Author Topic: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade  (Read 20900 times)

Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #30 on: August 23, 2015, 12:41:43 PM »
The concern about beginners who turn around and start teaching is not a new concern. There have always been teachers who know very little, but either want to share the craft or preserve the tradition, so they start teaching. Their hearts are in the right place. They may teach a class or two, but they do not have anything to offer beyond the little bit they have learned. So, they are not a serious threat to the community of truly top notch teachers. The current crop of *faux* teachers on the internet will fall by the wayside because they won't have anything to teach beyond their introductory class. Serious students quickly find out who the quality teachers are. It's a pretty self-regulating system. The internet has made it easier to find the quality teachers.

Several years ago, many of us were approached to contribute to the book Calligraphy for Dummies. Many of us politely declined. The publishers eventually found some people to contribute and the book is silly at best. The online courses that suggest you can take a class and start earning money - or start teaching - are just as silly. They are not a serious threat. Nothing is going to change.

All of the top notch scribes with whom I am acquainted are not concerned with anyone putting them out of business. I have had the good fortune of hosting many of them and while they too would like to see high skill levels in people who are teaching, they are gracious about the topic. If you live in a large metropolitan area, you have access to guilds who bring in top notch teachers. If you live in Smalltown, Midwest, you might have to take a class with someone who is simply trying to share a craft. There is no harm in people practicing an art or craft on a DIY level. Trust me. This is not a new topic. The sky is not falling. Quality classes will always be available to those who want them and are willing to travel to get them. The internet has only made it easier for the quality teachers to offer their services.

The *faux* calligrapher-teachers are not a serious threat, just as Bob Ross was never a serious threat to fine art.

« Last Edit: August 23, 2015, 12:44:01 PM by jeanwilson »

Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #31 on: August 23, 2015, 01:12:05 PM »
I am sorry there is so much pain among the professional calligraphers.  Loss of business and revenue is a serious matter.   But do you know that less experienced calligraphers are getting your customers, vs laser printers, for example? 

The internet has given amateur artists a forum to show and sell their work that wasn't  there before.  Handmade cards that used to be sold at local craft fairs and church bazaars are now being sold on the internet through Etsy and personal websites.  I dont know that the customers of these businesses were ever the same customers as the professional calligraphers.  If anything, the internet improves the appreciation of fine work because now we can see it and compare.  20 years ago you would have a hard time even finding a professional calligrapher.

I dont think this issue is specific to calligraphy.  Probably many crafts and services are seeing the same thing. Do amateur watercolorists ruin the market for the well trained professionals?

I am not aware of any of my colleagues who have been losing business to the young wannabes. In general, we have been getting more business. I also get some good jobs from panicked brides who hired a wannabes on Etsy and then the wannabes couldn't get the job done, so, I get the job at a rush fee rate. All the better for me.

No, the amateurs are not ruining anything for the trained professionals. I think the people who are having trouble are the ones who have a dream but they forgot to do a reality check. If you have one wave of success and then your business falls off, you have to figure out how to catch the next wave. Success is not a spot on a pedestal. With any creative career, you have to work to keep your business on top. Fresh new talent (or fresh new lunatics) will always be chasing the dream. If the public decides that the lunatic styles are hot, you have to deal with it. You can't just cry in your soup.

Somewhere, online, there is a wonderful article about Herb Lublin and how he has maintained through all the years. If this topic is still going next week, I'll look for it and post a link. Or maybe someone else can find it.
 

Offline Nickkih

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #32 on: August 23, 2015, 02:23:17 PM »
Great points Jean. I agree with you and Erica. I know the serious calligraphers take pride in preserving the craft and the work they do I consider myself one of them. But I do teach a introduction class ($65 for 3 hours) and Jean you're right, I'm about to add another class in using your calligraphy for projects birthday cards etc. it's total DYI but I'm cool with that I love it actually. But beyond those two classes I have nothing to offer because I too am still learning.
I do however make sure I  load up the  students with all the information to further their study.
I think for me I wish some who are teaching took the responsibility more seriously because I busted my ass in making the packet and every detail that went into creating that class so when I see people not doing that -  I get angry! but I can't control if they don't. I can only hope!!!! 

