Monday, March 17, 2008

What I feel the need to say . . .

I apologize for the absence of a photo to go along with this post. Somehow, nothing seemed quite right. If you're reading this blog right now, I'll going to assume that you spend some amount of your leisure time online. It follows then, that at some point, you've probably become aware of a subject that, to some extent, affects all art-related groups and every medium, polymer clay included. Okay, I can sense the rise in blood pressure already. Just bear with me, please. I've spent days on this post and I'd prefer that it be read without any type of emotional investment. At the risk of sounding extremely pompous, I feel that as a student, an instructor, an author, and someone who simply enjoys using polymer clay as a means of personal expression, I have a somewhat unique perspective to offer. We are all a product of our individual experiences and those experiences are what has led me to write what follows.

This subject has been rehashed so many times and terms such as ownership, stealing, infringement, copying, borrowing, derivative, originator, originality, etc., have been tossed around to the point that many of us are just tired of hearing about it.

How do we, as a community, put this to rest once and for all? As much as some of us would like to turn this into a battle over some specific incident that affects you, your best friend or your favorite pal on a message group, that needs to stop. It's about so much more than any one person or incident and it affects each and every one of us in some way.

The Internet is an amazing thing - efficient, timely, influential, and so very powerful. I'm so glad Al Gore thought of it! There's no doubt that it's had a huge impact on the development and growth of polymer clay. So many of the issues at hand have understandably intensified as our usage of and our comfort level with computers have risen. The relative anonymity of the Internet, the instant gratification it provides, and the lack of accountability that's often present, have all contributed to this progression. How best to balance the positive and negative aspects of a sharing community? To me, the answer is both simple and obvious: RESPECT.

When we, as students, take a class or workshop, what should we expect? We should leave with new knowledge, we should leave inspired, we should be brimming with creative energy, we should have increased confidence in our abilities, and a feeling of having experienced something wonderful. That's what I try to provide when a teach a class and that's what I expect when I take a class. When we spend our hard-earned dollars on an art-related workshop, a book, or a magazine, do we have the right to use the techniques or projects that are presented and incorporate them into our own work? Of course we do. It would be insane to pay for something and not be expected to use it. Can we make something that looks like the instructor's work? Of course we can. Can we sell these pieces? Of course we can. When we paid for the information, we gained the right to do that. I'm not encouraging you to imitate someone else's work. However, I believe that, for some people, this is an important part of the creative process and I have no doubt that as we incorporate what we learn into our own artistic point of view, our work eventually evolves and changes and will become something that is uniquely ours. If an instructor or author feels uncomfortable with having students or readers imitate their work, they're probably in the wrong business. If you plan to sell work that came about from a workshop or a book, it's nice to give the instructor or author a mention. This enables them to continue to sell books and teach workshops to all those people who are now admiring and buying what you've made. In addition, give some consideration to the fact that you're not the only one who's taken the class or bought the book. You may not want to present work to sell that looks so similar to what lots of other people are making.

For an instructor, there's no better advertising than to have a student return to their guild and share their enthusiasm and excitement for what they learned during class or for that student to post on an online forum pictures of the things they made. You should feel perfectly comfortable sharing these things. Is it okay for you to return home and give a step- by -step demonstration of what you learned in class to your guild members who weren't able to attend? It's nice of you to share but think about it from an instructor's point of view. If you do that and 10 other people do the same thing, there are now 11 guilds with hundreds of potential students who have just been taught, for free, the process that instructor is depending on to earn a living. How many of those guilds will want to bring the instructor in to teach that workshop now? Maybe some of them will. But, there will be lots of others who feel that they've learned that process and would rather move on to something else.

The process of developing a workshop is a long one. It takes weeks, months, or even years to refine and develop this process into a format that's teachable in a classroom setting and results in a successful outcome for many different skill levels. In a one-day workshop, especially, the instructor's entire process may be able to be demonstrated in just a few steps. If you take photos of the process during class, keep in mind that the information that's presented in the classroom, including handouts, is only meant for those who have paid for the class. The process that you learned is yours to use but it is NOT yours to share. There's no doubt that most workshops are far more than just a handful of pictures but, posting step-by-step photos on the Internet in the spirit of sharing is not fair to students who have previously paid for the information and it's not fair to the instructor who is currently teaching that workshop. This type of sharing, which is usually done with the best of intentions, can lead to problems you may never have even considered. The dozen friends who reply to your post and thank you for "sharing" are not the only ones who see these photos. Thousands and thousands of people now have access to something they can make use of in whatever way they'd like. Here's just one scenario. If someone decides they want to try the process, take their own photos, rename the process "Kathy's Krazy Kane", and post a free tutorial on their website, what type of effect will this have on the person who worked so hard to develop and teach this process? Their name has been totally removed from the equation, they receive no benefit for their hard work, their future earnings can be adversely affected, and, if they cry foul, they're often chastised for it. So, in our excitement and eagerness to share, we should always be mindful of sharing more than we have a right to and what the consequences may be.

