Technique Ownership - A Question of Ethics - Page 4 - WarmGlass.com

Technique Ownership - A Question of Ethics

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Phil Hoppes
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Postby Phil Hoppes » Thu Apr 17, 2003 3:51 pm

[quote="Lani McGregor"]I just don’t see the point in spending too much time worrying about “owningâ€

ellen abbott
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Postby ellen abbott » Thu Apr 17, 2003 3:53 pm

Geri - I thought I was through responding to this. And I don't dispute your, admitted, generalizations although I don't fall neatly into your catagories since our (my partner/spouse and I) only income is glass via an architectural etched glass studio and pate de verre in galleries. We aren't famous (yet, near-famous maybe - that's a joke around here) but we are happy to share info. We taught etched glass briefly 15 years or so ago but decided we didn't want to teach. We are, however, planning to start teaching pate de verre this year if we can ever get it together.

But what I really wanted to respond to is this:

Those who sell their work for high prices and have a "name" also generally fall into this category. They're known for a specific style/technique/whatever and if someone else does it, it would be obvious to those who know glass that they're simply "copying".


This, to me, is touchy ground. My personal experience with pate de verre is this...we learned how to cast glass on our own through reading and experimentation. In '92 or '93 we took a 'pate de verre' workshop from Dan Fenton, but he really didn't teach us anything we didn't already know (which was a little disappointing and empowering all at the same time). We proceeded through many years of frustration and delight until by '97 I approached a local fine craft gallery about showing our work. We continued to develop our process moving onto the vessel form. About two years ago I first became aware of the Higuchi's work, saw one or two pictures of their boxes. Really fine work. It appealed to me because we liked the same things. About the end of last year ('02) I saw, on the web, an extensive display of their magnificent work. I also found out they had a book and video. Got both. I looked through that book and was just crushed. There was my work, my ideas, my motifs (been using flowers and insects in my architectural works always), my 'new' cup forms. My god, we even grow the same flowers in our yards. Our approach is the same. I'm usually doing what ever is currently blooming. I thought, great. Now everybody who sees my work is going to think I am a copy cat. But I'm not.

Ellen

David Williams

Postby David Williams » Thu Apr 17, 2003 4:02 pm

[quote="Lani McGregor"]Re David’s post and Glenda’s impression: I don’t think that any of us are saying “it’s all been done before, quit tryingâ€

Phil Hoppes
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Postby Phil Hoppes » Thu Apr 17, 2003 4:14 pm

David Williams wrote:I think the difference of opinion may fall along the lines of truck drivers and designers.


I understand what you are saying. My appearance of a somewhat jaded attitude probably stems from my past technical background where if you really dig, very, very few things are revolutionary. Most things are evolutionary. I was an electrical engineer in IC design for computers and communications. The real foundations of why a radio works is over 200 years old and was put together by a person named Maxwell. But if you dug, you'd find his work was based upon others too. Have we invented all that there is? No. There are lots of things we don't know about in the world. Lots to learn. Lots of new ideas. That being said, most will come by applying previous work to a new idea. That is why learning from the masters and putting your own spin on things is so important for all of us and for the body of work in kiln formed glass.

Phil

Cynthia

Re: An Observation

Postby Cynthia » Thu Apr 17, 2003 4:22 pm

Geri Comstock wrote:Although I don't know everyone who has responded to this thread so far, I have noticed something interesting about those I do know... I'm making some broad generalizations here...but here goes...

Generally, it seems that the trend so far is that folks who have a "day job" and don't make their entire living from glass are far more willing to share their secret techniques than those who don't.


I may be the stray statistic here, but I do make my living as a professional artist, and don't have any other job as a source of income. Though I am fortunate that my family is a two income household and we can nurse each other through the lean times (and there are often lean times). I couldn't do this at this level if it wasn't my profession and a money genrating profession. Avocation it's not. It would have been near impossible to make the leap into the next level of exposure and selling opportunities without the generous sharing of experiences and knowlege of those on this board. I haven't become a threat to them, but was welcomed warmly.

Those who sell their work for high prices and have a "name" also generally fall into this category. They're known for a specific style/technique/whatever and if someone else does it, it would be obvious to those who know glass that they're simply "copying".


