Posted on 66 Comments

Ownership, sharing and accusation

[edited March 20, 2008: I think we had some good discussion here for a while, but we’ve gone from respectful disagreement to finger-pointing and sniping. And I’m not saying I haven’t been a participant in this facet of the discussion, but I do feel it needs to stop. That was never what I had in mind here. I am closing the comments to this post. However, if you feel that you have a point to make on the general (non-situation-specific) topic, you are welcome to post it over on the More Food For Thought post. And if you feel you have more to say about the specific example I used here, you are welcome to email me.  I appreciate everyone’s participation in this conversation – I think it’s given us a lot to think about!]

Pull up a chair, my friends. This might be a long one. I don’t have any pictures either, so you might want to put your reading glasses on icon_biggrin-flickr-1-9.

I want to talk today about something that has crossed my mind from time to time since the mid nineties when I first became involved with the online polymer clay community: It’s the idea of ownership. Who did what first? Who copied whom? And why do we care? And why are some of us so passionate about it?

Even way back then, when our internet community was small, and pretty much consisted of Wheat’s Craftwolf mailing list(remember that??), heated discussions would arise. Polymer Clay Central went so far as to create a separate message board where members could go to duke it out! We clayers, while often friendly and generous, have a territorial side, too.

The ownership question is certainly one that is on our minds as a group. At Synergy, the panel discussion Inspiration, Originality, Infringement was lively and interesting.

It is also a question that is on my mind recently on a more personal level. I am going to use my own situation as an example in a larger discussion. A few days ago, I was contacted about an image I had posted. A few people felt as if I had crossed a line and had let another artist’s secret out of the bag with my post:

…after looking at your posts about “your” stripe blend and the accompanying pictures it looks remarkably similar to the core of Dan Cormier’s presentation on “Beyond the Blend” at the Synergy conference in Baltimore.

Although admittedly your blends are not as precise as his, your technique of proportional stripes is identical to what he showed and how he does it.

I was reading you stripy blend post and was struck with how much it was almost Identical to what Dan was teaching at Synergy.

Many others felt, as I did, that the image I posted was my own work and was not breaking any unwritten rules:

I just wanted to let you know, it’s not hard to come up with something similar.. I’ve created something similar to what you’ve done, in a slightly different way, and until saw your post, I thought I was just clever…

Other forms of skinner blends have been around a long time and I make stripes all the time–accidently or on purpose. So making stripes from skinner blends is not anybody’s personal technique. Sarah Shriver is where I learned you don’t have to use just triangles and have been playing with that idea ever since.

I never for one minute thought you were duplicating anyone and I attended Dan’s seminar.

Once again we find ourselves divided by the topic of ownership. Dan and I have exchanged email about this particular instance, so I’m not saying anything here that I wouldn’t say directly to him. I like him, I respect him as an artist, and I applaud his ability to develop a curriculum and tools around a very intriguing concept. What I respectfully disagree with is the notion that precise, mathematical color mixing in a blend environment is a concept that he has the exclusive right to explore and share. Anyone who knows me and how I work knows that, for years, my mathematical background has factored heavily into my work with colors. I won’t stop now because someone else suddenly “owns” the idea.

I think what bothers me most is the knee-jerk reaction that a few people have had. They argue that the posting of a single before shot for my own work is capable of undermining people’s desire to take an in-depth two-day workshop. Aside from the fact that I believe my work differs from his as much as his differs from those who came before him, this is where I have to cry fowl. Anyone who had an interest in going “beyond the blend” before is not going to abandon the idea simply because I posted an image of a proportional blend.

Students choose to attend a class based on the reputation of the teacher. Whether the material is a closely-guarded secret or not, plays little part. Look at Donna Kato. She has made videos, written books, and instructed millions of people through her appearances on the Carol Duvall Show. And people still line up to take her classes. Even when the material is readily available in one of those other formats.

Good teaching, no matter the topic, embraces the philosophy that knowledge is to be shared.

What if Judith Skinner had decided to keep her blend a closely-guarded secret? What if the only people who enjoyed the ability to experiment and build on her technique were those who took a class with her? Our community and our artwork would be greatly diminished for it.

In a recent blog post Kathleen Dustin eloquently stated what I see as the crux of the matter:

You as artists and craftsmen MUST be open, sharing, and eager to help other artists/craftsmen. Believe it or not, it hurts YOU and the whole community when you are secretive about what you do.

[…] no one else can or should want to do what I do specifically, so I do not feel threatened by teaching the techniques surrounding it. After all, wise King Solomon said in the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, “There is nothing new under the sun,” so who am I to think that the techniques I use cannot be discovered independently by someone else, or be done even better by someone else?

I fully embrace this philosophy. When I make something I think is interesting, I am driven to put it out there. That’s part of why blogging appeals to me – instant sharing. And that’s what got me into trouble this week. I was free with something that a few people thought was not mine to share.

When we accept a culture of accusation such as this, we risk introducing a fear of exploration and experimentation into our members. One creative person said to me, “It seems that the polymer clay internet community has become so….watch doggy and easy to offend. I have spent more and more time being annoyed than inspired by it lately.” She went on to say that she has stopped producing some of the work she loves because an aspect of it resembles that of a well-known artist. She doesn’t want to be seen as a copycat, despite the fact that her work predates that of the other artist. What a shame it is, that a fear of accusation is keeping her from developing the ideas she finds most appealing!

At Synergy, we heard much about the history of polymer clay. In her talk about early polymer clay beadmakers, Kathleen Dustin said of millefiori, “because this technique is so uniquely matched to the properties of polymer clay, it was quickly — but independently and individually — developed by this handful of American artists.” We readily accept that this pivotal technique was simultaneously discovered by multiple artists twenty years ago. Why then, do we not extend this same courtesy with other techniques in the present day?

Another artist wrote to me, “discussion is good and this is something the clay world needs to discuss.” If the number of unsolicited comments I received yesterday is any indication, she’s not alone in feeling this way. So I say, let’s talk! Leave a comment. Speak your mind, engage in discussion with other commentators – let’s hash out these ideas and see where they lead.

I welcome opposing viewpoints and lively debate, but let’s be sure to “play nice.” I’ll delete comments that cross the line into flame-war territory, regardless of what side they are supporting.

Posted on 66 Comments

66 thoughts on “Ownership, sharing and accusation

  1. Glad to see you back! As a novice clayer I love to read and learn about all kinds of techniques and have a go at them too. It doesn’t mean I am going to copy someone’s work and try and sell it or pass it off as my own – I think if you are passionate about anything you want to share it with others. Di, UK

  2. People who read your blog knew that Dan Cormier, whom you did mentioned when beginner your experimentation with “stirpey things” was your inspiration. I feel that it was made clear that he was your spring board to the new ways in which you were blending clay. As for me, I can look at another aritist’s entire process for making something and still feel the need to take a class or buy a book to learn more. Your blog is clear, fresh and keeps many interested in trying new things with clay, fabric etc. Keep up the good work.

    1. Oops, that first sentence should read…People who read your blog knew that Dan Cormier, whom you did mention when beginning your experimentation …….sorry, typing too fast as usual.

  3. As a non-clayer, I am a tiny bit flabbergasted. In some other creative areas, it is assumed that information that is shared should keep being shared. When I go to a writing workshop, it’s not just OK for me to bring back what the presenter shared and share it with my colleagues. It is expected that I will do that, and add to it, pretty much just the way Lisa has: “Brilliant Writer said he does X and Y; I applied that to my own problem by trying to X and Y and Z. What do you think of the results?”
    If I suggest that X and Y were my own original ideas when they were not, we’ve got a problem, but (on a slight tangent) if X and Y really were my ideas, and I developed them independent of Brilliant Writer, who has also developed X and Y, people pretty much accept that, though it may diminish the apparent gorgeous novelty of both our work.
    And while plagiarism is bad, it is very common for writers to read a lot, trying to pick up style points and emulate writing that they admire.
    Those of you who are in the clay world, do you have a sense of *why* there is so much possessiveness around technique? Is it because the art form is new enough that there still are some things that are new under the sun?

  4. When someone teaches a class or has a seminar it is understood that they are sharing their ideas and that the attendees will take that information and either copy it completely or modify it for themselves.

    It is a benefit to the teacher that the information be passed along. It advances the craft which will bring more people to the teacher. And the teacher should be confident that no two people will ever have the same results.

    And who is this person to police the copying or interpreting of Dan Cormier’s work? It’s one thing to send a personal email with a question about a technique. Quite another thing to openly comment on someone’s blog with an accusation.

