Guest Artist Terri Simon on Dimensional Felt

Our Guest Artist today is Terri Simon aka Meterrilee on the forum.

Hello fellow fiber enthusiasts!    I’m originally from Detroit, Michigan but moved to Oregon in 2014. I have been felting for about six years, both needle felting and vessels, but my real love is painting with felt and exploring different textures.

Marilyn and I both recently participated in an online class from Opulent Fibers — Kristy Kun’s Texture Techniques with Needled Wool.  Marilyn asked me to  show my work and I am happy to do this.  In addition to telling you a bit about this class, which was excellent, I would like to generate a little discussion about inspiration and the artist equivalent of plagiarism.  First the class…

Kristy’s class centered on three sample projects; each project building on the techniques learned in the prior project.  The class fee included all materials for the class, instructions and videos demonstrating certain techniques.  Kristy set up chatrooms that allowed students to ask questions, post pictures of progress, comment on each other’s creations and get expert guidance, suggestions and commentary from Kristy.  You can check out the classes Kristy offers at her website, Opulent Fibers, here:  http://www.opulentfibers.com

Here is a link to her newest class:

http://www.opulentfibers.com/heavily-textured-felting-techniques-home-online-workshop/#.V9qWJa268e1

Kristy creates the most gorgeous 3D wall hangings (among other beautiful things) and I was so excited to learn how she fabricates them in this online class.  To see some of Kristy’s work, look here (just wonderful!): http://www.kristykun.com/gallery/   Now you understand why I wanted to learn this technique!

Below are the three sample projects I created in this class.  It’s a very interesting technique to attach pieces of heavy weight prefelt fabric to each other.  There is a lot of labor involved to ensure everything is tightly attached and felted to a very hard finish.   But well worth it! Our samples were a 12” square and each one took several hours to prepare before even before using water.  Many students were active in posting pictures of their creations and providing encouragement and feedback to others.  Overall, a very enjoyable and educational experience.

terri-1

Project one: learning to attach the prefelt vertically to a square of prefelt.  It’s a weird looking, but the purpose was to learn the technique.  J

terri-2

Project two: learning to attach prefelt vertically and to each other onto a square prefelt.  This was definitely much trickier.

terri-3

Project three: The flower.  This was the reason I took the class!  If you looked at Kristy’s gallery, you can see all the many possibilities for this technique.

Which leads me to the issue for which I hope to generate some discussion: artistic plagiarism.

I follow a few fiber artists’ blogs and have great admiration for many fiber artists; the moderators of this forum included.  To mention a few others that I greatly admire: Moy Mackay, Nicola Brown, Kim Winters, Lyn and Annie at RosiePink, Fiona Duthie, Sara Renzulli, and Andrea Noesk-Porada.  I love to look at the works by these artists and I’m so inspired by them.  I want to make everything they make!  There is a fine line here, however, and I’m mindful of trying not to cross it.  When I make something that is very similar (with felt, it is never EXACTLY identical), I certainly would give credit to the original artist if I were to do anything with that piece.

I’ve never sold anything yet—I give nearly everything I make away.  But, I hope to sell pieces soon.  Anything I intend to sell is going to be, hopefully, solely my creation, (not ones I’ve attempted to copy to learn a technique or just because I loved the item and wanted to duplicate it).

How do you address this?  I can needle felt a chipmunk or make a felt painting of a highland cow in the manner of Sara Renzulli and Moy Mackay, respectively.  They aren’t going to be identical to something either one of these artists produced, but I was inspired by them in the creation of my item.

Now that I know how to make lovely 3D wall hangings, taught by Kristy Kun, I intend to make larger pieces; similar of course due to material and technique, but they won’t be identical to Kristy’s work.  In fact, I will work hard to make sure they DON’T look like her work…but the idea was hers.

Do you mention the artist who inspired the work, when relevant, on items you sell?  Do you feel that since no piece is identical in size, shape, color, and texture, that items you sell are your creation and there is no need for mentioning the artist who inspired you?  This is a really important issue for me.  I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

Thanks!

