April 23, 2012


{PART ONE: back to work}

It feels great to finally get back to business. Though I did have to kick myself to get moving, there was a day where I may have just sat here, stunned into stillness, hoping a little light would just point me in the right direction so I wouldn't have to think for myself. Where does one begin with a long list, dwindling materials, and an ever-shrinking space? It can be quite overwhelming. Mostly the space part.

So I picked something and began. Working will cure all that ails.

{PART TWO: let's get real}

...Well, most of what ails. What really cures all that ails is talking about it. I've had thoughts rattling around in my head for a while now, and I think many of you might also have some things to say on the subject. I want to breach the tricky and prickly topic that has been on my mind, and clearly on the mind of a few others too. It has to do with inspiration and imitation. There's simply no way I can say it any better than she did, so listen to her before you listen to me {and here too} but it's definitely a fine, fine line. And I think the world of today has made it way easier for those lines to be blurred: the fragile boundaries of copying. 

Now I don't want to freak anyone out if you think I'm referring to you, because chances are, if you think you might be guilty of this, you probably are NOT, especially if you are using inspiration as it's definition implies. I think the one's who we need to be aware of are the ones who believe they are not copying someones work when in fact they are. There's a lot of psychological denial in the works. When is it someones original idea? Who's to say. When is someones work too similar to someone else's? That's a tough call. 

All we can really ask is that we hold ourselves to a certain moral level.

Because unless it's horrifically blatant, you can't really stop it, even if it clearly crosses all the lines. It's all about what's on the inside: Ask yourself the question am I knowingly copying anyone's work or ideas when I make this? Hopefully the answer is no. If we start with ourselves maybe one day the standard will be raised again. The vengeful side of me has to be content with thinking to myself hopefully within their heart of hearts they know what they did. Is it more complicated than that? Totally! Have I ever copied someone else's idea? Sure! Maybe for my own home, for my own enjoyment, or to learn. But I'd never promote that. Do I want to paint all my doors black because he did and it looks fantastic? You bet I do! Do I want to make one of these super cool throws? Uh, yeah! Do I want to start making amazing cards and paintings about baseball because hers are so awesome? Heck-freaking-yes!

But will I? No. 

I didn't invent the damn table, and I sure as hell didn't invent using reclaimed wood. This, we know. I also didn't invent making one out of the other, but at a certain point, you put the two things together in the same way I do, then your getting into a sticky situation. Most people know this. Duh. So you ask, Hmmm, is she speaking from experience? And my answer is a sly maybe with a winky face. I suppose I wouldn't be rambling on about it if it weren't. Let's just say that someone may or may not have asked me if I had any copyrights on my table patterns {uh, yeah}. And there may or may not be a table or two out there that look quite a bit like one of my designs. I've spoken to many friends who have had run-in's with the copy-cat in worse situations than my own though. It's just something that comes with the territory; put your work out there, eventually it will be copied.

But it's sites like scrap hacker {I shake my fist at you!} and, yes, even Pinterest *gasp* that don't mean any harm but essentially promote the copying of others' ideas. The entire D.I.Y. trend is great and all {and you know damn well that I am all for picking up a hammer and getting it done} but it's not so great when people only rely on the images of others work to create. There should be limits. It's like the world has become one giant coloring book, extra praise given if you color within all the lines and with all the pre-labeled colors. What ever happened to just drawing on a blank piece of paper?

Moral level, y'all. Moral. Damn. Level.

Because for one, I'm not necessarily a D.I.Y blog. Take that with a grain of salt though. What I promote is the idea of building. What I stand for is the concept of creating with very little space {see image above of table top on kitchen floor}, of learning new materials, of overcoming stereotypes, of adoring power tools and wood-working just as much as the guy next door, as your dad, as your grandfather. What I stand for is finding humor in sexist comments at Home Depot, of building furniture that's stronger and prettier than guys who went to school for it {Hey, let me humor myself here!}. And I think most of you, if not almost every single one of you, totally gets that. I'm probably preaching to the choir. I promote the idea of building, but I don't promote replicating exactly what I build. Especially if you're gonna try and sell it. If you've got the urge to copy something, steer yourself in the right direction and copy this beauty instead.

