I know a person who worked in a paint store for a short time. As a newly hired salesperson, he was positive, enthusiastic, well intentioned, and loved helping people. But it didn't work out because he was color blind.
Surprising isn't it - a color blind person attempting to give advice in a paint store. It is common sense that giving quality advice requires not only an ability to "see" the material, but a foundation of experience or level of expertise to give credible advice. He was not just color blind, he was also "blind" to how he misrepresented himself and his proficiency.
Similar things are happening in the craft world with "workshop imposters".Somewhat related to the Guild of Unauthorized Sharing, the Workshop Imposter typically shows up in two forms:
- Imposters who copy and publish content from someone else's workshop.
- Imposters who offer to teach repeat workshops based on someone else's workshop.
The most common example is the Imposter who attends a workshop from an expert and then copies the workshop content or ideas as their own. They take the information created by the original tutor, then copy and publish the content without permission or citation on their own blog or website.
Often these are positive, enthusiastic, and well intentioned people, but they are blind to the ethical and legal ramifications of their Imposter actions. They may rationalize that they are trying to "help" their community, but they are also stealing content and falsely misrepresenting their expertise. Some even draft articles for magazines based almost entirely on content copied from workshops that they have attended.
Here is a true story from Lindly Haunani:
"My workshop was booked almost a year in advance and twenty-two excited
students were setting up. I took a break from setting out my samples and
demo materials to see why most of the class had gathered around one of
Behold.... steps 10-25 of the workshop I was teaching that weekend were displayed step-by-step in three full color, two page spreads in a magazine article.
It turns out that one of my students (from a previous workshop) had taken it upon herself to present it to the magazine as "original content" since she had added three more steps at the end. Using the same title as her magazine article, this same person had launched a new web site “so others could enjoy this new form of exercises to increase your speed and strength.” Now, that is UGLY!
I explained the situation to the workshop participants and let everyone know they were welcome to "cancel" their weekend workshop registration. Everyone stayed, with the realization that they would learn much more from me during a two-day hands on workshop than from a second-hand magazine tutorial."
The second type of Workshop Imposter goes even further by offering to "teach" a workshop based on someone else's workshop. However, in addition to the unethical and illegal behavior, they lack the depth of experience to give a quality workshop experience and diminish the gainful opportunities for the original workshop tutor.
Leila Bidler says: "If I pay someone to teach me poetry I expect them to know a whole lot
about poetry and to know the great poets that came before. Same when it
comes to Polymer Clay: if someone wants to teach they should know who
came before them - it's not like we're talking about "ages ago" we still
do have all the inventors and pioneers among us."
Andy Cooperman had a student take his workshop, and then called up to request permission to teach this same workshop. The student properly asked permission. That is "good". The idea was "ugly".
Here is how Cooperman responded: "It is my greatest hope and goal for students to generalize from the specific instance or technique that I have given them and to more broadly apply the information to other situations. I do not expect, however, for what I have taught to be offered as a workshop by someone who has taken mine. I offer the information for personal use."
I think most workshop masters would respond similarly.
As a community, we need to respect the effort expended and expertise required to master the skills, develop a workshop and the time and logistics devoted to preparation and teaching. Otherwise the core values of our community become undermined.
We should honor and reward the original authors and makers and support the incentives and professional recognition that motivates them to create and provide top quality workshops.Harriete Estel Berman