    This statement made my feathers ruffle: “Although admittedly your blends are not as precise as his…” (“admittedly”? What is she admitting to?) Her stating that is just being rude. If that was on my blog, no matter what else the person said, that would make me angry enough to delete the comment and respond to the writer with some thoughts of my own.

    I hope you ignore all this and just continue doing what you’re doing. Please don’t stress out about people feeling the need to over-lord other’s crafts. It’s just too ridiculous.

    – Jen

    1. Oh, I should clarify – the excerpts I posted were from email sent to me personally (which is why I didn’t identify any of the writers). They weren’t posted openly on my blog.

  5. I already emailed you about how *I* felt on this whole shebang this week. But for everyone else, I agree with Alisa. You put it out right up front that you were taking what Dan talked about and putting your own twist on it. You didn’t say “I do step 1, then step 2….just like Dan does. ” And *THAT* is the big difference. Yes I fully believe we need to give inspiration where it is due. I try but sometimes I forget. I think that happens to a lot of folks. You didn’t, yet you got “ambushed”.

    I don’t understand the need for other people to “police” this community, especially when someone gave credit for inspiration. It just seems so dang territorial to me. There are days I think seriously about selling all my clay and just creating in my glass studio.

    See what Kathi has been blogging about: Spring has Sprung

  6. You credited your inspiration to a lecture given by Dan Cormier at Synergy. If he had a site or books out you’d probably linked to those. Free publicity for Dan Cormier from a student who enjoyed his speech – and a student with a large web presence and a good name in the community he teaches and sells to! You can’t ask for better.

    And yet, you were accused and maligned for it.

    It’s like shooting yourself in the foot. You should encourage your most outspoken pupils, give them greater and easier access. They’re your best salespeople.

    As far as the technique itself goes – I haven’t actively pursued any techniques of Cormiers by choice. I have however always watched your work and agreed with some of your processes and techniques since – we have similar technical backgrounds – I’m a bit of a math / logic geek.

    I didn’t realize that the blends – which are all gradient math, something we use in graphics and programming all the time – were a thing that could be owned. It’s math and logic, something that goes with a technical bent. I believe Judith Skinner came at it from that angle. There are strip blends similar to what you did in Sue Heaser’s book (though not laid out in the same complexity, the theory is presented there) Polymer Clay Techniques.

    See what Elaine has been blogging about: Safety Tips for Polymer Clay Use

  7. I am just speechless. I loved reading Kathleen Dustin’s post on this topic and thought of this *business* imediately.

    Until I have more fluid thoughts….

    Sometimes Polymer and Personalities don’t mix.

  8. Lisa,
    You have done nothing wrong in my book. I did not go to Synergy. I was not surprised that something was shown there that was almost identical to a class that I have taught and that you put on your blog. This has happened to me more than once. I thought this was already a technique that had been out there and changed from the Skinner blend where we used the triangles. I gave up on triangles (except to teach new students) quite some time ago and my blends are a wild mix of all kinds of shapes. For me, when I teach a technique, it is no longer mine and is out there for anyone to use exactly as I do, adapt it, or completely change it. We each need to just ask ourselves if we have put enough twist on our work so it is not mistaken for another’s work. And even then, this is difficult as there are so many times that I see work similar to others and they never knew the other work existed.

    I must admit that I have become increasingly disenchanted with a lot in the polymer clay community. I have made it a point not to read any polymer clay discussion groups. It is no longer of interest to me. It really, really bothers me to see someone claim to own a technique when not only is it impossible to own a technique, but I myself did the same technique ten years ago when I was an infant in the polymer clay community! I was so new that I did not know that I needed to claim what I had discovered. 😉 If someone is serious about wanting to claim a technique, he/she needs to get a utility patent. If it is such a unique discovery, then that will be possible. If not, well it was bound to be discovered in the normal use of playing with clay and they don’t usually give patents on anything that can be discovered by an average person in the normal course of experimenting. The design that one makes with a technique is already copyrighted and that is where one needs to worry about infringing or copying someone else’s design.

    Keep on sharing. I had to write here as I hate for blogs to get to the point that I can no longer read them and they begin to look like discussion groups with lots of claims of ownership. Hang in there and don’t let this experience diminish your love of exploring and creating with clay.

    See what Jeanne Rhea has been blogging about: Women and Men, Selling, and Artists Blogs

    1. Jeanne,

      I could have written your second paragraph…those are the feelings that are bubbling up inside of me. I have found myself being disappointed that I ever picked clay up again (after a break) partially because of things like this. I guess I just wanted to say “rock on sister”

  9. I also have a mathematical background and after Sarah Shriver’s Workshop in Germany last year, I began to think about possibilities to differ skinnerblends (I wonder if it is possible to get them into 3D?)
    When I saw fotos of Lindly Haunanis workshop with all the wonderful stripes
    some month ago, it was totally clear to me how they were made.
    It was no picture of a template needed.
    I would definitely book Dan Cormier’s Workshop or buy his video or book even though I think I know a lot about blends.
    Keep on sharing.

  10. Although my background is in surface design for apparel and home furnishings, i find obvious similarities to what I do with quilt design, clay, scrapbooking, etc. I have a bit of a migraine so I hope what I’m writing makes some sense….

    If I design a quilt layout with symmetrically interlocking outlined circles and say that this is MY special layout, who wouldn’t come back at me and say “gee, Sarah, that is a wedding ring layout that has been around for hundreds of years”. What hasn’t been done by someone else? When copyrighting material, it can be very difficult to prove that anything is YOUR creation. Should people stop making wedding ring quilts? No way! Have fun – create and make it your own. Maybe you make a wedding ring quilt and find a way to do it that you want to share with others. Isn’t that why we read other people’s blogs? Why we attend conferences, get together to do our crafts? We want (besides a little socializing) to learn from each other, see what others are doing and give ourselves ideas on how to do things ourselves – put our spin on it.

    People always want ownership. It is pretty hard to own creativity. You were sharing something that you evolved from an original inspiration. You said where your inspiration came from. You were excited to share what you learned at the conference. Regardless, I’m sure that someone came up with the same basic idea soon after the Skinner Blend was created. Others have commented as such.

    I’m glad that you shared this with us because it shows your integrity – you were obviously hit with this like a slap in the face. I feel your intention is to share your enthusiasm, creativity and love for creating with clay. I hope you keep on doing so. I, as a newbie to clay, really appreciate it and look forward to what you blog about next!

    that’s my $0.02… i hope it made sense!

  11. My hubby always says that, in this “information age,” any business model that depends on the scarcity of information is doomed. Being secretive, protecting one’s ideas — these things don’t add to the community. And if you’re not adding to & participating in the community, then people aren’t talking about you & linking to you… and eventually you’ll be sitting alone in your own little corner of the internet.

    I really respect the approach Christi Friesen takes. I like that she’s clear in her books about her openness to readers selling items made based on her designs. Here’s a bit of an excerpt: “If I didn’t expect you to make these projects, then I shouldn’t have put them in a book. However, when you cross over to selling your work, I would expect that you would add some of your own individuality to the pieces and make changes… If you do want to sell pieces that look a lot like my work, please make sure you plainly state that it is “inspired by the work of Christi Friesen” — this way we all win. You get to learn, have fun, and even sell, and I get acknowledgment as the originator of the design, and maybe some book sales. If you want to teach my designs to others, contact me, it’s a bit trickier!”

    One of my guild members even took her up on that last little bit — contacted her and asked if she (my guild member) could lead the guild through a couple of the projects in Christi’s book. CF was totally open to the idea & even offered us a group discount on book orders. Through that interaction & the other things I’ve seen about her, I get the sense that she’s found a way to balance sharing information & making a living. And I admire her work all the more for it.

    I’m guessing each person has to find that balancing spot for themselves. (I’m hoping I’ll find mine someday!) But from what I’ve seen, CF is one example showing that it *can* be done.

  12. I won’t comment on the specific disagreement between Lisa and Dan Cormier because I feel that that discussion should take place between them and remain private. But I will say this; I can only speak for myself, but if I had a blog and was contacted by an artist from the Polymer Community with the stature of Dan Cormier asking that I remove certain Images and post because he felt that it was infringing on his intellectual property, I would remove the material from the blog in a heartbeat out of respect for that artist. Then I would work with the artist to resolve the issues to the satisfaction both parties. I am all for having a discussion of issues of ownership and copyright and that type of thing in the abstract but that is not what is happening here.

