The creative process is often a solitary one. Meeting other artists – sharing your experiences and techniques… being free with your knowledge – it is important! Mark my words.
I have met many an artist and craftperson over the years, some of whom keep their knowledge locked away, never divulging their secrets. Potentially afraid that once told, that the knowledge would lose its value, becoming part of the “common knowledge” per se. Others have been open, freely telling the how’s and why’s of what they do. I have come to learn that what goes around comes around.
I remember once asking a fellow artist how she accomplished a certain task. She said it was her secret, and that sharing it was not an option. She said she had spent many years learning her craft, and could not tell. I left feeling quite perplexed… yet all the more determined to find a way to do the deed regardless. After many an hour researching online (something I spend way too much time doing), I found a device that would potentially revolutionize my work in that medium. So excited, and sure that my friend had never seen or heard of this little product, I ordered one for myself, as well as one for my friend. When they arrived, I giddily went over like a child with a new toy.. saying “I got one for you too!!!” smiling ear to ear. – Well… it had never occurred to me that this little device was the secret that she had been keeping. I think we both learned something that day.
Yes, some will say that one needs to guard ones secrets, especially if that artist makes a living by teaching or writing books. I am not saying offer a free workshop to anyone who asks, but sharing ideas, talking about techniques, letting people know about that little tool that makes all the difference. Any artist worth their salt knows that even in a workshop, where students do their best to create a copy of the example. Even based on a step by step plan, it is rare to see anything come close to the original when it comes to attention to detail and experience.
I attended a workshop here in Norway a few years back (I am self-taught having only ever attended three felting workshops – such is life when you have small children!). I was amazed by the freedom in which this teacher shared her knowledge. Answering questions and allowing the students to pick at her brain. It was so refreshing – not once did we hear “ohh.. you will have to come to another workshop to learn that” but instead, she told us everything she could, and then some. Sitting around over a cup of coffee, brainstorming on new concepts and talking about the “what if’s” of felting. It made me want to come back for more. One thing that surprised me more than anything, was when I asked about her mistakes.. “what were some of the things that just did not work?” – Well she disappeared for a few minutes only to return with a large suitcase. She opened it up and showed us all of the pieces that just “did not work”.. WOW! Who does that? Yes, we all make disastrous things every now and then – no matter how much we hate to admit it. (Mine often up up in the toy box as padding for the doll bed etc..) But this artist was willing to let us learn from her mistakes, something that is often more informative than one can imagine. I admire her greatly for her attitude, and have learned more from that workshop than from any other I have attended.
My advice to you all.. be free, share your knowledge – you will gain more than you give, and it is a wonderful circle that never ends.