Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Polymer Clay with a Conscience

There is another uproar in the community about techniques...which ones are proprietary and which are not. In my opinion, no technique is proprietary...someone, somewhere has probably done it before. It would be impossible to say who owns any particular technique.

So, here are the rules that I live by in my PC life.

1. Do not publish (Internet or in print) or teach a technique that you learned directly from the artist (or even from someone else that learned it directly from the artist). Most likely they are teaching it and some of their income relies on it.

2. Reverse engineering something that you see is fine. Do not claim yourself as the "originator." Give credit to the artist that inspired you.

3. Do not ask an artist how they did something. If they want to share, they will.

4. If you see another artist's work and it inspires you to try something similar, put your own spin on it. Make every effort to be different.

5. Great minds *do* think alike. It's always possible that two (or more) people working with the medium will create similar pieces and think that their piece or technique is unique to them. Calling someone an "originator" is a confusing term.

6. Don't police the community. This kind of behavior can only alienate people that just want to learn. Let them.

7. If you publish a tutorial, be as sure as you can that no one else has published the same or nearly the same tutorial first. You don't want to be accused of riding other's coattails.

We're grown-ups, polymer clayers with a conscience don't need anyone telling them right from wrong. As another PC artist told me once..."The cream always rises to the top." :o)

I may change and edit this post as needed. This is just a start. If any of you think like I do and would like to make suggestions to anything I've posted, please let me know...


Anonymous said...

I love that people all over the internet are taking up this topic! The discussion is the healthiest thing. Get your opinion out there, check out other peoples opinions, agree, disagree - hey, it's what makes this country great and art better! Thanks for throwing in your two cents! ps. wore my bracelet yesterday - thought of you fondly!
Judy B.

Barb Fajardo said...


Thank you so much...what an honor to have the new president of the National Guild visit my blog.

I think most of us feel nearly the same about this issue. None of us want to hurt anyone or take away their livelihood. I hope that we can all agree on that!

I'm so happy that you like those beads, it means the world to me :o)


Anonymous said...

Well said Barb! I think the discussion that's been going on these past few weeks has been helpful. One thing I've noticed is that while there are several different viewpoints and some people are upset that it's even being talked about at all, the people who actually have no "conscience" about this sort of thing are conspicuously absent from the discussions. Hopefully this is a sign that they'll give more consideration to what they decide to do in the future.

rubarb said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Barb Fajardo said...

Agreed Miss Kim. It would help us all to understand how and why some of these things are happening. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt whenever possible...and like Judy said only good can come from all of our discussions :o)


*I deleted the post above as somehow I was logged in under a different user name. I must have created two blogger accounts I guess?

Anonymous said...

Hello Barbara,
Reading you from France were the same topic is discussed over and were the same opinions come around (people loving to share and others wanting the whole world to know they are at the origin of such or such technique).
I agree with you when you say that a technique is difficult to attribute to one unique person as it is most frequently a basis where every user adds his own personal touch. I also think that different persons in different places can have the same idea, and sometimes at the same time. This is surely that creative minds work the same way in their researchs.
Anyway, thank you and all the other americain artists for sharing with us your knowledge of PC.It's always a pleasure to see what beautiful things you do.

Barb Fajardo said...

Hi Maniguette,

So nice to see someone here from Europe. We all want recognition for our hard work, we're only human aren't we?

I've seen a lot of beautiful work from some fantastic artists all over the world. I think art is one of the things keeping us sane in this crazy world.

A word that caught my attention when I went to the National Polymer Clay Guild's new site this morning was "pioneer." Maybe we can all try to be pioneers in the medium and keep pushing ourselves for more, more and even more.

Anonymous said...

Hi Barb,
I don't know if we can consider ourselves as pioneer here in France as you american artists have around ten years lead in this medium.
But when using PC, even with a lesson, I always have the feeling something new can come out just by changing a small insignifiant little thing. It's like when cooking, I just can't seem to follow the instructions all the way, I have to change and add and the result isn't so bad, so I think I'll go ahead this way as well as with PC. Maybe this is what you mean by beeing a pioneer and pushing ourselves further on. Anyway, I agree with you, this pioneer spirit is the best way to make art grow and keep us sane in this really crazy world.

Jael said...

I agree with most of what you say, and thank you for saying it!

I don't have a problem with someone asking me how I did something, though - if I don't want to share, I'll say so ;) The only stupid question is the one that goes unasked, that's my motto.

