What other turners aren't telling you, and how that relates to "innovative spirit"!

Discussion in 'Woodturning Discussion Forum' started by odie, Jan 11, 2014.

  1. odie

    odie

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    Good morning! :D

    My little exchange with Owen reminded me of another aspect of the woodturning community that, IMHO, is true.......

    As woodturners, we are a community that is interested in promoting the craft among other turners. Most turners would gladly relay all that they know to other turners, because that's just the kind of people we are! This statement is generally true......but, there is a point where it exceeds reality!

    There are many very good, and even very great woodturners, who do nothing that isn't already common knowledge, or at least available information to others. For them, it is a skill that is mastered.......not an accumulation of concepts that are being independently developed. This probably covers a segment of the woodturning community greater than 99.999%......and it's fantastic to have all this knowledge freely given. It promotes the community spirit, and that is a good thing!

    There is the other side of the coin, however. Just as it is true for some successful race car mechanics, or some highly regarded artists, to keep certain things, procedures, knowledge private, or secret......it is also true with some uniquely accomplished woodturners. (This is why the whole concept of patents exist in the first place!) All of this is simply a matter of human nature.......and, the bottom line is we are bound by instinct to keep some unique knowledge free to influence our concept of our own individuality.......or identity, if you will.

    For the great majority of turners, there is nothing they do that hasn't been learned from others.......but, there are a few that still have the lights on, and are out there tinkering, experimenting, mostly failing, but sometimes succeeding......doing things that are inspired strictly by an innovative spirit. When unique knowledge is gained in this way, and it becomes important to their own unique results.......well, it's human nature, or instinct that governs how that discovery, or ability, is applied to one's own individuality......and is cherished more than community spirit, as a driving force.

    Of course, there are always those who will say "there is nothing new under the sun", and they are probably right to a very high degree, but not in every single thing, or case. The point is that the majority of very accomplished turners will tell you everything they know.........but, there are a few who don't. The more applicable phrase would be, "There are some very accomplished turners who will tell you almost everything they know!"

    Anything less than this is just an unreasonable expectation, considering the instincts and motivation of human nature.

    ooc


    (All of this is an opinion.)
     
  2. Betty Scarpino

    Betty Scarpino

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    Odie, I assume you are not talking strictly about the sharing of techniques ...

    A teacher can provide the kindling for innovative spirit to ignite, but the student herself must personally activate what's inside herself during the learning exprience--teaching is a two-way street.


    Betty Scarpino, Editor, American Woodturner
     
  3. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    That is an interesting point of view, but hoarding knowledge is something that I haven't encountered in woodturning nor in my professional career nor do I believe that it is innate. There is no doubt that some people do operate from that perspective, but what strikes me as pointless about being secretive is that you can't really have it both ways -- hiding what you do and showing your accomplishments for others to see (and hopefully admire). There's nothing about woodturning that can be considered rocket science. Skill and creativity are what sets some apart from the herd.

    Concerning patents -- bad comparison --trade secrets and patents are entirely different things. There is nothing secret about patents since they go into great detail. Otherwise, how would it be possible to pursue a claim of infringement?
     
  4. odie

    odie

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    Hello Betty........

    Yes, pretty much what my focus was all about, is the passing of techniques and methods. I'm going to further extend that thought a bit, and include "*innovation" as a component of the total. I don't know if you understood that I was not talking about teachers teaching, but attempted to encompass the entire woodworking community, in the sense that we all are, or could be providers of information to the community. Because some may choose to withhold information, it is neither good nor bad, in my opinion. It is what it is because individualism, and a need to preserve that within the group is a strong motivating factor that is naturally a part of humanity.

    You are absolutely right that some teachers have the ability to inspire great things like enthusiasm, motivation, and creativity in their students, but these things must exist within the possibilities, or make-up of that person's soul to begin with. (Which is exactly what I took your meaning to be.......:D)

    ooc

    * Innovation considered as an application, not as a concept, or when thought of as a trait one person may have. The latter two meanings would be difficult to pass on to someone else, unless they were open to a philosophical shift.......but an application of innovation certainly can.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2014
  5. Mark Mandell

    Mark Mandell

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    First, Odie, patents are not to withhold or hide knowledge. A patent is provided so that the creator of the object or process can preserve the commercial rights to the idea. That process, however, requires full and very detailed disclosure of the knowledge. "Trade Secrets" on the other hand, such as formulas (the recipe for Coke) or pricing structures that may confer competitive advantages are always kept under lock and key; some literally.

    Teaching in the Arts is at once far more and mush less that just sharing knowledge. On the base level it is mechanical instruction in 'How To' kinds of things; the kind of knowledge you speak about when woodturners share techniques or do demonstrations at symposia and such.

    The tough part of teaching is acting as a guide for each student to help them find and harness their own creative core. Everyone has it, people who we regard as artists have more easily gotten in touch with and tapped that personal core. This is where the student must take charge of their own "lessen" so that everything they make becomes a learning experience, and everything they do carries some excitement as they give physical existence to their idea and discover what the idea really looks like.

