Tuesday, February 11, 2014

There's No Magic

The process of making art is a lot of work. There's no magic in it. I'm not saying that imagaination or the source of inspiration isn't magical, I'm saying that the day-to-day, getting up and going into the studio, cleaning up your bench, putting in the hours, doing the research-- that's work. Even though it's work you love, your craft is not going to improve by posting on Facebook what you had for breakfast,or by spending hours on Pinterest. Nope.

When people take a class from me that they will be learning from someone who has put in considerable time in the discipline of polymer clay, someone who knows a lot about what techniques are out there and what resources are available. For example, after last year's ArtBliss retreat, I put together a very comprehensive color resources chart for my students, listing all the media we used in class, and appropriate uses for each. I don't simply teach a way to use a technique-- I teach a way of thinking about that technique, a method that-- hopefully-- will lead you to your own artistic way of using it, of expanding your skill-set as well as your imagination.

The person that's copying my workshop (see previous posts this past week) has no idea of the thought process behind the technique. She merely sees the results and likes them-- likes them enough that she wants to teach them too. She wants to use my work to enhance her teaching reputation. But she's an impostor-- I originated the content and I know the thought-process behind the technique. I put in the hours and days and weeks of work it took to create the technique that she will now go and blithely take perhaps 10 minutes to throw at her students. After all, she's only got a few hours to teach what it takes me twice as much time to do in my class. Because I know why the technique exists, what it's really meant to do (besides color polymer), the philosophy behind it, the reasons why it will enhance your work, the best ways to use it, all the stuff that's listed on the chart that my students get at the end of the class.

So workshop imposters aren't offering any magic, no matter how the class description reads. What you're getting is diluted content, the husk of the technique. The person that originated the concept, that tapped into the magic of their imagaination to create it, the person that can tell you why you're using it and how, that's the person you should seek out. And that would be me.

(Christine is teaching two new classes at ArtBliss this September-- stay tuned to AB's website for the announcment in early March)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Imitation-- Not the Sincerest Form of Flattery

You may have heard the phrase “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. It's not. It's unethical and usually illegal. I'm not talking about an individual who sees something in a tutorial or on a website and tries a technique or copies a colorway. That's how we learn, as we grope our way to our own authentic voice.

I'm talking about an individual who deliberately took original content she learned in my workshop and then shoehorned into a mixed-media class that she then shopped to a major jewelry venue, with nary a change in that content (right down to using the same phrases used in my class description!) and most certainly not the significant amount that the US Patent Office would deem necessary to claim that a true innovation had been made.

And the thing that's most appalling is that the way many people choose to deal with this is to let the imposter get away with it. We are so averse to confrontation in our society these days that we would just let people steal our ideas, ideas which were so hard-won, that we birthed from our creative souls and nurtured so they could grow to eventually inspire others.

Things people have said to make me feel better: “Artists XYZ used to send “Cease and Desist” letters-- now they just laugh” (really? What's funny about being ripped off?) “Ms. Artist-Well-Known said people copy her all the time so she's just decided to 'let it go'--the implication being “better artists than you just 'let it go'-- why are you persisting?

Because it has to stop. And it won't by itself. It will stop because we, as a culture of artists, demand that original content cannot be used without permission. If I teach you a technique, you can use that technique for your own work but you may NOT teach that content, under any circumstances—not to your guild or to your niece or to your neighbor and definitely not to workshop participants at a national jewelry venue. I love that you were inspired by my class but what are you adding to the content to make it really yours?

As Harriete Estel Berman cautions:

If you haven't made a significant leap, not a stepping stone but a leap onto a new path, then you're teaching derivative content and run the risk of being a “workshop imposter”. And if you don't really surpass the “workshop master” into new territory, everyone will see you as a “workshop imposter".

Here's an article from the American Crafts Council called "Ali Baba and the Copycat Thieves"

Lots of food for thought here.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Copycats: It's not a Good Thing

If you happened to see my post on Facebook yesterday, you know that I'm having an issue with  a former student who is teaching a technique of mine in a workshop at a large jewelry venue.

I'm going to direct you to a website that I have found truly eye-opening and informative about copyright infringement and theft of intellectual property. I became aware of Harriete Estel Berman's website "Ask Harriete" after her keynote speech--"The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in the Age of the Internet"-- for the International Polymer Clay Association's 2013 Annual Meeting, where it raised quite a bit of controversy. Check out the video of her presentation and you'll see why: http://www.slideshare.net/Harriete/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-in-the-age-of-the-internet

This link will take you to her post: "The Color Blind Paint Salesman and the Workshop Imposter" for a dose of reality: http://askharriete.typepad.com/ask_harriete/2013/04/workshop-copying-gets-ugly.html

After her presentation, Ms. Berman says that people just came out of the woodwork and shared their stories with her. Copying and teaching what's not your own orginal content is more widespread than you know and you may think "so what"? -- until it happens to you.

In the next post I'll share my personal experience with this and the impact it's had on my life in the last few weeks.