Jump to content

Stealing (borrowing?) ideas


Guest Tai

Recommended Posts

I just finished forging an integral bolster blade that is going to end up looking like, insofar as my skills allow, one of Don's Shivs.  In fact, I got the idea from looking at some of Don's work.  I don't want to be accused of stealing from anyone, but ideas come from lots of places.

 

How do we balance the effect of outside influence on our work with the desire to present an honest product to our customers, even if those customers are just friends and family?

 

At the least I try to acknowledge when a piece is closely related to another makers work, is this good enough?

 

Just thinking out loud, so to speak.

 

Geoff

In the Great North Wet

"The worst day smithing is better than the best day working for someone else."

 

I said that.

 

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

- - -G. K. Chesterton

 

So, just for the record: the fact that it does work still should not be taken as definitive proof that you are not crazy.

 

Grant Sarver

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We are all borrowing design ideas, the only time it gets to be an issue is when folks start copying anothers work and it hurts the others business.

 

It is a good question however because it brings up the subject.

 

One of the unique things about our craft is the willingness of everybody to share and teach what they have learned. This openness depends on an active crediting to the source of the information or inspiration.

 

This word of mouth acknowledgement serves several purposes; it credits the maker and keeps his contribution alive; it honors the craft by reinforcing that we are involved in a chain of effort and ingenuity that extends back to the beginning of civilization; it encourages each of us to willingly give back to the common good.

 

Giving back can be difficult. You will know when you have something new, something that it took you time, hard work and money to learn, because the first instinct is to protect your secret. Perhaps you should protect it, I am not saying that we should give away everything. If you take and don't give back however you become one way. If you do start giving back, then you will discover how much joy there is in it.

 

If you learn something from someone, it is a gift. Respect the gift and honor the giver by acknowledging the source. We all will continue to have the benefit of our group knowledge only so long as this remains the rule. There is no other craft that I know of where there is such open sharing of information. It is rare and priceless. It is also one of the main reasons that we have such a fine community.

 

I repeat this often because new folks need to know the rules and old folks need to be reminded. :;):

Don Fogg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good stuff guys.

 

I've never gaurded my "trade secrets", even though I am self taught for the most part. Self teaching or learning is a slow process. We tend to over look the obvious and make everything more difficult than it needs to be. When I do learn something new, the first thing I want to do is share it.

 

I don't worry about people copying me, because no two people are exactly the same. Every individual will interpret ideas differently and come up with there own twist on them. I doubt I could even copy myself. The knives are one of a kind and probably very hard, if not impossible, to copy exaclty. If you want a Tai Goo or Don Fogg knife, it has to come from me or Don. However, when good new ideas do drop into the soup, they tend to generate more money for the practitioners than for the innovators. I agree with Don that giving credit back to the innovators is the honorable thing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I guess I will add that unfortunately "stealing" does happen. This is when one smith gets a new idea from another smith and trys to take the credit away from the originator. It doesn't happen a lot, but when it does, it can create a lot of confusion and ill feelings. It really hurts the industry in general and is never a good thing... "Borrowing" is O.K.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bonjour de France

That's a very interessing topic, and if Don is OK, I would like to translate his response and put it in a french forum I go in. I would like to say that in France, the knowledge is like a secret that you will reveal -or no- on your death-bed! If you want to know something, you have generally to pay and go in a training course in a Bladesmith' s shop. Perhaps, its normal...

For me, the "knife-art" have to be a individual quest, ans this personnal quest can only be a success if it founded on the knowledge of the Humanitys expérience. That's why, the Dons answer seems to be THE answer. Knowledge, willingness to "give" it on one side and learning and respect on the other side. And probably, the two sides in the same time!

Personally, i am allways learning, nearly alone in my shop. I have some friends knifemakers on a french forum and we love sharing our expériences, just like you do there, but we are just a little group. I have found a lot of informations in the US, web sites-thanks Don- ,books -thanks Wayne G.- and I have the pleasure to meet my friend Joe Keeslar when he and his wife Suzan are in France -thanks Joe- .  And I work, learn , do mistakes and try to understand...And I like it!

Pascal the frenchy

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mutual borrowing between artisans has been around a long time. This usually goes on between people who are both friends and rivals. Picasso and Matisse or Stuart Davis and Arshile Gorky are good examples. There is and equal trade going on in these kinds of relationships. However, problems can come from these "sticky" arangements and an artist can suffer from an identity crisis, jelousy and a loss of direction. Friendships have ended over these problems, which is sad. Mutual respect and selflessness are the key to making it work.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's a very interessing topic, and if Don is OK, I would like to translate his response and put it in a french forum I go in.

Please translate whatever you feel would be of interest.

 

I know that smiths in other countries are much more secretive and I respect that approach too. When you work hard to learn something, it is hard to let it go. The problem with this approach, especially when the craft is so fragile, is that often valuable knowledge and experience die with the maker and are lost forever.

 

It wasn't so long ago that there were only a handful of men forging blades in the US. If they had not been so willing to teach and share their experience, we would never have this amazing rebirth of the craft. I come from that generation and we felt an obligation to teach and promote the craft of bladesmithing. It is infectious and I suppose the cultural equivalent of a indian potlatch.

 

I have had the benefit of coming full circle with some of my students. Just yesterday, I sought out help from Richard Furrer in an area that he has done much work and research. He was happy to share and so we both have grown. It is really a wonderful way to live.