    Seth Savarick

    1. Wow. I honestly expected better from you Seth. I was thrilled when I saw someone of Lisa’s caliber bringing up this issue. Sure, as a victim, there is a personal element to her post, but that doesn’t make her point invalid. She did an excellent job of pointing out how this has been important enough to become a panel at a national conference (a good sign that it is on the minds of many), how some professional artists have treated the issue in way that has been to the benefit of us all, and how harmful it can be to the field when handled badly. She invited people pro and con to speak up and all she asked in return was that we remained civil.

      If you were truly open to discussion, you’d leave the snide comments at the door and state your case. You’re behaving no better than those third parties who felt they had to harrass Lisa via email.

      My opinion is that Lisa is correct. As someone who has a background in education, I feel that a teacher that is only in the business of teaching to make money is not teaching, but rather involved in some massive ego stroking demo. A good teacher wants their students to excel and take the knowledge they’ve gained even further. What’s the point of taking a class if I can’t do anything with what you’ve learned? As for sharing harming a class? Forgive my language, but bullshit. I think other people’s comments prove my point. I know I’ve taken classes with people on topics that I’ve seen videos or articles on. Good teaching always goes beyond.

    2. I also feel like this statement:

      I won’t comment on the specific disagreement between Lisa and Dan Cormier because I feel that that discussion should take place between them and remain private.

      And this one:

      if I had a blog and was contacted by an artist from the Polymer Community with the stature of Dan Cormier asking that I remove certain Images and post because he felt that it was infringing on his intellectual property, I would remove the material from the blog in a heartbeat out of respect for that artist. Then I would work with the artist to resolve the issues to the satisfaction both parties.

      are pretty well at odds, since Lisa has not gone into specifics really at all. Aside from your remarks, I don’t think I’d heard much at all about what Dan had said, or how Lisa had responded, or whether anyone was satisfied.
      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you sharing your take, Seth; in fact, I’m glad to have it. But it’s tough to say you’re not going to comment on specifics and then introduce new specifics into the conversation.

    3. It was increasingly clear to me from the email I received this week, that these issues need to be discussed. Without a concrete example, it’s extremely difficult to make a coherent point, and the only example that I have any right to discuss is the one that involves me.

      What I did was to state the facts, post a few anonymous viewpoints from both sides of the issue, state my own opinion, and invite others to do the same, regardless of where they stand.

      Nowhere did I ask for anyone to comment on the specifics of my example. Frankly, I’d prefer it if they did not, even if they agree with me.

    4. If the individual artist contacted me about an image on my site I would consider removing it (would depend on exactly what the issue was but I digress). But it appeared to me, from Lisa’s post, that it wasn’t the artist who contacted her but someone else who felt the need to interject themselves and cause a dispute.

      1. The artist and I did eventually exchange email on the topic, but you are right. Initially I heard from a few third parties. It’s the “copyright police” mentality that immediately assumed the work could not be my own that I take issue with.

    5. Seth,

      I am astounded to read that from you. I did not read into Lisa’s comments that Dan had been in touch with Lisa about this at all.

      Are you aware of something different or did you just make an assumption. (or did I miss something.) ???

      I have some other thoughts I would share with you privately. When I try to reconcile them with your statement I wonder if methinks the artist doth protest too much…

      I see no reason for Lisa to change a thing she has done.

      I see a lot of FEAR in the polymer clay community, and it is extremely unattractive. There are real problems in the world. This isn’t one of them.

      Respectfully submitted,

  13. Lisa:

    I agree with you 100% and am disheartened with the state of design in general. Was I the first person to ever make a polymer clay sock monkey. I’m sure not but I was the first to demo it on The Carol Duvall Show. Do I care if anyone recreates my designs? I I sure do care and I get email from people all the time showing what they’ve made. It makes my heart sing. Geez, I almost cringe at times the amount of emails I get asking permission to use one of my designs in a classroom or if they can make some for a craft show.

    It’s my opinion but I’m just thrilled that people are crafting and if I helped them to achieve that, WooHoo!

    Wow is all I can say and you have my support my friend!

    See what Becky has been blogging about: Dinner with My Girlfriends

  14. I think this problem supercedes the issues of creativity and ownership, Lisa. The problem is human nature, especially enhanced by the relative anonymity of the internet. I’ve seen bloggers in other craft areas fall under attack for one (imagined) offense or another. The romance fiction field–that’s my business–is rife with this animosity and bickering. Publishing–my adjunct business–is likewise. I believe that conflicts that we might feel compelled to address more rationally and civilly if we did so face-to-face become emotional and virulent on the web.

    I still blog and write columns for websites, albeit cautiously. But I’m always waiting for the next controversy I might set off without seeing it coming. I don’t read or post much on discussion groups though…they tend to be such hotbeds of strife.

    The only way to temper this problem is for people to try their best to interact on the web as they would if they were in the same room with their accusee/accuser. But alas, this is not easy for even those with the best intentions. And there are a lot of people whose raison d’etre has become finding people to harass online. Sometimes I feel really bad about it! Here we have a tool to bring people together and sometimes it goes horribly awry. But we can do our best to be positive and kind and make the best of technology. It offers such wonderful opportunities if we use it properly.

    1. You raise a valid point. The internet allows us to say things we may be too timid to say in public. This can be good, and this can be bad.

  15. Sorry, Seth, but you just hit the heart of the matter in the wrong way. This has nothing to do “with the stature of Dan Cormier”. In my book, Lisa is as important of a person in the clay community as Dan Cormier. I read her blog daily and feel that I know her and her heart. I know Dan’s work as well, but if we just want to talk about someone’s level of importance to the average clayer, I would pick Lisa. One’s stature has nothing to do with this matter. I don’t want to get into a squabble over this particular incident as I don’t even know all the facts. However, this one statement tells me more than I care to know about where the polymer clay commmunity seems to be headed and I will not be a part of it. If Dan Cormier is Suzy Jane Jones Clayer and if Lisa has done right or wrong, intentionally or unintentionally, it does not matter one whit what the stature of Suzy Clayer is in the polymer clay community.

    I like the kind of post that the person who just responded about Christi Friesen. This gives us fact, hard info and something that guides us. Your post does not help.

    I write something to this effect when I teach or write a tutorial. If it is a tutorial that I sell, then I do not ever grant permission for someone to copy it. But anyone can write his/her own tutorial on any technique out there including mine and including one that I sell. It may not be nice to write one without the originator’s credit, but that is part of living in this world and IMO, we do better with competition. A person should always give credit for inspiration–if known!

    Terms of Use for this Tutorial (One I post for free on my site,)

    1. You have my permission to print this tutorial for your own personal use from my web site as long as it is printed with my copyright information.

    2. You have my permission to use this tutorial in a polymer clay guild demo or NPCG activity. Please print it in its entirety and give credit. You may make a copy for each participant.

    3. You do not have my permission to use this tutorial as a hand-out or print this tutorial for a class for profit. However, you may refer participants to this site ( to print their own personal copy. You may teach this technique using your own special teaching abilities by putting your own spin on it or making a finished product using this technique. Please give credit.

    4. You do not have my permission to sell this tutorial.

    5. You may write your own tutorial on transferring images to flat polymer clay surfaces, but you must use your own words and photos and you may not copy mine. You should give credit should this tutorial be your inspiration.

    6. Please email me at if you have questions about the use of this tutorial.

    And even with that I have walked into a class at a local shop and had a student to tell me, “I am so excited.! ______ is teaching us your technique on transferring images to round surfaces.” This is a tutorial that I sell. The students had been given photocopies of the tutorial that I sell. So I realize there are problems in this matter. I have had clayers copy my designs (not a technique) and try to sell them on eBay. All of this does not feel good—but I love it when someone tells me that they are making something that I taught them and it is selling like hotcakes!

    I don’t know the answer to all of this, but it sure is not in anyone’s stature in the polymer clay community.

    See what Jeanne Rhea has been blogging about: Women and Men, Selling, and Artists Blogs

  16. If we are just talking “technique” vs. “project”, I’m not sure I see what the problem is. If you are adding “ideas” perhaps that you learned from Dan Cormier to something you’ve already been experimenting with and you have given him credit as an inspiration, then you’ve done well.

  17. First of all, if you don’t want to be copied… Don’t show it to anyone!

    This subject has bothered me for a long time. I teach beginners about making polymer clay beads through video. I am largely self taught and learn by making mistakes and trying to fix them. I am completely sure there are polymer clay artists who have already found solutions to most of my problems with polymer clay. If I read about their way of doing things better… am I supposed to keep it secret from my students?!

    “I’m sorry, I DO know a better way of doing this, but so-and-so does that and it’s copyrighted so I can’t tell you about.” or “I was searching the net the other day and saw something that would work for that problem, but I can’t remember who did it, so I better not share it with you until I can credit it to them.”

