therof) that went into creating it, and in turn I value the craft/art of others so much more.

I could go on for pages here, but I think I’m going to leave it for a while to simmer. This subject is so completely at the root of my ‘crafty ethic’ that I want to get it straight in my head first. The next post will be something frivolous and pretty, I promise!


5 Responses to “More thoughts on imitation, inspiration and insight.”

  1. Andi B. Goode March 8, 2010 at 8:53 pm #

    I actually called the stocking manufacturer after the email came back to me. But it was only the charge of a local call! And we totally should hold our dresses up together and see if the pattern’s the same. Hehe. =D

    I think these are really good points. I spent a lot of time feeling that my photographs looked too much like the work of another photographer because I was so inspired by her over the 3 years of my course but, even though the imagery may have been similar in the end, my intention was different.
    I know it’s not the same as copying another crafter but it’s the only way I can relate!

    -Andi x

  2. Ali March 9, 2010 at 4:31 am #

    thanks for these two posts! it’s just what i needed after an etsy binge yesterday. i agree, any attempt at “copying” really comes down to a call to inspiration and is, at my sewing level, a wonderful (albeit frustrating) learning experience. i couldn’t make an exact replication if i tried.

    and if we use our sewing skills to adapt either clothes to the bodies we have (vs standard sizing) or items that serve us specifically than the garment/item is going to reflect the inherent uniqueness in each one of us (a belt here, embellishment there, etc etc). perhaps this is overshooting it a bit, but i have never not adapted an item i’ve sewn and frequently have to adapt my ready-to-wear clothes anyway. great discussion.

  3. Karin March 9, 2010 at 8:11 am #

    Just got to say aaargh! I’m trying to add your blog to my blogroll (I think I already did) and it just doesn’t work… 😦
    I’ll keep trying…

    • whipstitchsewing March 9, 2010 at 4:52 pm #

      aww boo! I’m pretty un-web-savvy so I can’t help you on how to fix it… hope it works though! Although I am not sure blogspot lets you add different ‘brands’ of blog (lame!)

  4. Casey March 31, 2010 at 10:44 pm #

    I agree: there is something really fun and satisfying about figuring out a design on your own (whether or not it is a line-for-line copy of a garment you’ve seen)–it’s so exciting! That is part of the reason I continue to sew: I like to play with various ideas and break things down to figure out how they go together!

    Anyway, great thoughts and thanks for the link to Peter’s post (I’m so behind in blog reading right now–I completely missed it!).

    ♥ Casey
    blog |

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