Monday, October 27, 2014

The Truth Hurts--Or Does It? By Karen McGovern

We all have secrets….all of us.  Especially artists.  Artists have TONS of secrets.  It’s part of what makes our work interesting.  “I wonder what inspired her/him to create THAT?” “I wonder where he/she learned to do THAT?”  And the most often heard…”How did you make that?” coupled with “Where can I buy the super spectacular thing you used to make that super spectacular thing?”

I recently read a post written by a jewelry designer asking other artists to comment on how much they comfortably share regarding technique and design details when asked by either a potential client/customer, or another artist.  I think the answer is simple.  Share whatever you want, and keep whatever you want to yourself. 


This post covers two topics—sort of.  Components and design.  I try to be as up front as possible about the “ingredients” of a design, usually in my listings and descriptions.  Names of stones (if you use gemstones in your designs, I think you should know with certainty what the stones are and say so.  Specifically…I’ll come back to this in a minute), type of metal, construction details (hot or cold connected, etc.).  Now, from here it can get pretty tricky, so I try to keep things as simple as possible.

Regarding gems—know what you are using and do not ever, ever make something up if you are not sure.  If you don’t know what the stone is, say so!  For beginning designers, this can be tough and you have to be careful.  I have written before about getting scammed at gem and bead shows, purchasing stones I thought were one thing only to find out later they were not---by a long shot—what I thought they were.  If your stones are dyed quartz, that’s fine, just don’t pass them off as amethyst, rubies or sapphires.  Jaspers are tough because there are a MILLION OF THEM.  But, if all you know is that the stone is a type of jasper, then say that.  My point is, don’t feel like you have to dress up your descriptions or stretch the truth.  It will bite you in the ass later, I guarantee it.  Always be truthful about what you use in your designs no matter what the material is—period.

Now, regarding SOURCES.  Hmmmmm…..when it comes to gemstones, and basic components I am happy to share sources with anyone who asks.  Many artists have relationships with their favorite vendors and spreading the love around will help you and the vendor as well.  I love to pimp my vendors!  But….NOT ALL MY VENDORS.

This is where the super spectacular thing comes in.  You know, the one thing you use that makes your design singular, unique and YOURS--your "secret ingredient".  I have a couple things like that.  Items I use over and over, would love to tell you where I found them, but would have to kill you if I did.  There are not many items like this, just a couple, and they are MINE.  AND, it’s perfectly okay to say that to anyone who asks for the source.  My usual answer is the tongue in cheek reference to murder, followed by, “That particular thing is so special to me and to my work that I just have to keep it to myself. I hope you understand!” Or some version of that.  These words, with a sincere tone and smile, should shut the door on that particular conversation.  I think we all need to understand that saying "No" is   not a bad thing....SERIOUSLY.



Same for singular techniques that you spent the past 20 years perfecting.  Unless you plan to share with a tutorial, you don’t have to share anything at all.  I’m always a little amazed by folks that see my work and ask, in all seriousness, for me to explain in detail exactly how I made it.  In that instance I make some reference to magic or something and move on.  I use humor as often as possible to get out of tricky spots like this.  I am always flattered when someone likes my work, but I do not feel obligated to share every detail of the process just because they ask. 

If this was a TV show I would so watch it.

Am I paranoid they will immediately try to steal a design or copy me?  Partly, but mostly I squirm because the creative process is intensely personal to me and not for the whole world to see.  The world gets the finished result, the rest is between me, my bench and my imagination/psyche thankyouverymuch.

Artists learn from one another.  It’s impossible given today’s technology and social media availability not to use Facebook, Pinterest, blogs and more as teaching tools.  I learn whenever I see an artist’s work that I love.  I emulate.  I am inspired by others.  I always give credit when creating work inspired by another.  I try to be polite, kind, grateful, RESPECTFUL and appreciative, and expect the same from others in my artistic community. I believe you get what you give. 


How I feel when I see an artist that inspires me....