If I understand what you mean here, then I must respond by saying that in order to succeed at a certain level and establish a "name" you must absolutely have a distinctive style; your own style. If it's good, people will copy it. If your work is growing and evolving, it won't matter because by the time they've knocked it off, you've moved on and your aesthetic has evolved.

Those who are on the show circuit/sell through galleries, don't have a "name", and put food on the table for themselves and their family through their glass sales exclusively are more protective of their techniques. I include myself in this group, although if I never sold another piece of glass I wouldn't starve to death or be homeless. I think our attitude about this has alot to do with our own perception of what we need to do to survive in the fulltime business of glass.

Geri


I can't agree with you there either Geri (we often agree to disagree) :) . At least what you have observed isn't what my observations have been. I don't know what those who are contributing to this dialog do for their primary sources of income, so can't make any assumptions about that, but for myself...If this job doesn't pay, I need to find something else that does. I am not secretive, don't mind sharing information or techniques, even those that contain a personal twist that makes it different from the rest. My work succeeds because it is distinctively mine. It's the same glass, the same techniques, the same access to tools and probably is very similar in aesthetics to others out there, but it's uniquely mine, and that is what others can't tap into even if I tried to give it to them. Technique, as Ellen so eloquently stated, isn't what sells work. Soul, style, artistry, craftsmanship, humour, purpose...those things sell work, and you can't replicate those qualities, or take them away from the artist.

Chuck Close (successful painter) painted portraits in a very specific way. He was always very open about his technique. He would grid out the canvas and the photo or his drawing of the subject. He would use the grid to scale the portrait up to a monumental scale for the painting. He would fill each square in the grid with a value that corresponded to the value (regardless of color or colors) on the photo or drawing. It was a form of pixellating (word?), a new take on the techniques of pointilism. Since then, hundreds have used his technique, but you can tell which is a Chuck Close and what is someone elses without question...because what Chuck Close puts into his paintings can't be replicated. Chuck Close paintings look like Chuck Close paintings even though dozens upon dozens of others tried their hand at his technique.

Perception is the word that strikes me as being pertinent. If we percieve that sharing information might harm us and our ability to succeed financially and artistically, then we will be careful about who we tell what, or more likely, we'll shut ourselves off from any percieved threat real or imagined. If we percieve that what we do is successful and will evolve and continue to mature and grow as we pursue our work, then we will be less worried about sharing information.

At least that is my perception. :roll:
Last edited by Cynthia on Thu Apr 17, 2003 7:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Joanne Owsley
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Re: Interesting Question.......here's my 2 nanocents....

Postby Joanne Owsley » Thu Apr 17, 2003 5:19 pm

David Williams wrote:I guess a second thing I'd like to maybe poke at is to put out there that NOTHING is really new.

I hear people say this and I STRONGLY disagree. One of the miraculous things about glass is that there is so much that hasn't been done.


I can agree with this if you are talking about design. Technique, however, I believe to be something different altogether. I wonder if some of the disagreement in this discussion comes from the fact that we are not, in all cases, carefully differentiating between technique and design.
In my humble opinion, it is the design - or creative element - that truely makes each artist's work unique. Many artists employing the same techniques are easily distiguishable (is that a word?) by their work because the creative element is unique.
Isn't my art the creative expression of the sum total of my experiences? How could someone else duplicate that, no matter how closely they copy the technique that I've employed?
I offer this with the utmost respect to all of you much more knowledgable and experienced than I. :oops:

Paul Tarlow
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Re: Interesting Question.......here's my 2 nanocents....

Postby Paul Tarlow » Thu Apr 17, 2003 5:49 pm

I'll add this to the mix:

I don't believe the distinction between "technique" and "design" is always so absolute. That goes for "style" too.

- Paul

Greg Rawls
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Postby Greg Rawls » Thu Apr 17, 2003 6:44 pm

What about if you see a technique that you really like that is identified with a specific artist, and after much experimentation, you reproduce the technique? All's you did was look at the work and figure out (on your own) how it was done. Seems to me that as long as you clearly represent the work as your own, it's OK. Any thoughts?
Greg

Tony Smith
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Postby Tony Smith » Thu Apr 17, 2003 7:01 pm

I would have to argue that it all has NOT been done before... I don't care if you go back 5000 years and look under rocks. I guarantee that the babylonians didn't use airbrushes to apply micas that were tinted with titanium oxides to sheet glass that was tested compatible. What I will agree with is that there is a lot of rediscovery of technique, design and materials. There has also been extensive cross-pollination of materials and techniques from other areas such as ceramics and metalworking.

