Rules To Live By

volcano.jpgLike a dormant volcano coming to life, the question of "infringement" versus "inspiration" seems to erupt over and over in the art world.  For over a decade, it has been a topic of POLYInforMER articles* and NPCG conference discussions, and it has appeared over and over on websites, blogs and forums.  There is a balance between honoring artist discoveries and encouraging new development based on those discoveries, and like many in the polymer community recently, NPCG board members have spent hours in discussions trying to define it. 

As an organization, we struggle with determining our role in this...or if we even have one at all.  The NPCG is dedicated to promoting and supporting the growth of the polymer community - not policing it.  It was hearing newcomers to our community express fear and concern about using the medium that prompted us to review our existing ethics statement and expand on it.

While many aspects of this controversy are a muddy shade of grey, there are also quite clearly those that are black and white.  Our board members encompass a wide range of experience...from those who use polymer purely for the pleasure and joy of creating art to those who are also published instructors.  We were not able to completely clear the muddy water during our discussions, and perhaps it may never be crystal clear. However, as members of the polymer community, we hope that you will join us in observing some basic rules.

Have No Fear:  Techniques can be (and are) developed concurrently all the time.  Often an artist who specializes in a specific technique will become closely associated with it, but that in no way means that it cannot be used by others.  You will develop your own style by experimenting with known techniques.

Use Your Manners:  If you directly emulate the work of an artist you admire, it is a courtesy to indicate that your work is inspired by that person.  If you glean ideas from a variety of sources and create your own take on that - then you are no longer directly emulating a single artist.  Trying to keep track of and attribute every single person or thing that inspired that mix will leave you no time for actual art work.

Wear Those Shoes (Instructor):  Be comfortable with "letting go" of a technique before presenting it in a workshop...and then be prepared for your students to take what they learn and use it in any way they choose.  Understand that they are attending your workshop because they admire you and your work.  They want to be in the same room with you not only to learn the technical details you will be sharing, but also with the hope that a bit of your passion and creativity will rub off.

Wear Those Shoes (Student):  If you attend a workshop, feel free to take what you learn and build on it. You will hopefully leave the workshop excited, inspired and bursting with ideas.  You will also hopefully leave with one additional understanding - the only reason you are walking out feeling that way is because of the time and effort the instructor put into developing that workshop.  Understand that weeks, months or sometimes years are spent fine-tuning and documenting a technique or project so that it can be clearly presented to you.  If you are asked to share workshop content or materials, take the time to contact the instructor and be clear about their "sharing" guidelines.

Respect Differing Viewpoints:  Your views are formed by your situation and experience.  Whether your opinions are unique to you or shared by many in the community, listen and respond with respect to those that differ.

Remember What You Learned In Kindergarten:  Be kind to each other.  Be grateful to those willing to share so that you may learn, and be willing to share in turn.  Create art with abandon and exuberance, but try not to draw on the walls without permission.  And most importantly, go in your studio and make something beautiful.

~ Respectively Submitted, NPCG Executive Board Members

Judy Belcher, President
Maggie Maggio, VP Education & Outreach
Gayle Thompson, VP Membership
Ronalyn Hurley, Treasurer
Elizabeth Bonura, Guild Liaison
Barbara Forbes-Lyons, Webmaster
Marcia Laska, Recording Secretary
Julie Picarello, Web Content/POLYinforMER Editor
Cindy Silas, Member-At-Large, Virginia
*Other articles on the topic include:
  • Meredith Arnold -  Spring 2003 POLYinforMER
  • Gwen Gibson - Fall 1997 POLYinforMER
  • Statement of Ethics for our website Fall 2004