Now, for something completely different, but still on the topic of sharing.  As we evolve as artists, we sometimes get a bit too big for our britches.  By that I mean, we can actually feel embarrassed to admit where we get some of our stuff.  Yes, I would like to be able to say in all truth that I discover all of my findings, components and unusual elements while wandering through abandoned mansions, visiting Parisian flea markets, or directly from my dear, dear friend who happens to travel the world collecting beads from ancient temples and tombs.  See the stones pictured here?  My latest haul from Michael’s.  MICHAEL’S CRAFT STORE, PEOPLE.  For reals.  You can find some great stuff there and YOU ALL KNOW IT!  I am no bead snob—not me.  If I see something I like, of quality, I’m snatching it up.  Yes, the turquoise is dyed howlite, but well done (and I will list the stone as howlite, not turquoise).  The points are dyed quartz, but again, well done.  The wood is….well….WOOD.  And now Michaels carries dyed, embossed LEATHER!  Who knew?  Even if I could afford the world’s finest stone beads I would still buy from my local craft stores cause sometimes that stuff is exactly what I need and exactly what I want.  Do not turn your nose up, ever, to “common” sources—if you do you’ll miss out on some rather cool bits and pieces.  Wait—I misspoke--go ahead, turn your nose up.  More for me!!! *Rubbing hands together*


Buying inexpensive materials to use in your designs doesn't immediately mean that the finished work is worth “less” than something created using material purchased at a “higher end” source.  DESIGN COUNTS.  Your artistic vision, your talent, your creative interpretation are PRICELESS, which makes pricing our works so difficult.  THAT IS ANOTHER POST FOR ANOTHER DAY!

So, keep whatever secrets you want.  Share what you want, honestly, and appreciate other’s works AND understand if they don’t want to share as much as you’d like them to. Bottom Line: Respect each other and each other’s works.  That is no secret and needs to be shared far and wide.

Now, GO MAKE SOMETHING!

14 comments:

stacilouise said...

I think we all have secrets- that one thing we just glaze over, even if we share. and it REALLY IS OK to do that. I think, especially if you do share most stuff. I mean, for me, I wire and rivet and solder things together. I squish metal clay into hand made molds. you know, most of it is not secret! lol.

Deb Fortin said...

thank you for this post giving us permission to NOT TELL ALL. I have had some browsers (they are not customers -they have no intention of buying) at shows almost demand that i tell them how i made something so that they can go home and make one themselves , instead of purchasing one from me. I overhear them whispering to their friends " I can make (you) one of those " .
For those that seem sincerely interested in the process i WILL share what i can. Being asked is usually flattering and sharing some things makes me feel good too.

Lynnea Bennett said...

Well I agree. And yes I do get some stuff at local craft stores

IRuth Scott said...

A great post! Agree!

moois van me said...

YES!

TesoriTrovati said...

Design DOES count! I am not a bead snob either...anything with a hole (and even some things without) are fair game to me! I think that it matters less where I get the materials or even what they are than what I can do with them. I can make an inexpensive strand of howlite SING just as much as the symphony that is already going on with a higher priced gemstone. For me Design (always with a capitol D) is the most important, and allows me to mix opposites... high and low... shiny and matte... old and new... art bead with common beads. I think it is all in how you present it, which is to your earlier point about being truthful and honest. That is what I try to do at all times. Thank you for this great post that has me thinking about what I share and how I share (which is to say that I will share just about anything with anyone!). Enjoy the day, Miss Karen! Erin

Therese's Treasures said...

Wonderful post, thank you for sharing some really good points.
Therese

Karen Z said...

Well said, and Bravo! Great advice, all round. Thanks for your very thoughtful comments and advice.

Barry said...

Hi K - good reflection - al;ways a challenge - how much to share - interesting most artists respect boundaries but some have no scruples - I try to share but as you say holding back on some things or parts that are just so us is also important. Thanks for sharing. B

Tammy Adams said...

Very well said. I especially like the bit about being what I call a "component snob." I too shop at Michael's and have found some good deals. I completely agree, it's what you do with a component that sets your work apart.

shyamanta das said...

I am a regular reader of this blog. I have gone through your article titled “The Truth Hurts--Or Does It? By Karen McGovern” and it is very interesting. I did not know this before reading the article. Thanks for sharing.

Ann Schroeder said...

Thanks for this fun and informative post.

Shaiha said...

What a great post! I get so irritated by seeing folks jump on others who are honest enough to admit that they aren't going to share all. What and how much to share is a personal decision that each artist has to make on their own.

Lori Anderson said...

Excellent. Some of my best components come from the bead fairy late at night when I'm sleeping. I think she's related to the tooth fairy because she sometimes leaves a quarter under my pillow.

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