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I need to get something off my chest.  For the last week, my wife has been dealing with some particularly determined people. It all started when Lisa posted some samples of things she had been trying to do in polymer clay. She had been to a demo a few weeks earlier and tried out some of the techniques. They didn’t work out to her liking, but it encouraged her to work on something else, expanding on work she had done for some time prior. There are many who can attest to her prior work. Myself included.

A while later, some friends of the artist who performed the demo suggested that she remove those images out of respect for the artist’s right to control the distribution of his technique. Not feeling any real ties to the dissatisfying work she had posted about that project, she complied. She did not, however, remove the images of the work she did after abandoning his approach. The artist, it seems, has declared that he owns exclusive control over mathematically blending colors in the medium, particular when it comes to a variation on what is considered a standard practice in the field. Lisa has been using her mathematics background in her work for years and she, like many others, had tried variations on the old theme. Given that Lisa’s work was sufficiently different than his, she respectfully declined the demand and therefore invoked the wrath of the “Polymer Police.” To call them police gives them a level of credibility they can’t claim. These are just regular people taking up a self-righteous crusade and one of them has resorted to some ugly behavior in private emails. Relentless is a word that comes to mind.

Now the point of their whole argument is that they want her to remove one photo from her blog because they claim it undermines a 2 day course and will cost the artist paying students. Nevermind that the photo is not of one of his steps. Amusingly, they also keep calling the single image a tutorial. At this point, the only customers they can prove they have lost or will lose are the ones they’ve completely alienated by their behavior. I’ve been exchanging details with a few of my friends in the education world who are completely appalled by their stance.

Lisa decided to tackle the bigger issue (can of worms) and blogged how there was a problem within the polymer clay community in regards to teaching and ownership. I had hoped, as I think Lisa did, that her post would spark a discussion on good teaching so this sort of abuse would happen less often. Lisa is far from being the first victim. I guess the point as I see it is that good teaching involves encouraging your students to use and expand upon the knowledge you impart. A good teacher inspires. A good teacher does not set limits on their students. If you have secrets, you don’t teach them. If, as this one teacher claims, an entire two-day curriculum can be rendered useless by a single picture, are they really teaching anything? Many people have come forward to say that, even knowing the entire curriculum of a class, they have still paid for classes just to have the experience of being taught by certain artists. It seems to me that good teachers are part of the attraction for taking a course.

Lisa could have easily caved to the demands of these people, but doing so would be an admission that they are right. Not only have other people seen Lisa’s prior work, but a few people have also come out of the woodwork to say that the technique in question is not as original as the artist thinks. I am proud that she has stood her ground and I know she’s been receiving many emails from people praising her for it. In some ways, it is particularly depressing that several of these people mentioned that the wouldn’t post publicly on the issue for fear of further retribution from the Polymer Police.

The negative emails are the definite minority, but I’m fed up with these self-righteous people and had to say something. Thanks for bearing with me.


Day Trip to Lunacon


the end of the tree…


  1. Ask the teacher to provide the patents to prove he has control “over mathematically blending colors in the medium, particular when it comes to a variation on what is considered a standard practice” If he can’t then tell him to go screw himself.

    • Exactly the response I was going to suggest. Artists have a right to patent their techniques, but if they don’t, they have no protection.

    • Based on what we’ve been told by other people, I don’t think he’d manage to secure a patent. There seems to be prior art. All that aside,Lisa isn’t using his technique, so even if he had a patent for his approach, it wouldn’t apply.

      • I still say tell him to go screw himself.

        And tell him he’s a crappy teacher hence the drop in students.

        • For Lisa’s sake, I’ve been trying to be nice. As a mini-celeb he has his supporters.

          The worst offender is his buddy who is also a teacher. Funny thing is that a friend pointed out that his work looks identical to another artists – and I mean identical – his defense is that he has permission. So there are some good teachers out there.

      • Prior art is fine, but if he’s discussed his technique in public (oh, say, taught a class about it), he’s lost his right to patent it.

  2. Ah, I understand and sympathize. There’s a lot of (ongoing) debate about originality and ownership of ideas on crafty sites like Etsy. Some people go strongly overboard in defending things they think are “theirs”. Like this guy thinks he owns claymath. Then again, there are folks who really and truly have their stuff copied. If Lisa was redistributing this guy’s “technique”, that’d be one thing. But posting a pic of something she made? Maybe he’d be mollified by a note along the lines of “inspired in part by a class with X. Artist” and a link to his work/site/classes? Dunno if that would help or not.

    • Lisa’s on Etsy too.

      She did give him credit on earlier posts, including the ones that she deleted images from. The picture in question isn’t his technique, so crediting him would be giving him undeserved props. They want nothing short of total surrender.

      • The Polymer Police are a cruel and unforgiving lot. 🙁

        Wish I could offer something more useful than sympathy/comisseration!

  3. This anecdote is part of a disturbing pattern I’ve seen in multiple communities in diverse subjects. Even forums about being a mother have them (and the little police are as vicious as these polymer guys. It’s really unsettling).

    The accounts are almost exactly the same, each time, modulo the various hobbies or lifestyles or whatever. I guess some people don’t have enough to do.

    Good for Lisa for not caving in! And I’m glad she got support.

  4. It sounds like that teacher and his supporters need be given a basic primer on intellectual property law.

    If the name-calling and untrue statements of ownership, etc. from this teacher and others get out of hand, talk to an attorney.

    • Yeah, I’ve been thinking the same thing. I’ve actually taught classes on intellectual property and fair use to college professors and school teachers. They clearly don’t understand.

  5. If a single photo can undermine the course….then I’d definietly not pay to go.

  6. Damn skippy

    Or if you prefer, Darned Tootin’!

    Is it really all about one photo? I think for someone to make as big a stink about something as this, there has to be some other motivator.

    Maybe the person has little control over their own life, so they try to bully others (polymer-people) in to submission. Maybe they’re used to pushing people around. in any case, its great she stood up to a bunch of idiot clods.

    • Re: Damn skippy

      Yes, one photo. I’ve heard they’ve given other “lower level” artists a hard time before. We’ve heard from a few of them.

      As for the third party that got involved, his behavior was unexpected. We’re not sure why he is so personally invested in this.

  7. Even if the artist does have a patent or trademark on the method, your wife is the copyright owner of the piece that she created.

    But it looks like I’m just one voice adding to a chorus here. 🙂

    • The sad part is that there are a number of people who believe him, just due to his stature in certain parts of that community.

      • Too bad you can’t reply with something along the lines of “You see that sculpture you made there? Yeah, that one. I’ve trademarked that form. I forbid you to sell it or show it in a gallery or record it in any media, unless you pay me a fee.”

        Well, I suppose you could respond that way, but it probably wouldn’t be worth the trouble.

  8. Wow.

    You’re wife is a stand up woman and I admire her and you for being supportive.

    Some people will find any excuse for attention, sadly.

  9. Sounds like bullying of a sort (which unfortunately goes to show that bullying isn’t limited to grade school/high school).

    It’s also a sad day when teachers aren’t open to new ideas. Or too protective of theirs (doesn’t that defeat the purpose of education?).

    Good luck with Lisa’s situation.

  10. What a jerk.

    I think you need to ask him, “Would you like some cheese to go with that whine?”

  11. First of all, your wife is clearly awesome.

    Second: the polymer police are small-minded and stupid people.

    Third: This is what email filters live for. Block those suckers and put them out of your lives.

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