The ethics of deconstructing and sharing secret techniques - WarmGlass.com

The ethics of deconstructing and sharing secret techniques

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BillsBayou
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The ethics of deconstructing and sharing secret techniques

Postby BillsBayou » Fri Apr 07, 2017 2:03 pm

Many artists make a significant portion of their income by teaching techniques to their students. The more interesting the technique and the more unique it is to just one artist, the more the classes can cost. That's simple economics. I appreciate that.

What are the ethical implications if I were to deconstruct an artist's unique technique and give it away for free?

Say I've never taken the artist's class. I've never purchased any instructional media. The artist is the only one who has developed this technique and only teaches it one-on-one or sells instructional media. (Or has never told anyone how it is done.) Perhaps there are confidentiality-like agreements in place. Then I come along studying the artist's finished product yet never taking a class or purchasing any instructional material, I develop the technique on my own. Being a hobbyist and not "in the trade", if someone asks how I did it, I put a PDF on the web or create a YouTube video (something I am very likely to do).

Just how wrong am I?

If I never say "Here's how to do John Doe's 'Such-and-Such Technique', but rather "Here's how I did my 'Blah-blah-blah Technique'", how wrong is that?

I ask these things because I see how much artists charge for their classes and know I'll never pay for the class, but I am doing my best to understand the underlying techniques. I doubt I'll create anything as spectacular as what I've seen, but if someone likes what I do and wants to know how I did it, I likely won't be quiet about it.

Kevin Midgley
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Re: The ethics of deconstructing and sharing secret techniques

Postby Kevin Midgley » Fri Apr 07, 2017 3:34 pm

Don't do it.
You will become a pariah and unwelcome in any glass studio you try and visit.

Obviously you think it is wrong to do what you are thinking of doing so why would you even ask for the 'permission' of the readers of this site?
Your suggestion that you would contemplate doing such things is reason enough for me to deny giving you answers if I had them, to any future questions you may post here on the board.

BillsBayou
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Re: The ethics of deconstructing and sharing secret techniques

Postby BillsBayou » Fri Apr 07, 2017 4:36 pm

My background is in bonsai. It's a living art where techniques are only effective if you are constantly following up on the design of a tree. We do have A, B, C, D techniques for doing a particular design, but following explicit instructions has mixed results. I could learn a technique in a workshop, but recreating an effect found on someone else's tree could take years of work.

Reaching the point where we would show a tree in an exhibition takes many years of development. All of the advanced artists are willing to show off their techniques. Yes, we have to take their classes if we want one-on-one instruction. However, if I come back from a workshop and immediately start showing others how John Doe does something... well, I've never heard of anyone becoming a pariah for that. The only real way to become a pariah, in my experience, is to be an asshole who tears down the work of others or refuses to stop teaching techniques that are generally considered bad for the trees.

There are a few artists who don't want their trees photographed. Some may ask that we do not reveal a technique. But this is only so the trees can be photographed professionally. The techniques may be part of an on-going project which will be published for everyone to see.

That's why I say I would share anything I learn. That's my background. We share everything and people who teach openly are lauded for their dedication to the art.

The bonsai pottery crowd is much different. If you're good at throwing pots, you could duplicate another's work if you knew their technique. If you knew their glaze recipes, you could do the same. Hell, just ASKING another potter how something is done can be dangerous I know of one particular curmudgeon who is very quick to tear down beginners just for asking the wrong questions.

According to you, the glass art world is is at the bonsai potter end of the spectrum rather than the bonsai grower's.

BillsBayou
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Re: The ethics of deconstructing and sharing secret techniques

Postby BillsBayou » Fri Apr 07, 2017 6:00 pm

Another bit of curiosity on my part. Not copying someone else's work, but creating a technique all on my own. (Very likely already known by experienced artists)

At the bottom of this post is a bowl I created a year ago. I was testing a technique for creating crackled paint. (This is Glassline paint) I was taught how to do this technique on wood. Now I've recreated it on glass. It's not the greatest bowl, I know what mistakes I made,but I like the way the cracks have different metallic elements.

Before starting, I found slightly similar results (many better), but no instructions that matched what I wanted to do with paint. I spent two weeks (not too intensely) testing different compounds and application methods before I found the wood-painting analog technique that works. Probably cost me $50 in supplies, not including the final product's glass, to develop this technique.

I thought of the technique first, then found similar end-products. Not the other way around. Nothing in the glass art world contributed to this metallic crackle. My end product wasn't intended to duplicate anyone else's technique.

Is it mine?