What I have a BIG problem with is the approach to sell classes like a direct sales company, Mary Kay comes to mind. Fly to Paris, buy a new car etc. real life just isn't that way. Not even in Mary Kay. Any type of sales work is hard. You work all the time! Even a small notary business which I have, took me 2 years to build up. It took sacrifice and continued education. It's the same here. So when I see "be a calligrapher, own your own business, have more free time for your kids, family trips,  it's all crap! I hate seeing people jump on the calligraphy teaching bandwagon for financial gain only. I'm a very honest person so deception in any field burns me.  How I describe calligraphy to my class is "it will take you 200 times to get a perfect lower case a but the sense of accomplishment of getting that a is AWESOME and you'll find yourself chasing that feeling again and again. Because calligraphy is about us as individuals that's why we do it. So to sell it any other way is flat out wrong!!!!
.
That being said - I do love all the interest in calligraphy and arts in general. I think a lot of people are seeing cursive not being taught in schools and electronics has taken over our lives and time after time I hear people in my classes say "I've always wanted to learn and I need something for myself away from computers, traffic, meetings, kids etc. You see that with a rise in farmers markets and fresh ingredients - people want to take control back. That is a GREAT thing.

Here is something really encouraging - two months ago I changed my class packet. I wanted to see how many would choose Traditional copperplate over Modern. So my lesson plan now has both copperplate and modern side by side. So for example I have A traditional "a" and a modern "a" side by side. And I say to them " it's up to you if you want to try both great, if you only like modern then do that, same with traditional. To my surprise every class is divided in half with my last class being the exception. half want modern and half prefer traditional even though traditional is  a little harder. This surprised me because I was almost certain that people where signing up for modern only. My last class everyone preferred traditional Copperplate. That really made me happy.  I find that very encouraging in that traditional isn't going anywhere. But modern might not stand the test of time. Just thought I would share

Thanks for listening to me rant 😂
« Last Edit: August 23, 2015, 11:06:06 PM by Nickkih »
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Offline Briana

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #33 on: August 24, 2015, 04:06:51 PM »
I subscribe to your blog, Erica your post arrived in my mailbox.  It was very powerful, especially on the heels of Iampeth.  The contributions to this thread have also been very thoughtful and affirming.  I hope my thoughts don't throw a fox in the chicken house. 

The one thing nobody has mentioned and the thing that keeps coming to mind is that the established calligraphers of today, the ones doing quality work and being paid for it, all started somewhere. I doubt the quality of their work 'then' was what it is today. Though I can't always do what I know, I'm learning real quality when I see it  ;), and feel just a little depressed when I see work for sale that is clearly inferior, or worse yet, used as an example for fee based classes taught by people who mistakenly believe they "have this thing."  But again, everyone starts somewhere.  Hopefully, those who begin to make money before it is justified, continue to hone their craft and continue to learn.  As for teaching, I'm sure we've all heard the adage, 'teach what you want to learn.' 


When I first learned calligraphy, I took classes at a nearby college from a woman (Susie-Melissa Cherry) who's been in the industry since she was young. In her 6-week intermediate class, she teaches *projects* that you can do with your calligraphy, and she teaches you how to run prints and copies and learn about paper and colors, etc. I loved this class, because it took "here's how to write beautifully" to a new stage of "and here's what you can do with it!"

She also talks about pricing, and I loved her approach: "Your time and skill is valuable, and if someone asks you to make something for them, you can charge. Charge based on your skill level. This is how much I charge after almost 30 years of practice, and this is how much I suggest you charge as a beginner. Then increase your prices over time as you become more skilled."

