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Courtesy vs. Marketing

Aislyn Bryan - Monday, October 09, 2006

I've been missing our little conversations here but with nothing new to report at the moment and no essays rattling around in my head, I had nothing interesting to write about. But then today, while emptying tumblers, Gary and I started talking about something that I thought would make an interesting topic for discussion.

Let me preface this by saying 1) this issue doesn't apply to the kind of teaching I do because our kits are intentionally designed to teach techniques independent of any particular style so that you can more easily work them into your own individual styles and 2) I do not yet have a fully baked opinion on this topic.

My question is, should a designer be expected to, or feel obligated to, credit or otherwise name his or her instructors?

Obviously, it's courteous to do so and, assuming your instructor was good and helpful, it's a nice way to say thanks. It kind of conflicts with good marketing, though. If you learn a particular style of wirework and you're selling items made in that style on your website, linking to your instructor's site kind of gives the impression that you're the apprentice and a shopper on your site might decide they'd rather buy from the master. If you paid for your instruction, then the exchange is complete; you traded money for knowledge and, technically, you don't owe anything more. On the other hand, if you don't acknowledge your instructor, you might give the impression that you're claiming the style as your own, and that's not right.

If your instructor is a legend who doesn't teach anymore, or accepts only a few select and talented students or if the program of instruction is highly respected and only graduates those who meet its exacting standards, then listing that instruction is tantamount to listing degrees on your resume; in other words, that's listing your accomplishments. That's not the kind of situation in question here.

Back in the days of guilds, an apprentice worked under a master, doing the master's lesser work and absorbing his wisdom for years and years. Then he progressed to journeyman and could accept pay for his work but he couldn't have apprentices of his own -- in other words, he couldn't teach -- until he became a master as a result of submitting a 'master work' to the guild and having it pass inspection.

I would imagine that, if you were a journeyman, people would ask who your master had been and probably base their assessment of your skills on the skills of your master in deciding whether to purchase your work. But once you became a master, although you might mention the name of your own master as a matter of pride if he was well known and respected, you should have your own style by then and the quality of your work should stand on its own and speak for itself.

In thinking about it that way, I'm leaning toward the opinion that a person should probably credit the instructor as long as his or her work looks like the instructor's work... even though it might cost that person a sale now and then. But once a person has taken all their skills and evolved in new directions whose origins are no longer identifiable with a particular instructor, that person's work stands on its own merit and to his or her own credit.

As I said before, though, that opinion is still under consideration. What do you think?



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sadface :( Love!



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