Sunday, August 18, 2013

If you remember me

It was an ubiquitous creative writing assignment when I was in High School:
Imagine that you have lived your life, that you are very old now, and write your own epitaph. How will you be remembered? What have you accomplished? 
I don't remember what I wrote then; it doesn't matter. The older I get, the less my accomplishments matter; the only thing I want to be remembered for these days is sharing. Sharing happiness, love, and sorrow; sharing good times and bad. Sharing exploration and discovery; learning, and creating, together.

This means more and more to me every day, and I'm writing about it now because I recently learned that there is a campaign by a few beaders to form a guild for the primary purpose of raising money to take legal action against those whom they believe are copying their work. This makes me sad. Not because I don't think beaders deserve to profit from their creativity; they certainly do. And not because I think that people should be allowed to "steal" other people's work; they shouldn't. It makes me sad because I think that creativity is a synergistic process, and I think that demonizing people for copying and going on witch hunts to expose them is already doing more harm than good. I don't even want to imagine what would happen if lawyers were involved.

It's a rare individual who can create in a vacuum; most creative breakthroughs are built on top of other people's work, on top of other people's creative breakthroughs. We see this in all fields; in science, mathematics, painting, sculpture, music...why should beading be any different? If you've been to the Louvre, you've seen art students with easels set up in front of paintings, copying the Masters' work right out in the open. They're not doing it to steal the Masters' work; they're doing it to learn. They're learning technique, they're learning about color, they're learning about brushwork. They're doing their apprenticeship, and yes - they sell those paintings in order to continue their studies, in order to perfect their own skills and in order to put in the time required to develop their own styles and launch their own creative endeavors. Or not. Some of them may end up doing nothing more than making competent reproductions. But that really doesn't matter, the point I want to make is that copying is not an evil act of a depraved individual; it's how we learn. Artists have always stood on the shoulders of the previous generations; even when they turn art on its head and break all the rules, they are still building on what others have already done.

Because I started beading long ago, before the Internet existed, I had only my grandmothers to learn from. But learn I did - and I learned by copying exactly what they did. They showed me stitches, bead by bead. They taught me thread paths, and they showed me all of the things they had learned, and all the things they had created. Over the years I discovered books and other beaders, and I learned more. I am thankful that I was born before the copyright police went viral, in a time where beading stitches, styles and methods were happily passed from person to person. Yes, we bought books. Artists were paid. Teachers were paid. But we shared our knowledge, and we shared our love of beads.

I want to end this as I began. If you remember me, please remember that I shared.