Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Discussion Continues

The discussion about copying and teaching other's techniques continues in earnest on Polymer Clay Daily blog, and has spilled over to the Polymer Clay Central discussion board. It is interesting that sites on the internet that celebrate this media that is so alive with innovation have also become the site of a discussion about perhaps reining in that creative energy. I was going to add to the discussion on Polymer Clay Daily, but as my comment grew in length, I decided this might be a better place to post my comments.

It seems to me that it goes back to that book, Everything I Ever Needed To Know I Learned in Kindergarten. It is not nice to copy someone else's work. If you borrow something from someone else, ask first and say thank you if they are willing to let you use it. When you do you own work (even if it involves a technique someone else developed) it feels much better. Think before you react. Ask before you assume. (both ways).
Making lists of what is open and what is off-limits, like policing, is an exercise in futility. When does an idea move from the off-limits list to the open for everyone list? A design is never open to everyone to reproduce and sell. But techniques are open to the exploration of all who are intrigued enough to explore them. If I make some canes that are similar to what Sarah Shriver, or Sandra McCaw makes and use them to decorate the surface of one of my cranes, am I infringing on their designs? I don't think so. I am happy to acknowledge their inspiration in the canework. But, if I make earrings or pins like Sandra's, or a bracelet or necklace like Sarah's and try to sell them as my own....I have crossed a line. And it is a place I am not the least bit interested in going.

I am new to polymer clay. I only really began playing with the clay four years ago. Within a week or two I was wondering if I could make a crane out of clay. I persisted, and figured it out. I then went to the internet to see who else might be making them. I couldn't find a thing. I have since heard from a few people that they had folded cranes from clay years ago, but they did not pursue it much further. But people know I am the one who makes cranes out of clay. Should I be the only one who can make them and sell them? Heavens forbid, no!
Cranes have been made from paper for centuries. People have experimented with using other media for origami techniques for many, many years. I have used wire mesh to make a few pieces, and have thought about using fabric. I heard from a woman in Seattle who makes cranes from fabric and sells them at her local farmer's market.

The thing about cranes is that they represent so many wonderful things. Peace first off. And prosperity, long life and fidelity. We can all use these things in our lives. More people, making more cranes will do more good in the world than my trying to police anyone and everyone who decides they also want to fold cranes out of clay. One of these days, when I have five minutes to breathe, I need to figure out how to make a video to teach others how to do origami with polymer clay. Holding on to what I have learned will not help me or anyone else. Sharing our knowledge can help grow the base.

I look at the work of Celie Fago and Louise Fischer Cozzi . Both have taken what they learned from Gwen Gibson (the tear-away technique) and develop their own distinctive designs.

What if Gwen taught this technique but then imposed limits? Certainly these women are creative enough to find some other technique to express themselves with. But clearly this subtle texture created by this process was something that spoke to both of these women. Yet, what each woman did with the process is unique to them. And both readily acknowledge that Gwen was the person who they learned the tear away technique from.

Before we start building fences and making lists we ought to stop and think. Bush may say he is the "decider"...but do we really want to have a "decider" to say what we can and cannot do with this wonderful media?? Common sense, good manners, and a touch of humor and humility will help all of us grow.

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