The world is also full of people who seem to be ambivalent about sharing their knowledge and ideas. Such as:
- somebody who exhibits her work publicly, posts photos to her website and shows her work to others yet prominently slaps a copyright on it and becomes agitated at the very thought of other people glomming onto an idea and using it in their own work
- somebody who agonizes about how much to charge a charity to use an image of her work on a fundraising brochure, or how much to charge if a local business club wants her to come give a lecture
- somebody who enters her quilts in a big show, knowing they will be seen by thousands of visitors, yet worries about how she can prevent them from taking and showing photos of her work
- somebody who teaches a class in something as generic as "translating your ideas into quilts" and demands that another teacher stop giving her own class using a remotely similar title.
The advice we gave away, of course, was intended to be like the free dose of dope that drug dealers give to unsuspecting rubes -- just enough to get you hooked. With any luck, people in the audience would be impressed by the free advice and think it might be valuable to buy a larger package. And it worked, well enough to make a lot of money for the company and pay my salary for 20 years.
Now some fiber artists who have read this far might jump up and say, "That may work for a big company but it won't work for me! I'm a very small operation and I can't afford even the remote possibility of losing some potential revenue." I would say you are never too small an operation to be smart about your reputation.
So, for instance, should you give a free speech to the business club? Yes, you might be able to charge a quilt guild $200 to give a similar speech, but quite frankly, the business club is more likely to offer networking possibilities worth a lot more than $200. Members might buy or commission quilts from you, or put you in touch with a gallery or company who would like to give you an exhibit.
And should you get incensed because the proprietors of a quilt show permit photography? Yes, there's a remote possibility that somebody might take a picture of your quilt and put it on a coffee mug and sell the mug for $10 and you wouldn't get a penny of it. But what's the alternative? It's not like coffee mug manufacturers would otherwise come beat down your door for that image. And there's always the possibility that somebody might take a picture of your quilt, love it, show it around to her guild at home, and you could get a teaching or speaking gig out of the deal. I suspect the upside from that possibility is much larger than the potential downside of lost coffee-mug royalties.
And, for instance, should you try to vigorously protect a workshop you have developed? Yes, it's serious if somebody takes your class, recopies your patterns and notes and teaches the same class. But it's ridiculous to think you can own the very broad concept of translating ideas into artwork (isn't that what every workshop is, reduced to its essentials?), and by trying to do so you just look unrealistic and silly.
And, for instance, should you get upset if you show your work to other people and they get an idea from it? You could, but isn't it much more gracious -- and realistic -- to simply take it as a compliment?
I happen to believe that if you cast your bread upon the waters it will come back to you many times over, while if you are mean with your knowledge that will come back to you as well. You may well get a better reputation out of being generous with your knowledge than by being stingy with it. Or if you do want to keep a secret, then don't let your work out in public.
If anybody wants to take any of my techniques or designs as inspiration for a quilt, then go for it!! I would be proud and thrilled, even if I didn't know about it. If you wanted to mention my name while bragging on your work, that would be nice, but not necessary. You would know, and that would be enough for me.