Recently Kim Cavender blogged about the subject of ethical use of polymer techniques learned from someone who is selling those techniques in the form of a workshop, book, or DVD. As Kim states, this is not a new subject but it recently popped up on her blog as a hot topic after she posted some photos of a polymer workshop or lecture (I think).
I decided when I started blogging about my polymer journey that I would share my progress via posting photos of my recent work, along with crediting and discussing the book or workshop or DVD I learned it from. I fully intend to use the techniques I paid for, just as the teacher is going to spend the money she gets from me in return for the book/workshop/DVD.
Long before Kim's post, I decided not to reveal step by step techniques. Teachers deserve to be paid, and I feel that those who find my results interesting should go out and buy the book themselves. Or take the workshop. Since I am not a polymer expert, pioneer, or teacher, I am blogging about my progress and sharing what I've done. I am not only blogging, but I am logging my progress for my own future benefit as well as others who may stumble across this blog in the process of their own polymer journey.
When I am not exploring polymer I am painting in oil or watercolor. My oil painting guru is Susan Sarback, she comes from a teaching lineage going back to a contemporary of Monet. I work pretty hard to paint the best paintings I can based on her teachings. Susan teaches her students everything she knows about this method of painting, and we all go home stoked and inspired and wanting to be as good a painter as Susan. (We aren't.) Yet I can't imagine Susan showing us how she paints but then telling us not to paint like her!
So just as I pay Susan Sarback for painting workshops, I pay for lessons in polymer techniques.
What's interesting about polymer is it is so technique-based. I stand on the shoulders of some real polymer pioneers when I take that lump of clay, alter the color and shape, and come up with something worthwhile.
Yet unlike following Monet's footsteps (he made it look effortless but believe me, it is not), basic polymer techniques are generally easier to grasp with a bit of practice, and I think that's where often the feculence hits the fan. It's relatively easy to copy other people's polymer work.
What I plan to do with my own polymer work is hone in on the techniques I like, and apply my own imagery, shapes, and color combinations to the things I create using those techniques as a foundation. I wouldn't have ever experimented enough to come up with a way to make imitative ivory, but I'm glad Tory Hughes did and I plan on making some fine original work in imitative ivory. My favorite subjects, shapes and colors show up in my paintings, and they will show up in my polymer, too.
So my summary is: Learn the techniques, but use them as a springboard to your own path to artistic uniqueness. Pay homage to what you love (Flowers? Bright colors? Geometric shapes?) and your art will speak to others and become recognizably your own.