Should She Follow in This Artist’s Footsteps?

Jewelry and Coffee with Rena
Video Episode 15

by Rena Klingenberg.

In this question and answer video, we’ll take a look at the idea of following in the footsteps of successful artists.

Transcript of This Video:

Today I have a question from a jewelry artist named Melissa. And Melissa asks,

“There’s a really successful jewelry designer in my city. I see her jewelry selling everywhere. Would it be wrong to follow in her footsteps and do what she does so I can build my business faster?”

Well, here’s how I see this issue:

It’s really easy to want to follow in the footsteps of someone who’s really successful at what they do – or really, really good at what they do.

Because we see how well it’s working for them, and we’d like to have some of that success for ourselves.

But it never really works out that way.

Because we really can’t ever completely imitate someone else or be successful in the exact same ways that they are.

And here’s an example:

Oprah Winfrey is probably the most successful talk show host ever.

She rose to the top by doing her own things in her own ways.

Well, if I wanted to try to emulate her, I could try to copy everything she’s ever done, and do it in the same ways.

But I would never achieve the same things that she has.

And that’s because I am no Oprah Winfrey.

And at the same time, Oprah could never really imitate me.

Instead, she and I have each found our own type of success by doing our own thing in our own ways.

I know this was kind of a silly example, but I just wanted to illustrate how you can never really emulate somebody else and imitate the same success that they’ve achieved.

And I think even more important is that if you try to follow in somebody else’s success footsteps instead of forging your own path – there’s something that will never be created.

Because instead of doing YOUR thing, you were trying to do THEIR thing.

So if Oprah and I were both trying to be Oprah, there would be no Jewelry Making Journal – we wouldn’t be here today!

So, getting back to Melissa’s question:

Instead of trying to emulate and follow in the footsteps of the successful jewelry artist in your city, I would rather see you think of it as an affirmation that her success came because she’s doing her thing in her way.

And you should be able to achieve at least equal success by doing YOUR thing in YOUR way.

If anyone has any other feedback for Melissa (or about my response to her), I would love for you to share it below in a comment.

Thank you all for stopping in today, and I’ll see you soon!

The Jewelry Rena’s Wearing
in This Video:

Jewelry Rena is wearing in this video

Skull and Crossbones Cameo Earrings: Purchased a few years ago from Etsy seller Envisage.

Red Faceted Glass Pendant: Argentium silver wirework by Rena Klingenberg.

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  1. I totally agree with you, Rena! You should never compromise your own style by imitating someone else. Your “thing” has to evolve just as theirs did. There really are no short cuts and there is no integrity in achieving fame nor fortune that way.

  2. I absolutely agree! Each artist’s path must be forged in its own way. When someone is successful – and I consider success to be able to sustain yourself with your artwork – it is always because of hard work, excellence at customer service, patience and persistence; there are no magic tricks, and certainly following into other artist’s steps is a recipe for failure.

  3. When you say “follow in her footsteps”, what does that mean to you? Does it mean making jewelry in her style because you see it’s selling well, or taking your jewelry to the stores she sells in or similar stores? Or, do you mean follow the quality of her work, customer service, marketing strategies and work ethics?

    As everyone has already said, success for anyone involves all of these. I agree with the other comments on not following her style of jewelry – that wouldn’t work because it’s not you, and I feel customers who purchase handcrafted jewelry buy YOU and your story as much as they buy the jewelry. If they didn’t care about jewelry with a story they would buy mass market jewelry.

    But, there’s nothing wrong at all in watching how she interacts with her customers – you will have your own style, but you may get some ideas that you can adapt, maybe some phrases that you can use that may be out of your comfort zone, but that make the customer feel special.

    Maybe she has her jewelry displayed in a way that is eye catching. Don’t copy her display, but analyze what about the display gets people’s attention? Is it a distinctive color, the quality or style of the display components, maybe the lighting? What about her display makes her style of jewelry stand out? You can get ideas from that to help with your displays – maybe better lighting, maybe staggering the height of your display, maybe using a cohesive color theme.

    And keep in mind, you don’t know how long she worked to get to the position she’s at now. She without a doubt struggled for quite a while just like all of us, working hard to develop her own style, marketing her jewelry and getting her name known before she got to where she’s at now.

    So, just as you are reading and learning from Rena’s posts and everyone who comments, learn from every successful jewelry artist you see.

  4. WillieMae says:

    Hi Rena,
    I so enjoy having coffee with you, wish our talks were longer. I so agree with you. We each need to find our own calling, even if our interests are the same as someone else. It’s like fashion designers they each are successful but they are all different and together they give more things for us to enjoy.
    I think she should do her own thing and be successful in her own way.