Can I call it "Bill Butler's Metallic Crackle Technique"?

Can I do with it as I please?

I already know your answer to this one: If someone else says "That the technique I teach in my studio", should I stop? (very likely yes)

Bowl-01-01.jpg
The rim pisses me off. I made the cap glass 1/2" wider than the red glass so there would be a clear rim around the bowl. What I didn't do was remove 1/4" of the paint from around the edge. It could have looked very nice; instead, it sucks.


Bowl-01-03.jpg

And before anyone points it out, yes, my name and date are on the photos. Not to keep anyone from duplicating my design and technique, but because I didn't want the bowl showing up in someone else's gallery as if it was their bowl. THAT bowl is mine. They can make their own version if they like. They can even deconstruct the technique; I'll tell them if they're right.

Techniques I'm currently developing (all of these will be included in this year's Christmas presents for the family): Frit halos (think 'reactive glass', but with enamels); Copper-plating non-conductive surfaces; Kiln-carving with Armstrong ceiling tile; Varying the effects of heat on metallic inclusions; Cloudy skies

JestersBaubles
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Re: The ethics of deconstructing and sharing secret techniques

Postby JestersBaubles » Fri Apr 07, 2017 6:28 pm

This issue has come up in a couple of Facebook groups, and the reactions have been varied. Basically, they range from your bonsai grower to your bonsai potter :mrgreen: .

In the couple of instances I recall, the "tinkerers" as I'll call them (because perpetrators is too harsh of a word ;) )... the tinkerers figured out the process and then wrote and SOLD tutorials and/or offered classes. One was based on Bob Leatherbarrow's crackle technique, and another on Richard Parrish's tapestry technique. Personally, I am conflicted on this. On the one hand, the person put in their own sweat and tears to figure out a process (or so we'll assume). So maybe they have the right to sell that knowledge if they choose. On the other hand, they did steal the idea (and in one of the above instances, it is questionable whether the person actually had access to class notes from someone else). What I have observed, however, is that the quality of the work produced by learning from the Tinkerers is typically inferior to that of the "real thing". In the instance of the crackle technique, I have taken a few classes from Bob and read his ebooks. Bob is an outstanding instructor and his ebooks are well-organized and well-written. I also read the Tinkerer's ebook. It's poorly written and doesn't include the subtle nuances that are required for a successfully executed piece. I haven't taken a class from Richard, nor have I read the book or taken a class from his Tinkerer. But I have seen work that others have produced who have learned from each of these gentlemen, and again, there is a subtle difference that makes for a great piece of work and an inferior work.

I have taken classes from many different artists. I also maintain a blog and write tutorials. I try to be VERY careful about what I write about and not disclose any "secrets" (signed in blood or otherwise, ha ha ;)).

I wrote one tutorial on using a CPI mold to create a flower and then slump that into another particular CPI mold. Nothing proprietary -- they were both commercial mold that anyone can purchase (though I was using the mold differently than what was then-currently-published). There was someone on a FB group who tried the technique and then asked me several questions. A month or so later, this person came out with a tutorial. While the process was different, the resulting piece looked very, very similar to my tutorial, including using the same slumping mold (which, BTW, she asked me for help on perfecting the schedule). She SELLS her tutorial; everything on my blog is free. When she posted her tutorial for sale and I responded with a link to my free one, she asked me to remove my post because "she was retired and it was her only meager source of income" which apparently I was cheating her out of with my free tutorial. Huh...

So... we all have our perspective on what is ethical. I agree with Kevin that some will label you as a pariah. Others will label you an angel. Personally, I like to think that karma will ultimately take care of everything.

Best, Dana 8)

BillsBayou
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Re: The ethics of deconstructing and sharing secret techniques

Postby BillsBayou » Mon Apr 10, 2017 11:46 am

My ethics on this are firming up. (annealing?) I'm no longer in favor of taking an established technique that is associated with a specific artist and giving it away. Much less, selling it with my name on the project.
JestersBaubles wrote:... the tinkerers figured out the process and then wrote and SOLD tutorials and/or offered classes. One was based on Bob Leatherbarrow's crackle technique, and another on Richard Parrish's tapestry technique. Personally, I am conflicted on this. On the one hand, the person put in their own sweat and tears to figure out a process (or so we'll assume). So maybe they have the right to sell that knowledge if they choose.

I love Leatherbarrow's technique. When I come up with a project idea that will require his specific knowledge, I'd be happy to spend $60 for his three e-books on the technique. Coming up with that on my own would quickly surpass the $60 I could have used on the book. Further, I'd never get it as detailed as Leatherbarrow does. $60 is cheap.