    (Don’t get me wrong, if I know who I learned something from, I will credit them but I’ve been very afraid to take any classes from another polymer clay person, for fear of them getting all ‘pissy’ for sharing what I learned. So I have not.)

    I am also regularly coming up with new ways to do things my own way. I will share them and people will copy them. I will just have to stay ahead of the pack by creating more new things… As an artist and a teacher isn’t that what it’s really all about anyway!!!

  18. Ah, this is a sticky subject indeed, and I have to admit I’m straddling the fence. But here goes anyhow.

    ::: hands out grains of salt for all to take :::

    I can see where the photos of the way you laid out the blends could be construed as giving away secrets. I didn’t attend the seminar at Synergy, so I can’t be sure (perhaps this is why it’s so grey for me), but I can definitely see how Dan might feel that this would affect him negatively.

    But… and this is the important part… I’ve taken a class with Dan. It was intense, and creative, and one of the better ones I’ve taken, and 2007 was a banner year for classes in my world, so that’s saying a lot. I agree that you’re never going to get as much out of a few images on the web as you will from being in a classroom setting, and in that, I think there are people who won’t be deterred at all from attending a Beyond the Blend workshop, or from buying the Sh.A.R.K. tool. In fact, it, like the Synergy presentation, may well encourage these folks to go out and do it. I know I pre-ordered a Sh.A.R.K. kit sight unseen based on a friend’s statement that “You need one.”

    It will, however, allow some people to start making similar blends, but imo, they’re not the type who would normally buy tools or take two day workshops anyhow, rather they’re the ones who expect it all to be out there for free on the internet, never realizing that there are artists who rely on being able to sell these techniques, tips and tricks as their means of keeping food on the table and a roof over their heads. (oh wait, can you tell this is a pet concern of mine? ::: steps off soapbox :::)

    I think the two worlds can peacefully coexist, though, and don’t think you should delete your entire posts, but if it were me, I would just delete the pictures showing the templates that may or may not be inspired by Dan, and then encourage people to get out and try to take a class with him some time, as it would be well worth their time and money.

    See what Jenn has been blogging about: weekend fun

  19. I really feel its time to make an attempt to resolve this whole issue. What seems to happen over and over again is that someone does something that someone else disagrees with and then it turns into a very emotionally charged debate, with people defending their friends or their own actions. That, in turn, seems to drive a deeper wedge between everyone involved. I would love to make this discussion not about any one particular incident but more of an exploration into what people perceive as right or wrong and why they perceive it that way. I have a strong suspicion that most of us really do agree on the important issues but, those things become clouded by our emotions and hurt feelings.

    I do my best to see both sides of these “ownership” and “infringement”issues because there are 2 (or more!) sides, whether we want to admit it or not. I guess it comes down to the fact that it doesn’t seem possible to establish a “universal” system of ethics for everyone involved in the arts. This same system would have to apply to established artists as well as to “Chrissy Crafter” and everyone who falls in between. Because our existence is fueled by the internet and all the sharing of information that entails, it’s hard to know exactly where to draw that imaginary line.

    I know Lisa is not the kind of person who would deliberately set out to hurt a fellow artist nor would she knowingly infringe upon someone else’s technique or their right to teach it. She’s a wonderful lady, a talented artist, and a generous contributor to the polymer community. Blogging is such a wonderful way to share your experiences and discoveries and I certainly understand the joy of doing that. Would I have shared that photo? Honestly, no. I have no doubt it was done innocently and I know she gave Dan total credit but, what often happens is that someone else picks up on that post and takes it a step further and maybe they don’t mention Dan at all. And then someone else, etc., until soon, there are free “tutes” all over the internet with variations of what he’s doing, and his ability to teach something he’s invested so much into, is damaged. It’s hard to earn a living with your art and until someone has tried to do that themselves, it may be difficult to understand how innocent comments and photos can take on a life of their own and turn into something that threatens your ability to feed your family. From my own point of view, it’s not so much about wanting the glory (that definitely doesn’t get the bills paid!) as it is about watching all the hard work you’ve invested being eaten away with little or no chance to profit from your discovery. Of course, for some people, I suspect it IS about the glory, as well!

    My last comment, not directed at Lisa, is just something to think about. I believe that any medium requires a sharing and an open environment to grow but, it also requires artists who are willing to invest time and effort into developing techniques and work that will move the medium forward. I don’t think there are many people out there who can afford to or are willing to do that for nothing. We need to balance respect and courtesy with our eagerness to share with all our friends in the online community.

    See what Kim Cavender has been blogging about: I’m off to get SYNERGIZED!

    1. what often happens is that someone else picks up on that post and takes it a step further and maybe they don’t mention Dan at all. And then someone else, etc., until soon, there are free “tutes” all over the internet with variations of what he’s doing, and his ability to teach something he’s invested so much into, is damaged.

      I think this statement is the crux of the disagreement. Continuing with this example, Dan is very well-known in the community. His workshops are popular and well-publicized among the workshop-taking crowd. The type of person who would be predisposed to taking a “Beyond the Blend” class, is not going to be deterred from doing so, because a handful of tutorials have popped up. If anything, it’s going to generate more interest in the subject, and excitement about taking the class from a pioneer in the technique.

      I understand that many of us participating in this discussion (myself included) are not counting on teaching to feed our families. That’s one of the reasons why the perspective you bring to the conversation is so valuable, and I appreciate you speaking up! But let me put this out there:

      Those teachers who are concerned that their techniques are no longer a draw to prospective students the more they are discussed outside of class, need to read some of these comments more closely! We are those prospective students, and we are telling you that we would take your classes anyway.

      I’ve read your book, Kim, and I would still love to take a workshop with you. Even if you gave it all away for free on your website, that wouldn’t change anything. Those of us who attend workshops know that there is something special about seeing an artist do his or her thing up close that can never be captured by a few free second-, third-, and fourth-generation tutorials.

      1. I appreciate your comments, Lisa, and, I respect your point of view. I have to say from experience that while several of the people who have posted here do realize that a workshop is more than a few photos posted on the internet, there are still many others in our community who won’t pay for something that is being given away for free. And honestly, I can understand that point of view, as well.

        I’d also like to say that I think many of the comments that have been posted, while they’re quite interesting and thought provoking, really don’t apply to the specific issue at hand, which I thought, was : Is it acceptable to post photos online of a process you’ve learned from an instructor who is currently teaching a specific technique? It’s not about who did what first, who gets credit for being the originator of a specific technique, making things from a technique that you learned from someone else, or teaching something that’s similar to a workshop taught by someone else. If I’ve misunderstood the issue, I apologize in advance for the remainder of my post.

        I’d like to present a personal scenario, one that is much more extreme than what was posted on your blog, but one that I think many other instructors have dealt with. I taught a class (not a weekend workshop, just a short class) last year and for the first time ever, I made a specific request, before class started, that if anyone wanted to take step-by-step photos of the process that they please not post them online for thousands of people to see. One person asked if it was okay to share the technique with her guild members when she returned home. I told her that seemed to be something that lots of people do and, although I preferred she not demonstrate the whole process, I couldn’t stop her from sharing what she learned. I also said that if she made the decision to share what she learned in the class, that she should make sure that her guild members also respected my request regarding the posting of photos.

        I had barely been home a week when I saw a set of step-by-step photos posted on an online message board. These were posted from someone who had not even attended the workshop but, who had been treated, along with the rest of her guild, to a demonstration by someone who had taken the class and had stopped there to visit on her way home. It wasn’t simply a short demo, it was, to put it bluntly, a free class, which everyone who attended the guild meeting participated in. And, it was done at my expense. I’ll never be invited to teach that workshop at that guild. It doesn’t matter that I may have a lot to offer as an instructor. And what about the thousands of people who weren’t even at that guild meeting who have now been presented with those photos through the message board, which, I’m fairly certain, were described as “a technique that ____ learned during a workshop in ____ and which she shared with us when she visited our guild for the day”. Of course, then there were several dozen people who went on to thank the poster of the photos for “sharing” what she learned at her guild meeting. If I recall correctly, my name was never mentioned. So, how many people who saw that post may decide it would make a great demonstration for THEIR next guild meeting? I’ll never know the answer to that. And how long before the “free tute” pops up somewhere? And here’s the part that’s so ironic, I don’t think any of it was done maliciously, it was all done in the spirit of sharing but, somewhere along the way, the person who spent weeks developing this great new technique, was totally removed from the whole equation. Since then, I’ve run across other sets of photos (not what I would call step-by-step), on various guild sites, of other people demonstrating what they learned during my class. Will that entice those guilds to bring me in for a workshop? I hope so. I try to keep a sense of perspective about the whole thing but it’s discouraging, to say the least.