I really believe anyone doing any sort of craft can and should (if they want) make money that way, because you're right...you have to start somewhere. The problem I see is when people at a low-skill level want to make high-skill level money right away without putting in the effort, time, and dedication. OR, when someone with a low-skill level markets themself as something beyond that, which is confusing for a general population with limited knowledge on whatever the subject is. Both of these practices create all the problems people have been mentioning: flooded markets, distorted pricing, lowered expectations, whatever.

All trades and crafts go through something similar I think. Trends come and go, and with them so do the crowds of followers. That being said...anyone excited that bell bottoms are back in fashion?!
Briana, aka Pickles 'N Vodka-- landscape designer, aspiring calligrapher, top-notch goofball
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Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #34 on: August 24, 2015, 06:41:14 PM »
And it's generally my opinion that if people are willing to spend money on you, then you should be allowed to sell. That's not to say one might feel they shouldn't anyway, but that doesn't mean that someone else should be telling them they can't sell their calligraphy. I get why it bothers you Erica, from the perspective of someone whose been in the field far before it's current rising trend, and I can appreciate that, I just don't whole-heartedly agree with you.

I get that and we just disagree in a way. I definitely agree anyone is allowed to sell or start a business. I never said that. If I wasn't clear in the original post, there is no sense in rehashing my point. But thank you for sharing your perspective.  :)
Truly, Erica
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Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #35 on: August 24, 2015, 07:25:55 PM »
The online courses that suggest you can take a class and start earning money - or start teaching - are just as silly. They are not a serious threat. Nothing is going to change.

 ??? I will enjoy having this conversation again in a year or two after the hundreds of people who sign up for the "silly" classes have all launched their businesses.  ;D Or even a small percentage of the thousands on IG decide to start a business. Let's not forget amateurs eventually become skilled (or at least I hope they do.) I hope for everyone's sake the calligraphy market just keeps expanding with them.

I'm not even in the calligraphy market anymore. I think it was pretty clear in my post, I don't want to discourage anyone from learning calligraphy, teaching calligraphy, or starting a business if they want.

If anyone is paying attention, there is a whole new entrepreneurial market, with thousands of women eager to start a business and make a living, especially in the wedding industry. There are women cleaning up teaching others how to do just that. Their workshops are selling out. And even those seminars include calligraphy as a part of that.

I am only suggesting people consider their skill levels and if they can contribute to the market/community in a quality way before they jump on the bandwagon. I think that's a pretty reasonable sentiment.

If the number of personal emails I received from other professional calligraphers is any indication, I'm not the only one concerned.  ;)
Truly, Erica
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Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #36 on: August 24, 2015, 07:33:32 PM »
I also get some good jobs from panicked brides who hired a wannabes on Etsy and then the wannabes couldn't get the job done, so, I get the job at a rush fee rate. All the better for me.

No, the amateurs are not ruining anything for the trained professionals.

This is exactly what I am talking about... It may be all the better for you, but it is HORRIBLE for those brides! I can only imagine the stress that creates. And the money wasted. THIS is what I mean about preserving the trade. This exactly!
Truly, Erica
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Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #37 on: August 24, 2015, 07:44:58 PM »
That being said...anyone excited that bell bottoms are back in fashion?!

LOL ... again?! Boy, that must mean I'm really getting old as this is at least the 3rd time around that I've seen!  ;D
Truly, Erica
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Offline Elisabeth_M

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #38 on: August 24, 2015, 09:17:33 PM »
I am only suggesting people consider their skill levels and if they can contribute to the market/community in a quality way before they jump on the bandwagon. I think that's a pretty reasonable sentiment.

If the number of personal emails I received from other professional calligraphers is any indication, I'm not the only one concerned.  ;)

It is a reasonable sentiment and I can understand where you are coming from.  As a scientist, I feel the same way about the way science is often taught in schools.  Kids grow up thinking they hate science because they are being taught by people who can't do much more than have them memorize a bunch of random facts and formulas*.  It drives me and other scientists absolutely crazy because children have a natural instinct for scientific investigation (how does this work?  what happens if I take it apart?  why is the sky blue?  why?) that is being crushed with poor teaching.

