Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Being original : 5 ideas and exercises for you

Sometimes we become too inspired by something and tend to create something that cannot be called original. Today I will give you 5 ideas that will help you assimilate all your inspiration and create a unique idea - be it a product or a service.

Inspiration comes to us sometimes and sometimes we have to go looking for it. In either case, it leaves a mark on our minds that helps us create - products, content - everything that we make.

Our inspirations always influence us. But we can definitely control the amount of influence that is visible on the final outcome.

If you are inspired by a fellow artist and make a painting exactly like theirs - its copying. But if you are inspired by them and make something based on the idea that you love in it - maybe its the colour choice, the style or sometimes even a brush stroke!

Its not wrong to copy someone's ideas - with permission. And it is close to a sin to copy someone's idea and project that as your own.

A few years back, I ranted on my quilting blog and on FB about a fellow Indian quilter who had copied some other quilter's design - not a block (which is very common), but an intricate design of applique and thread stitching - line to line - and said it was her original work. I did not have a problem with her copying someone's work. I had a problem with her claiming that it was original.

Have I not ever copied someone else's work? Of course I have. But I have credited the original artist every single time. Every time, I have asked them for permission before starting the project and then when I finally made my quilt, I mentioned them in the post everywhere.

In my quilting classes, I am very commonly asked about how to make sure that the work that my students are creating is original.

Here are 5 things that I do to make sure that my work is not a complete replica of my inspiration. You will find me going back to quilting for examples having worked in the industry for the past 10 years.

I look at more than one inspiration. I will talk about one of the most favourite quilts that I have made, The White Rainbow. The inspiration came to me after I read Danielle Steel's book Sisters. I just thought - I want to make a tactile quilt that will appeal to an artist who has lost her eyesight. Then I looked up people who had made tactile quilt or quilts with textures. That was when the Trapunto technique came up in the results. I had been making my reverse applique portrait quilts at that time and decided to apply the same technique to add texture. Around the same time, the idea of writing the names of the colors in Braille peeped into my mind. And that is how, all my inspiration assimilated to create an original quilt - which wall an all white quilt with the names of the colours written in braille - such that blind people could actually touch and read them.
I give it time. Any time I am inspired, I do not get working immediately. I let that idea sit in my mind. I think about it. I give it enough time to morph. In the meantime, I experiment or work on something else altogether. Sleeping over an idea usually gives me enough time and ideas to work on something based on my original inspiration, but yet making it my own. When I made my son's portrait, it was based on Sandra Bruce's Material Matrix technique. It took me three years between being introduced to Sandra's technique and actually making Aadi's portrait. I met Sandra in 2015 and spent the day in her Studio. She shared her technique with me. But I modified it to make my son's quilt. It looked similar to her quilts, but the method was drastically different. Both of us started at the same point and reached the same destination - but we used different paths. And even then I credit her with the inspiration for the quilt - every single time.
I experiment. When I find something that is truly irresistible, I start looking for ideas to make it simpler, faster or cheaper. Usually, one of these experiments helps me stumble upon an original technique. When I started making portrait quilts, I made the first one the traditional way - Raw Edge Applique. But deep down, it did not satisfy me. I had a feeling that something was missing. And also that if it took three months to complete one portrait chances of me making another one are pretty slim! So I experimented. It took me an year to come up with an original technique to make portrait quilts! Using this method I can now make a two coloured portrait quilt of about 36" x 40" even in just 7-8 hours!
I journal. When I find an idea that keeps coming back to me, I go and scribble. Sometimes its words and sometimes sketches. If its an idea for a blog post, I write down what i feel about it. I analyse the idea till I find out the real reason I want to copy it. What do I like in it? What do I hate? Why do I like it? Why do I want to write about it? Why do I want to make it? This is a very common process I use to come up with blog post ideas. I have a running list of topics I want to cover in my notebook. I just skim through them every time I plan my monthly content. I then pick the ones that resonate with me - at that time - and research them. I read as many blog posts as well as articles on websites like Forbes, Economic Times, Washington Post or even NY Post about it. My Kindle Unlimited subscription also offers me many options to read more. After I have assimilated all the info, I usually wait for a day and then just sit and directly type my post. I do not worry about the formatting at this point. After I have written everything, I read it aloud to make sure that it is all in my language. Anything I am not comfortable speaking out loud, is a sign that it is not original by me and is highly influenced.
Sometimes, its just okay to copy - with permission. In spite of all of the above steps, sometimes the original idea is just so powerful and unique that you cannot come up with something that is more unique. At that time, it is okay to accept that you cannot do anything about it. But you still want to share it with your audience? First Ask permission. Just drop an email to the person who created it. Don't forget to tell them how much you loved what they did and how it has been on your mind for a while. And then ask them if you can use their idea/words/picture in your post/product/book. Make sure you are completely honest about any monetary gains that might be in it for you - are you including their words in a blog post that people read for free or a book that you will be selling? Will their design be made into a quilt that is meant to be a personal gift for your family or are you making it to enter in quilt shows - and potentially win a money prize. Make sure you convey everything that you know to them. Including a permission form (PDF) for them to sign and email back is a very good idea. That way you will always have a letter from them when you need it. And last but not the least always give them credit when you publish it. If its a blog post, link back to their website, page or blog post. If its a book, include a footnote. If its a product, mention it in your product description.
Being original will always help you grow your business. Because when you copy you become a second grade version of the original artist / creator. But by taking the efforts to be original you will be a first grade version of yourself!