    I can teach someone how to draw, carve, use a potter's wheel, use a wood lathe, or any of a bunch of processes that can be used to give expression to a creative idea. I can help someone analyze what they are doing and help them select a mode or methods that may be more likely to produce the result they seek. It was up to the student, however, to decide how or what to use what I gave them.
     
  6. odie

    odie

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    Mark and Bill.......

    Good point about the patent comment......."trade secret" would have been a much better example of my meaning. This is a very minor thing, and most readers are going to understand what was intended.

    Many readers are going to understand the main meaning of my message, and there are those who don't......it was expected from the start.

    ooc
     
  7. Owen Lowe

    Owen Lowe

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    Odie,
    I basically agree and would be surprised if there weren't turners who protect their ideas, techniques, (and wood sources). But, as Bill commented, it’s a Catch-22 situation; you can’t show anyone your innovative work without risking they’ll reverse engineer the idea. Creative people are very good at this. They may not take it back to the same tools, materials, or techniques, but they will come up with some way to replicate the end result.

    I think the secretiveness stems from lack of parental attention and approval. The adult basks in the short term praise the work generates, however, in time, as others replicate the work, embitterment and crotchetiness is reinforced. </mostly-tongue-in-cheek ;)>
     
  8. Grant Wilkinson

    Grant Wilkinson

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    You've raised an interesting topic, Odie.

    There was a similar discussion some time ago an international penturners forum.

    Two issues were raised there that are germaine here, I think.

    The first was that there could be a natural inclination to keep your techniques or methods secret when you are in a competitive commercial environment. It would not be shocking to think that someone who really did develop a new technique for turning pens or other turned items, and who sold their end products, would want to keep that technique to himself/herself. Their livelihood may depend on having something for sale that is different from the competition.

    The second issue raised in that other forum was the seeming expectation that someone showing a new design should immediately post a step by step tutorial on how it was accomplished. There were those who were quite upset when their request for such a tutorial, including pictures, was refused.

    My experience is that, without exception, when I've asked a more experienced turner for advice on how to tackle a problem that I'm having, the response was always gracious and generous to a fault. However, I think that I would be in the wrong if I took the position that such information sharing was somehow an obligation on the one providing it.
     
  9. Richard Findley

    Richard Findley

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    Hi Odie

    I've been a member for quite a while but I've never been inspired to post until now.

    As a bit of an introduction, I'm a professional production turner based in the uk. You may know of me from my articles in Woodturning magazine.

    My personal opinion is that technique is so important and vastly over looked by the majority of hobbyists. Most turners don't want to practice technique, most don't have time. They see a piece in a magazine or online and want to have a go. They then try to work out how to do it. There's nothing wrong with this approach but there can be an element of luck in the outcome. With good technique you can achieve pretty much whatever you want to.

    Going back to the op, as a demonstrator I teach mostly technique (on the way to achieving a final goal) most people appreciate this approach although some feel it can be a bit basic. Personally, I'm not a particularly artistic turner, IMO, you can only really teach technique, the rest is down to imagination and creativity. Combining various techniques with imagination to make something new. You can't teach creativity or imagination.

    Just my thoughts. I'll be watching this thread with interest.

    Richard
     
  10. Peter Guglielmetti

    Peter Guglielmetti

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    There may be one other perspective overlooked here, the ability to convey these methods to someone else. There are those that can perform greatness but could not teach, or explain how they accomplished their works in terms others understand.
     
  11. Ian Robertson

    Ian Robertson

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    You echo my sentiments exactly.
     
  12. Brian McInturff

    Brian McInturff

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    Odie,
    I'm not sure the "seasoned" turner is going to not share his tip or technique. If he is seasoned and afraid to share then that just shows some insecurities on their part.their name, recognition, and above all else, their confidence should keep them from doing that. I guess I could be wrong though...
     
  13. Sergio Villa

    Sergio Villa

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    I'm old enough to remember the fifties and early sixties when the old artisans still existed in Rome, the city where I grew up. As a kid I liked to spend time in the cabinet making shop under my apartment and spend a few hours a week there. The maestro was kind enough to let me stay and... watch. Yes watch.
    You must steal the "mestiere" (art, craft, etc) with your eyes the adagio went.
    Unfortunately that generation is disappearing and very few pupils left. Too little money in craft.

    Technique is extremely important, number one I should say mainly to be safe, and that was said by the maestro, like never do this, never do that...but it was never said a positive like do this in this way or that in that way. The all idea that was going on in every "bottega" since ancient time was that if one does not get the "mestiere" with his own eyes he is not fit for that craft.