Thank you Terri for sharing your class work and invoking this discussion.

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19 Responses to Guest Artist Terri Simon on Dimensional Felt

  1. Leonor says:

    Tricky question, the one on plagiarism! One I fear will never have a consensual answer.
    I think that if you copy someone else’s idea completely, you should definitely give them credit… when it’s something clearly unique and unusual. When it’s something that’s been around for a while, then maybe thank them for the inspiration, but the credit of the original item might not be theirs. Not an easy task, this one 🙂

    • meterrilee says:

      Hi Leonor, you make good points. It definitely is not an easy task, defining the line between inspiration and copying.

  2. Ellen Greenberg says:

    If you aren’t selling your work, I have no problem with “copying” other artists’ work. Once you start selling, things get murky. I don’t think that acknowledging the artist you copied from is any help. You might mention they inspired you in your bio. If you are a true artist you will sample other techniques and then make them your own. There are crafters out there who do literally copy other artists. I don’t think this is right. Art is always evolving and the plagiarists will always be running to catch up. I think the artists’ work will always be better than the plagiarists’. I do appreciated it when I take classes and the teacher/artists acknowledge that their students will be using the teachers’ techniques. Sometimes you just need to be confident in your work, follow your gut on what is “right” and trust in Karma.

    While selling at a craft show, a shopper accused me of copying the work of an artist exhibiting at Grand Central Station. The shopper was adamant. I had not been to GCS. I had not copied this design. However there is some artistic conversion. Some designs and color combination are classic, look good and will be found being used by many artists without actual plagiarism.

    • meterrilee says:

      You provide thoughtful input…thank you. The merge-point between inspiration and copying certainly is murky. How awful that someone accused you publicly like that. It must have been very awkward having to defend your work to a total stranger. I guess nothing is new under the sun….all our ideas come from somewhere. Chances are, even unique-to-you creations have probably been created in some form by someone at some point. But your inspiration was pure and your intent was good, so as an artist, that should ease your mind. 😊

  3. Terri, The flower you made is impressive and must have been incredibly difficult to achieve. Kudos for staying with the process!

    As for copying the work of other artists–very tricky business. I remember seeing a nuno-felted scarf in Scotland back in 2010 and thinking that I wanted to make one just like it. I even bought one from that talented artist. However, once I began the process of learning how to nuno-felt, I was no longer interested in making one just like I had seen in Scotland. Hers was cheesecloth and wool, very simple spiral designs. I ended up using silk and cobweb type designs, influenced by what I had seen on the Worldwide Web and assisted in the process by the kind members of this Felting Forum.

    I don’t really understand how folks can find joy in copying someone else. Learn a new technique, yes. Copy…..why?

    • meterrilee says:

      Thank you Cathy. It was labor intensive, but not in a bad way. The process was so interesting and unlike anything I had done before that I didn’t mind the process one bit. I agree with you completely about the pleasure you can have by creating something your own, vs, copying. Copying (to some degree) can serve the purpose for learning a technique, just like you did with the nuno felt, but then you moved on. I thinks that is the point as an artist. Continual growth. It’s like the circle of life. 😀 You see something new by somebody you would like to master, you copy (in some form) in order to learn, you make it your own. Repeat.

  4. ruthlane says:

    Looks like a fun class. I like all your samples.

    I have seen this type of technique before from other felt artists including those from Russia. It is hard to tell where an idea comes from and people on opposite sides of the world can have a similar idea even though they have no contact. You can certainly learn a lot by copying “the masters” when you first start but then you need to take the time and practice to develop your own style. Each person has their own unique style which develops with doing lots of work. Even if someone uses the same techniques, the results can be totally different.

    I do think that most people once they have been creating for a while, want to create something that is their very own and not copies of what others do. When you create something that is very similar to another artist, you should definitely say that that person was your inspiration and not sell that work as it isn’t your own design. If you take a class and learn techniques, then go home, keep doing those techniques, begin combining them with others that you like to use and develop your own way of working. Develop your own designs and then once you have created “a thousand pots”, then start selling your work.