Don Fogg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks everyone for your thoughts on the subject.  I have to say, I learned more in the first day at the ABS school than I learned in all of the time spent alone in my shop.  I went right home and threw out three half finished pieces and started over.  Jimmy Walker and Jim Cook gave us everything we could absorb, if you went home hungry it was because you didn't eat.

 

In the same way, the Smiths in my local group, The NWBA, are open and willing to teach anyone who comes along, it's where I got my start, and without them I'd be nowhere.  So I do my best to help wherever I can.

 

I have studied T'ai Chi Ch'uan for better than 20 years, and I try to bring some of that to my work elsewhere, in my knives and in my relationships with people.  A good teacher, an open attitude, and seat time are what you need to succeed. But no one can do the work for you, that's where the seat time comes in.

 

Sorry if this got a bit off topic.

 

Geoff

 

In the (Sunny today) Great North Wet

"The worst day smithing is better than the best day working for someone else."

 

I said that.

 

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

- - -G. K. Chesterton

 

So, just for the record: the fact that it does work still should not be taken as definitive proof that you are not crazy.

 

Grant Sarver

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All arts are related. I believe that Tai Chi, and martial arts in general, are kindred to bladesmithing. Both studies follow the same laws of physics. For example things like gravity, balance, intertia, back up mass, friction, shock, force and action/reaction etc... are all things that need to be understood and delt with. If a person can learn to control these things in one art, then they can be trasnfered to another art. It makes perfect sense to me.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's a tough one for me, because I love Don's knives, I love Tai's knives (pretty cool they are on the same forum!) actually the list is long, and still growing as I meet new bladesmiths.  They all influence me, so does that mean I'm copying there work or am I just allowed to get closer to creating a knife that I like?
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Seriously Rik, I wouldn't worry too much about it. We are all "influenced" by different styles. You have a good influence. Your own style will grow out of it.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...
The only way that I have found to properly thank the people that so freely share with me is to do the same. Every  conversation I have seems to include "I learned this from" Don or Vince or Bob.... I am grateful for all those who have learned before us and share it willingly. We should all strive to be as giving as they. I can only hope to some day overhear   ' I learned this from Dennis '
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

I have run across both the secretive approach (mainly in Europe) and the open approach, and most puzzlingly, the totally closed approach, or the people who not only do not want to give, they don't want to take either, because they consider THAT a threat. I suppose it can also be a point of pride NOT to get any help from anywhere else. On the other hand, these guys do tend to read knifemaking books, which is simply indirect help.

    When I told some Finnish knifemakers about forums like this one and the CKD, I often got the response, "Why would they tell everybody their secrets?" I am personally of the opinion that there is so much information out there, so many techniques and designs and skills that it is a) impossible for any one person to master all of them in a lifetime, and that B) there is no "supersecret" anymore that will give you an ultimate edge over any other knifemaker. And there is a big difference between knowing how something is done and learning how and putting in the time and effort to do it yourself.

    The real skill, which no one can teach you, is to find and learn the unique combination of skills that will allow you to make the designs that you personally have spinning around in your head. We compete as much in the arena of taste as we do in the arena of skill, and neither can really be stolen from anyone else. Knowledge is just a vehicle to get us there.

    I suppose the only financial drawback is that this forum encourages more knifemakers to join the market. On the other hand, these are also more people who might make more discoveries that might broaden the customer market as well. For example, if more people saw knives as an art form, we'd be in galleries like the painters.

    As for imitating someone else's work, I think if someone's work is worth imitating, customers will realize the difference in value between an original and a copy, and will pay accordingly. The open system tends to encourage originality. In Finland, where the secretive system has been operating full force until very recently, knife designs have generally been firmly rooted in the traditional, because that's all that people have figured out how to do by themselves. Why aim higher when you can barely reach the standard?

 

My very long 0.02€,

 

--Tina

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Let's not forget that those Finnish, Swedish and Norse knives are durn near perfect, Tina! Still, they are the result of a highly conservative, guild-like structure.

I know that I tend to recycle ideas. Usually just the lines or basic concept of some old-fashioned type knife: a Bowie or Arkansas Toothpick, say, with my own quirky style.

"I'm not anti-gun. I'm pro-knife." Molly Ivins

NT Limpin' Cat Prokopp

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Voltaire,

 

It's not that I object to what they make or what has been developed through this structure, but I do object to its rejection of any further development, almost as though the perfect knife was made 200 years ago and everything else is a sad denial of that fact. But remaking the "best knife" over and over, though it does require serious skill and is a worthwhile pursuit in terms of keeping traditions alive(and in some cases rediscovering overlooked details), tends to stunt the natural growth of the craft. I refuse to believe that there is only one answer to the "ideal knife" question, and I think the smith who developed the traditional model hundreds of years ago would have been quite surprised to see such dedicated copies now.

    In other words, I respect what the adherents to this system do, but also wish they would see modern knife developments as a continuation of the spirit of the ancient smiths, and also see the fact that because the apprentice structure is all but dead they MUST share information directly unless they want all they worked to learn to die with them.

    Oh well. One can only affect all this on an individual basis in any case, I suppose, and hope that others notice that it hasn't killed you, so they needn't be afraid of it either.

 

--Tina trying to shoo away her pet peeve ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...