        So here’s my point, in a perfect world, things would work out just as you suggested. But, in the real world, I know from experience that they don’t always happen the way that they should. All I’m suggesting is that before we post photos of someone’s process, we ask their permission. In my case, I would have been completely agreeable to some of those photos being shown and grateful for the fact that they were being shared. But, I was never given the option of having a choice. I just feel as if we need to draw the line somewhere as to how much and what we share with others unless it is truly ours to share.

        See what Kim Cavender has been blogging about: Getting it off my chest with no desire to look at hers

        1. Hey, Kim. We should just take this to email since I’m not sure anyone else is reading this discussion anymore, LOL! Just kidding – it’s good to keep it here 🙂

          I think we’re talking about two different things, because I completely agree with what you are saying here. Your example is theft, plain and simple, on the part of the person who took your class. You’ll get no argument from me on that.

          You said:

          I think many of the comments that have been posted […] really don’t apply to the specific issue at hand, which I thought, was: Is it acceptable to post photos online of a process you’ve learned from an instructor who is currently teaching a specific technique?

          Actually, if I were to answer that question, I’d say that sometimes it may be a gray area, but generally, no, it is not ok. It’s really a matter of what is covered under the fair use umbrella.

          What I have been trying to say is that there is nothing wrong with taking an aspect of something discussed in a seminar, expanding upon it, and posting a single image of your own work. This is a completely different animal in my mind.

          For the record, when I was first contacted about this (by a third party, I might add), I re-read my posts on the subject and I did remove two images. They were images of my own work as inspired by the seminar, but I took them down as a courtesy because I could see how they might have bothered Dan. (See, I’m not completely unreasonable, LOL!) But I am not removing any subsequent images because these are even further removed from what was discussed in the seminar. They are more a product of my own experiences than anything else. The fact that it is being assumed that this is “his technique” and that people feel the need to police me for it is what irks me.

          I hope this is coming across in the friendly way I mean it to. I’m kind of tired! *yawn*

          1. Lisa, 

            In your response to Kim Cavender you write:

            “I think we’re talking about two different things, because I completely agree with what you are saying here. Your example is theft, plain and simple, on the part of the person who took your class. You’ll get no argument from me on that.”  But “…there is nothing wrong with taking an aspect of something discussed in a seminar, expanding upon it, and posting a single image of your own work. This is a completely different animal in my mind.”

            But that is what is exactly what is in dispute here. Did you take an aspect of something discussed in a seminar and expanding upon it making it your own? Or, did you infringe on another artist work by posting images of what you learned in that artist class . When I e-mailed you with my concerns I wrote: 

            “I am writing because I was reading you stripy blend post and was struck with how much it was almost Identical to what Dan was teaching at Synergy.   I’m not sure if you have talked with Dan or not. If you have than please ignore this part of the email. If you have not, you might want to check with him to see if he is cool with your posting a tutorial of what he is currently teaching.” 

            Your Response to me was: 

            “As far as the stripes go, I appreciate you mentioning it.  I know it looks like his technique (or, at least, I know that now, since it was pointed out a few times yesterday), but I arrived there from a completely different direction, based on ideas I’ve been playing with on my own for many years.”

            So to be fair to you I went looking for any evidence that you had in fact arrived at what you posted from a completely different direction.  In looking at all your blog posts and all the images of your work that I could find, I found nothing that showed that you, like Dan, had been developing what you showed in your posts for many years. And, after reading that you fully embrace the philosophy that when you make something you think is interesting, you are driven to put it out there. That That is what appeals to you about blogging – “instant sharing.”  I was certain that in your years of developing what you said to me you had arrived at from a completely different direction I would find such evidence.  I have not found any.

            So if, as you said, it is generally not acceptable to post photos online of a process you’ve learned from an instructor who is currently teaching a specific technique? And, since many in the polymer community have contacted you saying that that is exactly what you have done. And, the artist who feels that your actions have infringed on his work has contacted you and asked you to remove the posts.  And, In the absence of any evidence that points to the validity of your claim that you arrived at what you posted from a completely different direction, based on ideas you have been playing with for many years. I find my self wondering, Why is it okay for you to do exactly what you say is generally not acceptable?

          2. My work with polymer clay goes back twelve years. I’ve been regularly posting here for less than one. I think it would be awfully interesting if I had photographic documentation of my first decade in clay, but the reality is that I have very few in-progress images of anything I’ve tried prior to June of 2007.

            All I’ve really got to offer by way of evidence is my word, I’m afraid.

          3. Ah Seth.

            I’m going to post two images directly linked from and to artist’s websites. One is by you. One is by Gwen Gibson. If I didn’t look them up myself, I’d never be able to tell they were by different artists. Admittedly, I’m a novice (which puts me in the class of people who be paying you to teach).

            I trust that you came up with enough of a change to be teaching this yourself, so why can’t you trust that another artist can do the same?

            [edited by LRC to remove images by request of Seth Savarick. Click here for image one. Click here for image two.]

          4. I did what i did with permission.

          5. Ok, everybody, I think this particular thread is getting too personal. Let’s stick to the larger issues, please. Thanks.

          6. Lisa,

            You know as well as I that I ask that the image of my work be removed if you did not keep up all my comments about its use on your blog. Come on play fair here.

          7. I don’t know what else you want from me. I deleted the images as you asked, and I let you have the last word in the conversation. I am not editing that comment any further. This unproductive aspect of the discussion ends here.

  20. I am a daily faithful reader of your blog from the other side of the world, from a country where most people think that polymer clay is something for children to play with. I learned tons of things from the net and from excellent books by Judy Belcher, Kim Cavender and Donna Kato. What I would really like to say is that what such discussions as this one lead to for me personally is fear and blocked creativity. Some time ago when a similar question was heatedly debated on another blog I nearly packed my clay and stopped working with it because I was really confused about what is taking techniques and what is being a copy cat. I don’t have a blog and I have a daily job but I do make lots of necklaces for gifts that I give myself or for my friends and relations to give to other people because they like what I create and wear myself. The prices barely cover the cost of materials but nevertheless.
    The other two things I would like to point out are: after reading the long post I immediately thought of Christie Friesen as well. I have all her books and adore her designs and her approach to copyright. I would never think of copying such a distinctive voice.
    Lastly I think if artists want to really have secret techniques they can more or less only produce their work because the secrecy doesn’t go together with teaching. I have often wondered what is the point of taking a workshop if you can’t use and share the techniques learnt there. Not that I have taken any workshops of the kind – they don’t exist in my country – but I sometimes read comments about that on French and American blogs.
    Lisa I really love your work and your style of writing and sense of humour have so many times cheered me up – so please go on. But I also admire Dan Cormier’s work – I read about his technique in PC cafe that I ordered from your site – and I can only dream of taking his workshop.
    With all respect to everybody – my life would be much more empty without the generosity of artists who shared and share their enthusiasm for PC clay. Kristina

    1. Kristina, thank you for your comment and nice words – I appreciate them!

      I just wanted to point out that you should never be afraid to use techniques you have learned in books, on the internet, or at workshops if you are making items for yourself, or as gifts for your friends. I can’t think of a single teacher who wouldn’t want you to play around with what they have shown you. And most of them would be proud to have you show off your finished product and say, “I learned this technique from so-and-so!”

    2. Dear Kristina,
      I am so very honored to know that my book has inspired you. As Lisa said, I would never want you to feel as if you could not use the techniques or projects that I have published in your own work. Make as many things as you’d like for yourself, for gifts, or to sell. I would never have shared those things if I wanted to keep them only for myself. When I teach a class, I feel the same way. I have no problem with a student using anything they’ve learned in my class in their own work. I feel they have paid both to learn and to use it. Please don’t let these spirited discussions interfere with your creative spirit!

      See what Kim Cavender has been blogging about: Getting it off my chest with no desire to look at hers

  21. I agree with Seth AND Jeanne Rhea. The stature of the artist should not matter, but if you have taken a class, and the artist feels that you have crossed the line by posting something, the best thing to do is to take it down and try to establish a dialog with the artist. It is difficult to bring yourself to do this. I know. But in my view, this is not an admission that you have done anything wrong. This is an opportunity for learning. There is a reason why the other artist feels like he does and, until you learn his story, you are only going on your own assumptions. And the SAME goes for him (or her)
    We ALL have to realize that there is enough room in the polymer clay world for everyone’s creativity, and that certain artists, like Kathleen Dustin and Dan Cormier, can be imitated but never duplicated. Wherever you weigh in on this issue, don’t forget that we have an opportunity to nurture one another, but we are all different.
    Lisa, I value your work and your blog and the business you have built. I look forward to seeing more work from you in the future. And I know I will. – Martha

  22. That was a most excellent entry! Thank you. Back in 2005, I was new to art dolls and very excitedly posted a picture of one to a yahoo art doll group only to have a public comment made to me by someone who tersely claimed that she had made one **just like it.**

    I was livid and I’ll tell you why.

