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!