Where you get it from, where you take it to

I’m on the road today so I’ll leave you with this quote. Even if you’ve seen it before, it bears repeating and reconsidering.

Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic.

Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.

– Jim Jarmusch

  • reply Eva/le Loup ,

    i’m afraid it is too difficult to take them anywhere!…
    i’m joking!
    see you soon!

    • reply Judy ,

      Thank you for the quote Cynthia. I love the whole quote, but the last line is so true. Thank you.

      • reply Melanie West ,

        Oh Cynthia! What a great reminder, and a wonderful way to start the day. Thank you soooo much! I plan to share this with all the gals at the retreat I’m at.

        I hope your travels this week lead you (safely) to beauty and inspiration!

        – Melanie
        P.S. Sorry you can’t be here with us. 🙁

        • reply debbie carlton ,

          it reminds me of Picasso’s quote.. ‘good artist copy, great artists steal’


          • reply Dayle Doroshow ,

            Wonderful quote Cynthia. It reminds of a quote from the book Learning by Heart by Corita Kent and Jan Steward,(the creativity teachings of Corita Kent) who reccommends looking at and gathering lots of sources around you that resonate for you. She says- Working from a source is not the same as copying. The work will be yours- using your perceptions and experience. Sources free us to depart from “something” rather than from nothing or from everything.

            • reply Alisa R. ,

              Excellent! I hadn’t heard that before, so I’m glad you shared it.
              I’m an admitted thief. I even celebrate it. LOL! But yes, authenticity is my goal.
              Wishing you happy, safe & inspiring travels!

              • reply Sarajane Helm ,

                My husband’s guitar instructor Robert Fripp says this about musicians–and it got truth for all art forms done professionally–
                “Musicians are thieves and whores, but they are forgiven”

                It sounds harsh to some people, but then, the life of being a creative performer of art for money has its harsh moments.

                • reply Ronna Sarvas Weltman ,

                  Hmmm … interesting that Dayle replied. Compels me to also because one of my favorite polymer texturing tools is one of those dotted finger tip covers you use to thumb through lots of paperwork. Where did I learn that trick? Watching one of Dayle’s fabulous DVD’s. I always love that moment when I’m teaching and students ask me how I achieved a certain texture and I hold up the finger tip cover. Of course they always marvel at my ingenuity, and of course I always say, “Nope. I learned it from a Dayle Dorowshow DVD.” I think we all sometimes steal, share, collaborate and often it’s unconscious and accidental … and when we can figure out who gave us what trick or idea, and give them credit, it’s even more fun. So thanks, Dayle!

                  At the risk of being too long-winded, one more: Cynthia Toops’ body of work is astonishing. I loved watching the video this week of her making her cones. I’ve always wondered how she achieves that look, and was delighted to see it. It’s early morning here, and just this morning while I was still laying in bed, I was thinking about how she did it, and how I could use that technique but change the shape a little to get an overlapping effect. Then thought about how I can fabricate a cutter to get the sort-of-wavy shape I have in my mind’s eye. Maybe I’ll hit the sweet spot, maybe not. But probably lots of others are also now going off in their own direction after watching the video, using it as a starting point. And I guess that’s the lesson of this morning’s post? So thank you to Cynthia Toops for sharing, and Cynthia Tinapple for sharing Five Days A Week!!!

                  • reply Dee Wilder ,


                    • reply Pat Lacy ,

                      I agree…

                      Thanks to all for your inspiration and for sharing.

                      • reply Sherry Bailey ,

                        It’s funny — I’m a recovering prude. (Those who know me may think I’m FULLY recovered!!) ;^) But back in art school, I actually worried about this — it took a long time before I really understood the concept of “inspiration”, and that you CAN view it as a kind of benign theft. Of course, simply copying is NOT benign, and that I do support avoiding. There must be SOMETHING we can do to make any idea our own…

                        • reply Lone ,

                          Inspiration is the fuel of the mind. Thank you Cynthia. But I don´t support stealing someone elses design. That would be like copying Picasso and call the painting your own. The difference is when you are using a technique you´ve learned to make your own expression, I think.

                          We can protect our own design with registration of patent in our own country and worldwide. Let´s inspire eachother as much as we can, but avoid stealing an unique design. This is anyway an interesting discussion – that would go on as long as there are artists on this planet!

                          Thanks for a great site!!!!!

                          • reply tejae ,

                            “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”

                            I love this quote!

                            It’s always a bit disheartening to me when artists don’t take their art far enough away from the original concept or idea. It’s like they are stopping before the journey is over.

                            I’m overjoyed when I see artists take an idea or concept and put their own spin on it. Sculpting and shaping the idea past the original concept, over the moon and settling in, letting the art communicate using their own voice. Letting other artists influence your art without copying it exactly. now that is fun to see.

                            • reply JuLee ,

                              I don’t think of it as *stealing* – I think of it as *research*

                              • reply Loolu ,

                                Thank you so much for this quote… this last week I got a nasty gram from another clay artist who felt I was treading on her turf. I’d sure like to think that the joy I felt discovering how to do a technique, the pleasure I felt in creating my own pieces was in it’s self authentic…

                                thank you to all of you who welcome advancement, development and exploration without claiming ‘turf’

                                • reply Amy E Wallace ,

                                  yeah I decided to give away my Stacker bead technique so it wouldn’t feel like people were just “taking” it. it takes letting go of the feeling of ownership or entitlement over something that doesn’t fit in a box.

                                  my boyfriend is a wire artist whose work is based on Alexander Calder’s techniques, and in order to save face he says they’re “studies” of his work. when i read the quote to him, he really liked it!

                                  • reply Joan Israel ,

                                    Stealing is stealing ,copying is stealing.. Being inspired by some one else’s work is always a turn on but there is a fine line between inspiration and stealing. Learning a technique is not stealing when you use the technique to create your own work. The skinner blend is case in point. By itself it is just a blended circle ,but each artist must decide how to use it.And thankfully Ms. Skinner has her name attached to it. Surely somewhere in this world there is still an original idea . Joan Israel

                                    • reply Laura ,

                                      You don’t mean “steal”, surely. That was entirely the incorrect word to say what you meant. You don’t steal a sunset- you REMEMBER the colors that took your breath away, you “file” away the shape of cloud formations, you OBSERVE pattern outlines on buildings, you REFLECT on the wavy breakup of colors in a pond or at the ocean. Impressionists, anyone? Nothing original? Well, maybe in the old style world of politics, but in the world of polymer? Think purses: Kathleen Dustin. Think mosaics: Cynthia Toops, Inro boxes: Gwen Gibson, Wire Shapes: Laura Balombini, Primitives: Dayle Doroshow, Imitatives: Tory Hughes.To name only six outstanding “original” artists. I just mastered my digital camera (so call me a Luddite). Suddenly I see patterns everywhere, on store rugs hanging in windows, old tree barks whose lines conjure up faces, sides of tall buildings, begging me to take a picture of their shadow patterns. I can no longer drive without wanting to brake and take a quick shot of some passing color or pattern. They all become my “swipe” file, as they say in advertising. A collection of images to ponder, to influence–a “JUMPING OFF POINT” for my muse. They are there to INSPIRE me anew, like flipping through my Chihuly book
                                      when I need a good DOSE of color for my brain to to feed on. And I found it to be true, once you start working on a polymer project, your “self” enters into the picture and everything changes. It’s never the same as you imagined it. And if you’re lucky, it’s a whole lot better.

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