How to be Original in a Saturated Hand-Made Market



We’ve all run into it before. You’re scrolling through your Instagram feed when all of a sudden you see something you were planning on making. Or some version of it anyway. You let out a sigh as your vision of your lettered & watercolor print slips through your fingers. Now, you’re discouraged. You don’t want to make it anymore at risk of copying (no matter if you had the idea without any previous inspiration) and you want to make something that will stand out. But how are you going to do it? There are thousands of young women (and men) hand-lettering & creating things every day; prints, pillows, mugs, totes, wood signs, embroidery hoops, and the list goes on.

Recently, I released #TheNurseryCollection; I came up with dozens of unique designs that I felt were completely my own. Sure, wood signs, prints & greeting cards have been around for years but I felt that I put enough of my own spin on them to truly stand out! So, as YOU delve further into the creative world, with inspirations to create something that represents a unique vision, here are some steps you can take:

1. Do your research.

Part of creating an original product means doing your research FIRST. Search hashtags on Instagram and Facebook, search Google, Etsy, Pinterest, you name it. Do some digging to try to find a product that looks like something you are planning on producing. If you find too many things that are similar, maybe that’s not your “breakout” idea.

2. Create before you consume!

My dear friend @augustandember commented with this gold nugget of advice on my one of my Instagram posts a little while back. Someone had previously passed the advice onto her and I couldn’t agree more! As tempting as it is to check all of your social media as soon as you wake up, sometimes it’s better to pick up a pencil and sketch something first instead. Jessi Ford of @designhouseofmoira once said that she woke up each morning to practice watercolor first thing. Not only did her skills infinitely increase, but she was able to develop a unique style and approach because she was creating first thing above all else.

3. Let inspiration strike you in unlikely places.

So many people flock to Instagram and Pinterest first thing to gain their inspiration, but I truly believe that your most unique ideas will be inspired and produced in the most unlikely circumstances. The idea for #TheNurseryCollection simply fell into my head (I feel so J.K. Rowling saying this) while I was sitting in a pew listing to a sermon one Sunday. As soon as I got home I began drawing, sketching, and creating what I wanted my new line to look like. And it felt so good knowing that I had “discovered” my idea without first seeing someone else’s product. This leads me to my next point:

4. Do your initial sketches without a point of reference.

I knew that I wanted to include animals in #TheNurseryCollection, but I also knew that animals have been drawn, painted, and sculpted hundreds (probably thousands) of times before, which meant that I would have to create a completely new take on so-called “animal art” to stand out. When I started sketching, I didn’t look up pictures of any animals. I drew and tweaked things how I envisioned them and did so purely from my memory of specific animals. The unrealistic and simplistic approach of my drawings is part of what made them so unique! When I was stuck wondering how a flamingo’s beak was supposed to be shaped (by that point, the rest of the animal was drawn how I wanted) I pulled up a generic photo on Google of the actual animal as a point of reference. Never sketch or create while looking directly as someone else’s product or creative interpretation of something.

5. Change up who you follow!

­­­So often, I find myself discouraged more than ENCOURAGED when I’m online looking at what other artists in my field are currently doing.  It’s easy to get caught up in the comparison game, and it makes it even harder when you’re trying to come up with something new! Granted, you will definitely create friendships with some amazing people in your field (some of mine include @sarahbcalligraphy, @seniman_calligraphy, and @rosalynnelove) but you also need to remember to seek inspiration OUTSIDE of your field as well. This is why I’m trying to follow more embroiderers (@teaganolivia), photographers who love nature (@victoriacarlsonphoto), and ceramic artists (@arrowandsage) on my calligraphy Instagram feed. Not only do I need other creatives outside my field for collaborative means, but I also need them as an abstract source of inspiration. Maybe I’m struck by pottery colors, embroidery patterns, and nature tones that may drive me to create something new in my own field. All of these things will fuel my creativity and challenge my brain into a different way of thinking when I approach a new project. 

I have found that, by implementing these tactics, I have a new sense of creative freedom that I didn’t have before. I am opening my eyes and looking at the world more often, rather than always staring at my computer or phone screen. I hope these tips have helped (or maybe affirmed) how you’ve been feeling in your creative journey!