    • meterrilee says:

      Hi Ruth, thank you for your comments. Russian felting (Central/Eastern Europe too) is quite amazing. I keep seeing pieces that I want to read about, follow the link and find it is in Russian! You strike me as the kind of artist who sees something and wants to make it. Your repertoire of types of art is impressive! I am still in awe of the yurt! I tend to be like this, which is why I am concerned with this topic. But, your advice is good…practice by copying as necessary then work to make it your own before taking it to the public to sell or display. Create a thousand pots! Yes. 😀

  5. Lyn says:

    Your felting is fabulous! Good luck with your future plans for wall hangings and please keep us posted with photos.

    You have learnt a new technique from a tutor wishing to share the knowledge. If the tutor didn’t want you to make things with this technique then the class wouldn’t have happened.
    So relax, and as you use the technique you will make it your own. Perhaps by combining it with other techniques or simply by your choice of style and colours.

    It would be distressing to make and sell something that you are convinced has come straight from your imagination, only to find out later that another fibre artist has created something similar. Who has plagiarised who, people might ask.
    But we are all exposed to a lot of the same inspirations, so why not believe it possible that several people can make similar things even though they have never met or worked with each other?

    • meterrilee says:

      Thank you Lyn! I will keep you posted of new creations based on this technique. I like your statement that it is possible to create similar items without having seen other people’s work. After all, probably our biggest influence is nature, and trees and beaches and animals and sky can look the same. 😁😁. The medium used to create the art can even be the same, but especially with felt, it likely won’t be identical even if you were trying! I think of Marilyn’s challenge with the Moy Mackay painting of the vase, published in this forum a while ago. Actually, wouldn’t it be an interesting topic to do that again, opening it up to anyone who wanted to participate (quarterly challenge?) and see how many variations occur when trying to copy something.

  6. Looks like a good class. the flower is lovely. I have a friend that is a good painter. Making her living at it. She says you learn by copying. Then you move on. Copying is a hard one. if you do impressionist painting are you copying Monet? No, but you will be inspired and influenced by him. Just about impossible not to be. I have been doing very simple “paintings” It is a style of painting. To some degree everyone doing this makes similar looking work. some do it in glass some with oil, Me with felt. I teach, many copy a hat exactly but it still isn’t the same. The colour or they way they put the embellishment on make it different. Some will never make another but the ones that are hooked will copy a little and them move on once they practice a bit. Some are much more creative than me. I don’t agree with people having to site all their teachers and influences with everything they make.

    • meterrilee says:

      Thank you for your insight. I agree that you shouldn’t have to list everyone that influences your art (I think it would probably be quite impossible, since we can be influenced by many for any given project). I do like the idea that it’s ok to copy as we are learning, then move the art into our own direction. Especially when you are copying from someone who is teaching…it is to be expected. I still think that if I were to do something public with a piece that is more or less a copy from someone else’s work (teacher or not) I would give them mention. Fiber artists can use all the publicity they can get. I run across people who have never considered felt making as an art form, much less even heard of it, all the time. 😄

  7. meterrilee says:

    Thanks for the comments…I’m enjoying reading them very much. I highly recommend this class–I think I can speak for Marilyn when saying we thought it excellent. Kristy is a very thoughtful and gracious instructor and I had no issues whatsoever working in an online environment to learn this technique.

    • Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

      Thanks again for sharing your work with us. I agree it was a great class.

      I hope the comments have helped you with your concerns over artists plagiarism. Actually, a couple of years ago we did famous artist challenges. Mine was Monet. It was fun to see all the fiber interpretations of famous art works.

      I look forward to seeing your future projects and how you incorporate the different techniques you’ve learned. Happy felting!

  8. Jane says:

    I have a slightly different view than many here, which is that why not start from the standpoint of not showing any work publicly that is directly related to someone else’s work? The exception would be a post like this where the instructor had you use forms just like their work (I know Kristy).