With all the talk, I was starting to get paranoid about my work - half the time I don't even remember where I learned what... how can I credit everyone? But whenever I can, I try to. And I'm just going on, doing what pleases me ;)


Anonymous said...

Barbara , i'm french and a don't speack very well english but i can you say . Your polymer bead are beautifull , bye bye fabienne

Anonymous said...


You list of do's and dont's make perfect sense to me. I think this verbalizes a lot of "unspoken rules" in a way, that does not alienate anyone. Well written, thank you.

I am bit shocked to find out that my idea of "whitelisting" stuff as common ground in polymerclay has resulted also some blacklists and anger. I did not mean to start that, but just tried to ask the question "what is basic knowledge" according to community as it seems to vary a lot depending on who you ask from etc...

Anonymous said...

This is a good topic... and like seeing what others have to say...
I have been playing with PC for about 3 years.. I have never taken a class, never read a book and just a year ago started getting the magazine... So most of what I know is self taught. I see things and am inspired by them, but does that inspiration mean that I need to give that person credit? Holly Cow... Where would I begin? LOL!! I think that most artist are inspired by others, sometime we doing it knowingly and other times we just have no clue until we see their work again and then you think... hmmm, that must be where I got that....

Like I said, good topic, even for us 'new' to PC

~Tina T.

Anonymous said...

Hi Barb!
You said it all so well. I agree completely. I think what made a lot of people crazy on the recent thread was that the original poster made a comment about all of us having to "police" each went downhill from there, IMO.

Barb Fajardo said...

Thank you so much everyone for adding to the discussion...let's keep it going as long as you want!

Porro, please don't worry about it. We all know you were just trying to help figure out a way to work with everyone. I suppose it's just not as simple as we'd like it to be.

Ah well, onward and upward right? :o)

Jeanne Rhea said...

Kim wrote...
"the people who actually have no "conscience" about this sort of thing are conspicuously absent from the discussions."

I hope this statement is not as it comes across. It appears that anyone who has not taken a position or stated an opinion is guilty of violating copyright or other ethical issues. This is not the case as this is my first post to this current discussion and with thousands of clayers who have voiced no opinion, there are many who are not absent due to disagreement over the issues. Maybe we are just wanting to create and have not much time for voicing opinions. Oh, I have spent time in this discussion---for years in fact. However, I know that what I create is not the technique---heck it is not even the polymer clay! It is the end product.

The end product includes classes, tutorials, videos, and books as well as a bead, a matchbox pendant, a bracelet, a necklace, a figure or a sculpture that we all make. With tutorials, videos, books and the like, the line is more easily drawn as one is absolutely forbidden to copy without express permission.

With classes, not so much so as each teacher would bring to the class his own spin, his own manner of teaching and a different end product from a technique. Imagine that beginners could never take another class except from the first polymer clay teacher who marketed especially to beginners? I can hardly imagine a beginner's class that would not have already been taught---the differences only being the teacher's methods and uniqueness in teaching.

A bead may be very unique or it may be one that any one of us could make---even by accident. This category is the most troublesome in my opinion. I can make a bead using some texture and find an almost identical piece online. I did not copy and mine was not copied. It becomes easier to claim as mine if I develop it farther and make it into a necklace or a piece of jewelry. I have many more options to make it unique. A perfect example is Julie Picarello's jewelry. For those of us who have been around a long time, most of us have made an almost identical look to her beads by using texture plates or rubber stamps and layers of clay and shaving off to reveal different layers. I did a similar thing and made beads and buttons for a swap years ago. I used the scraps to make some other little people pins. have to look around to see them.) But Julie has made this bead design her very own with her use of colors, the watch parts, and shapes. In no way do my people pins look like her designs, but I am reasonably sure that there is little difference in our technique. Her beads except for the color are very similar to the beads I made for the swap. (By the way, I admire Julie's work and her ability to develop this technique and in no way am insinuating she copied anything.) Almost daily I run across a very similar example.

Just wanted to give this little example so we all can consider these things when we think others are copying us.

The discussion of technique and copyright have been around so long in the art world that I am now weary of them. For sure, I would like standards and I like to be credited and I will gladly give credit. However, it is interesting to leave discussion groups for a month or two and then come back to hear seasoned clayers speak of someone's NEW technique that has been around for fifteen years or longer. I just think to myself, "So glad they discovered it. I remember the joy when I discovered it, too!