  5. Hi Rena… I loved your answer, and i would like to give an example from my experience:

    There is a local artist I meet every craft show. She creates beautiful wire-work jewelry with really unique designs. I have tried to enter the wire jewelry world, but where I live there are no stores that sell jewelry wire. I always struggle with materials because almost everything around here is the lowest quality in the world with limited options, too. I get my beads from Italy, and I often roam the local market to try and find things I can make jewelry from. She, on the other hand has established her wire jewelry skill a long time ago, by somehow getting different gauges of wire from friends who send it to her from northern America. She’s twice my age, triple my experience, and I’m just new at this.

    But this is what happened. I sat with myself and decided to be conscious about not being jealous, not envying her, nor trying to get my hands on the same resources she has. I kept doing what I was doing with the materials I got, which naturally pushed me to be creative with the thin wire gauge I had, and create eclectic rings and jewelry that I didn’t really imitate because no one would do what I was doing simply because they had better and more professional materials to work with.

    It turns out she was following my work with curiosity! She came over one day and bought one of my eclectic boho wire rings, and told me she loved the way I wrapped the wire around the beads and the ring base (of course, I had no other choice, because I didn’t have another wire gauge to create a ring base with)… and ignited an epidemic of other people wanting to buy my rings.

    Second thing that happened, she told me she was an adamant follower of my blog and was one of my biggest fans! So, what I did in return was offer her my services for creating a blog for her work and sharing with her some of my marketing advice. We became rather really good craft-show friends, sharing ideas and “love.”

    She kept getting the really cool professional wire and working within her own style, and I kept struggling with my materials and creating jewelry by mixing media, finding solutions to my inability to find exactly what I want, and working around it.

    One thing that stopped me from ever asking her to connect me to her wire resources was my fear of ruining her niche, since she was the only wire jewelry artist in town. Plus I have always hated to be a copycat. My decision actually brought opened new interests and doors for me where I started developing an interest in other mediums and experimenting with them, and never squeezing myself with someone else in a stupid competition over a niche market.

    Creativity is like planet earth, a vast place, with lots of room and freedom to choose, grow and experiment. I couldn’t get that wire I was dreaming of? No prob, I try a different route.

  6. I would say to Melissa that you could go ahead copy this others persons work but be assured that everyone would know. Professional peers would notice that you don’t have your own original ideas and that you get your ideas from other people’s work. Ir you are ehthically comfortable in that position then go on ahead. Lots of people do it and are quite successful. See if it works for you. Just watch how closely you imitate because there are copyright infringement laws. I, personally have never wanted to do this because it feels counterfeit and shameful.

  7. Thanks Rena for another interesting topic. You are so right that we all need to follow our own paths to be authentic. In fact I believe that many customers buy because they want to be a part of the creative processes and buying one of your pieces of jewelry gives that to them. I have customers that tell me they love supporting me as an artist by buying my work. You can’t get that support without forging your own path. I am so much more excited by this type of customer validation than making more sales anyway. Maybe that I’d why we have the phrase starving artists. To be good, we have to care more about our art than making money (though having both is nice!).

  8. Karboojeh, what a wonderfully inspiring story! Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

  9. I have been a potter for 42yrs and making a living as a studio potter for 36yrs. There are lots of potters around but all are different because they are different. Who you are and how you grow shows up in your work. I have spent a lot of years getting to where I am now and one must follow ones interself to become yourself. “Follow ones bliss” can lead to spritual grow. I give you this website to read

  10. I agree with you -it’s important to follow your own path and avoid copying others. I do however think it’s ok to learn techniques from artists you admire, make them your own and incorporate them into your own work. I am still learning and refining, but think I already have my own unique style, mainly because my little niche is cat jewellery (and animals) for humans (not for cats!!). I think it’s ok to admire others, but I want to be successful with my business because of my own style and work.

  11. Karboojeh, it is easy to see why you have such an inspiring jewelry blog! I feel like I was sitting with you, having a fascinating conversation with a new friend!
    You keep your own integrity and share your love of design freely-lovely!

  12. Molly jaber says:

    I think it’s always good to see and gain inspiration from other people’s many times have we gone through a catalog and cut out pictures or “favorite” ed pieces on pinterest with the intention of trying to make something similar? Here’s the thing…if you put 10 people at a table with the same supplies and even show them how to make a piece of jewelry, you’ll end up with 10 very different pieces. It’s so much harder to copy something exactly than it is to do it your own way!
    People who make things do so because they have a creative side, they can’t resist bending the wire a little differently because it looks and feels better to them personally…that’s what keeps it original.

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