This is gonna be a brief one, folks, because I need to go make a cardboard sword for my daughter's Halloween outfit. She's going as a Greek goddess. Or something.
I wanted to throw my hat into the ring of voices setting the tone for what gets credited within the spooncarving community and how to address the phenomenon (which admittedly I haven't experienced) of having my work plagiarized. Most recently, Alex Yerks had a bit about this in his latest blog post, and if you don't know who Alex is, you are in for a treat.
While I found Alex's position understandable, in many ways I disagree with the basic underlying premise he and others have made, which is that credit should be given over and over to the people who got there first. Who invented the thing that we can now rip off as our own. Hand in hand with this is the assumption that originality counts for more than just being good.
I am of the opposite (or at least it feels opposite) opinion, that we are all just reinventing the same things over and over because there are human factors dictating what works and what doesn't (like how most doorways are a certain size because people are only so tall) and materials factors of what the wood does well or wants to do. While I think it is polite to mention if someone's work has inspired your own, and certainly you should give credit where it is due, I am always a bit baffled when people ask my permission to try a spoon design that they see me carve. My response is always that of course they should carve it if they like, that any design is as much theirs as it is mine.
The best argument I have heard for GIVING credit comes from Pat Diette, who said to me that from his perspective it's just about good cross promotion. It takes very little effort to credit someone whose work you admire, and it helps them reach a new audience and so the wheels of commerce and reputation turn. I like this a lot.
I don't see myself as trying to find a voice that is original, but I do think my work has a fingerprint that is unique to me. How could it not? And so I don't think of the design so much as the execution of the design to be the remarkable feature of a given spoon. This is also why (at least for now) I don't have a maker's mark. First of all, I figure anyone who's in a position to care enough to be curious about a spoon of mine will probably also have heard of me, and if not then oh well. Second, I feel like a maker's mark denotes some kind of claim of having reached some level that I don't think I'm at yet. I think it will be years before I feel ready to have a mark on my spoons. I'm still a journeyman at this.
And finally, as for the idea that people are ripping off your designs and costing you money, I just don't think it's true in any large sense. It is unlikely that the people buying the "rip-offs" would ever know about you or be in a position to buy from you. When I was first taking over my Christmas tree farm, the old owner, who was still farming some of the trees, would stand down at the end of his driveway and siphon people off to his part of the farm before they ever reached me further down the road. This drove my parents crazy, but I quickly realized that I had to play the long game, and not let the little things get to me. Ultimately, I think our choices as craftspeople and business people will lead to success or not, no matter what other people are doing.
I am also dismayed when I see people hold cards close to their chest. I understand the impulse-- that if I give it all away for free, no one will feel the need to take a lesson--- but I have found the exact opposite to be true. The more I share freely, the more people want to work with me and learn from me and support me. It has been true, time and again, that the more I give, and give freely, the more I receive in return.
I would really love to hear your thoughts on all this. Thank you
My blog has evolved into a series of short essays on the nature of entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and their overlap. If either of these topics is something you think about, you will probably like this.
One idea is as worthless as another until you actually do something about it, and then it is the action, not the word that matters. --Orson Scott Card