Our community consists of many talented artists but not all of them have a desire to teach. Some people are producing work to sell, while others create only for themselves and the personal satisfaction they receive from the creative process. If you admire someones artwork and are not able to take a class from them or purchase work from them, for whatever reason, is it acceptable to try and duplicate their work for yourself? No one can stop you from doing that and this type of "reverse engineering" can be a wonderful learning experience. If you decide to share this piece with others, give credit for your inspiration to that artist. Don't "forget" where it came from or try to convince yourself or others that you magically came up with this on your own if that's not the case. It's really not painful to acknowledge that you were inspired by someone else's work. We're all inspired by other artists and it's nothing to be ashamed of. Don't think it's acceptable to write a tutorial to share with all your friends online if this was not your original idea. Just because you were able to figure out another artist's process doesn't give you the right to share it. Let the originator decide how and when to share this information as they see fit. Use good judgment. If you know this artist is selling their work through an online store, for instance, do you really feel it's right to make pieces that look just like theirs and compete with them? Of course it's not and one day, you could find yourself in a similar situation where those roles are reversed. Anyone who has had this experience can tell you it's not a pleasant one.

I believe that any medium requires a sharing and an open environment to grow but, it also requires artists who are willing to invest time and effort into developing techniques and work that will move the medium forward. I don’t think there are many people out there who can afford to or are willing to do that for nothing. We need to balance respect and courtesy with our eagerness to share what we've learned. Even if you disagree with me, I hope that everyone who's taken the time to read these words can understand and appreciate my dream for the polymer clay community: Respect for students who have taken classes or bought books and have a right to use what they have learned in their own work. Respect for instructors who have worked hard to develop workshops that enable them to earn a living and have a right to expect that details of their process will not be shared outside of the classroom. Respect for our fellow artists whose work inspires us to create new work of our own and who have a right to sell their designs and share their process as they see fit.

This hasn't been an easy post to write and it's been even harder to make the decision to put it up here for everyone to read. I feel as if I have much invested in the polymer clay community. I've spent more than 10 years concentrating my energies on this medium and teaching, writing, and selling my work is now my "job". I am not the "polymer police" and I have no right to tell you how to live your life, creatively or otherwise. If these words have changed your opinion of me, then that's something I will have to live with. Ultimately, we are all responsible for the personal choices we make and this was mine.

Comments, as always, are welcome. But, please stick to the topic at hand. I don't want this to turn into something it was never meant to be.


Anonymous said...

I am not sure why this was hard to post other than you are a kind soul and don't want to offend anyone. What you said was just plain common sense and respectful ethicasy (oh for a spell check on google blogger!)
As you know I have taken many classes and each time I learn to push my mind a little farther into new creative challenges. I buy every new book about polymer (and many other art forms) and soak up all the information I can from every resource possible. There are many wonderful artists who inspire me. If I was ever, ever able to unleash the incredible content of my mind and actually produce pieces to sell... I hope you would find that what I would make would be something that was influenced by many talented men and women with whom I have had the privledge to meet, or study under or whose art I have admired over the years, much like the person who I am today is the result of encounters and relationships I have had over my lifetime. Who I am is not made up merely of my experiences but of how I as a unique individual processes those experiences.
I can also see how some people, like myself are so concerned with originalty and not "stealing" someone elses creative ideas, that we tend not to produce anything at all and if we do, we take no credit for the execution for fear that it wasn't our idea in the first place. A circle is a circle and just because someone becomes associated with creating work in that shape, it does not become exclusivly theirs. A "pod" however, wether like Jeff Dever's or Donna Kato's is a rather unique thing. If I were to create something in that vein would that be stealing? How about if I have read an article, not taken a class. I don't know. I am not going to do it, you know I never finish anything. I am just putting it out there. You barely got that can of worms open, I thought I would finish what you started.
Anyway, you have no reason to worry, you were right on the mark and if anyone is offended, it is their right but it doesn't make them right. What a country!!!
Love ya! Rosemary
All art is "borrowed" from somewhere wether it be from a person or from the Creator, few ideas are truly original.

Glitterd1 said...