Several years ago, the head of the US patent office made a statement that nothing is new anymore. The chairman of IBM said not too many years ago that there would never be a need for people to have computers in their own homes. These broad statements are from intelligent people who didn't have a clue what the future would reveal.

With that in mind, I think it's safe to say that everything hasn't been done. We have no idea what will be coming next, but whatever it is will probably be a variation or combination of things we have seen before, just used in a new and novel way. If that is what people mean by "it's all been done before" then I welcome it, because it's the infinite possibilities that exist in glass that keep it interesting, inspiring and exciting, and keep each of us coming back for more each and every day.

Tony
The tightrope between being strange and being creative is too narrow to walk without occasionally landing on both sides..." Scott Berkun

Paul

Postby Paul » Thu Apr 17, 2003 7:32 pm

I have developed my very own technique a process called "RAKU GLASS" that has gained recognition as being unique, and I consider this process to be the signiture to my work. It has taken many years to gain recognition and it is by no mistake I dont teach the process to anyone. The work now has a long history of being in significant collections and it is only now that I feel comfortable to share my information with some people so that the process is not lost.

At one time a visititing American professor did try to establish this process as his own but fortunately for me I had already had a piece collected by the ebeltoff glass museum. This put an actual time line as to who got to the finish line first so to speak. This was not a pleasant time for me.

I am of the opinion that if you have a process that you consider to be valuble in terms of finacial return or other... then you should not be teaching it for profit or kudos... however if you decied that the kudos and finacials come to you through the teaching then that is another story altogether and I offer the bangle mould package and courses available as an example of this type of approach ( no disrespect inteneded to those selling the moulds or teaching the courses).

Paul

Tim Lewis
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"Technique is Cheap"

Postby Tim Lewis » Thu Apr 17, 2003 7:57 pm

A couple of anecdotes that seem to apply:

Back in the days when Harvey Littleton (founder of the studio glass "movement") was teaching at U. of Wisconsin (early 60's) he used to tell his glass students that Technique Is Cheap. By that I believe he ment that technique can be learned so it is, incomparison to creative ideas/art/design, relatively easy. As a way of forcing his students to be more creative he banned blown vessels from the studio and refused to show them how to get the glass out of the furnace. (I wonder what would fusing be like if we didn't make vessels? ...but that is another thread.)

Tony Lydgate makes very nice wooden boxes and was always asked how he did them. He wrote books on his methods and was always a step ahead of the crowd with his own technique because by the time the book came out he had moved on to new ideas. He will always be copied because of the books and "fame" but he will never be without great new ideas.
Tim

Cynthia

Postby Cynthia » Thu Apr 17, 2003 8:25 pm

Tony Smith wrote:I would have to argue that it all has NOT been done before... I don't care if you go back 5000 years and look under rocks. I guarantee that the babylonians didn't use airbrushes to apply micas that were tinted with titanium oxides to sheet glass that was tested compatible. What I will agree with is that there is a lot of rediscovery of technique, design and materials. There has also been extensive cross-pollination of materials and techniques from other areas such as ceramics and metalworking.


Here's what I think of as "it's all been done before". There are ancient cave paintings that depict the sillouettes of hands on the walls. They date back thousands of years. The airbrush was ones mouth filled with pigment. The pigment perhaps wasn't mica tinted with titanium oxide, but some other natural substance. Dyeing or coloring objects is as old as time and man's intervention. What we use to color mica's or how we learned to powder mica and color it is newer technology, but the concept of doing so is ancient. Glass is ancient, manipulating it to make it compatible with other glass can most likely be traced back to ancient times as well when practitioners needed to create glazes that wouldn't craze or spall off of a clay body to keep it water tight. They noticed that glazes with component A were less stable than those with component B...the beginings of manipulating and creating glasses to do what we need them to do...Then we start to decorate with them.

