Attribution, Thanks, Continuance
Attribution, Thanks, Continuance – The Ramble
This ramble concerns attribution, as well as certain liberties we take here at Golden Witch. If you write to us through the contact form on the GW website, or through any of our business emails, you may be quoted – we attribute your name to your words. If you’re a nice person, this won’t bother you. If you’re a bad apple, well, so much the worse for you. There’s also a bit of soapbox grandstanding on the themes of acknowledging debt, saying thanks, and teaching others as the only true path forward.
Recently, I expanded the section titled “Quoting” which falls under the Shipping Rates, Terms, & Conditions section within the “Shop” tab on the GW website. If you dig around for it, you’ll find it. It’s like fine print, but instead of being impenetrable legalese concocted by an army of lawyers, it’s a bunch of full-size text on subjects you may or may not care to delve into. This particular “paragraph” caught the eye of one reader and he requested that we make a blog post out of our not-so-fine print so that more folks would see it. Bam. Done. That was easy.
QUOTING: This is about us quoting you, not financial quotes. We reserve the right to quote your emails to the company. Normally, we edit out anything personal, cut the quote down to size to fit the rotating “quote” block on the product pages, and edit minor typos…we never alter your meaning. If we post without obtaining explicit permission, we only quote nice thoughts, nicely worded…pretty general, but sincerely appreciated, words. In some cases where your quotes may be particularly extravagant, we will email for permission to quote your wording and it’s perfectly fine if you decline; these would be cases where you rave about a particular product in a vivid and memorable way…the sort of thing we love to hear, but which you may or may not want broadcast widely (e.g., “I want to wear your Hexagates as jewelry!”). We generally protect your identity by hiding your last name behind an initial, and hiding your specific location behind your country; however, we will sometimes quote your full name and offer business contact information if you are an industry professional or serious hobbyist who offers services and/or advice/instruction within the rodmaking community. If ever you resent the fact that we quoted your kind words, for goodness sake’s please send us an email and we’ll drop the quote, with apologies for our presumptuousness. That said, if you ask us a question that leads, say, to a ramble on our website, we will keep your name posted and associated with the ramble and/or specific, related product text. That’s fair in two senses. First, you helped your fellow rodmakers by asking a question we felt compelled to answer in some specific, detailed way that merited repeating more broadly and we want to acknowledge you. Second, to be perfectly blunt, posting the information as a ramble protects us in case the information eventually winds up being quoted, re-posted, used as the partial basis for a presentation at a rod gathering, or that sort of thing. The info we share through rambles is usually quite nuanced, and if all the details aren’t shared, the results can be less than ideal. Further, I am a strong believer in the notion of giving credit where credit is due. Coming to any perceived expert for information, if you receive the information requested, bestows alongside that knowledge a perfect obligation to be forthright about your source, unless your source requested anonymity. Whether you write to Golden Witch, or another rodmaker, an educator, a restorationist, an author…if someone shares material with you that you then use for your benefit and the benefit of others, please learn to say more than a mere “Thank you.” Learn to tip your hat. I do it all the time in conversation, and I’ll do it here by way of example. Thank you to my students and my clients – your questions push the limits of my own craft abilities and my knowledge on a weekly basis. Thank you to my family, my staff, and my business associates who all help GW to function; you know who you are and how integral each of you has become. Thank you to Skip Morris and L.A. Garcia (extra big thanks to L.A. !!) who, along with Dale Clemens and his team, Dick French in particular, got me off to a good start with graphite rod building. Thank you to Michael Simon & his buddy Michel Fontan, for insight into bamboo rods and feather inlays, respectively…and later the paintings and the article which Michael created and authored. Thank you to Michael Sinclair for restoration information and much more. Thank you to Andy Royer for so much related to understanding bamboo and the bamboo marketplace. Thank you to Daryll Whitehead for a debt of knowledge that can never be fully repaid, except by working inside this craft and doing exactly what he did: sharing knowledge. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it were not for Daryll. He’s so critical, I can say with a cracked smile, if you don’t like the GW project and everything that flows from it inside the bamboo industry, blame Daryll. 😉 If you do appreciate GW, thank him. There are innumerable others and if you and I talk and some particular topic comes up, I’ll do my best to say the name of the man who shared a bit of knowledge, or at least I’ll say, “oh, one of the guys who wrote to GW told me about that technique.” What I’m not is a self-professed expert. I know a few limited, contingent things that might be useful for others to know. I learned them by reading widely, listening intently, watching others more masterful than myself, and then playing in my shop. If I write something and you’re a jeweler, you might recognize a debt I owe to Tim McCreight or to Alan Revere…I’ve read so much of their work, that their ideas may subconsciously flow as my own when I’m instructing, so here’s my hat tip to them. If you borrow ideas, and you do, please tip your hat whenever you have the chance. Let’s build a community of shared knowledge, not a false archipelago of seeming experts all denying that just below the surface lies a vast web of borrowed understanding. To give some sense for the vastness, the previous sentence was colored by the book authored and titled by another, far more famous, angler, Ernest Hemingway. Specifically, “For Whom The Bell Tolls.” And his title was borrowed from a line of John Donne’s poetry, “never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” Here’s Donne’s piece:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
Accept it or deny it, for centuries, nay, millennia, some have recognized what we all should. We rely on each other, so at the end of the day, we’re either borrowing and thanking and continuing to share, or we’re stealing.