You expressed/explained it all SO well, but this is my favorite part:
Don't "forget" where it came from or try to convince yourself or others that you magically came up with this on your own if that's not the case. It's really not painful to acknowledge that you were inspired by someone else's work. We're all inspired by other artists and it's nothing to be ashamed of.
That really says a mouth full. But sadly there are always people (using ANY form of self expression) that "magically forget" where their inspiration came from. Sadly, ethics and morals and RESPECT are not as important as having 214 cable channels these days. Your dream for the clay community is wonderful! I hope with all my heart it comes true. But then I keep thinking about the clayers who read your post all the while thinking to themselves that THEY are doing nothing wrong and are NOT part of the problem, when in truth they are. They are 'well established' and set in their ways and sharing information (tutorials and other examples you mentioned) that is not theirs to share. Yet they are long time members of the community and befriended by "famous" clayers...who points out to them that they are contributing to the problem? There will always be newbies coming along who will look up to 'the wrong people' as examples and for help.

And before someone accuses me of being a little black pot...I want to share a personal example about how all that second-hand information and tutorials can go wrong. I can personally attest to how sharing a tutorial without ANY mention of the originator's name can domino effect.

I admired the PC work of multiple people from Spain and Portugal via flickr. One specific technique to be exact. A few of them called the technique by name, but never a teacher or originator. I wanted desperately to make similar beautiful beads so being a good internet person...I googled it. :) At the time I didn't come up with much via google, so I asked one of the nice (Spanish) flickr artists HOW they made the beads. She explained it to me and never once mentioned the clay artist who originated the technique.

So here I had seen dozens of flickr photos using the same technique, and upon further googling found 2 tutorials neither of which mentioned an original I thought it would be a SUPER idea to take the sharing one step further and make a video tutorial about it.

It was not until AFTER making and publishing the tutorial that someone emailed me and told me there was an original creator and she was actively teaching the technique in workshops! Lucky for me the originator was/is a damn nice lady. But the fact remains....the second hand tutorials that did NOT credit a creator trickled down and I unknowingly contributed to the problem.

Ignorance is NOT bliss!

So what's the answer? How do you/we/me distinguish between the honestly ignorant offenders and the people who just don't give a damn? How do we pass the word along to everyone? How do we achieve widespread mutual respect in a fast paced internet world? Because I'm guessing it's a small percentage of the (entire global) clay community who can attend things like Synergy and/or pay for or have access to workshops and classes.

Maybe all the major clay manufacturers can include a common courtesy and respect flier with each package of clay? :) I'm really not trying to be Polly Pessimist with this comment, I promise! But I'm afraid it has come out that way. I just felt like my personal example would further drive home the issue of how "magically forgetting" can cause problems. And the rest of it....well I guess that was a rant.

Nevertheless, I hope my novella hasn't been a total hindrance to the conversation. If it has, I'm sure someone will tell me. :)

On the other hand, you Ms. Colander, expressed yourself beautifully.

Anonymous said...

Well said. I'd be hard-pressed to disagree with any of your points. But there is one important question:

When does your own work inspired or influenced by someone else become different enough to be your own? It is that gray area that will keep this issue from being settled to anyone's liking.

And that's really too bad. It's so much more satisfying to make art than to argue about it!

Jenny Patterson said...

Great blog Kim, lot's to think about. I do know for me personally, I don't remember where I learned a lot of the things I know, I have been doing them for so long. It's hard to give credit in that case!
Jenny P

Kim Cavender said...

Rosemary said:
I can also see how some people, like myself are so concerned with originalty and not "stealing" someone elses creative ideas, that we tend not to produce anything at all and if we do, we take no credit for the execution for fear that it wasn't our idea in the first place.

Okay, Rosemary, listen up, if you are that aware of the issue, then you are not "stealing" anything. Don't let the fear of not being completely original hold you back from creating. If you've taken Donna Kato's pod class and Marla Frankenberg's flower caning class, and want to incorporate these things in your own work, JUST DO IT! I hate the idea of people feeling like they'll be singled out for making work that looks like someone else's work. We KNOW when we have set out to deliberately COPY a design and we know when a shape, a feel, a color, or some other design element has INFLUENCED our work. There's a difference and you know that in your heart. I have one final thing to say to you, my dear.

Just begin!

Kim Cavender said...

Hi Christie,
I appreciate your comment more than I can say. Although, it seems that this is true, to a certain extent, in every facet of our society:

"Sadly, ethics and morals and RESPECT are not as important as having 214 cable channels these days."

