26 March 2013

on miffy, kitty and creativity

There are new (and old) things to learn everyday, and some of them are surprising ... especially when you are not expecting a trivial comment to lead you to something more.

I had no idea that Miffy was Dutch. I blame the successful marketing of (the rip-off?) Hello Kitty for my thoughtless assumption that Miffy was Japanese.

In fact, I had never really thought about it, and while I can't remember a time without Miffy, I had no idea that she was so old. Nearly as old as I am, in fact!

Was Hello Kitty a "rip-off", or was some designer unconsciously influenced by the image? Or did H K develop completely independently? (The latter seems unlikely when you consider the success of Dick Bruna's work). But it does make me ask myself the question, how much in the world can we call "original"?

I remember being surprised, when doing my "genuinely original" work, to find an artist in the UK making similar pieces. I, in turn, upset a student by suggesting that she research a certain artist who had made work almost identical to her original work. It took some time to persuade her that continuing with her work was valid, and that I had alerted her to it so that she could be aware and set her work in context, not so that she would change direction.

Being original in a universe that is cluttered with visual images from around the world can seem a difficult challenge, but I believe that if we are true to ourselves creatively then we will produce work with our own signature that can be called our own. Or can we? Does Hello Kitty have Dick Bruna's "signature" even though she was produced in Japan?

Read on... (Wikipedia) I found this really interesting. Never assume anything. Yesterday I met the cutest Miffy, and previously when flying through Amsterdam I had noticed many Miffy dolls for sale in Schiphol. A chance comment about Miffy being Dutch had me googling... :-)

Today I am grateful for children's books.

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