    Under pressure, I shopped and looked around the house to reuse what I had in novel ways — a resin stand originally for a large decorated ceramic egg, a faux coral bracelet from the Navy Pier in Chicago, an unfinished wood candlestick, carved bone skull beads from India, upholstery trim, a Christmas ornament, nails, wire, an empty thread spool, pins, clay, beads, and so on. Happy with the results of one, I made another similar to it — one of these dolls helped get me into an art gallery while the other was sent off for my first (!) art swap — I was finally entering the art community after my mother talked me out of it years earlier.

    I knew it would have been rather unlikely (I’m being polite) that anyone duplicated (or even came too terribly close, really) either of the dolls made from such a particular conglomeration of materials.

    This other woman never produced a picture and though I initially felt a couple of my firsts were tainted by such an accusation/statement, I rebelled and continue to document how and when I made my art, and I will make it!

    I give credit where credit is due though, like when I made my first polymer clay tiles, I named the book and artist that inspired me, and when I made my first lentil swirl beads, I named the artist whose online tutorial I used.

    I’m conscientious but refuse to walk around on pins and needles.

  23. Hi Lisa,

    Thank you for your honest and eloquent post. I really appreciated you writing about this topic because it is one that I’ve been pondering over after I took my first workshop a year ago.

    I have several questions to artists who teach or show their ideas/techniques to an audience, whether that be in a seminar, workshop/class or informal gathering.

    Why do you want to share/teach your ideas/techniques? What is the motivating force behind you doing this?

    What are your expectations of the people you show this idea/technique to? What do you want them to do with this information once you’ve shown it to them?

    If an artist does not want others taking their idea/technique and experimenting and playing with it on their own then why share it at all? And, if it’s an exciting idea/technique (and most are!), how can you hold back the natural inclination to share this excitement with your artist friends? And, what are the effects of that “holding back” on the artist community as a whole?

    What are the rules?

    These are things I think about and sometimes don’t think that I truly understand.


  24. […] ownership and accusation discussion is still attracting a few comments here and there, but has died down for the most part. Because I […]

  25. I may be new to the clay world, but I am certainly no stranger to internet forums, and groups devoted to sharig knowledge.

    It would seem, that there always has to be one, or a couple of individuals, that hold themselves above all others. And from time to time feel the need to slag, those around them. Perhaps it has something to do with *making ones self feel better, by putting others down*

    It really is a shame, I hope that when, what has happend here, happends to any one of us. We are not lead to feel shame or doubt, in our abilities, and the work that we do.

    We all need to start somewhere, And for many, it is by following instruction to the letter, It’s not until we have done that, can we own a skill, and put our own spin on it. It is the same with any craft or art medium we get involved in.

    Although, I am so new to polymer clay, that I do not even know who dan is. I am pretty certain he would not of shared the information, if he did not want to people listening to implement it in their own work. And I am sure
    that he would be flattered by any effort made by those who were there to imitate his “Ideas”

    The world would be a pretty bleek and dismal place if creative people were blocked from re inventing, or expanding on what had already been created. for example: Superman was here before Spiderman,,, coke precedes pepsi . Stone wheels pre date wooden coach wheels etc etc.

    By the logic of some, we would not have had the pleasure of Spider man, because any super hero to come after Superman is only a stolen idea based on his character, Or what ever super hero did come first.

    Myself. I would like to see the picture which had been removed. I’m new, I want to learn, and I want to be inspired by this new style of blendng. Who knows, perhaps seeing your work would inspire me to take a class with dan, If the opportunity were to arise.

    Keep up the good work, And for heavens sake. don’t let the nitpicking get you down.

    Nancy 😀

  26. Hi Lisa,

    I’m addressing this comment to you, but of course, I know others will be reading. And I’m hoping that everyone out there will take this opportunity to read my message with an open mind, regardless of their position.

    For the last few years, I’ve devoted myself to the evolution of a new system of techniques for blending polymer clay. Under the name Beyond the Blend, my partner Tracy Holmes and I were invited to debut that system to our community as juried presenters at the National Polymer Clay Guild’s recent Synergy conference in Baltimore last month. You were at that debut.

    A week later, I watched as you published key elements of my new system in a series of detailed tutorials on this blog. Initially, in the first post, you made a connection to me, but very quickly (in the same paragraph) you introduced your first example as your “own version.” By the next day (in the next post), you were sharing “More stripey goodness” as a technique that didn’t “resemble its origins much at all.” Any connection to me was gone. Forgive the allusion, but making that claim on the 29th of February was quite a leap.

    A week after that, in the final post of the series (“Gutsy gusts and such”), you showed and shared even more “How To” images, again employing exactly what I had newly developed and debuted as “The Staircase Blend.” And you did so while simultaneously distancing yourself and your work even further from its true source, declaring your new “Stripey Blend” a success.

    What is a “Staircase Blend”? Well, it was featured as the new idea in our keynote presentation; it was manifested in more than 85% of our before-and-after seminar samples: our seminar concluded with a demo of it; it was shared to visitors at our Synergy Vendor Fair table; and it provided the basis for the debut hands-on workshop that followed at The ArtWay immediately after Synergy. It was not simply “an aspect of something discussed in a seminar” (as I think you’re suggesting it was in one of your blog comments), but the turning point in my research, the “plot twist” in our presentation, the very gist of all that goes “beyond” in my entire Beyond the Blend system.

    As you conducted your on-line post-Synergy blend experiments, many of your blog readers were there through it all, to take note, offer their praise, and validate your actions. But others were noticing too, and it was immediately following your “Gutsy” post that they began to speak up, not with praise, but with concern. I know that three established, well-respected teachers independently contacted you to suggest that you were crossing the line, appropriating too much of the core content of my new presentation. I was surprised when you cited them, out of context and without their permission, later describing them as third-party “copyright police” who had immediately assumed the work could not be yours. These teachers assumed nothing. Not only were they all on the Synergy faculty, they were all also well aware of the content of my seminar. I have no doubt that they came to their conclusions honestly and with context. I was also concerned when one of your commenters characterized these e-mails as harassment, and you didn’t step in to correct that, as you have with other inaccuracies. We both read these e-mails, Lisa, and we both know they were far from harassing. They were respectful messages that I believe were as much about protecting you from potential embarrassment as they were about defending me.

    Very soon after the first artist contacted you privately, you responded publicly. In your “Controversial Stripes” post on Mar.10.08, you said that, while you respected their opinion and were distressed by their perspective that you were copying someone else, you defended your position with an emphatic claim that that’s not what you were doing. Emphatic or not, you pulled that post, and replaced it the next day with “Can I have a do-over?”

    From the beginning, even though my work and my name were being publicly cited on your blog, it was my hope that you and I could discuss this issue in a private way. When one, then two, then three established teachers contacted you, you had doubts, then regrets, but never gave credence to their informed or unified opinion. And despite their suggestion that you contact me for mine, you never made an attempt to do that. So, I contacted you, to state directly and without any doubt whatsoever, the very same thing they had already told you: that you were revealing the core of a system of techniques that was not yours to reveal, and furthermore, you were presenting these techniques as yours. Your reply to me began with “I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree.”

    What happened next? Without further chance for private exchange, discussion, or resolve, this “disagreement” was suddenly thrust into a public discussion on your blog. Without my permission, and without my perspective, you placed me at its center. Let me say, regardless of my position in all this, or who did what when, I wish you hadn’t done that. With the evolution of the internet in recent years, you and thousands of others have chosen to share the personal details of your everyday lives to the world via blogging. While I respect your decision to do that, I feel I need to remind you that not everyone has made that same choice. I never asked to be featured in any way in your virtual world, and I especially don’t appreciate being used in your very specific “example for a larger discussion,” one that I wasn’t and still haven’t been formally invited to join, by you or anyone. So imagine (if you can) what it feels like to find myself there, my work and my reputation being talked about (mostly by people who don’t even know me) like I’m not even in the room. like I’m not actually a real person. There has been a lot of talk about respect in the last couple of days, and I believe that respect is at the heart of the matter. With that in mind, where is there respect in this?