So go dumpster diving, go build yourself a table, I'll help you figure it out if you've never done it before. Go splurge on a chop saw to use in your kitchen and explode saw dust all over your couch, go get a miter box and prop it up on your dining room table, or just continue building what you are building if you already know how. I'd like to believe that most artists are honest and know how to use inspiration properly, and that almost all of us learned how to site crap when we were writing fifteen-page art history papers in college. But even some adults still cheat sometimes, and maybe that's because they just haven't thrown out their old coloring books yet.

To quote a wise soul: Onward.



  1. Thanks for sharing your latest creation, and for sharing your views on using the internet for inspiration vs. imitation. It's a really important subject to discuss as our society gets more and more hooked on blogs and sites like Pinterest. What you said above reminds me that the whole point of creating is to be (to find) your authentic self.

    I'm starting to discover that I'm more authentic when my inspiration for making art comes from within myself, rather than outside of myself.

    Thanks again!

  2. YES! A million times yes. I couldn't agree more with what you said, and the coloring book analogy is spot on.

    Bottom line is, I think it's *ok* to copy someone else's work if you really want it but can't afford it (same way you can buy a knock off Eames chair or a reproduction of a painting) as long as you call it what it is (a copy) and never try to pass it off as your own original work, and it is never, ever, ever! ok to not only call it "original work" when it's not but then to go ahead and make money off it. It's weak, disloyal and despicable.

    There are plenty of good ideas out there, to be admired, rooted for, supported. Show some respect to other people's work, save up your pennies and buy it if you really want it. And find your own good ideas to make a living.

    Inspiration must come from multiple sources. Otherwise, it's simply (and often a pale) imitation.

  3. That's too bad about your parquetry tables being imitated. I know i'd feel low if someone was to blatantly copy my work, i really don't know how i'd address it. "On ward" is a good place to be.


  4. agreeeeeeee!!!! glad you are back to see your new work!!!

  5. Love your woodworking! I'm building tables as well, and you've been a great inspiration for me on just getting it done, rather than the actual way you make yours, or your specific style. Try to remember, that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But passing a replica off as your own idea, is lying, plain and simple. Too bad for them. Don't let their small mindedness ruffle your feathers. It seems like you're on your way to being a recognized designer, since you're already spawning knock-offs!! Some of us can only aspire to ever possibly spawning a knockoff. ;)

  6. SO well put, Ariele. Man, what a bummer about your stuff being imitated...although I guess thats a complement...but still really just lame-o. Anyway, you rock, like seriously rock and no one can copy that!

  7. Hi Ariele, As a furniture maker, this issue comes up for me all the time. Just last week I had a client email me a picture of a piece by a very well known and respected Australian Furniture maker, asking me how much I could make the same piece for- exactly the same. Like someone commissioning me to make an Ariele Alasko table. I just wouldn't do it, and I explained to the client why. Their reasoning was that the original piece was too expensive. They may choose to get another furniture maker to agree to their commission, they may buy the original or they may rethink the whole idea- I cannot control any of that- all I can do is stay true to my beliefs and ethics and move forward. Build your brand, worry about things you can control. Remember Madonnas' "wannabees", they were never going to be Madonna were they?? She is still kicking it and where are the wannabees?? crickets!!!!!!

    1. HOLLY HELL! Bravo for you! Seriously, you should say this out loud to a room of people so we can all applaud your sincere, moral, honest and admirable decision. You, clearly, have a wonderful sense of internal morals when it comes to making your craft. I think this is wonderful and inspiring. Thank you!

  8. While recently reading through Austin Kleon's 'Steal like an Artist - 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative' I found myself nodding in agreement to the 'Good Theft vs. Bad Theft' chart on page 39. He's been kind enough to make that chart available on flickr...

    Is anything truly original at this point? I don't think so. I think the closest we can get to being original comes from personal interpretation.