    I was at a craft school and a ceramics instructor was teaching his students a technique using his exact aesthetic (he brought his texturing devices and even his own glazes). He made it clear that they had to develop their own style when they returned home. What might have been more useful for the students was to demonstrate the technique and encourage developing their own aesthetic inside the class so each student could see how varied their style could be.

    Creating work in your own studio is fine. But displaying photos even with another artist’s name attached is sort of a slippery slope (unless it’s something like Monet in felt, where that’s more of an homage and it’s also an iconic piece of art, much parodied and copied). The artist’s name could get separated from the work as people lift and share the photo (Make sure your images have alt text carrying the artists name, and perhaps even in the image filename). If it’s not a great representation of the artist’s work, it risks also damaging their reputation.

    All that said, I took a metals course from an instructor who was preoccupied with plagiarism. It became clear to me that despite her notoriety and talent, she revealed herself to be insecure, possibly about up-and-coming artists. After all, there are only so many ways to skin a cat. No one owns the circle or rectangle, or a cluster of lines. There’s always going to be something that looks similar to another artist’s work. To me, it’s the entire body of work that matters. Does that one piece that appears copied still fit within the entire body of work. If yes, you’re good.

    For example, there are lots of cellular forms in felt work. The medium lends itself to that. If you love cellular forms, are you stealing? No. But can you use scale or a color palette or addition of other materials to make it your own? Probably yes.

    • meterrilee says:

      Hi Jane, that’s a very interesting perspective and a very realistic/practical one. I hadn’t thought much about the possibility of associating an inferior piece of work with an artist, and damaging their reputation. Here’s the person, trying to give credit for the inspiration, but their work is so bad that the original artist would rather they had never been mentioned! This actually made me chuckle, but it could happen and you raise excellent points. There are insecurities in the art world, just as there are in any field (the supervisor who won’t share knowledge in fear of subordinates who may get ahead of them; the chef who won’t share the secret ingredient in a spice blend for their potato recipe…I know these people!), which is a shame. I thinks it’s wonderful when artists are willing to share their knowledge, then encourage the student to develop their personal style.

      The idea of creating a body of work, and having those learned techniques fit into that body of work is thought provoking. I’m not sure I will ever have an overall style in a body of work, since at this point, I’m curious about so many different techniques and styles. Perhaps I will settle into something I’ve created that will permeate all my work, once I’ve explored and experimented enough. But that might never happen and I may forever be incorporating other people’s techniques. 😬

      You also mentioned things to consider when displaying photos of work that has been influenced by other artists… did you mean when displaying photos of your work at a gallery or a show, or even online?

      Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments.

  9. Flextiles says:

    Hello Terri,

    Thanks very much for mentioning my blog as one of those that inspires you. The work you produced as part of Kristy’s workshop is lovely, especially the flower!

    As to the tricky question of drawing the line between “inspired by” and “copy of” – I think others have talked about making the technique your own. The Chinese traditionally believed that the best way to learn was by copying masters, and I personally think that a good grasp of technique is important.

    I love attending workshops with felters who are masters (or, mostly, mistresses) of their art. But I also think that it is important for an artist to ask “Why?” and “What if?” and to experiment and find out answers for themselves rather than simply following instructions. Knowing why you do something and thinking through the process of what might happen if you change it can push you in new directions and help develop you and your work.

    Sometimes the experiments work, but often they don’t, which is frustrating. 🙂 But you often learn more this way – not least about yourself!

    • meterrilee says:

      Hello Kim, thank you for your input. Yes, you do indeed attend many interesting workshops! You experiment with what you’ve learned (and of course write about it so the rest of us can see!), but you put your own stamp on it with eco dyes, manipulation, or something you have in mind. The fact that you have so many diverse interests in the textile world helps you to create art unique to you. This is what I’m after as well, with learning many techniques and then incorporating them as I desire.

      I still want to be your neighbor, so I can run over and see what’s going on in your studio. Ha! Don’t worry, I’m not leaving Southern Oregon. 🙂

  10. Pingback: 3rd Quarter Challenge | feltingandfiberstudio

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