It’s All a Blur

Last summer’s mega hit song, “Blurred Lines” just got slammed with a legal judgement for “copying” a Marvin Gaye song.  This case brings up all sorts of issues about what constitutes art.

I am not naive. I know it is all about the $$$.

But it also sets a dangerous precedent.

Isn’t all art influenced by earlier art? Does an artist ever work in a vacuum? Can a copy/reproduction be art in its own right?

When I first got involved with dolls as an adult, my intention was to create original art dolls. Towards this end, I took a porcelain doll-making class and was drawn to antique French and German dolls.

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So instead of original art dolls, I made and sold antique reproduction dolls for many years. I found the process challenging and compelling and I became good at it. I was making something new that was inspired by the past. Was I making art??

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Reproduction dolls have certainly earned their place in the marketplace. But, most antique doll collectors can spot a reproduction without fail. They may be ineptly or beautifully done, but the difference is unmistakable.

Selling at doll shows exposed me to actual antique dolls. As I tired of making dolls, I got hooked on collecting and costuming antique dolls.

When making costumes for Victorian era dolls, either reproductions or antiques, I always pore over books, photos and study antique examples before deciding how to costume the doll. I do this for every costume I make.

My latest pursuit of 17th century embroidery brings up the same question. Should my work be a copy of 17th century work? Should I use 17th century motifs and colors? Or can I study the embroidery of that era and then step away and create something new?

How far do I need to step away from the past to create NEW art?

As I’ve been struggling with plans for my doll-sized embroidered casket, DH keeps pushing me to break free of the constraints of period style and create something that is entirely mine. I knew there was a reason why we’ve been together for 45 years.

When I was a young girl, I always felt that there was no limit to my capacity for creativity. So why, as an adult, have I been drawn to creative pursuits that are so heavily influenced by the past? Is it maturity or fear?

Am I afraid to strike out on my own path? Or is it naive to think that the past won’t influence what I do now?

The answers are blurred.


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