Wednesday, April 02, 2014

In defense of PC artists


An artist friend recently told me about a thread she read online which, in a nutshell, said that unlike other crafters, polymer clay artists are madamot  in sharing their techniques. There were some good points raised on that thread and I wish I was a member of that group so I could have participated in the discussion, but since I'm not I'm having my say here. Share your thoughts in the comments below.. i don't bite :)
People who know me know that when I began working with polymer clay it was at a time when the Internet was still a magical place few men have gone. We had a computer but what it really was was an electronic typewriter (remember DOS?). Craft books, tools and supplies were hard to come by unless you had generous and thoughtful relatives abroad. Forget about e-books. What I had was a bag of clay samples, a little slip of paper with baking instructions, my hands, my imagination and my eagerness to learn. This makes me sound so old, but I did start roughly 20 years ago.

I began making gifts for my friends and my family. Selling my work was far from my mind. The happiness I found in making things with my hands and giving them away was good enough for me. As you get older, however, you begin to entertain the romantic ideology of selling your art and living off the profits and becoming a full-fledged artist like the painters and sculptors of yore. And so you gather your courage and jump into the entrepreneurial pool. When you do, you realize that, Hey, it's not so bad! And there's a market for it, too. So you start to create your brand, your image, and you slowly, slowly discover and develop your own definitive style. Eventually people start to take notice and after a few scary months you realize you're actually making a profit and not just breaking even. Huh. Who knew, right?

Now, after all that, imagine a friend telling you she just saw your work being copied by another crafter, marketing it as their own. How does that make you feel, honestly?

I don't think it's about the unwillingness to share but rather a desire to protect what you've worked hard to create. I gladly share tips with beginners and enthusiasts, but ask me how I make my pc flowers and you'll probably just get a sheepish grin from me. I hear complaints about clayists being madamot, you should hear me rant about unethical crafters. What you're asking from them, from US, is not just a simple technique, it's months or even years of experimentation and brainstorming. That's why there are trade secrets. If everyone just gave away free information we'd all be too lazy to think for ourselves and everything we make will end up looking like mass produced horrors. I happen to like looking at other artists works and wonder how they thought of making that particular piece, and that thought, that little spark of inspiration inevitably spurs me to try to better my own work and maybe in the process I might end up making something mind-blowing. I don't think ingenuity ever came out of just copying someone else's work. That's mimicry, not artistry. I understand if people try to copy someone else's work, after all isn't that the highest form of flattery? I did it before and I still do it now to get a feel for the technique, to free my mind and to see if I can incorporate it into my own style. However, selling it and passing it off as my own is a definite no-no.

I understand how overwhelming it is for beginners to be faced with deciding which tools to buy, what clay to use, or what books to read. That's where workshops come in. Workshops are not money-making ploys, especially if you take them under reputable clayists who've been around for a long time. Here's a tip: If you want to attend a good workshop where you'll go home with your head swimming with ideas, don't expect pay cheap --unless you're friends with the artist, then she might be nice enough to give you a discount :) If you're interested in learning about polymer clay but are unsure if it's the right fit for you, get lost on the Internet. There's a ton of free information and tutorials there for anyone willing to learn.  

There's also something to be said about the kind of people you share your secrets to. There are people who appreciate and respect the hard work behind each piece, and then there are the unscrupulous few who don't. Respect is a factor of course. The lack of which only opens the door to intrigue and discord. I've shared quite a few of my secrets but only with people I know and trust will take care of that bit of knowledge and use it well. I've made the mistake of being too open-handed with what I know so now I know better. Maybe that's it. It's choosing who you share your little tricks of the trade with. It may sound elitist, but the illusion that we are not so generous with what we know stems from a certain sense of self-preservation. We only share with the few people we know are, first and foremost, artists. I can tell you right now, in our group you can ask anything and you'll get tons of tips you wouldn't even know where to start. If you think the PC world is an immature bunch, I'd say you probably don't know us. Yes we may sound like a cartload of chimpanzees when we have events because of the boisterous laughter (maybe that's what makes us seem immature or perhaps intimidating?) but the heart of each and everyone is exactly where it should be.                      

3 comments:

Donna Cruz-Comia said...

Well said Jen! :)

PURPLELUGGAGE said...

Thanks, Donna!

xyn marquez said...

very well said ms jen! :) ....i think artists should not be "MADAMOT" in terms of sharing their ideas to others after all, it's not their own ability but GOD's grace given to them that should be shared to others too....honestly, artists would not be an artist without GOD, that thought should be put in mind of every artist....well for me, if somebody snatch my idea & make GAYA-GAYA of it (hahaha)....well, my only words are "give justice to it" :D ....who knows if somebody could give justice to your work, then you should be proud of that, right? well, i guess that would be a challenge for u then to improve your works right? just sayin' ....i was one of the witnesses about that "MADAMOT" issue...like what i said here in d blog was been my comment there :)

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