I think we have to remember that these things have to be taught to us. It would be a much better world if these were inherent human characteristics, wouldn't it?

I think the majority of people in our community are wonderful, intelligent, caring folks. It's not always an easy thing to see both sides of this issue if your only experience has just been on one side of the fence (for lack of a better term).

Of course, as in any group the size of this one, there are always a few bad apples, as well. Who points out to them the error of their ways? People like me, with blogs and big mouths! Will they get it? Probably not. But, eventually bad apples get all rotten and nasty and no one has a problem spotting them right away.

Thank you for posting your experience, yet another example of how something that starts off as an innocent act of sharing can snowball into something much more.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is very hard to post. Following links show you 2 vessels made by 2 different artists in 2 different fields.
Mary Merkel-Hess's vessel on
and Kathleen Dustin's new work on her blog
I've seen many similar works by different artists. It is really hard to say who coppied whom. But here I don't want to say about copy right things. I admire Kathleen Dustin. I can't even express my feeling about her.
I also saw very similar enamel earrings to Kathleen Dustin's earring on somewhere on the internet. I couldn't find it again.
What do you think? Some cases it is even silly to say that someone stole someone's design.
And sometimes mistakes on polymer clay work gives us a great result and even makes clear great artists' great techniques. In this case what we have to do?
Sorry for my bad English. I couldn't resist commenting. A very hot topic. We need some inspectors to find who copied whom.:)

Kim Cavender said...

You're so right Lisa. There will always be some grey areas. I guess you have to feel comfortable with what you've come up with and if you have any doubts, step back and look again. Here's an example: I made a whole series of pendants using a technique I call "a pigment of your imagination". I know that, depending on the colors I use, some of these pendants remind me a bit of Maggie's. One lady told me it was a beautiful "watercolor" pendant. My process though, in my opinion, is completely different from hers, except for one similarity. I've never taken that class from her or seen her make them but I have seen the "faux" tutorial that was put up so I have a bit of an idea of how she may make them. I've worried about it a bit because I don't want anyone to think that I've just used her technique and renamed it. But, I know it's really not the same thing. It's entirely possible to arrive at similar looks using totally different approaches. And I think we all use SOME sort of "technique" as a starting point, whether it's layering, blending, crackling, etc. and eventually the starting point is not the focus. It's the end result that matters. This may make no sense, I'm operating on very little sleep. I think it's something though, that all of us struggle with from time to time. And, I agree, it's much better to "DO IT" than to talk about it!

Kim Cavender said...

Jenny, I think that "established" techniques that have become a part of the polymer clay "curriculum" (I'm really not sure what to call it!) or particular elements, like a spiral cane, for instance, are not something we need to concern ourselves with, as far as giving credit. If we create a piece of work that draws from a dozen different things we've learned, it's ours and the focus shouldn't be on the individual parts.

White Hot Magik said...

I think it was a well written post. I decided to look for polymer clay blogs the other day to learn more, because I am practically dreaming about making beads & pendants right now. However I am very new to the medium.

After reading your post, I think I should start a journal of inspiration to keep track of what I want to try to learn, and if I share, I can give credit. Because I admit to having desired of trying to reverse engineer processes to learn and hopefully when I have more money actually attend some workshops.

Anonymous said...

Don't teach someone else's class or reproduce the process they taught in their class on line so that people will see it and say, "I don't have to take this class now because I have nothing more to learn from this teacher."
This affects teachers economically, which hurts them, and discourages them from developing new classes, which hurts us all.

On the other hand, things like this will always happen whether we like it or not. Rather than spending an excess amount of energy grousing over it (which scares off potential students who feel they have to walk on eggshells if they take a class, also cutting into the bottom line), teachers time would be better spent making sure they are the best teachers they can be and establishing a reputation that, no matter how detailed someone's directions, they pale in comparison to taking the class with the teacher. The best teachers are fully capable of doing this. They need to believe themselves and push on in an imperfect world. And we need to support them.

Martha Aleo

Anonymous said...

For goodness sake, every time someone paints an impressionist style painting do they need to credit Monet? Try as I might, I will never reach his (Monet) level of skill or paint an exact replica of his work. Each individual's piece is just that...individual, no matter where their inspiration came from.

VickieAFCA said...