    Now something else is going on. There is more people that make things for pleasure rather that for a living and the professional craftman must teach to make a living. It is a radical change.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2014
  14. Mark Mandell

    Mark Mandell

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    Peter, you're right on the edge of the old saying of
    "Them who can't (do it), teach others how." [There's a corollary that I need not go to.] There seems to be an institutionalized concept that you can park your brain at the door when you go to art class (or shop or music, etm). When I taught, I got tagged to travel in the system and do in-service for staff in other schools. I was shocked at how little other art teachers were able to visually analyze and then verbally explain a given piece. They were quite willing to speak about process and technique, but when asked to talk about an example of a project, they'd "run home" to talk, and make judgments about, how well the technique was used. It was clear that all they had been taught to teach was the "how to" side of things.

    The arts in the U.S. are woefully undervalued in our education system. I've gone head-to-head with administrators who openly display the attitude that the only things that come out of the art rooms are dirt and loud music. (I actually threw a Superintendent of Schools out of my ceramics class. He an I later became rather good friends.) It has resulted in another homily
    "I don't know nuthin' 'bout Art, but I know what I like."
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2014
  15. odie

    odie

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    I've been out to the shop for the past few hours, and just returned for dinner.....

    There has been quite a few great posts entered since I left. Some great thinking material here. Thanks.

    I do have one comment about reverse engineering. If the end product were different than the same product produced by someone else......then, yes.....reverse engineering would be applicable. Now, let's just say that you've discovered how to produce a widget that holds tolerance standards tighter than others can make. Other than that, there is no difference. To my thinking, it would be impossible to reverse engineer a product that has achieved a goal that others who are making the exact same product only wish they could do......How can you "reverse engineer" that?

    In terms that are applicable to those on this forum, let's say you've developed a completely new grind shape for a gouge, along with a new way to use it. If the product you're making is a bowl (for instance), then others can certainly duplicate your shape and design........but, it is next to impossible to come up with the new gouge grind and the technique unique to that grind.:D

    Again......thanks for commenting everyone. It has been an interesting exchange.

    ooc
     
  16. Betty Scarpino

    Betty Scarpino

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    I am currently editing a project article that describes how to make an XXX. Except ... there are trade secrets for the inside of this object, which have been developed and perfected for years by various makers. Anyone can make an XXX, but it takes years to perfect the inside.

    Normally, I would want the author (a professional turner) to reveal all techniques and "secrets." In this case, however, the real beauty of the various XXX's is their individuality. So, in my opinion, the author is doing us a favor by giving general instructions, but not specific directions for making his XXX.

    It's been my observation (and pleasure!) that almost all turners share techniques. Owning techniques does not make a turner any better than any other turner, just different. The difference is how others use, combine, and apply the techniques he learns.

    Betty Scarpino, Editor (for a few more months :D), American Woodturner
     
  17. Gary Barone

    Gary Barone

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    I don't see myself as a top notch turner or do I see what I do new or different.I did not get lessens from no one. I do not wish to turn things like other do because I would be them. I do not mind helping others learn to turn and become who they are. and if I ever good or well known I will sell ya the book or dvd and you can be just like me too! when I gave guitar lessens and a young kid says to me I what to be just like johnny cash! and I said why don't you want to be you?
    GaryBaroneWoodturner on facebook
     
  18. Gary Barone

    Gary Barone

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    you are right betty
     
  19. Sergio Villa

    Sergio Villa

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    I agree only partially. As I said in my previous post, in the botteghe (shops) of the old artists and craftsman, the helper/s had to do all the chores like cleaning, sharpening, etc before doing some real work. When time came, usually after years of apprenticeship, after learning by watching and thus showing his/their interest and inclination for the art or craft he could start to do the "real" work. A little of what happened to Escoulen when he was apprenticing in his father shop and look at what he can do with the bedan!!
    Now we live in times in which crafts are generally an hobby and one week or two days or a few hours of school give anybody the "license" to be and do anything. I know people that believe they are loggers after having attended a couple of classes!

    If we look at the work of the old masters we realize that very few things are a really new, and mainly for technological advances and certainly not personal skill or expertise.

    The general technique of using the various tools helps in preventing injuries and learning the potentiality of the tools, and all this can be tought but beyond this there is little that one cannot learn by himself, or better with the help of books, videos, you tube etc. and just watching better turners.

    What Modigliani (my favorite "modern" painter) or Van Gogh had to teach? Nothing and all at the same time. Their picture are there for everybody to see in great detail. All their "secrets" are there, exposed to the public. What else could they tell us that is not already in their canvases?
     
  20. Gretch Flo

    Gretch Flo

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    "Trade secrets"

    What Modigliani (my favorite "modern" painter) or Van Gogh had to teach? Nothing and all at the same time. Their picture are there for everybody to see in great detail. All their "secrets" are there, exposed to the public. What else could they tell us that is not already in their canvases?[/QUOTE]

    How about something that you can't see, such as preservation of the masterpiece without deterioration of the paints??
    i.e "I am selling red box elder and I have a finish on it that absolutely won't fade and I'm not gonna reveal my secret formula".!!!!!!! BTW Gretch does not have a secret formula!!!!!!This has been an issue many times on this forum. Gretch
     

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