    Many people inspire me and collectively influence my work as a photographer and painter. There's no way around it.

    Inspiration and influence is part of the creative process. But blatant theft? There's nothing creative about that.

    1. Right! Inspiration is human, and it's crucial to be inspired by many and all around you. Inspiration is universal -- and I am obviously inspired by any number of people, images, patterns, paintings, feelings, as well. That chart is rad! Thanks for pointing that out.


    I love this post so much. You're so right. DIY is such a difficult thing...I fully understand that many (most?) people would classify my blog as a "DIY Blog," and while that doesn't bother me, I worry about the implications of that. I think SO much of DIY has become completely about ripping off something you've seen somewhere else—which, as you point out, is usually OK for personal use, depending on the source. But I've seen so many instances of people ripping off independent artists and designers' work, then posting a full tutorial on HOW THEY DID IT, and claiming that it's a flattering homage. I don't think these are bad people, but I do think that the whole DIY/web-inspiration *culture* has really blurred those moral boundaries and made people think that type of behavior is okay. Suffice to say, I have a lot of anxieties about being part of that trend...I don't think I am, but I don't like the connotation of DIY anymore, which is sad.

    This also reminds me that I owe you a damn email. I *really* am this inefficient.

    (I don't own the black door, btw!!! Paint away!)

  10. Hey Ariele,

    great words here. The free flow of ideas on the web sure has good stuff and bad stuff in the mix. It's freckin hard to be a maker of original work in these times, as the thirst for originality seems never ending.

    Your post addresses the questions of 'where does new ideas start and where do they end'? I love your work, and could never ever come close to making something as beautiful, you are my inspiration, just like the visually related work by artist Frank Stella and the geometric moorish marquetry in Alhambra in Spain.

    I encourage people to let your work and maker lifestyle inspire them, as I find many lack practical confidence even in making "simple" stuff like say a card, or a pot holder (for girls, powertools also seem scary, which is why your woodworking is so very cool). Furthermore, I want to promote sustainability/resource efficiency, which is why my website focuses on projects which incorporates reuse of stuff lying in back yards and dumpsters.

    "Despite the value that exists in making, fewer and fewer people know how to make things they use, need or want, or even how these things are made, this is a legacy of the Industrial Revolution that has shaped the world we live in. We've seen the distance between the maker and the user grow, and with it knowledge, understanding and appreciation is diminishing" (Quote from "Power of Making" - The Importance of being skilled)

    You, in being generous to share your process with your audience, is bridging this gap. I think that's why people love your work, your story teaches them, makes them understand and appreciate.

    The power of making is a force to reckon with in the future, and the sense of empowerment making brings gives people the courage believe in themselves and make great life altering choices, like starting a business or pursuing a creative career.

    In inspiring making, you are changing destinies. It is my hope, that you can see that in all of this, YOU ARE A HERO. I wish to do nothing but credit this fact. Sitting across the globe from you (in Stockholm, Sweden) writing this, I hope you can feel that your work is truly important and that you'll find the motivation and spirit to keep it up.

    All the best / ScrapHacker

  11. Beautifully put. Fantastic new tables!

  12. Hey sweetie! You have a very beautiful blog with a lot of inspiring posts! I'd like to invite you to be my friend and follow each other:)

  13. Your post is spot on. I was just amazed at scraphackers, I mean its one thing to post a tutorial that the contributor obviously meant for others to follow, but to post a picture of an actual product someone is trying to SELL and then go "this item cost X dollars, but all you need is some leftover scraps to make your own" isn't that incredibly tacky not to mention demeaning to the artist who took time to design it?! If i were the shop owner i would be pissed!

  14. You touched on a very convoluted issue here and I agree with your sentiments on the matter. In my mind the line is drawn at profiting from the sale of a reproduction or fake billed as the original. I have no issue with people selling repros as long as they are marketed and priced as such.
    However, I do not agree with the "Thou shalt not copy" approach in its' absolute form. Copying is a form of flattery after all. If someone wants to paint the legs of chairs neon lime because they saw it in a magazine or blog, I don't see why they shouldn't be allowed to. And sharing their process for doing that should be fine too. After all, they are doing it for personal use.