I can think of scads of techniques that have origins in other fields that were appropriated for use in glass work, and vis a vis. They were appropriated and adapted. New? No. Redesigned, adapted, modified or as you said, rediscovered...Yes. With technology, we have improved upon what already exists...so what is new is how we've adapted spewing paint from our mouths to spewing paint through a device driven by compressed air from a machine rather than from our lungs.

I believe (perhaps mistakenly) that everything concieved by humans was copied from nature. Fulgerites and obsidian...first glass? Every manufactured, man made object in arts or science come from our experiences with and obsevations of the natural world. Yes you can reinvent the wheel, and it will be new...or actually just improved. Sand blasting naturally occurs in desert winds...humans figured out how to harness and control it to make it useful.

I don't feel defensive about a differing view. It's perhaps just a different way to view the same side of a coin. I just think that it's all already there for us to experience, and has been since the beginning. That view for me opens a myriad of possibilities, options and opportunities to explore without limits because we are continually putting a new spin on something old and that will always be possible.

If something is totally new to us, it is alien and we don't have any frame of reference to respond to it with. We really only manipulate what we already know at some level. It gives us all a known and pretty universal vocabulary.

Several years ago, the head of the US patent office made a statement that nothing is new anymore. The chairman of IBM said not too many years ago that there would never be a need for people to have computers in their own homes. These broad statements are from intelligent people who didn't have a clue what the future would reveal.

With that in mind, I think it's safe to say that everything hasn't been done. We have no idea what will be coming next, but whatever it is will probably be a variation or combination of things we have seen before, just used in a new and novel way. If that is what people mean by "it's all been done before" then I welcome it, because it's the infinite possibilities that exist in glass that keep it interesting, inspiring and exciting, and keep each of us coming back for more each and every day.

Tony


I think we are saying the same thing. Just approaching it from different sides. It's all here for us to explore and manipulate and make a new statement with what we have in front of us.

ellen abbott
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Postby ellen abbott » Thu Apr 17, 2003 8:38 pm

Three blind wo/men and an elephant.

e

Paul Tarlow
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Postby Paul Tarlow » Thu Apr 17, 2003 8:51 pm

Cynthia Oliver wrote:There are ancient cave paintings that depict the sillouettes of hands on the walls. They date back thousands of years. The airbrush was ones mouth filled with pigment. The pigment perhaps wasn't mica tinted with titanium oxide, but some other natural substance. Dyeing or coloring objects is as old as time and man's intervention.


Hi Cynthia -

Your post got me thinking.

Are saying that once the first caveperson put an image on a wall that from that point forward there was nothing new in painting?

If we establish that as criteria for "new" then I agree there probably is nothing new. That strikes me as extreme criteria. If we go just a bit further in that direction we could take the first object a human ever created for the primary purpose of aesthetic pleasure and say that from that point forward all art was nothing new.

I believe there are points in history when evolution of an idea takes a significant leap forward and qualifies as something new. I can’t tell you how big a leap that must be – but there are times when that clearly seems to be the case for me.

The idea that everything has a source in nature is another intriguing idea that I'm going to have to chew on for a while (thanks for the brain food).

Going down that road we could say that a precursor to cameo glass is the erosion of layers of rock. I'd agree with that. But I'd also say that the first time created the layers in glass and then carved an intentional design was something new.

Well, time to go noodle some more and see if I can invent something old :)

- Paul

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Postby Gale aka artistefem » Thu Apr 17, 2003 9:39 pm

What a rip-roaring thread. We haven't had one like this in quite awhile. You raise great questions, Tony.

When I say that "it's all been done before", take a good look at the images of glasswork in the glass history books. Try to figure out the techniques used in those "tech-less" time periods - how those earlier artists achieved their magnificent pieces of glasswork. If you can figure out their techniques, then you'll realize that most of what we do today has been done before ----- and with none of the array of modern gadgets we all use to cook and manipulate glass.

No offense meant to anyone who's opinion differs.................. :!:

We all put our own stylistic imprint on these centuries old glassworking methods and our personal failures and successes lead us down many diverging paths. Roads to artwork outcomes that mostly do not physically resemble those early glassworks, due to our presently prevailing art tastes.

