Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Originality is Important

My husband and I recently went on a visit to his cousin in her summer home on Lopez Island in Washington State.  While we were there, Cousin Jean took us to the Lopez Village Farmers’ Market, which was disappointing in a number of ways.  Not only were there only two or three booths of produce, but of the remaining (I’m guessing) 97 booths, about 80 were jewelry.  Of those, almost all were beaded jewelry. (I had a sudden mental image of the island slowly sinking into Puget Sound from the weight of all those beads.  That earned me my first virtual head-slap of the day.)   The styling, I’m sorry to say, was woefully similar almost across the board.  (And a second flash came to me of a single bead artist supplying all the sellers, with a only a few rugged individualists grimly bucking the system, despite muttered threats from burly enforcers  … Second virtual head-slap.) 

What I was really seeing was the insidious trap of creeping imitation.

A certain style of necklace and earrings had obviously been selling, and now everybody and her dog Rover was making and showing the same thing.  Okay, I get it:  everyone wants to make what sells.  But this is the thing, and it’s a great, big, IMPORTANT thing:


I feel better for that.  I hope you do, too.

Originality is important.  If you have to make something to earn money, then make something that’s similar to -- but different from -- what you see selling.  That’s the difference between imitation and inspiration.  Now you can point out to customers in what ways your item is BETTER.  If you really want to be snarky about it, you can always point out that you made it your way first, that others are imitating you, that YOU are the trendsetter.  See how THAT feels.

Making what ‘everyone else’ is making -- yes, even if that is what’s selling -- is doing yourself and other beaders around you a disservice.  You are flooding the market with similar items until customers are too desensitized to care about buying.  Just as importantly, you risk numbing your own creativity.

There’s room for us all, whether one’s aim is to supplement another income or to have a full-time jewelry business.  In order to do either, however, we need to have a broad spectrum of work to put before the public; not all of us making the same thing.  We need to be True Originals.

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