Hey Kim, Ok, I'm jumping into the pool. I'm an artist, a painter, and a teacher, who's also nuts about clay and still in the process of soaking it all in. As a teacher and student I well understand what you're saying, and you said it very well. I want to tell you what Suzanne Northcott said to us in a workshop, "Anyone who copies me is walking down a dead-end street!" An artist who has only one technique in their toolbelt is not going to last long. We are on a journey and we'd better be well beyond what we're teaching or we won't last long as teachers either! If a teacher teaches it, she's putting into the creative pool for others to pull out and add to or modify as they see fit. Shaun McNiff says, in his "must read" book entitled "Trust The Process", that "whenever personal gains are paramount, the vision withers." Those who only look to the almighty dollar-god won't last in a creative environment. Trust me, those of us who are seriously on this journey keep abreast of who's doing what and what's cutting edge and we know if someone's ripping someone off. All that happens is the rest of us avoid that person's product, blog, demo, whatever. That's it in a nutshell. Also, one way you can be sure the work is your own is when you work a technique with your own personal movements (of hands, brush, whatever)with your own thought processes, at your own pace, in colours that dance before your own eyes. How do you do that? Put the tutorial (notes, video, DVD, pictures) away BEFORE you start working. Read them through, watch them, then put them away and do not refer to them until the effort is finished. That way you are filtering the information through your own creative process, and the product will be your own. As for "helpfully" putting the information on the internet verbally or visually, there is only one motivation for that - personal aggrandizement!!! If anyone gets angry with that statement, you are deluding yourself. Any legitimate ARTIST is interested in their own journey and is happy to let newbies do their own legwork to get to where they're going. After all, isn't that what "paying your dues" is all about? I'm stopping for breath! Vickie

Kim Cavender said...

Reverse engineering is one way we learn and that's not a bad thing if it's done in a respectful manner. A journal is a wonderful way to encourage creativity and is very inspiring to look at when we're at a loss for what to do.

Kim Cavender said...

Great points, Martha! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Kim Cavender said...

Thanks for jumping in! I really appreciate what you said and I'm sorry you had to stop for breath, I would have liked to have heard even more. LOL! You made some wonderful points and have given me much more to think about. I may have to go look up that book.

Kim Cavender said...

That was not the point of my post, at all. This is NOT about being required to "give credit" to someone everytime you make something. And to answer your question, no, I don't believe you need to give credit to Monet when you paint an impressionist style painting any more than I believe you need to credit Judith Skinner everytime you make a Skinner blend . ALL I'm saying is that IF you are directly inspired by someone else's work to make something that looks just like theirs, it's polite to acknowledge that fact.

Anonymous said...

Vicki, I like what you have to say, but I wonder if you could clarify this statement:

"Any legitimate ARTIST is interested in their own journey and is happy to let newbies do their own legwork to get to where they're going."

It sounds like you are saying that legitimate artists shouldn't also feel the pull to teach what they know; that newbies can figure it all out for themselves. Is this what you meant?

While I agree that an individual doesn't become a true artist without embarking on some kind of personal journey with his materials, I don't see that it should be necessary for him to re-invent the wheel to get there. Good teachers who are excited for their students to explore new techniques and ideas with them are a vital aspect to the vibrancy of an artistic community, IMHO.

If I have misunderstood your point, please forgive me!

Scott said...

Hi Kim,
I applaud you for the time spent finding those words.
The only comment I would like to add is that,
unfortunately "respect" and "values" are not something one can teach to those who lack them.
It's a difficult topic with all sorts of little twists and turns. So hard to know when to draw the line as to what is worthy of credit or inspiration.
I could go on and on listing examples but it would all be time lost on those who lack the morals in the first place.
Great post Kim, Thank you!

Tammy said...

Well said Kim. I do agree with Scott in that, unfortunately, a lot of people causing the problem probably lack the ability to respect other people, artists or otherwise, anyway. Or, they simply don't care, which is probably worse. Either way, I feel this is a bumpy, up hill journey trying to eraticate this problem. Maybe if everyone continues to push the issue and lay blame on those specifically guilty....

Barb Fajardo said...

I really am starting to understand things a bit more from a teacher's view.

Seeing things from other's perspective might we feel in their shoes?

Just a wonderful, thought-provoking post Kim, thank you so much for putting it up!


Anonymous said...

It is not always the student who copies the teachers work.
In fact, it is much more successful and harder to substantiate, when it is the established artist who copies an unknown person’s work.

Anonymous said...

Thomas Mann said something at Synergy that I vividly remember. I’m hoping I heard correctly, as I was rushing in and out of the the gallery at the time…but as I recall it went something like this: “An artist told a friend of his that he should not be allowed in his friends studio, because he would steal ideas. Not that he wanted to…but that he could not help it AS HIS EYES WERE OPEN”.

