Hello! I’m a high school senior researching the dichotomy of informing others vs. keeping techniques proprietary in the art world. As an artist, do you have any comments on the practice of art tutorials and/or plagiarism?(If you don’t want to answer for whatever reason, don’t worry about it! Thank you for your time)
Speaking as a glass artist, our community has a long history with this subject of debate! For many generations the art of working glass was a highly guarded secret among the craftsman guilds of Italy. The island of Murano is still world renowned today for the stunning handcrafted glassworks produced there and numerous glass masters who hail from there. At one point in history glass blowers who left the island were forbidden from ever working again because the skills of Murano glass making techniques were highly prized and guarded secrets. Murano glass makers maintained a monopoly in Europe for generations and became a large political trade power, but like all good secrets- the techniques of glassblowing slowly leaked out. By the 18th century many Murano glass factories closed and their glass makers faced unemployment as other European countries began to open their own factories producing glass. Eventually even American companies such as Tiffany (those old fancy glass lamps!) were producing fine glass arts. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that glassmaking became an openly taught practice that is accessible to studio artists (like me!). This change in the 1960’s was called the Studio Glass Movement, which you can read more about on Wikipedia (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studio_glass ). Even after this movement changed glass blowing and how it was viewed in the art world, most glass blowers still kept to their niche glass communities and many were still secretive about their techniques. In modern times we are now seeing that all change more with the explosion of the Glass Pipe Art movement. Glass artists are merging functional glass and scientific glass techniques with art in a new way which is pushing to not only spread glass art’s public popularity (especially in the pipe scene thanks to the legalization of marijuana in many places) but is also causing a huge spike in artists seeking to learn and teach glass making as artistic medium and trade. The glass scene is also changing thanks to new platforms for sharing such as social media and the internet in general. You can now watch hundreds of glass blowing tutorials on YouTube, discuss techniques and equipment with other glassblowers around the world on public and private forums, and buy equipment/materials online that were previously only available in a few places in the country. The open sourcing and sharing of so much information has caused an absolute boom in the amount of people interested in glass! The application rate of my college (the only college in the country with an accredited flame working glass program) saw a triple increase in the years I attended which warranted the building of a whole new larger facility which still became over crowded. The glass market has also increased with the opening of many new glass specific art galleries around the country as well as more museums and galleries opening their doors to the formerly taboo art of “Heady” pipe-making. There was even a documentary on this movement made called Degenerate Art which was on Netflix that helped make the art form better understood. Many glassblowers fear that the market growth is topping out while the surge of new glass makers is just beginning. I have talked to many other glass artists (who, like myself, started in the glass game more than 5 years ago- slightly before the giant boom in interest) that now fear the market will be over saturated by new upcoming glass blowers and that the price of collectible glass art will drop. However, many of us also believe that the drop will be temporary and there is a ton of speculation as to what will happen to our glass community the future. Personally I think that arguing to keep artistic techniques secret and proprietary is futile, especially in our modern age of communication. There is no island like Murano to isolate art and knowledge any longer. I think it is the natural progression for all knowledge to spread and that sharing techniques and skills among artist (and all people) can only help to expand our human means of expression. I think there is great room for expansion and growth when any learning is shared and I hope artists will keep sharing!
Sorry, I hope you wanted a long rant with an included history lesson when you asked this question. Lol