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.