Whether I heard correctly or not, this is so incredibly true. We are passively inspired each and every day by the things we see, touch and sense. We can also be actively inspired through workshops, videos and book/magazine tutorials. As artists – lovers of color, texture, shape – we are driven to put that inspiration into physical form.

That’s not a bad thing. Learning through workshops can culminate in a cross-pollination of techniques (or even media) that is refreshing and unique. Or it can trigger the “what if?” ideas that lead in entirely new directions.

Speaking personally, I will be eternally indebted to artists Victoria Hughes and Julia Sober, and I am happy to give them credit for that inspiration. Did I copy their work? Absolutely! I did my best to emulate exactly what I saw in both Victoria’s video and Julia’s workshop, as that was how I learned. I liken the process to having someone unlock the door for you and then stepping aside. It’s up to you to push that door open and walk off in your own direction.

Now the table is turned – I am the one sharing knowledge and (hopefully) unlocking doors. Do I hope that students will credit me when they emulate my work? Yes. Do I hope that they will show me the respect of keeping my materials for their own use and not disseminating? You bet. Do I hope that they will walk through that door and find their own unique path? Most definitely.

Because staying behind that locked door benefits no one, and is ultimately a loss for the entire community.

Kim Cavender said...

Hi Victoria. It goes without saying that no one should have that kind of thing happen to them and respect is a two-way street, right?

Kim Cavender said...

"Because staying behind that locked door benefits no one, and is ultimately a loss for the entire community."

Well said, Julie P!

Anonymous said...

Bravo! Excellently written article about a difficult subject. You're
right, others have posted similar thoughts but none as straightforward
as yours -- thanks, Kim!

Silly... 'Ma said...


I'll join the chorus and agree - great post. Very difficult to express well without sounding like sour grapes - and you did it well.

As a definite amateur who's been fortunate enough to sell a few pieces, I really haven't had to think about any of this much. I'm disabled, nearly completely housebound, so my learning curve has been entirely dependent upon those wonderful artists like you and Donna Kato and so many others who've shared their talents on television and in books and in online tutorials. It's unlikely I'll ever attend a workshop, to my regret!

Even still, when I see someone doing something exciting and new (at least to me) I can't wait to get my hands in my clay and try that technique. Usually, I end up with a pokey copy of the artist's sample - no one else could want it! But Ive learned a technique. That's the way it should be, unless I'm very much mistaken.

For thsoe pieces that I've managed to come up with that definitely rely on the technique Donna Kato's tutorial taught me, it's so painless to just say that!

But lately, to my great surprise, I've actually found myself combining techniques learned from you and Lisa Pavelka and Judy Dunn, etc., in one piece, to come up with something that is really MINE! How exciting is that!? I wouldn't be able to clearly define which of you was the major influence for these pieces. I'm just a grateful beginner, proud to come up with anything worth sharing! :-)

My point is, I'm confident that my story is exactly what you're NOT writing about. I'm not trying to claim anything for my own that someone else has developed. Once I combine your or Donna's or two other artists' techniques, it IS mine, which is as it should be.

Having said that, keep writing books and making videos, all you leaders of this pack! For people like me who'll never get to a workshop, we live for those windows into your workshops, which would remain forever unattainable for us without them!

One final thing, just to clarify something. I recently emailed a 'Net friend when I learned she'd been to a Kathleen Dustin worship, and asked her a question about a technique. I felt confident in doing that because I'd emailed Kathleen a while back and asked if she planned to write a book or do a video, explaining my situation. She told me to contact someone I knew who'd attended her workshop, that she was comfortable with her students sharing. But I recognize that Kathleen, for her own reasons, is the exception. I've never done that with anyone else, and can't imagine doing so.

I love your blog, btw, except...

You don't post often enough! :-)

me<>< (Cindy Matthews)

PS The bales arrived today. It was so exciting to get mail from Kim Cavendar!

Iris Mishly said...

Dear Kim, reading your post made us all think about this issue again and it's a good reminder. I wish i had a better english to express my thoughts too on such a serious sunject. Since Israel polymer clay community is rather small, we try and keep things in order, but once in a while this matter rise up.
thank you for sharing this with us.

lillybriar said...

Kim.....well said. I applaud the way you have approached this issue, that can sometimes lead to heated discussions. I was nodding my head as I read and when I finished I felt the need to stand and clap.
Learn. Repect. Create. Evolve. Be Passionate.

Cooooeeee from Australia
Lisa, LillyBriar

VickieAFCA said...

