yarn originalArcanity originaldifferent weaving


Innovate, not imitate.

That’s the key to success – in business, art, and life.

Creativity can be sparked by imitation when one is learning something new, like a technique or how to use a new material. Imitation is a valid part of the learning process. However, creativity is ultimately muted by extended imitation – if one keeps walking the same well-trod ground, new vistas can never be obtained.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” – Oscar Wilde

Often we are told that someone who copies our efforts is paying us a compliment. That is all well and good until that person tries to make bank from our hard-won creative successes. However, you have to keep in mind a few things when you are on the receiving end of these sorts of “compliments”:

  • Generally, people who copy your work lack their own ideas. They will only ever get so far.
  • You are an Innovator. All growth in a field multiplies exponentially from the successes of a few. Your innovations can become building blocks for those who follow you, just as you have learned from the example of those who went before.
  • Being forced to keep up your innovative spirit will keep you fresh. It’s a bum deal that someone else might profit from your hard work, but it hones that creative edge pretty well.
  • There’s little in life that’s truly new. And innovations often happen in waves – several people in different areas may come up with and release the same sorts of creations concurrently. Learning to roll with it will help you sleep better at night.


Spinning gorgeous suri locks that I overdyed in pinks and oranges.


So… what do you do when you feel like your creations might be coming too close to a colleague’s work?


This is when you become the Innovator. 

Here’s how I try to keep fresh. First, I take an honest look at my work, and consider these questions:

  • Is this a technique that is considered a standard in my field? [coilspinning, plaid weave, brioche, etc] Am I using it in a “traditional” way? Am I being innovative?
  • If I am being innovative, is this something I saw somewhere else? Does it feel familiar?
  • If I’m using a technique/style I learned directly from someone else, did I explore it fully, putting my own spin on it, before I used it in a piece that will be released to the public? [inspiration over imitation]
  • Does this feel *good* and *right* in my gut?

If you’re not sure, it never hurts to talk to a mentor, a colleague, or a teacher for advice. Integrity is everything! You can absolutely copy an artist to learn from their work – it is what you do with that knowledge afterwards that matters. We are all always learning from each other. Let’s take those lessons and work toward paving our own paths to original outcomes. Let’s grow together!


Want to join me in pursuing innovation? Take the pledge [and steal my badge if you like!] I’d love it if you’d post below and share about your experiences in dealing with imitation, from others or yourself.



2 thoughts on “Be an Innovator

  1. Thanks for your post! I have struggled with this over the past year or so. I love to teach! But I hate when I turn around and that person who took one class is now selling as an Indie Dyer without the depth of knowledge or techniques. So I decided to not teach dyeing any longer. But that also doesn’t “feel” right. I am looking into a way that people can explore dyeing without giving away my techniques and too much knowledge. I’m struggling with this a lot.

    1. Hi Lisa! I don’t think you should stop teaching either, what a loss that would be! What about teaching a sort of dyeing that doesn’t conflict with your own offerings, like indigo/natural dyeing or ombre or the like? It’s hard to see people take a class and then set themselves up to be in direct competition, but the reality is that a dyer like that won’t have the skills they need to succeed in the biz, so I’m betting they don’t last long. I know that Natalie Redding has a smart twist on handling this – setting up a certification that requires classes with dyeing tests before people can claim using her dyeing techniques. That seems to have worked well for her. I think also raising class prices helps to offset the potential for training one’s competition at least a little?
      It’s HARD. We want to pass on this knowledge. But we don’t want to make it even harder for ourselves!

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