Unfortunately, though, the conversation often stalls at "x is not being done well and this is a problem for the field."  I'm all for identifying a problem and even for debating whether or not there is a problem, but when I say, "So, what are we going to do about it?" people look at me in surprise.  "What?  Do about it?  I'm not the one causing the problem."

So, if there are people out there who are doing really shoddy work or misrepresenting the dedication required to become skilled in calligraphy, what can the professional calligraphy community do to combat that problem?  This forum is one example of what can be done--giving less skilled calligraphers a place to interact with people who are very skilled helps maintain a certain level of professionalism and quality in the field.  But is there more that could be done?  If so, what?

*There are, of course, some amazing teachers out there who do an excellent job of teaching science--I'm absolutely not saying there aren't.
Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.  --Carl Sagan

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Offline Elisabeth_M

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #39 on: August 24, 2015, 09:20:37 PM »
All trades and crafts go through something similar I think. Trends come and go, and with them so do the crowds of followers. That being said...anyone excited that bell bottoms are back in fashion?!

I'm in favor of anything that pushes skinny jeans out of stores.  I wouldn't have looked good in those back when I was a skinny teenager and those days are long behind me.
Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.  --Carl Sagan

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Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #40 on: August 25, 2015, 06:28:40 AM »
I also get some good jobs from panicked brides who hired a wannabes on Etsy and then the wannabes couldn't get the job done, so, I get the job at a rush fee rate. All the better for me.

No, the amateurs are not ruining anything for the trained professionals.

This is exactly what I am talking about... It may be all the better for you, but it is HORRIBLE for those brides! I can only imagine the stress that creates. And the money wasted. THIS is what I mean about preserving the trade. This exactly!

But the trade was never an oasis of highly skilled professionals. There have always been people who pick up a pen, declare themselves a calligrapher and start their business. If you look at manuscript books from the middle ages, you will see two facing pages in the same book - one will be sublime and the other will look like the work of beginner. The person who commissioned that book could not afford the top notch scribes, so, he settled for a studio that was churning out books that were of mixed quality.

There is always a market for the less polished work and it is not a threat to the people who take pride in a more comprehensive approach. Marketing your higher skill-level work is a marketing issue, not an ethical issue. Shoddy business practices abound. But they don't put anyone out of business. People blame lost business on a lot of things. I'm pretty sure that if Vera Wang had a bad season she wouldn't be  blaming it on Davids Bridal Shop. She would go back to her drawing board.

Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #41 on: August 25, 2015, 07:00:58 AM »
I am only suggesting people consider their skill levels and if they can contribute to the market/community in a quality way before they jump on the bandwagon. I think that's a pretty reasonable sentiment.

If the number of personal emails I received from other professional calligraphers is any indication, I'm not the only one concerned.  ;)

It is a reasonable sentiment and I can understand where you are coming from.  As a scientist, I feel the same way about the way science is often taught in schools.  Kids grow up thinking they hate science because they are being taught by people who can't do much more than have them memorize a bunch of random facts and formulas*.  It drives me and other scientists absolutely crazy because children have a natural instinct for scientific investigation (how does this work?  what happens if I take it apart?  why is the sky blue?  why?) that is being crushed with poor teaching.

Unfortunately, though, the conversation often stalls at "x is not being done well and this is a problem for the field."  I'm all for identifying a problem and even for debating whether or not there is a problem, but when I say, "So, what are we going to do about it?" people look at me in surprise.  "What?  Do about it?  I'm not the one causing the problem."

So, if there are people out there who are doing really shoddy work or misrepresenting the dedication required to become skilled in calligraphy, what can the professional calligraphy community do to combat that problem?  This forum is one example of what can be done--giving less skilled calligraphers a place to interact with people who are very skilled helps maintain a certain level of professionalism and quality in the field.  But is there more that could be done?  If so, what?

*There are, of course, some amazing teachers out there who do an excellent job of teaching science--I'm absolutely not saying there aren't.