Hey Polkadot, I appreciate your query. I'm not really a word person, believe it or not, and frequently assume that people know where I'm coming from with something. No, absolutely do I not mean that newbies need to re-invent the wheel. Quite to the contrary. I personally believe that mature artists have an obligation to teach, which is why I spend a lot of my time teaching, both formally and informally. What I meant was that the process of searching for the information is often as important as getting the information because it teaches you how to look, how to sift and makes you value it when you finally find it. In other words, I feel the artists associated with particular techniques should be allowed the opportunity to teach it and, if they do not, the student needs to hunt it down and show the artist that there is a desire to know this information and the student is willing to pay for a workshop, demo, video, dvd, whatever in order to learn it. Then, if the originating (I hate that word) artist still does not want to be forthcoming, reverse engineering is fair game and whoever comes up with their own version has the opportunity to be the first to teach that version. Ok, now I'm probably clear as mud. I think I'll go paint - actually, my paintings are probably incomprehensible too! LOL!

Anonymous said...

Vicki, that clarifies the point very well for me - thank you! And I agree with you :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi All,
Such a lively conversation! And I love this topic.

I have a little different take on it, though. I believe that once the words or work are out of our mouths or hands, that they are out there for the world to see and hear and do. So we'd better be sure we're ready to share before we share. Even if it IS for money. Getting paid for it doesn't necessarily put our stamp of ownership on a topic or a technique. Nor should it. Afterall, we were all influenced by someone, even if that someone never taught or wrote about their ideas.

Oh, yes. We can protect some things with a copyright, but it's only as enforceable as the money we are willing to spend to enforce it. (That also was in the presentation by Thomas Mann at Synergy.)And, I might add, our hope and trust in loyalty and respect.

I think that this is reality because the world is large and those who are closely connected to us enough to feel that kinship that is necessary for a really strict hands-off policy are few - relatively speaking, that is. Just think of the size of the world and it's creative potential!

But, that said, let me speak a bit about the flip side of the discussion. I hire only experienced teachers to teach classes at Maureen Carlson's Center for Creative Arts in Jordan, Minnesota, USA. I hire the best in a given area of design or technique(though I've by no means gotten all the way through that quite lengthy and ever-growing list as of yet!!!!). In the 10 years that I've been in business at "Maureen's", we've offered classes (oftentimes for return engagements)with Lindly Haunani, Dayle Doroshow, Katherine Dewey, Sarah Shriver, Donna Kato, Lynne Anne Schwarzenberg, Patricia Kimle, Diane Keeler, Barbara Kobe, Victoria Hughes, Christi Friesen, Jeff Dever, Linda Bernstein, Val Daniels, Robin Aronson, elinor peace bailey and, yes, myself.

I hire those who are grounded and experienced in a specific technique rather than those who just know the basics of how to do something. I hire those with a reputation for excellence in their craft because they bring a wealth of experience to the topic that cannot be matched by a narrow summary of the techniques. Oftentimes the singular opportunity to view the class samples, "up close and personal", of an experienced teacher is in and of itself worth the price of the admission to class!

So, can you learn from a student of an instructor? Yes, and you probably will, and have. Be honest about it. Haven't we all asked, just maybe, one little question about how someone did something? We're all curious, after all. That's why we became artists. We like to problem solve and we like to do it with color and form and shape and texture and light and ... But will we have the same broadly enriching experience as we would if we heard and saw the information from the original source? No way. We get what we pay for. I know, because I've watched all the before-mentioned teachers in action.

That said, I'd also like to chime in on the subject of instructors being inspired by their students. Happens all the time! I know I've seen wonderful things in my classes - things that I've really wanted to rip off, but haven't. Though I know I've been influenced. There's so much talent out there.

We really are all in this creative world together, seeing, hearing, feeling, being influenced. And, once influenced, like Julie P recounted from Thomas Mann's talk at Synergy, we can't send it back.

I know that sometimes it's so darn hard to step back and listen to the sound of my own voice that I get a bit lost. So off I go to find that alone place where I can get in touch with those images and questions that are percolating inside that brain and heart and soul that's named Maureen. It really isn't exactly the same take on the world as anyone else's. And that's true of all of us. We're uniquely ourselves and yet,at the same time, we're all in this together. Finding that balance point between influence and voice is quite a trip.
Maureen Carlson

Trina said...

Great subject and posts. I think the sentence I like the best is "yours to use and not to share". I think we tend to be a bit too sharing in our guilds. But most of us just want to promote the artist and their books, videos and classes.

Ilene said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ilene said...

I'm sorry, I didn't mean to post a comment here. I thought I was on another blog.

Anonymous said...

