Writer’s disclaimer: This post was written about a craft show where I was a seller and about people I met (or perhaps fabricated), in the very distant past (or maybe it was just yesterday). Any resemblance you might notice to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events is purely coincidental (or perhaps not).
One of the organizers of the craft show was spouting spirited compliments about my coasters, finished with bits of old maps, damaged books, and recycled used note cards, and she told me, enthusiastically, that she wanted to introduce me to her friend, another crafter.
I am always happy to meet creative folk, so I cheerfully agreed. The exchange, however, went differently than I expected.
“This is Lisa,” the organizer gushed when we arrived. “She makes these cool coasters finished with all kinds of old pictures. And since you make things with pictures too, I figured I’d get her to tell you how to make what she makes. You could make a lot of money making these.”
As she handed my coasters to the vendor, I processed her words in my head. Whaaaat? Was I losing my mind?
Directly asking an artisan how to recreate her product, especially with the intent of selling that product in direct competition with her is bad form. And further, it is a breech of an unspoken code of honor among crafters.
Now the seller in the booth looked and dressed like a sweet older church lady, so it was hard to image her breaking any code of honor. But when she took my coaster into her hands, she chirped out, “Oh, this is nice! I could make a lot of money on these! Can you tell me how to make them?”
Maybe the magnetic poles had reversed and thrown the world into chaos.
Either these women were unaware of the code, the code where crafters respect each other and don’t blatantly take each other’s ideas (and the key work here is blatantly), or they were the pushiest people on the planet……the planet where the magnetic poles were obviously reversed.
But code or no code, we all know that artists have been borrowing ideas from each other since the beginning of time. You know those ancient cave drawings of horses and deer? Well someone had to do it first, right? Way back when, some fellow dressed only in bear skins invited his best buds to come hang out in his really fashionable man cave……his literal man cave. But boy was he pissed when he found out that some of his hairy friends had copied his ideas and were out painting up their own cave walls with second-rate facsimiles of his work! He called them all a bunch of Neanderthals.
Cause even an idea-thief knows that if they are going to break the code, they should at least be a bit covert. Keep it on the down-low, for Neanderthal’s sake!
“These look really eeeasy! And they won’t take long at all to make!” the church-lady imposter said, enthusiastically.
Eeeasy? So she wasn’t just breaking the code shamelessly….now she was throwing insults too. And without further ado, both women began to barrage me with questions about my process.
In other situations, I don’t mind talking about my coaster making process. Really……truly……seriously!
In fact, at every craft show, I field questions about finish options and glue and urethane and decoupage, and I usually have open and honest conversations with these folks. Because let’s face it, my tile coasters are not intricate works of fine art. Anyone with access to pinterest or youtube can find info on making tile coasters with the simple click of a mouse.
But that said, my coaster sets are not exactly eeeasy. They require precision and quite a bit of time, plus I have put in trial and error over these years with finishing products and have worked out a combination that creates a nice hard, non-tacky, and heat tolerant surface. This results in a coaster that looks professional, is durable, and and is still very affordable. So I do have my own process.
And with the right audience, I am more than willing to share my trade secrets.
But that day, dag-nab-it , I wasn’t going to give it all up to the sisterhood of impertinence.
So they received answers that were a bit evasive. Not a complete flight of fancy, of course, because at least one of us needed to hold on to a bit of integrity.
So maybe I am naive to expect honor and principle among crafters. What do you all think? Maybe the code of honor that I imagine to be present is really in my imagination. After all Pablo Picasso was famously quoted as saying “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” And the word crafty, by its very definition, means clever, sly, or devious.
But for me, I will continue to expect the code to be upheld and I will uphold it myself.
And if you must copy or steal from me, please give me the courtesy of at least pretending to honor the code. For Neanderthal’s sake!