Join me....

I believe that art enriches and informs our lives everyday in many positive ways. Sharing those experiences, whether as an artist or as an appreciator, is part of the pleasure. I welcome your comments and hope you find something of value: a laugh, an insight, a new idea or just a happy moment. Enjoy art!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Trade Secrets

"What are the secrets of your trade?
What would you lose by sharing them with others?
What would you gain?

by Austin Kleon)

I love doing the exercises in Kleon's wonderful journal which he refers to as "a notebook for creative kleptomaniacs."  But the question above really spoke to me due to an experience I had yesterday in a booth at a local country fair.  I was so taken aback that I even discussed it with my husband.

I noted a tent display featuring printed leaves that appeared to be similar to what I have done to produce notecards (in fact this is prime gathering time of flora for future steamings) so I went in to have a closer look.  She had lovely things, mostly single leaf prints on paper, matted, framed and identified as to tree species.  Cousins to what I do but not exactly the same.  I was very admiring as I noticed that she had a lovely black color on a few that I never seem to get.  

in process, some leaves still on paper 

So I posed a question:

"Do you treat these leaves with..."
She interrupted me explaining that the leaves are all natural and that what I see is the print she gets.

"Yes," I said.  "I do this same process but I never get that cool black.  Do you dip the leaf..."

....and before I could say "iron bath" she abruptly turned and walked away leaving me chatting to myself.

Why?  I saw no other customer.  I don't think anything I said was an insult.  All I could assume was that she was not into sharing 'trade secrets.'  

leaf prints before drying

What a shame.  I'd have been delighted to share with her how to get the fabulous sumac print seen above (she only showed maples) and I would have had fun telling her about a few failures I experienced as well (thus saving her a similar waste of precious time).  Was she afraid of competition?  Silly, I think, as in a quick glance around the fair and I saw many, many potters and a ton of painters all seemingly offering slightly different work.  Did she believe she had more to lose by chatting with me than to gain?

A pity.

In galloping through so many different art fields I have found that those who share (i.e. those with the self confidence to answer questions and trade techniques) are truly the most accomplished.  Is this because their own attitude promotes the exchange of ideas that enables growth for both parties?  Perhaps so.  Or is it that their kindness in sharing makes people want to do business with them.  Of course.

Art is not rocket-science, it is not a proprietary algorhythm which unlocks the secrets to the universe.  Art always bears the signature of its maker even when the same techniques are used.  Anyone who accomplishes anything creative stands on the shoulders of those who came before them.  It is my experience that those who fail to share will have karma to answer to.

But how do you feel about this topic? I may be all you share your trade secrets: formulas, recipes, techniques or methods? why or why not?

I'll get off my soapbox!


p.s. Where did I spend my money?  Funny, but it was with the women who were showing some cool hats and were tickled when I asked a question about the process.  They were happily explainging how they made them as they proceded to cash! 


  1. Truly one of my favorite posts ever

  2. Thanks Julia - this posting struck a chord, I’ve had lots of feedback. Apparently woodturners don’t share but everyone else does. The rare artist who refuses...I’ll share some of the comments soon.


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