    Lisa, my position on this has been clear from the beginning, and it reflects and upholds what we tell our students:

    “We sincerely appreciate your interest in us and our work. The support we receive for our workshops is what allows us to pursue new ideas. Please respect the great amount of original thought and investment that goes into developing new techniques and ways to teach them. We look forward to seeing how our techniques inspire you, as you take what you learn and use it in your own work, in your own way. However, we ask that you do not teach classes or give demos that rely on the information you learn from us, or publish or post tutorials that do the same. Thank you.”

    This statement of ethics is part of our teaching material. (If some of it sounds familiar, I believe you were in the room when I read from it as part of my contribution as a panelist during the Inspiration, Originality, Infringement panel discussion at Synergy). In the e-mail I sent you last week, I outlined very specifically how what you were sharing as yours was not, in any fundamental way, different or evolved from what I had presented to you (and about 75 others) in Beyond the Blend. With that in mind, I’d respectfully but firmly asked that all “set-up” images featuring these key aspects of my blending system be removed from your blog, and from any and all other sites currently featuring this core information (i.e. flickr). I was clear that I was fine with you posting as many pictures as you liked of finished work; teaching people our techniques so that they can use them to make things with this medium is the very reason we teach. But I asserted my position that as far as the techniques themselves were concerned, it was my right, as their originator, to decide exactly how and when they should be shared.

    Lisa, you’ve been a student of ours before (Building Better Beads in Philadelphia last June). We have always dedicated as much care to the unveiling and presenting of our information as we have to developing it in the first place. We love the fun of a great reveal, and we know the positive role that humour and entertainment can play in learning. Play itself is often what our exploration is all about. But we’ve also learned the importance of patience, and we strive to take our students on the same journey of discovery that we have already traveled, unravelling insights and sharing the adventure in a finely-crafted way. It’s how we work. It’s how we teach.

    I recognize that you have an enthusiasm to share, and I applaud you for it. But so do I, and I ask that you and others not continue to misconstrue the pace and means by which I choose to share my own work as “secrecy.” Allow me the right to do it in a way that actually honours my work.

    A well-designed technique, workshop, or finished piece of art will often betray the amount of work that went into realizing it. Good design is meant to do that. But just because something looks easy or obvious doesn’t mean it is, or was. In developing Beyond the Blend over the past few years, part of what I was doing was reminding myself (and acknowledging) what was already out there; seeing how other artists were interpreting and applying blends; and, once I’d defined “The Staircase Blend,” searching to see if anyone else had already done it. From what I could find, no one had. We must also remember that this new work received a strong endorsement from the National Guild by virtue of the fact that it was selected from more than 120 proposals to debut at Synergy. Even Judith Skinner herself was intrigued and excited about my new system, and recognized it as such to us.

    To anyone reading this, I want to ask you: How would you feel if, after almost three years developing a concept, nurturing it, refining it, immersing yourself in it, then stepping back out to find a way to teach it, distill it down to its essence and finally debut it at a landmark polymer clay event… only to see that same essence, within days, scooped up by someone else and doled out to the world on a flickr site, with absolutely no connection to you?

    Lisa, do I feel threatened by your posts? No. Do I believe they unfairly belittle and give away important aspects of something I’ve worked very hard to create, making this long-awaited premiere a little less special for me and others? Yes, I do. Isn’t not knowing what Dr. Malcolm Crowe doesn’t even know about himself the very thing that makes The Sixth Sense such a great movie? And if its writer/director had wanted us to know that any sooner than the end of the movie, don’t you think he would have changed the beginning? I’m not a filmmaker, Lisa, but if the analogy works to make you understand my perspective at all, you came to the first screening, and before most people have had the chance to see the movie, you’re giving away the ending. They don’t call it a spoiler for nothing.

    In fifteen years as an artist, innovator, and teacher of original techniques for polymer clay, I’ve taught hundreds of people, in workshops and at conferences, around the world. It has been a blessing beyond my imaginings to have been able to do this. On a few occasions, I’ve had to write a letter like the one I wrote to you last week. Believe me when I tell you that I don’t take to doing this casually, but I do it, as concientiously and passionately as anything, because I believe it’s important to take a stand about important things. This time, if nothing else, I’m grateful and re-energized to see that others have been witness, and are doing their part to stand with me.

    I’ll end this comment as I ended my previous e-mail to you on Mar.11.08:

    “I want to say thank you for your enthusiasm. While I have issues with how it was expressed, I do appreciate your embracing these new techniques, and I like the earrings and pendants you’ve made using them. They are all lovely. Please continue to play and post finished pieces as you wish. It’s a lot of fun for me to see my techniques embraced by the community and integrated into beautiful work. As a teacher, this is a great joy. And if you feel like it, let people know about us and what we do. How does that sound?”

    Can you have a do-over? Yes, Lisa, I believe you still can. Please edit the posts as requested, and let’s all get back to work, play, and doing what we do best.


    1. Dan, I’m glad you took me up on my invitation to post a comment here. From the beginning I have stated that I wanted every side of the issue to have a voice.

      The one philosophical difference you and I have is that you believe I posted a “tutorial” of “your” technique, and I believe that I have not. There really is no point in debating that issue, as neither one of us is likely to change the other’s mind.

      I do, however, want to set the record straight regarding a few points that you perhaps misunderstood.

      I watched as you published key elements of my new system in a series of detailed tutorials on this blog.

      Despite your repeated use of the term “tutorial,” what you are really talking about is this single image, which was not accompanied by any description aside from “This is how I set it up.”

      Stripey blend

      I would hardly call that a “series of detailed tutorials.” Perhaps because you are intimately familiar with the world of mathematical color-blending, it is second-nature to see a connection to your curriculum in any blend that is built with deliberate color ratios. The average clayer is likely to be viewing this image from a completely different perspective – one informed by their own particular influences and experiences.

      I was surprised when you cited [three established, well-respected teachers], out of context and without their permission, later describing them as third-party “copyright police” who had immediately assumed the work could not be yours.

      I feel the need to clarify this. Firstly, any email sent to me becomes my legal property and I do not need permission to post excerpts. I could have posted the whole text of every message if I’d wanted to. But I didn’t. Out of respect, I never identified the authors, and I used their comments in support of your side of the story. I’m not sure why this would bother you.

      Secondly, and this is where I could have perhaps been more clear, I was not referring to every warning message I received, when I talked about “copyright police.” I reserve that term for the accusatory, condescending or badgering email that has come my way. Despite what you may believe, not every person who has spoken to me on your behalf has done so in a polite, respectful way.

      In your “Controversial Stripes” post on Mar.10.08, you said that, while you respected their opinion and were distressed by their perspective that you were copying someone else, you defended your position with an emphatic claim that that’s not what you were doing. Emphatic or not, you pulled that post, and replaced it the next day with “Can I have a do-over?”

      Actually, I replaced it within an hour of posting it. But you misunderstand what I meant by “do over.” I didn’t want to erase the fact that I had posted that controversial image. I’ve never doubted myself there. What I wanted to “do over” were the two posts I had made in defense of myself. I was unhappy with the way I expressed my feelings on the topic and wished I hadn’t even tried. I did get my “do over” a few days later, when I wrote this post.

      When one, then two, then three established teachers contacted you, you had doubts, then regrets, but never gave credence to their informed or unified opinion. And despite their suggestion that you contact me for mine, you never made an attempt to do that.

      Not true on either count. When the first artist brought her concerns to me, I went back and re-read my posts on the topic. In my very first post about it, there were two images that I decided to remove. I did so because, while I didn’t feel they crossed a line when I posted them, I respected the opinion of the artist who thought perhaps they had.

      I was approached later by another artist, at which point I informed her that I had edited the offending post, I explained myself, and I copied you on my reply. I thought that would be the end of it, as I had moved on from there to reject the step blend idea that I’d seen at Synergy, and instead was exploring another way to get the final look I wanted. I was surprised later to find out that you took issue with this alternate method as well. There are those who can tell you that they’ve seen me employ similar blending ideas when building canes at guild meeting over the last few years.

      I especially don’t appreciate being used in your very specific “example for a larger discussion,” one that I wasn’t and still haven’t been formally invited to join, by you or anyone.

      Dan, go back and read the end of the post up there. I invited everyone to chime in on this. And by “everyone,” I meant those who agreed with me, those who were ambivalent, and those who adamantly disagreed with me, including you. Not only that, but I sent you email on March 15th which stated, “I am ready to let this whole thing rest, but I am more than willing to give you a voice on my blog if you want it. I could post your letter to me, or you could write up something completely new. I’d post it without any of my own commentary attached. If you are interested let me know.” How much more “formal” would you have me get about it?

      They don’t call it a spoiler for nothing.