Basic glassworking hasn't changed much since the early days due to the nature of the medium. You can't force glass to behave in anyway other than according to it's own laws of physics. Really folks, just our tools, toys, studio gadgets and artistic expressions have changed.

.....and Tony, I respecfully disagree. :D Mica adhered to the surface of lightening/sand formed glass has probably been around since the advent of man and before. Now I do concede that it wasn't put on with an airbrush until more recent times.........

As for thinking "it's all been done before" is a dead end? Personally, I live to push the edges with my glasswork - can't learn enough, fast enough about the artform. If I go too many days without "experimenting" on some new glass project, I begin to get withdrawal symptoms. Takes the form of crabby, cranky, don't look at me, don't talk to me, don't even think about me - I want to be in the studio trying to do this or maybe this or...........with the glass!

Just because I think it's all been done or expressed before in some way or another - this doesn't stop my learning and doing for a second. There's not enough hours in the day or my lifetime to get it all done when it comes to glasswork.

This said, I gladly share "most" of what I know about glassworking with other glassworkers who are sincere about learning and willing to engage in a recipricol exchange of information.

I will continue to not share with rip-off artists. My choice.............. I too have to make a living from the sale of my art. Sad commentary, but like Geri, I've been through the fire when it comes to copy-cat artists.

What do you all think about the arts import market? Guess where many of the hip, cool and tasty "under-priced" import designs come from?

From us! Because the importers know "our" designs will sell here.

Knock-offs! ......and yes, in this case, the argument probably can be made that nothing is really new and no one can own technique or even designwork if the original is changed just enough to satisfy copyright.

So my answer to this is just continue to get better at what you do and outpace the competition.

But along the way, if I choose to keep a few secrets to myself, I hope you'll understand and respect my position - just as I respect your opinion. :D

......and yes, teachers need to have an in-depth understanding of what they're teaching. IMHO, taking one or two glassworking classes does not qualify a person to teach. Glass is a hands-on learning experience and although I've been working with glass for 25+ years, I wouldn't dream of trying to teach anything more than a basic stained glass class.

Still a novice - the learning never stops. (even though it's all been done before - LOL!)

Whew........luv it that our group is passionate about what we do!

Phil Hoppes
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Postby Phil Hoppes » Thu Apr 17, 2003 9:53 pm

Tony Smith wrote:Several years ago, the head of the US patent office made a statement that nothing is new anymore. The chairman of IBM said not too many years ago that there would never be a need for people to have computers in their own homes. These broad statements are from intelligent people who didn't have a clue what the future would reveal.


I don't disagree but I would add that 98% of the patents in the patent office are not worth the paper that they are printed on. The other 2% are worth billions.

On technique/design/style....sounds like possibly we are arguing some symantic's here. Lets go back to the 7 basics of visual elements in design, that being line, shape, value, color, mass, space and texture. It is through these elements that the artist makes their work unique, not the specific technique of achieving these elements.

Phil

Ron Coleman
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Postby Ron Coleman » Thu Apr 17, 2003 10:22 pm

Tony Smith wrote:Several years ago, the head of the US patent office made a statement that nothing is new anymore. The chairman of IBM said not too many years ago that there would never be a need for people to have computers in their own homes. These broad statements are from intelligent people who didn't have a clue what the future would reveal.


Tony


I've seen the the statement supposedly made by the Director of the patent office so many times, even in print, I thought I'd do a little search and see what came up..........

http://www.ideafinder.com/resource/arch ... -duell.htm

Another good one is that Bill Gates was reported to have said, "640 k of memory ought to be enough for anybody".

Ron

Tony Smith
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Postby Tony Smith » Thu Apr 17, 2003 10:22 pm

So what I'm hearing is that it's all been done before, and if not by humans, then in nature. By putting color to wall, ancient cave man set the precedent on techniques. Art has evolved to its current state only by varying the processes already know to prehistoric man... I think I agree with that on some overly simplistic level, but I think when we talk about an artist's techniques, we aren't talking about spitting berry juice against the wall, or placing your fused glass outside during a dust devil... we are talking about specific techniques, methods and processes... using modern technology to create a desired result... using photoresist to etch a computer generated image into glass that has been coated with micas using a specific technique, or using colored glass powders in a certain way with multiple firings to produce a pattern that can be incorporated into another object, or a certain way of constructing pattern bars that produces an uncommon yet attractive result.

