I make jewelry. But so do about 50% of all the sellers on Etsy. It's amazing how different it can be using basically the same materials, but I do look at other people's work for inspiration. And with jewelry, you could absolutely replicate someone else's work. That takes all of the fun out of designing something, but it could totally be done. I also make quilted stuff. And again, I look at other people's stuff for inspiration. With fabric, though, I think it's a little harder to make an exact copy, but, again, it could be done if you really wanted to.
But where is the line between copying and inspiring? There's a wealth of stuff out there. If I see something that I like, sometimes it makes me think about how I could do it too. But if we make the same thing, but in different ways, am I copying you or were you merely my inspiration?
One of my favorite fabric artists (who also happens to be my sister *smile*) is The Quilted House. She and I have some similar items and I've told her that she's one of my greatest inspirations. But when I started making notebook/journal covers, did I copy her design? I'd like to think that I didn't. Hers are made from one piece of fabric & mine are totally pieced & embroidered. Hers have a fabric tab & mine have a magnetic snap closure. But in the big scheme of things they're both the same thing. Although hers have totally nifty inside pockets that I'd love to do, but I can't wrap my brain around the curves. :)
With jewelry it's a little different. There's really a limited number of things that you can make -- earrings, necklaces and bracelets. I make a lot of earrings because that's what I like and personally wear more of. You'd think that there's not a lot of different ways you can make a pearl earring, for example. But if you do a search on Etsy for classic pearl earring, you'd be amazed at how many different earrings you'll find that are all basically the same thing.
Is it even possible to have an original thought in the crafting world? Most of us take things that already exist and assemble it into something different. I really admire the people who take raw ingredients and create something totally new. I'd love to be able to do fused glass or silver art clay or lampwork. (If I can convince my husband to buy me a kiln for my next birthday then we'll be in business *smile*). But until then, I'll keep my eyes open for my next source of inspiration :)
Be blessed! :)