One of the questions raised by my post about making similar work to another artist was along the lines of "why is this a problem?". The comment was made by Sophie Harle, a potter who, under the label Shiko, makes gorgeous ceramic vessels like this...
Sophie Harle bowls
and has the best ever whippet named Colin.
Knowing Sophie I know the intent in her comment was supportive, in a very justified get-over-it-and-on-with-it way. But it has prompted me to give greater consideration to my reaction on finding work so similar to my own.
There is no doubt that at the heart of the matter was a fear of being perceived to have copied. I didn't and of course I shouldn't worry what others think, but it's a fairly human and understandable response. Beyond this, however, is the issue of work being "derivative". Such an interesting area this one, particularly for ceramics. The Oxford Dictionary defines derivative as "imitative of the work of another artist, writer, etc. and usually disapproved of for that reason" but also as "originating from, based on, or influenced by".
Given that craft, by it's own definition, draws and expands on accumulated knowledge, all ceramics could, in some ways, be called derivative. I don't think that second definition is such a bad thing. I often hear the words 'everything has been done before' which may be true but to be honest I find this a little depressing and defeatist. I can't imagine it's a phrase thrown around the offices at Apple. Certainly in the field of functional pottery there are only so many ways you can shape a bowl but with progress I do hope imagination and creativity are also areas that expand, evolve and seek new ground.
On her wonderful blog bpracticalpottery the potter Bridget Fairbank (that's her work above) recently wrote "Contemporary pottery is challenged by a history of traditional functionality in the sense of its structure. To create unique, good work within this finitely structured and ancient system of art, is an incredible feat and a dubious endeavor." I agree and don't make pots to be intentionally original. I make pots to explore ideas in my own way, using the knowledge I have acquired from personal practise, from history and from other artists. But I would be lying to myself if I didn't admit to a quiet desire to express myself in a way that is unique.
I am over-thinking it and going around it circles. I make pots because most of the time it feels good and sometimes it also feels good to think about it too.