    1. Absolutely! I don't think I touched enough of the positive sides of imitation and inspiration, but the article I linked to at the top does a wonderful job of that. My example of "painting doors black" was a lame example simply because of what it is, and of course you, me, and everybody is allowed to "copy" such a design idea, because the trend/beauty of that has been universally agreed upon for a while now. If we copy this, we are not stealing from any one person. The neon-legs as well. And we certainly won't be making money off it at someone else's expense.

  15. This is the first post I've read on your blog, and it may have won me over (that and the beautiful photograph of one of your tables that led me this way). I'm a photographer/graphic designer/college student drowning in the world of pinterest. A lot of my friends and classmates are always talking about things they find on pinterest as if it suddenly makes them an artist. I usually launch into child-like tantrums about how harmful this site is to the artist community. I blog, and although I might be my only reader, it could be a good venue to voice this concern. Don't worry, I'll link back to you as the inspiration ;)

  16. those circle tables are awesome!

  17. Yeah!

    I really like the inspiration/curating - picture hoarding/copy/copyright discussion that's raging blogville. For my own part I can't understand why someone would like to do, or encourage others to do, exactly what someone else has already done. What's the fun in that? Isn't creating or giving an idea your own take the fun? The way I grew up, if someone had done something, then you did the opposite - snd then maybe you shouldn't take that too far either! But you know, common sense.

  18. Great to see a new table--and in a new shape!

    And a timely post on the whole copying thing...

    It makes me thing twice about the old adage, "good artists borrow, great artists steal". (Now that it seems easier than ever to steal!) But you're right about the morality of it.. It comes down to not deceiving yourself and not plagiarizing! That's how ideas evolve, right? It's a big topic :)

  19. I am one who has pinned a photo or two of your work on Pinterest. For me, the great thing about Pinterest is the ease of organizing images found on the web. I would never copy people's stuff, that's not gratifying at all.

    I make outdoor mobiles and wreaths, which do not have any similarities to your work. I am inspired by your work ethic, your craftsmanship, the story on each thing, and the beauty of it. I love your art, but I am really admiring your process of creating them.

    I do wonder if there is a line being crossed. It is distressing to see stuff "West Elmified" for mass consumption because of the easy access of the internet.

    1. Thanks for this comment! Yes, for the most part I am not speaking to the masses of Pinterest users who Pin for good reasons. You are clearly one of the many who understand inspiration and admires others work in a wonderful way, and I thank you dearly for bringing this up. I definitely have collected a few beautiful images here and there as well. It's when I see an image of my tables pinned with a caption of "I'm going to build this exact table!" or "I'm going to have my hubby make this for me!" and so on. This topic is definitely not an easy one to address without offending some people unnecessarily, and it's not to say that I'm not flattered and excited when I see how many people have pinned my work. So, thank you dearly for admiring my process. That means a lot to me :)

  20. I am an eager fan of the DIY- culture. Mainly because I am so tired of the whole massconsumption psycosis. The way we buy and toss things make me so sad.

    Your blog opened my mind even a little bit more - sure I'd thought about working with wood some day - but you showed me how beautiful it can be. You're not just making tables, you're creating beautiful art!

    Although I have to admit that it has crossed my mind to make a similar table. Purely for the beauty of it, and for the fun in having a freaking home-made diningroom table.
    I'd never create something that's not my original idea without admitting from where I stole it. But reading your post makes me.. think again.

    Acutally, it makes me sad. Like expecting a baby with all the joy (just an example here, not everyone would be glad for it, some might be horrified)and dreams it brings you just to sourt of.. loose it.

    I am really trying to be honest here and speak from my heart so pardon me for not formulating myself very well. (and for the lack of proper words)

    For me, the DIY-culture (online) opened up a new world of possibilities and ideas, but your post makes me want to unplug forever. It actually makes me afraid of crossing the wrong lines. And with communitys posting stuff without even asking the artist..