      Putting aside for a moment the fact that I don’t believe my image constitutes a spoiler, when have you ever seen a movie producer insist that viewers not talk about the movie? Spoilers generate buzz. Buzz generates interest. Interest generates ticket sales. How has coming after me in this manner helped your ticket sales? Every post I’ve made about these soft-focus stripes (three in all) has linked to the previous one, even after I stopped basing my experiments on your methodology. Any of my readers who found the topic interesting only had to follow the links to see the first post where I spoke highly of your seminar. That would have been enough to convince them to take your course when the opportunity came along. Now they’re also going to see this thread, and maybe they’re going to think twice before they buy a ticket. Or maybe they’re not. That remains to be seen. But I have to say, since this conversation started, I have seen comments and email messages to the tune of ten to one, agreeing with what I’ve had to say. I’ve received messages from several people who have been afraid to post a comment publicly for fear of retribution, but who wanted to applaud what I’ve said here. Even allowing for the fact that those who disagree with me are less likely to tell me to my face, it’s still a pretty significant majority who feel as I do.

      I had hoped not to get too long-winded here, but I felt that these points were too important not to address. I’m glad you did decide to come here and say your piece. I think it’s important to have as many viewpoints represented as possible. You are welcome to come back any time and comment on this topic – or any other post for that matter.

      1. You can bet your life that if the movie in whole or part were posted on the internet without the studio’s permission the person posting would be asked to remove the movie or be sued!

        1. Well, sure! But that argument would only apply here if I had posted slides from Dan and Tracy’s presentation.

          1. So now are you saying that its okay to post your own images that reveal much of the technique that you were shown in Dan’s Session?

          2. You know darn well that I disagree with the claim that I am giving away Dan’s secrets.

            You know, I’m finding it hard to reconcile the Seth that is brow-beating me with the Seth that posted this less than two weeks ago on another forum:

            It is not for anyone but the owner of the infringed work to deal with any copyright violations.

            Enough with the polymer police.

            Dan has very eloquently stated his case. Do you think that continuing to come after me like this on his behalf is really helping the situation?

            You’re welcome to continue posting here if you have something positive to contribute to the larger discussion of how these issues affect the community, but I am finished trying to justify my actions to you.

            I think we agree on one thing: Enough with the polymer police.

          3. When you posted Ownership, Sharing and Accusation you opened up a discussion on this particular example. In this case I am on the side of the person being infringed upon.

            It was you who open up the discussion not I.

            Now when we start to talk about the specifics here that are relevant to the larger discussion you want to shut me down.

          4. To be fair here, you should be saying the that you are on the side of the person who believes he has been infringed upon. Innocent until proven guilty and all.

            You take Dan’s word. Others, like me, take Lisa’s word.

            Do you really think that your current tactics will change anyone’s mind? Does anyone think they’ll change yours? Dan says he researched and found nothing similar. Other commenters have said they’ve seen prior work. Round and round we go. No one believes anyone or maybe we just stopped listening.

            When the discussion reaches demands and bullying, it’s too late. All I’m coming out of this with is a sense of who’s classes I won’t be taking and I don’t think that was what anyone was aiming for.

            Can we stop the polymer police? No. They have to stop themselves and admit they are part of the problem. Maybe model it on AA or something. 🙂 Anyhow, stopping that behavior might be a good first step.

          5. Since Lisa has been emailed privately about the identity of Anne S. by someone I’m positive will attempt to twist it into an evil conspiracy, I thought I should step forward and tell you that Anne S. is a former co-worker of mine. She’s “not terribly comfortable with technology” and asked me to help post messages for her. As a result, the IP address on all but one of her messages is my place of work. One is our house. As a few of you know from comment emails, Anne has had one of her posts deleted because Lisa didn’t think it was appropriate. She was also privately asked to back off a bit and did.

            Last night Anne emailed me the comment posted above, so I posted it. Lisa was asleep by then. If someone thinks that those are my words or Lisa’s, that’s their problem. Trust me when I say that I’ve been party to all the private emails Lisa has received from the “Polymer Police” (too nice a term if you ask me) and as such I would never have been that kind.

            -Neil (Lisa’s husband)

      2. Lisa,

        Nowhere in your response to Dan do you ever say that the Images in question are showing an aspect of something discussed in his seminar that you then expanded upon. In your above response to Kim Cavender you state that that was what you had done and so it is different than posting a photo online of a process you’ve learned from an instructor who is currently teaching a specific technique? So my question to you is this. Is the image in question showing as Dan says “key elements” of more than 85% of what he taught at synergy and in doing so infringing on what he has developed over the past few years, or does it show your own evolution of an aspect of something you learned in his class?

  27. It is very hard to say anything here, but I’ll try because I do care about the topic and what it means for a community.

    I know Lisa to be honest and ethical. I am familiar with her body of work in polymer clay over the past three years. I have read all of the posts and see no reason why she should remove them.

    I don’t doubt that those who disagree hold their own views strongly.

    I am reminded of the quote: “Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low” Well this isn’t really vicious yet so perhaps the stakes aren’t quite as low as that, but there is no doubt in my mind that they are not quite so high as the dissenters would have us think.

    I think the “polymer clay artists of stature” are shooting themselves in the foot again. Polymer Clay artsts are a small group, and they are destined to stay that way with these kinds of attitudes and behaviors. For evidence that I am not out to lunch, read most of the comments on this blog entry… and the same discussion that has played out over and over on the internet – the modern day salon. Most people find these discussions a real turn off to the field in general and to the artists complaining they have been wronged in particular.

    I am the customer in this equation. I attend polymer clay classes (and almost pay attention, but definitely pay $). I book artists for classes for our guild. I run the registration. I have my finger on the pulse of the market for polymer clay classes, at least here in the Mid Atlantic region.

    I can say with confidence that there was nothing in Lisa’s blog entries that would reduce class registrants. Actually, I think it would attract class registrants because it brings the subject matter to a higher level in the collective consciousness.

    There’s a difference between a spoiler and a teaser.

    Dan, if this is all your class has to offer, then I am a monkey’s uncle. If you think it is appealing or endearing to your future students to engage in this discussion, you are wrong. Your request to alter Lisa’s blog appears petty and rude to the outside observer who is not a member of your “artist of stature” club.

    If you want be the teacher of Oscar nominated techniques, take a page from M Night Shymalan and learn to deal with the public and the paparazzi.

    1. All I can say is I am in shock at this response.
      I really thought better of you Sarah.

  28. It’s not about my character, it’s about my vantage point.
    Which is, of course, why this discussion is so challenging for all. The vantage points are very different. The people, by and large, not so much.
    So now we’ve each been scolded, and I think we understand why.
    Maybe you’ll think better of me again some day.

  29. No its about RESPECT

    1. Seth, I have done several things in the course of this week, out of RESPECT for Dan and Tracy. Out of RESPECT for those artists who have politely shared their opinions with me. Out of RESPECT, even, for those who have been downright rude to me. But because I have not given in to one particular demand, none of that seems to matter.

      Don’t I deserve some of this RESPECT of which you speak? It’s a two-way street.

      1. He may have meant my tone was less than respectful.
        It is past my filter’s bedtime.
        But I stand by my response.

  30. I’ll ponder that.
    But please ponder the concept that the people paying for the classes are the customer…
    And the customer is …..
    Well working for a living in any field has some parts about it that are not ideal.

  31. Speaking in a gentle voice here….
    This applies to every human being. We are not perfect, no one is. Much is said of the importance respecting others, but respecting oneself is just as important. All of you have beliefs, some are shared, some are not because we are different. We are individuals. We are not the same. Our paths cross each other from time to time with our differences and we may share a path for a little while also…who is to tell you that you are wrong, you know you are right. Agree to disagree and leave it back there. But the important thing … trust your beliefs and stand your ground…

    Lyrics by Tom Petty’ & The Heartbreakers’ aka Traveling Wilburys
    “I won’t back down” You can watch Tom Petty box it up in the end.

    Well I won’t back down, no I won’t back down
    You can stand me up at the gates of hell
    But I won’t back down

    Gonna stand my ground, won’t be turned around
    And I’ll keep this world from draggin me down
    Gonna stand my ground and I won’t back down

    Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out
    Hey I will stand my ground
    And I won’t back down.

    Well I know whats right, I got just one life
    In a world that keeps on pushin me around
    But I’ll stand my ground and I won’t back down

    Hey baby there aint’ no easy way out
    Hey I will stand my ground
    And I won’t back down
    No, I won’t back down

  32. […] been awfully distracted by seriousness this past week. I know I started the conversation, but I hope it’s ok to be weary of it at this point and ready to move […]

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