Wednesday, 9 October 2013

sharing and learning

The new buzz word is all about sharing...
I'm busy working on Albion Stitch book three for a publisher I have always wanted to work with, it is so exciting that I have finally arrived at this point. I have had quite a journey to get here. With my peers discussing sharing, I thought I'd tell the story...
When I took the simple picot and pushed it around into new shapes and patterns it seemed logical to give each part of the stitch, and the rows in between a name. This created a simple shorthand language as a way of describing the ways to re-create the stitch patterns. I gave it a name, Albion Stitch. Next I wanted to share what I'd done with the beading world, so I published the books. Anyone who has ever sat down to write a beading pattern will know that to write a whole book takes many months, and to finance the publishing of one is scary!
But I was in love with the new language and all the possibilities so much that it was fun to take the risks. It was also huge fun to teach the stitch, and to watch students, even beginners, reach for different beads and within a couple of hours start asking, 'what if?' and experimenting... not something I'd experienced when teaching other stitches.

I make it very clear in the introduction of the first book that 'If you are familiar with beadwork techniques you will recognise the elements of Albion Stitch: Picots strung together through the tips with the option of a single Peyote Stitch row to create different effects'.

As the books gained in popularity I began to receive requests from designers to use the stitch in their work and to publish designs. At first I asked if they could wait just to give me time to make my investment back and give the books a chance to sell first. Most were lovely about it and held off. Then I asked for a little more time as I felt I still had some more techniques with the stitch I wanted to publish.

My work also created some stormy responses, and some of those I didn't handle very well at all... which is where, I think, a discussion about sharing starts... because at first I really didn't want to share my baby!
Once or twice I was told about classes, one was lifted out of my book and the conversation went, 'Why did you publish a book if you don't want people to use the designs?' and me patiently explaining that lifting something out of a book and using it to make money is just plain wrong and would they do it with other books too? There were also the, 'Oh I've been doing that for years and it's just fringing, it's my work and just because it looks like something in your book, it's not'... Which of course, is reasonable in one way, and an uncomfortable blurring of the rules for both parties in another. Then there was the 'Oh you can't copyright a technique', No you can't, but you can develop one beyond what has gone before, and name the innovation, and surely then you're allowed to be known as the person who did?

I know that picots are not new, I really do! I also know that of course somewhere, sometime, someone will have played around with the same processes, may even have taught a few. This has been pointed out to me, sometimes gently, sometimes not. At best when there is the caveat that what I'm doing is at least fresh and interesting. At worst when it is dismissive to the point of denying me my creativity.

So there came the time for a really long hard think, because the run in's were debilitating, hurtful, and turning me into the person I didn't want to be. I thought about my ego and yes I did a little foot stamping and told myself that people might well have done a bit, but they left it right where it was for me to pick up and run with it, and boy did I run, and boy did it make a few cross!
I thought about the fascinating discussions I'd had in classes across the world. Gently and soothingly  the continuous trickle of enthusiastic emails from beaders who had bought and worked through my books. Slowly I wondered how to take the next, inevitable and only logical step:
Just let go...

Which is how I began the new journey for Albion Stitch, a website where I could share the technique as I've developed it. To invite designers inspired by the work I've already laid out to show and share; a blog where I could share links to their pages and to show students works and have a gallery. Yes it would be OK to have links to buy my books and patterns; but there would also be free patterns and an open invitation, truly and honestly open, to pick up the ball and run with it so the fun could begin all over again. A calm filled me up at the thought of giving out being so much more fun than what felt like defending a sandcastle with the tide coming in!

So, is up, growing slowly because I'm no great shakes at website building and there are weeks when I search for a way to code a page so it will show what I want it to... beyond frustrating, but steep learning curves are. I've got a free pattern or two ready, sent them out to beaders to have an explore, in the hopes that images will come back of their pieces for the gallery.

In the end, what would be glorious would be for Albion Stitch to quietly slip into the dialogue of stitches every beader has in their repertoire as a way of talking about picots, or laced together fringing.