While that’s the end of the “Quoting” section in the terms & conditions, it really shouldn’t be the end of the conversation. I almost ended that long thing with, “Don’t be a thief.” But the truth is I don’t think 99% of you need that admonition because, simply, you’re not so inclined. Thank goodness. Most of us, as rodmakers, craftsmen, sportsmen, have an intensely strong tendency toward decency and sharing. Perhaps this is because we wouldn’t have gotten where we are if others hadn’t shared with us. Very few magi arise, ex nihilo, from the ether, or emerge speaking in parables as they stride from the womb. Craftsmen are not mystics who divine techniques from the rushing waters, shifting sands, or breezy air. We are, at best, attentive, persistent people who observe, who ask, who learn, who strive, and fail, strive again, and self-criticize, and obsess, and who may emerge making a product that is uniquely our own, or a talented series of riffs on themes laid down by our forebears. We are not holy. We are mundane and dependent. Momentarily, we may be bleeding edge or leading edge. We may be the best. For a day, or a month. But in the end we are history and merely someone else’s antecedent. And who, for you, were your antecedents, yours predecessors? In the genealogy of your own rodmaking, who taught you? And who taught your teacher? For me, it was a group of authors, followed by Daryll Whitehead in the flesh (and Daryll learned from Dawn Holbrook). Never have I claimed to be self-taught. I read every single thing published that I could get my hands on, and I learned a lot of facts and accepted quite a few myths as truths, until experience taught me otherwise. But I started with shared information…Dale Clemens before all others. And then many others. I probably had a rod crafting library fifteen or twenty books deep before I pestered my way into Daryll’s shop. Even in those dark ages when there was not the internet as we know it today, there were still resources. Marty Keane’s book, the Garrison/Carmichael “bible,” L.A. Garcia’s impeccably illustrated how-to. Books on fiberglass, graphite, bamboo, restorations. Old books, like Herter’s. Contemporary journals, such as The Planing Form. And soon there were new books like “The Lovely Reed” and “Fundamentals…” Before long I jumped in with a few DVDs on the subject. Soon information was flowing from a dozen sources because there were hundreds, then thousands, of curious souls investigating the craft, asking questions, learning, and creating a market for rodmaking education. I taught classes for several years on bamboo blank making, finishing bamboo rods, and building graphite rods in a more classic style. Nothing I was doing was new. Back in the day Frank Armbruster had a little pamphlet he offered with tips on getting involved in bamboo rodmaking. Many rodmakers I know have stories like my own. They discovered they lived near a rodmaker and they made phone calls, or knocked on a door, or sent a letter. They sought to be an apprentice of sorts, and that required a master. There were masters aplenty, men with skills who, if they were reluctant to share, were only reluctant because of the many seekers that do come knocking, only a few are willing to suffer through a year or so of regular learning. If the masters stood back a little, or didn’t hang out a sign, it was because they wanted to teach the folks who didn’t need an invitation, who were driven to probe one step beyond the silence or the polite refusal. But for everyone who probed, men like Daryll stepped up and taught. These are the men who deserve our thanks. Be sure you thank the person who taught you. Then honor that person by teaching someone else. Continue the craft. Tip your hat now. Someday somewhere, maybe even unknown to you, someone will tip their hat in your direction. Don’t be the person who borrows a great idea and calls it his own. Be the person who takes a great idea, acknowledges the source or sources of inspiration, and makes that his (or her!) own by extending or modifying the concept, for that one fine period in your life when you are creative between mastery and senescence. Make the combined ideas of this craft your own as one iterative step in a process that isn’t likely to end with you atop any pinnacle. If you want to move further, you must move through the students you teach. They are your continuance, your legacy.
I believe there is great honor is saying, “I am part of this heritage, this lineage, and I’ve contributed to the continuation of my chosen craft; here are my debts, and here are my thanks, and these are the makers who learned something from me. If they teach others, all is well.”
Enough for now.