Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Perfect Bronze Bead by Anne Choi.

Last year, I had this great idea to expand my "Love is a Puzzle" series of pendants - a big rebus with "Eye Love You". I have been cackling with glee over this one - I thought it was a really original, graphically appealing design. In fact, I was just getting ready to sketch it out and make it for a contest later this year, when I checked out Anne Choi's newsletter this morning and found the above bead - a design I am sure has been in her stable of beads for ages.

Damn it. I always hate it when a design I thought was very creative turns out to have already been better executed by a more talented artist. (Anne Choi is one of my heroes - who can resist her work? I mean, really?)

This is an object lesson to me to do my homework. I've had this happen once before. Several years ago, I was working on a metal clay window design. I was still in the sketching process when I came across Noel Yovovich's fabulous bracelet (you can see a photo of it on her blog, here). I got depressed and shelved the piece. Of course, many people have been playing with window design beads since then, and I have since come up with an original twist on it (knock on wood), so it is actually back on my list of things to do - but it's taken a few years in between to reconsider the design.

This one I think I'm going to have to scrap altogether, though. The originality is in the rebus itself, and I think Anne's bead is beautiful.

Has anyone else had this experience? Because, you know, misery loves company, and I am feeling seriously disappointed right now!


kate mckinnon said...

Yeah, but I'll bet you were going to use a SHEEP for the "U", right?

We have all felt this way. It's really the reason I don't read the mags or look at other people's beautiful work, because I have a better chance of having original thoughts if I don't. Stuff seeps in.

But even when things come out of our own head, the collective consciousness is a powerful thing, and of course people have been thinking and making for millenia. Most thoughts have been thought in some form or another. Haven't they?

Or have they?

Melissa J. Lee said...

Hee - of *course* I was going to use a sheep for the "U"! I know it's bound to happen (and I'm grateful I found out before I actually broke out the clay to make the piece - I can barely afford the clay these days) but I've held onto the idea for so long, it's going to take a bit to pry it from fingers and let it go again! Thanks, Kate.

Unknown said...

I think that a cute little sheep sounds perfect. :)

Melissa J. Lee said...

I'm sure the SO would really like it! I had the idea after reading a children's rebus book to him one night.

TesoriTrovati said...

This happens all the time. We are influenced by all that we see, read, hear, etc. Rebuses have been around for zillions of years, haven't they? And I agree that Anne Choi is indeed a master, but I have a feeling that if given the same input of a common and not to be trademarked thing - everyone making something with a rebus for I Love You - we would all find some different interpretation. But I think another equally valid point is that great minds think alike. And you, in my opinion, are of as great a mind as Ms. Choi.

Enjoy the day!

Clay By Clay said...

I just had that happen last week. I was checking out the crafthaus online exhibit and saw some earrings that look nearly identical to a design I have been making for years!

Melissa J. Lee said...

Thanks, Erin!

Melissa J. Lee said...

Hi Jessica, It's always nice to meet another lawyer/jewelry artist!

Andrew Thornton said...

I say... make what you want. Invariably, things will come out differently. Even if the idea is similar, it won't be exactly the same. Don't get discouraged. I think there's such a pressure to be original and innovative. Each of us is original and innovative and no matter what we do or make, that individuality will bleed through.

Anne Choi is one of my very favorites of all time. Times two. Times three. Times one zillion. I dream of her beads. I love them. They make me happy. And I am totally in love with the bronze. For real! I am full of the covetousness.

Melissa J. Lee said...

Thanks, Andrew. I'm going to sit on the idea for a while longer, I think, see if I can re-work it. It's been in my book for almost a year now - waiting a little longer isn't going to hurt.

diane hawkey said...

there is a well respected and amazingly talented clay bead maker who is making a very specific type of bead.
Its a replica of a real item.
I made these same beads YEARS ago, only hers are so much better then mine : )
I know she didn't copy & we just hit the same vibe independently of each other.

Melissa J. Lee said...

I'm intrigued, Diane!

Tammy said...

Especially when it comes to jewelry, many of us will often have the same ideas. It is easy to assume that we are each so brilliant that no one else in the world could possibly design the same thing, but really, that's not the case is it? If you design something and honestly have not copied, which is the case with the bead you mention, then I say make it.

I think this is an issue many of us need to get a little less sensitive about.

Okay, feel free to start throwing rotten fruit at me now ;)

Melissa J. Lee said...

Hi Tammy, I'm not sure I'm really talking about copyright issues, here - although certainly that continues to be a sensitive topic for jewelry designers! I thought I had an original idea from reading one of the SO's rebus books (the SO provided similar inspiration for the maze and word search designs I executed last year) - although, as Kate points out, you never know what the subconscious will hold on to. The fact that it isn't as original as I thought is what's bothering me. I think whatever success I've enjoyed so far in my designs has a lot to do with having an original outlook on the material - which I think is based on the fact that I work largely alone and have somewhat idiosyncratic interests. I don't want to "say" what other people have already expressed in their work. Here, I really was going to put together a major "I Love You" rebus pendant. Anne Choi has already made her lovely bead utilizing this very idea. Right now, to me, the rebus itself was the original part of the design - honestly, this is probably a shortcoming in my design. If, after thinking about it, I come up with an original interpretation of this idea with which I am happy, I probably will go ahead and make it. But with this pace I move at, this could take years!

Pretty Things said...

I hate when this happens to me. That sinking feeling and wondering and wind out of the sails.

And I imagine, it happens to everyone, from The Greats to people picking up beads for the very first time. It's hard to know where ideas have come from.

I think the key is intention, and if someone truly has a copyright or trademark and then contacts you, how you handle that -- but that isn't very often the case.

Melissa J. Lee said...

That's exactly it! I feel as if the wind has been taken out of my sails.