Once again, your post was engaging and thoughtfully done. If anyone thinks less of you for it, I'm sure it's not anyone that will matter much, and I for one applaud your taking the time to tackle this topic.

It seems to me that one could always be safe when remembering the Golden Rule. I guess Mom was right a lot of the time after all.

Anonymous said...

Way to go Kim!!! You said it all very well... some things to ponder....

I think that Maureen said it very well:

" I believe that once the words or work are out of our mouths or hands, that they are out there for the world to see and hear and do. So we'd better be sure we're ready to share before we share...."

Teaching means that you are teaching others to do what you do.... You should expect your students to recreate what you have taught them and for them to share it with others.... that is what teachers do. I would be on cloud nine if that happened to me... that means I did a wonderful job teaching my class!! LOL!!

for me,really, I see this a non issue... sad, but true.... (I feel that it has more to do with Greed then it does about the ART. I know that it sounds crazy,but really, why does this even matter? why does there have to be so much ownership in this field of art? I view this no differently then holding a pencil and drawling - reproductions, copies, you can call it what you want... either way it is an art form.... and something is/was being learned in the process... we all start with a bar of clay, but what we do in the end is so very different, even when it appears to be the same.)

Deb G. said...

Kim Rocks!
I had the privilege of taking Kim's class at the Vegas Carnival. She definitely created a technique that is the potato chip of polymer clay. You just can't stop making them!
At the end of the work shop I asked about sharing the technique with my guild. We discussed some of the things in the blog and what she said made so much sense. She said the difficulty is the "helpful" person who decides to turn it into a tutorial and stick it on YouTube. Then she'd need to develop a whole new technique to teach. After that she gave permission to share.
Well I want you all to know that we are taking it very seriously and though we have started recording our workshops this one will not be taped. Everyone in the guild is promising not to share the technique and anything they produce is considered a Kim Cavender inspired piece.
We see this as a generous gift and we hope to one day be able to bring her up to Canada to teach at a future conference.
If Kim had said no we would have honoured that. It is her right as a teacher, currently teaching a technique, to ask not to be copied. For those that haven't had the privilege of meeting Kim she is the soul of generosity with her knowledge and skills.
I'm sure this is difficult for her because she'd rather just share everything, but to preserve her as a teacher we need her to earn a living.
For myself, I'm already saving up for the next time that I can take another class with her.
She has my respect and admiration, and she's a heck of a lot of fun!
Member in good standing of the Kim Cavender fan club, Deb Groom

Kim Cavender said...

I had the best of intentions to try and keep up with all the comments and respond to each of you if I could. Unfortunately, I got involved with other things and fell behind. I just want you all to know how much I appreciated hearing your thoughts and opinions. You've given me much to think about. I love the fact that we were able to have this discussion in such a reasonable fashion. It's given me a new perspective on many of the issues involved here. And Deb, I really appreciate your generous comments and wanted to let you know I wrote to you at the yahoo address, which was the only one I could find.

Anonymous said...

Victoria James hit on something that I think really shows a total lack of ethics. The fact that some established "artist-teachers" have stolen designs from lesser known or unknown artists, and taken full credit for them.

There is one artist who was formerly a part of a group I am in who has stolen ideas/designs from pretty much everyone in the group, and then turned around and had those designs published. I'm not talking techniques, but actual designs, sometimes exactly as the original artist did the piece or sometimes changing the color, but in all other ways the design is the same. But since the editors and general public didn't get to see the original piece, of course this person takes credit for it as their "original" design. This person now has a terrible reputation in our group, but do they care? Evidently not. Because in the outside world no one knows how much they have stolen from others and they are lauded as a successful "artist". She has been confronted many times by the people she has stolen from, but all she says is a lame, oh I'm sorry, I didn't realize my piece was so much like your's. Well now when the original artist goes to try to get THEIR work published, they look like they are copying her, when in reality it was the other way around. I mean this person has gone so far as to ask people to show her step by step how they created their design, and then turned around, copied it exactly, slapped a new name on it and called it her own. Again I am not talking about a technique, but rather exact copies of character designs. She has even sold exact replicas of other artists' work on ebay, etc. until she was threatened with copyright infringement and told to cease and desist.

But once it's already appeared in a magazine, or on some TV show, it can't be undone, and that design is now credited to the person who stole it. And as Maureen Carlson pointed out, it's very costly to go after someone for copyright violations.

People like this have no ethics and they will continue to steal from others as long as they can get away with it, and the outside world will view them as "successful artists". But the rest of us will know the truth. This situation will go on as long as people can get away with it.

Thanks for your post Kim.