The idea here is obviousness. This is a non-term used by the patent office to describe why they rejected your patent application. If an idea has obviousness or is obvious to a person skilled in the art, then a device or an idea is not patentable. That is one of the tests of patentability. Now it seems to me that if a technique was obvious, then everyone would be doing it. If everything has been done before, then we should have seen everything already. The key then, isn't that berry juice had been put to the wall by spitting, but the way it was put to the wall to create an image. This is the blurred line that Paul described:
I don't believe the distinction between "technique" and "design" is always so absolute. That goes for "style" too.


The fact that the methods that we use to create art are prehistoric or modern is irrelevant... It is the end result... what we are doing with those methods that makes a difference. It is the style, that we add to our designs that make them truly unique.

What about influence? If a student's work is clearly influenced by a teacher's work, is that a bad thing? Does the fact that the student is creating similar work dilute the value of the teacher's artwork by creating additional competition?

Eventually, I would like to get back to the idea of teaching, teacher qualifications or certifications and how we can deal with less-than-competent teachers... so stay tuned.

Tony
The tightrope between being strange and being creative is too narrow to walk without occasionally landing on both sides..." Scott Berkun

lauren
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Postby lauren » Thu Apr 17, 2003 10:51 pm

this is backtracking a bit to earlier in the thread, but be that as it may....

i wish i could remember who it was that said it, but a painter once said that in order to successfully break the rules, you've got to know the rules. in order to create my voice, my style, my spin, i've got to know technique. i know some ppl think that confining yourself to the rules is thinking 'inside the box' and will just lead to imitation and lack of creative expression, but i think that knowing the rules like the back of your hand let's you see the loopholes. kind of makes me think of lawyers and the law. i sometimes get the impression that a lawyer in court is an (possibly very, very evil :twisted: ) artist. it's the loopholes where style is developed, success achieved, and where an artist is realized.

i've had ppl tell me that my work is great, i shouldn't worry about developing my own style because many ppl make a decent living doing things on the same level i'm doing. my first teachers, tho they had many more years experience than i do at this time, were doing work at the level i'm at. yeah, they were making a living, but it was making coasters and two layer dichroic cabs. i respect their choices, but i couldn't do that. i need to keep learning and evolving, and need a teacher who is doing the same...teachers need to be dynamic themselves.

i think a teachers job is to teach me the law, and send me on my way to realizing the loopholes for myself (realizing that the way they found their loopholes may not be the way i find mine.) i don't really want a teacher to teach me their loopholes (personalized techniques/discoveries/unique combination of techniques) just give me the knowledge that may eventually get me there if i choose to go down that particular path.

i don't want to go near the 'it's all been done before' topic. there's too much as yet to be discovered, see the article barbara cashman posted about glass in space (sounds like a new tv pilot) ;) but then again, it is all somehow based on ideas thousands of years old.

once i win the lottery i'm gonna take all of your classes, i have much respect for all of you...

peace
- lauren

Ron Coleman
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Postby Ron Coleman » Thu Apr 17, 2003 11:02 pm

Tony Smith wrote:
What about influence? If a student's work is clearly influenced by a teacher's work, is that a bad thing? Does the fact that the student is creating similar work dilute the value of the teacher's artwork by creating additional competition?

Eventually, I would like to get back to the idea of teaching, teacher qualifications or certifications and how we can deal with less-than-competent teachers... so stay tuned.

Tony


Once you get past the basic learning of fusing skills you would think the student would be selective about what teacher they study under so that there should be a very strong influence of the teachers style and ideas in the students work.

A lot of people spent years studying under Masters like Frank LLoyd Wright because they wanted to learn the techniques. The teachers influence was what the students were after and that was what the teacher wanted, people to follow on with the technique and style. Students didn't study under Wright to learn Greek Revival Architecture, they wanted what Wright had to offer.

As for qualifying instructors, I think it's a waste of time to worry about it. Let the students do the weeding, it doesn't take long for the word to get around about a bad instructor. About all you can do is keep a score card of likes and dislikes about teachers and the value the students place on what they learned.

Ron


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