This morning I accidently stumbled upon an Etsy quilter who had copied some of my work and the work of another well known Etsy textile artist. At first I just wanted to chalk it up to a freak coincidence. Two people who had similar ideas at the same time. It happens. But when I looked at the whole shop, I couldn't deny that some of the pieces were blatant rip-offs. They had even used parts of the wording and phrasing found in my descriptions for their own. I was shocked.
I am not going to name names, or pursue this, as I don't want to use up my energy on negative issues.
But I will say this...
We all get inspired by others. It can not be helped. But inspiration should take the form as a starting point towards blazing a new direction, it should not be an invitation to trod down someone else's path. The main work and reward of being an artist is to tap into yourself and mine what treasures of your own you have to offer the world. That's your job.
It is of course wrong to take from others, and pass them off as original works of your own. However, in my opinion, it is even more morally wrong to never explore your own voice, to never dig down and find what gifts you can bring to the table.
When artists share their work, they are doing so in a spirit of community. There is an honor code and a sense of trust. When you take their offerings and try to prosper by selling them as your own, you break that code of honor. You cheat them but you cheat yourself more.
You will never know the joy of being in that zone, when creative ideas flow from you and time stands still. You will never know the thrill of having that kind of energy rush through you. You will never know what you could have accomplished, what new offerings YOU could have brought to the table, had you only done the WORK.
Learn from those that have gone before you. Let yourself be inspired by them, but take that inspiration as a light to help guide you on your own path. Don't be afraid. Discover YOURSELF, don't cheat yourself!