    Oh, I don't know.I hope you take this the right way and that I get my message across. Maybe some of you can help my get my thoughts sorted out?

    1. ACK! I definitely never intended to make anybody sad with this post! Thoughtful, yes, but not sad. So i do apologize for that, and hope that you continue to make and DIY, without any fear. Again I say, building yourself a dining room table because I maybe inspired you to build one is GOOD. Very good. Even building one similar to mine, with the intention of having it only for your own enjoyment, and to learn, is also totally GOOD. Good I say! My criticism of DIY is only applicable to a few scenarios, and I hope that you see this with my further explanation. If you build YOURSELF a dining room table like mine, that is in NO way stealing or copying in a bad way. As long as credit is given where credit is due, as with all art/artists. So please, I urge you to go ahead and do it, and show the world your finished product because you are proud of it!

      Thank you dearly for your thoughtful and honest comment, and I wish you happy building!!

    2. Oh, if I could explain with words the satisfaction of reading your answer!
      Okay, so - GOOD. I like that word. And with that OK I will make myself a table eventually. And you'll be the first one to know, since I will link it back to you. I'm not a big fan of smiley, but please insert a big one here <---

      I think I get your point deep in the back of my mind. I myself draw and paint, ( and other stuff.. I'd refer to myself as a handywoman rather than an artist since I've only had a few excibitions and not attended art-school. (only pre-art-school, huh, the translations.. )
      And the subject of stealing / copying has been discussed many times.
      I actually had to deal with that in school, someone made a drawing Very similar to mine. but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, I just realized that it was something I had to deal with. (not saying that I'm a saint or that I wouldn't have been angry if the person would have tried to sell it) But.. I don't know. There's already so much out there, it's impossible to create something totally unique, but I'm quite convinced that as long as I stay true to myself, it still will be unique in a way. No-one else can do it exactly the way I do it, or you do it, 'cause we're all unique as human beings. Atleast that's how I see it and that's what keeps me calm.Ofcourse someone could copy a drawing of mine, but the lines STILL wouldn't be exactly thesame.
      Sure, someone who's even more sure of the hand might even do it BETTER, but then, that's well, a shame for me.

      I read the links you referred to, And I thought they were very interesting. In fear of being too inspired by other works I have actually stayed away from too much art-surfing. wich is both good and bad, obviously. You do need input too get an output, when your inspiration ends as it does (for me) from time to time. Although I find inspiration in life, friends, nature blablabla. As for art, I'm more interested in techniques. Hm, I think I am going to stop here since it seems as if I am just declaring my own creative process. (and it gets a bit long)

      Anyway, THANK YOU for the kind answer, and thank you for keeping up such a beautiful blog!I really, REALLY love it. I love your tables, your photos of your home, your hand (since it's mostly your hand and not the whole you that you show on your blog) and your ring, the antique turqoise one(!) and your writing. You seem to be a lovely person!

  21. To play the devils' advocate, (non-artist here): With all due respect, somehow this post reminds me of celebrities complaining about being followed by the paparrazzi, except that they continue to live in L.A. and parade around the hot spots where celebrities get photographed all the time. It's an affectation all cleverly designed to promote themselves by buying the public's sympathy, and really they're just being pompous. If it bothers you so much that people are copying your ideas, you shouldn't have a blog exhibiting and celebrating your work from all different angles (which then would be silly, because what is art if it isn't shared with others?)

    This is to say that I wish you would be honored and flattered by amateur DIYers on pinterest and the like (not those who DIY for personal gain--more on that later). I wish your post would not be so condescending towards people who are not as gifted as you, or don't have as much time as you, or money as other people to buy your work. If it brings joy to a fan to recreate the beauty you have designed for themselves, that he or she can enjoy both the beautiful work in their home as well as the sense of accomplishment in *almost* achieving what someone as talented as you came up with, that's a great thing. What is art, if not imitation of the beautiful things that nature created, that in so creating them on a smaller scale ourselves, that we feel closer to something bigger than we are?

