The Storyteller Tells Her Story. Part the Third.
A Three-Part Art Bead Scene Interview with Beadmaker and Jewelry Designer Nina Bagley
In this third and final post installment continuing my on-line conversation with Nina Bagley, I went even further beyond the questions from the set that are usually asked of Jewelry Designers on Art Bead Scene blog, past her inspirations, aspirations and what’s next for her designs, and directly to a subject that has some controversy and is thought-provoking for all of us who are creative makers, about the role of teachers and students, and the sometimes difficult path to finding one’s own voice and expression.
As many of us do, Nina has a request on her blog reserving her original photographs and words against use without her permission.
Nina teaches at Artfest, Valley Ridge Art Studio in Wisconsin and at Art and Soul Asilomar in 2009 and recently returned to her home from teaching in 2008 at Ocracoke, so she has a deep well of experience from which to speak about this topic.
Nina did not back away from having a very frank discussion about this highly debated and well-considered issue. I’ve seen well-known jewelry design magazines and publications devote large parts of their ‘Letters to the Editor’ section discussing the boundaries and limits of copyrights and respect for others’ originality of design. Nina has been deeply involved in this thought process, and here’s what she shared about the subject with all of us.
How do you encourage the process of finding one’s own voice to express new ideas?Okay. Are you ready for my soapbox?
This is a very sensitive subject for me, and one in which I take a very strong stand. This stand has cost me friends, blog readers, and relationships with a certain magazine in which I once frequently published my work.
It is a subject that has also caused me to step back, reevaluate the teaching part of my income and has caused me to reach the very risky decision of cutting greatly back in that regard. I do teach techniques, and have been told by countless students that I am very generous with what I share. My classes fill without fail, so I know that I’m satisfying their needs, I know that they’ve left the workshops happy and rewarded, because there are many, many loyal students who return again and again to take my classes.
What bothers me deeply is the level of imitation that I’ve seen surface in this art community in the last couple of years. There is a similarity of style out there now that greatly resembles my own designs, and I find myself questioning which came first – my work, or theirs?
There have been quite a few instances of students taking my workshops, then proceeding to submit artwork and instructions for magazine publication. There have been workshop designs that have been submitted while I’m still teaching that project, that design, and the publishers have no problem publishing these knock off “creations”, in spite of my consistent protests.
Yes, I teach techniques; yes, I encourage students to go forth and make designs of their own. What I do not encourage, and what I warn against, is a student leaving a workshop and then beginning to create jewelry that is alarmingly similar to my design in style, in “feel”.
I’ve written publishers regarding this topic, and have been completely ignored. I want people to create after my workshops, very strongly; what I want even stronger is for them to develop their own style, one that is uniquely their own. What is so wrong, so selfish, with that?
Yet I’ve been talked about with great disdain over this topic, over my taking a firm stand for what I believe is morally wrong.
And with this, I heave a huge sigh. Writing these words will most assuredly just stir up more grief and conflict, will cause uproars in certain little circles. It hurts when I’m accused of being “mean”, when I’ve ridiculously been threatened with a lawsuit, when I receive the occasional nasty anonymous letter, when an acquaintance calls me long distance several times and urges me to confront certain designers, and then inexplicably turns on me.
Someone wrote a comment [on my blog] that I should “expect” my designs to show up in students’ work if I teach classes, that I should stop complaining. And my response to that, as I’ve already said, is that I teach techniques – not style.
And now, those very same designers are now teaching classes, with the same style and techniques, of their own.Thankfully, those people are few, and I stand firm in my conviction … part of the price of being published with frequency, I suppose, for all these years, of filling classes successfully, of selling my jewelry consistently.
But the conflict is a very uncomfortable and difficult burden to bear.
ABS: Thank you so very much, Nina, for the insights and background about your beautiful handmade jewelry, hand bound books and all your other inventive creations, and for being willing to discuss every kind of topic without withholding.
It was such fun thinking about questions I’d like to ask you if we were sitting down together at tea, and you answered so generously, honestly and graciously!
Lynn, thank you for inviting me to be interviewed; and thank you for asking such insightful, thought-provoking questions. It was a pleasurable way to spend the greater part of my Sunday morning.
Now? On to cleaning up that studio!!!! xo
This concludes the three-part interview with Nina Bagley for Art Bead Scene, I hope you’ve enjoyed it and it has caused you to think about things you might not have considered, and sparked new sources of inspiration. I was privileged to have this conversation with her, and look forward to all her new designs and ongoing creative outpouring in 2009.
Posted by Lynn Davis – with deep gratitude to Nina Bagley for her participation and her past, present and future gifts – All photos courtesy of Nina Bagley (copyright 2009)