A Discussion About Proprietary Ideas and Techniques

I read a very thought provoking post today, thanks to Tammy Vitale, and wanted to direct you to it as well. It’s on My Studio 13, written by Carrie Todd, and is called “Where’s my voice? Can it be crimson?

If an artist works hard to create and develop their own “voice”, then published technique or not, their work deserves to keep it’s originality, and not compete in an over saturated market of copycat works.

My response was as follows:

I’ve pondered this subject as well, and have not reached any definitive conclusions. Is it a cultural thing, this longing for an original voice? Is it ego? Is it true that teaching others means that we will now have to compete with them in a given market, or are we merely selling together with them, and giving the buyer more choice? Does our spirit have anything to do with this? Does our spirit permeate our work, and draw those to whom it speaks (or sings)? I have been in the presence of work that inspires awe, where I felt I was basking in the energy it radiated. That is what I mean by spirit. Can that be copied?

If you look at workshops and classes offered throughout the net, there are many that are similar. What I examine when I sign up for a workshop and put my money down, is: their work, how they word their descriptions of the techniques or skills they will be teaching, and the geographical location. I am sometimes aware of the fact that a particular presenter may be “copying” techniques or ideas they have learned elsewhere, but if they present it well, the idea is honored.

There is also the factor of assumption: Some ideas and techniques are claimed to be proprietary, but many others have come to the same place in their art exploration. How many times have you read an article or seen a class offered that was similar to your own techniques and/or ideas? Your initial response was probably something like “I think the lady doth claim too much” (sorry, Hamlet, I’m messing with your words a bit). You can be so busy guarding an idea that it never grows. And your work is stifled along with it.

Hmmmm . . . I’m feeling a little heat happening here. Passion is a good thing. Thanks for the spark, Carrie.

By the way, Kathleen Dustin has spoken eloquently on this subject. Given that she has produced some very unique work, and is a well known artist, she exhibits a level of humility and generosity that is truly inspiring. Here are a few of her words:

[W]ho am I to think that the techniques I use cannot be discovered independently by someone else, or be done even better by someone else?

Would you care to throw your ideas on this matter into the arena? I, for one, am very interested in your unique response.

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About CarolWiebe

Art entices, inspires, and delights me. Art is a vehicle for laughter, tears, wonder, enlightenment--taking me on a constant path of discovery. You can't say that about housework (except, perhaps, for the crying part).
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2 Responses to A Discussion About Proprietary Ideas and Techniques

  1. tammy vitale says:

    Glad to have provided an interesting link. I’m interested in this type of conversation, but as I said over at Carrie’s: perhaps my take is different because I work 3D. I can teach (and have) simple fish, and others will take it and make it their own. The clay must be fashioned by their fingers and, yes, their own spirit/creative energy. It will be its own, not mine. Yes they’ve sold in the same market. Often in the same shop. Does that bother me? Not a bit. I think the card/stamp folks look at it differently – I noticed a lot of themes in that world, which I didn’t know well before the WW award, and a lot of folks use the same suppliers. But I can’t imagine wanting to clone someone else’s work, and I can’t imagine not going to the font to drink ideas either. In the end, I think generosity must trump fear – fear is always going in the wrong direction.

  2. carolwiebe says:

    Fantastic, Tammy! You worded this comment brilliantly, especially your final statement: Generosity must trump fear – fear is always going in the wrong direction.

    That’s something to keep reminding ourselves of when fear tempts us to hold back. It’s a lonely direction, and in a world where we all learn from each other, how can it benefit us in the long run?

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