    I COMPLETELY agree that it is wrong for people to turn a profit off someone else's idea without giving credit, or borrowing anyones ideas without giving credit. I for one am an avid DIY-er (although I only dream of furniture, and the day I will earn enough to buy one of your pieces), but part of the fun for me is telling people where I got the ideas from in the first place. (Maybe it's because I'm not an artist, so I don't have to define myself by how exceptional my creative endeavors are.)

    So while I completely agree that it is wrong to take ideas without proper credit, especially for personal financial gain, I think you shouldn't be so hard on your admirers of all forms. Imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery. Bloggers enjoy a lot of flattery and attention by showing off their talents to the masses online. If one can't accept that other kind of flattery that comes with it, then maybe the web is too big and public place to be exhibiting work. One can't have it both ways.

    1. Dear C, thanks for your comment. I think you should re-read my post because in no way am I being condescending to ANYONE, especially the DIYer who wants to build something for their own home, and I specifically stated that multiple times. It seems as though you don’t seem to understand the difference between a person who is doing DIY as a hobby, and a professional designer who steals someone else’s idea and presents it as their own to a client. I think you took this too personally, as what I wrote about is an extremely valid point, and has been experienced by many people, and written about by a few. I speak of it to give it a voice because I CAN. And in reality, I wrote about it lightly, from what experience I have, without giving links to specific examples because that would be unprofessional. I don’t agree that it is fair to compare an artist such as myself to a celebrity who is complaining for the hell of it. We are artists who work hard to make a living at whatever craft we have chosen, who have worked up from the bottom to “have as much time as” myself, and though being copied is an inevitability in the modern world, I fully believe that it is NOT something we have to live with, to accept in silence, to watch it happen, and to see someone else make money from our ideas. THAT, is why I voiced my opinion here. And I appreciate yours.
      Imitation *might* indeed be the sincerest form of flattery, but flattery is NOT really the goal here.

  22. I think you brought up a subject we all have to think about... it's going to ruffle feathers, as all subjects we have to think about do. A few of mine were ruffled as well. And then we either go into defense mode or we make up excuses, or we're honest with ourselves and accept another viewpoint. At least I hope there is a bit of looking at our motivation. Mine has been re-purposing and not wasting, being frugal. I can re-purpose/re-use denim so long before I run out of ideas and I go looking for inspiration. Same with pallets. If I were to re-purpose pallets I'd want something exceptional that I could be proud of. So I'd go looking for ideas beyond what's running around in my noodle. Sometimes that sparks a creative (an original idea ~as far as I know) and I go with it. I don't see a need to reinvent the wheel all the time, just make it mine. i.e. how many ways are there to install crown molding? I'm not in business, I'm not out to steal your ideas, and this is the first time I've visited your page... but I am guilty of loving Pinterest and seeing tons of good ideas out there. Actually a discussion of 'copying' on etsy lead me to your page.

    Also, for years I've admired mid-century BH&G architecture. The spread out ranch houses, the manicured lawns. I don't have one yet. Probably never will. But I admire them, and they make me happy. Your tables and headboards make me happy. Your black doors and hallway transformation make me happy. I celebrate your getting it done.

    I did wonder though, if it's a problem if people use your ideas, why you display them to be used ~so I did kinda get the example of celebrities and paparazzi. I'm sure you wouldn't be able to keep up with the demand for everyone who wants one of your tables either. There is the dilemma.

    Thanks for putting it out there what's been on your mind and I'm sure many others that are trying to make a living.. I respect that. And I'll be more thoughtful when I do browse and pin.

    And really... thanks for sharing your awesome work! Truly inspiring!

  23. AnonymousJune 25, 2012

    You have provided an awesome site.
    Here is my website - Furniture Designer Brisbane

  24. I love this post so much. Work too.


  25. hi, i have been working on a few projects the last few days after coming across one of your headboards.i have been inspired ever since. i wanted to ask you what kind of tools i might need as a basic set, I'm in college and half broke, but nothing makes me happier than creating something from scratch. also, if there are any classes or books i should take a look at to learn some more about the craft.


Thank you dearly for your comments! They always make my day.