For me, and I can only speak for myself---I get no satisfaction from trying to make something that someone else has made---even to learn. I hate to take classes as most focus on finishing a project. I like to explore techniques and I don't like following directions. I don't want to walk out of a class with something just like every one elses. I have never made any project from a polymer clay book and I have been unable to follow along with any video. But when I teach technique, I give permission for others to teach the techniques---just don't use my tutorials or hand-outs! I ask all to create their own. I also give them permission to create the projects to sell for money. I do not teach any project that I wish to continue to make money on. My next project class is Sea Maidens. If the students do not put their own spin on them, they may immediately have ten others to compete with. But a part of this class is to envision other possibilities for making them unique. These exercises can then be applied to any object they are making. It is my way to encourage every person's creativity.

Sorry this is long and for the use of personal examples---but could not think of others that could represent the ideas.

Anonymous said...

hello, like maniguette, I note that we more and more often have this
kind of problems, in France
the courtesy requires that if an artist
takes as a starting point a technique, she quotes the author,
but we must also share our experiments to still progress and to help beginners

Anonymous said...

Barb, I agree with all your points. I also agree with Kimmie that we're "preaching to the choir" here - that perhaps those who need this discussioin most aren't participating. You can't "police" art. What goes around comes around. And, my favorite, there are more nuts out there than squirrels to eat them!
I was asked to teach pillow beads at guild day this last week. I went to my file and pulled out your tutorial and displayed it while I taught. In the past I've asked personal permission of the artist from whom I first saw the process. It's all very well and good to encourage original design but many of us have to have somewhere to start and that's why I'm so thankful that so many of our clay artists are so generous with sharing their processes and encouraging further exploration!
Peg Harper

Jeanne Rhea said...

Only one more comment.

If we were not all so connected this day and age, we would no doubt be discovering techniques on our own and very few would even know others had already discovered them. We would indeed think we were the first. And with similar techniques, some of our end product would still be similar.

I am always surprised when I run across an artist who does wonderful polymer clay work, but she has never been online. Never even knew there was such a thing as polymer clay discussion groups. Not surprisingly, her work involves techniques that we assume she had to have learned somewhere. But it just came from playing with the clay.

I have been picking up old polymer clay pieces at the flea market and I am amazed that some are dated in the seventies and early eighties (I only came to polymer clay in 1990---and then skipped a few years before working heavily with it since 1997.) and the techniques are being re-discovered today. I just found one earring last week-end by Christie Leu and dated 1991. It is a nice piece and I am wondering why I never saw her work before. Maybe she has moved on to something else.

I have occasionally contemplated dumping the internet and all forms of polymer clay communication and observation just so I don't have to worry whether something I made in polymer clay was inspired by someone else. I have enough ideas on my own and sure don't need to discover others.

Just wanted to point out that without the internet, we would not probably be having this discussion or have so much information available to make our own opinions about the issue.

Gabriela said...

Hi! Just to say I loved your blog!

Cristalline said...

I was going to say that this problem is international, but my French girlfriends already did it; -) Beyond the regulation, it is surely a problem of self-centredness… What a pity to try to censure those which want to divide and which makes that at the end, everyone can advance. I publish small tuturiels on my blog and this kind of remark returned some times. Not often, but that always irritates; -) Thanks for your point of view, I divide it largely even if I do not understand all; -)

Beadcomber said...

I've been trying to follow the blogs about this subject but just came upon them a couple of days ago. It is hard to add a comment when so much has already been said. I don't think Kim meant what she said about 'conspicuous absence' of those that should make a comment. Not everyone is aware of these blogs yet, either because they are focusing on an upcoming busy season or for whatever other reason. It's such a difficult subject though and so many sides have been presented. It's also IMPOSSIBLE to please everyone else. If I want to make a lentil swirl or pillow bead, will I have to mention every single time that I was inspired by so-and-so, especially if I sell the beads...should I put so and so's name on my jewelry card? I don't think so! I'm pretty much unknown in the clay world even though I started claying in '89 and way later published a few things, I came up with a lot of techniques on my own that ended up being published by someone else. Does this mean I shouldn't be allowed to publish my version? Heck no! It is becoming exceedingly difficult to even publish something because of the fear "what if someone else has already done this!" Do we have to go as far and start googling for every (pardon my word) 'friggen' thing that we think of as "new or fresh" and might like to do a tutorial on? I'm thinking that I should add to every tutorial I have ever written to please go ahead and copy this object. Sell the object/s if you want and if you give me credit, fine, if you don't, then that is fine also.

Anonymous said...
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