Once purchased, however, I'd keep the secret of the technique to myself. That's where I'm going from tinkerer to perpetrator to pariah.

Richard Parrish's, however, is $850 to learn. I have some ideas on what he's doing and I'm willing to invest $100 to experiment on it on my own. I don't actually have a need for it (yet), so I won't be experimenting on it any time soon.

Once I'm happy with my technique, I wouldn't share it or sell it. That's his art, his technique.
JestersBaubles wrote:...the quality of the work produced by learning from the Tinkerers is typically inferior to that of the "real thing"...

Looking at Leatherbarrow's books, I'm certain of it, as well.
JestersBaubles wrote:There was someone on a FB group who tried the technique and then asked me several questions. A month or so later, this person came out with a tutorial.

Back to bonsai with respect to my videos and PDFs. That's all out there for anyone to view and enjoy, and hopefully learn. But if someone were to ask me specific questions over email and then use my answers in a book without compensation or even recognition... I'd be pissed. I've stated from the start of this thread that I wouldn't even consider sharing someone else's lessons or materials.
JestersBaubles wrote:...she asked me to remove my post because "she was retired and it was her only meager source of income" which apparently I was cheating her out of with my free tutorial. Huh...

If she had been upfront about it, MAYBE I'd allow my free stuff to show up in her literature. I'd insist on recognition AND a link. If I know someone in bonsai who then asked me to contribute to her e-book, I'm leaning towards "likely would", but with the same recognition.

Most all of the techniques we see in fused glass were the invention of just one or a few artists. Leatherbarrow and Parrish techniques are theirs and I wouldn't share even if I could come up with it on my own. But there will come a time when more and more artists will be using their techniques, and even improving on them. At some point, a floodgate will open and access to the techniques will become commonplace. This can even happen after an artist dies. Suddenly everyone is teaching the recently departed's secrets.

Back to a follow-up question I asked in my second post: If I create a technique 100% my own, with no input from the glass community, and a glass artist (of whom I know nothing) pops up and says "That mine! Stop sharing!" What are my ethical options?

I believe that a contributing factor to the answer would need to address the fact that not all techniques are invented by only one person. That there it is a reasonable argument that more than one person can be working the same techniques towards the same goal. That innovation can exists without copying another's work.

Judd
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Re: The ethics of deconstructing and sharing secret techniques

Postby Judd » Tue Apr 18, 2017 9:35 am

You copyright the final product, not the technique.

I may become a pariah in anyone's glass shop... but how many glass shops do you visit?

If the technique is so simple that you can figure it out, then anyone can figure it out.

It's unfair that an artist would spend his life discovering a new technique, only for the young Turks to reproduce it... but that's life. Eventually, all my cool ideas will be figured out. That's life.

JestersBaubles
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Re: The ethics of deconstructing and sharing secret techniques

Postby JestersBaubles » Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:02 pm

Sorry, we can't help you with ethical options :mrgreen: IMO, those are completely based on your own perspective.

Regarding your last question, however, if you come up with a technique and I come up with the same technique independently, then each of us has the "right" to use it how we see fit. A piece of work can be copyrighted, but you have to pursue/prove first use to do anything about it. A technique is really only protected if it is patented. Requirements for a patent are that the request has to be very specific, well-defined, and can't be something that could easily be figured out by someone knowledgeable on the subject. Patents aren't awarded liberally, nor cheaply.

As technologies advance, you will quite often see instances of two parallel efforts that independently reach the same conclusion. Nobel prizes are a great example of this.

The above is my opinion, and my opinion only, based on my limited knowledge. I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV.

:) Dana W.

Valerie Adams
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Re: The ethics of deconstructing and sharing secret techniques

Postby Valerie Adams » Mon May 29, 2017 1:53 pm

It comes down to integrity.

If someone purposely deconstructs an artist's work and then gives the info away, I think that's just shitty. Your original post made it sound like you wanted to figure out how a professional instructor created their work, and then you'd write a tutorial or create free online videos of said technique. Why would you want to do that?

It's one thing to figure out a technique and then use it for your own work. But to profit (and quite frankly, giving it away free is profiting in the sense that you'll gain admiration from those who are too cheap to take a class or invest in their own education) from someone else's intellectual investment is just wrong.

Focus on experimenting, make art, improve your art, have fun. Rinse, repeat.

PS: I've taken Richard's $850 bas-relief class and feel it was well worth it.


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