IAMPETH (over 60 years old) and the International Conference (35 years old) are the two established groups who are preserving the tradition in the US. They are aware of the "shoddy work and misrepresentation" and what they can do about it is continue to provide quality education. The "shoddy work and misrepresentation" is not a threat to these two groups as well as the many guilds around the US which continue to be a resource for people who want to learn. To try to stamp out shoddiness would be impossible so their energy is focused on quality teaching. Guilds do community outreach on local levels.

Graffiti did not threaten typography. It's just another style. The quirky, naive styles that are popular now are just current styles. Anyone with a genuine interest in traditional calligraphy will find the resources on the internet. Consumers can surf around and find the skill level and price point that suits their project.

I have mentored a number of people over the years and those with the highest skill levels are the ones who stick with it. Those without much skill, move on and hopefully find an artistic outlet that is more suitable. It is a self-regulating business. The current trends are just blips. The bigger picture is not going to suffer from these blips.

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #42 on: August 25, 2015, 01:04:06 PM »
I love your positive outlook Jean!  ;)
Truly, Erica
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Offline Elisabeth_M

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #43 on: August 25, 2015, 05:11:44 PM »
IAMPETH (over 60 years old) and the International Conference (35 years old) are the two established groups who are preserving the tradition in the US. They are aware of the "shoddy work and misrepresentation" and what they can do about it is continue to provide quality education. The "shoddy work and misrepresentation" is not a threat to these two groups as well as the many guilds around the US which continue to be a resource for people who want to learn. To try to stamp out shoddiness would be impossible so their energy is focused on quality teaching. Guilds do community outreach on local levels.

I was thinking more on an individual level, that is, if an individual* is concerned about these issues, what can they, personally, do?  From what you are saying, Jean, it sounds like one good idea might be to support IAMPETH and your local guild and to encourage other calligraphers to join those organizations as well.  Teaching a class or two at the local level may also be a good option for those who are concerned about the quality of online "start a business quick" style of classes.

Going back to my science teaching example, what concerns me most about the poor state of affairs in that situation is the unfairness to the "consumers"--the kids--and the impact it will have to the scientific community down the road.  The kids deserve better and how is the field to improve and thrive if so many "consumers" (kids) are turned off because of their negative experiences?  Unless I miss my guess, I think this is the sentiment Erica is voicing, that consumers are having negative experiences due to inexperienced or poorly trained calligraphers and that she feels badly for those consumers.  She's also concerned that this state of affairs will get worse if there are large numbers of people who treat calligraphy as an easy way to make money.  And, having seen the impact a similar situation happen in another artistic profession, she's worried about impact on the calligraphy profession as a whole.

Whether or not the problem is new, unique, or systemic may be beside the point.  Do you have to be certain that the field is going to hell in a handbasket before you get involved in making it better?  In fact, even if you are absolutely certain that it is not, is there any harm in working toward improvements?



*Personally, I haven't been part of the calligraphy community long enough to know if there is a problem.  It's not my profession and, aside from this and a couple other forums (fora? fori? I wonder what the correct Latin plural is?), I don't spend much time time chatting with other calligraphy enthusiasts.  Therefore, I'm mostly speaking hypothetically.
Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.  --Carl Sagan

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Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #44 on: August 25, 2015, 09:42:22 PM »
IAMPETH (over 60 years old) and the International Conference (35 years old) are the two established groups who are preserving the tradition in the US. They are aware of the "shoddy work and misrepresentation" and what they can do about it is continue to provide quality education. The "shoddy work and misrepresentation" is not a threat to these two groups as well as the many guilds around the US which continue to be a resource for people who want to learn. To try to stamp out shoddiness would be impossible so their energy is focused on quality teaching. Guilds do community outreach on local levels.

I was thinking more on an individual level, that is, if an individual* is concerned about these issues, what can they, personally, do?  From what you are saying, Jean, it sounds like one good idea might be to support IAMPETH and your local guild and to encourage other calligraphers to join those organizations as well.  Teaching a class or two at the local level may also be a good option for those who are concerned about the quality of online "start a business quick" style of classes.

Going back to my science teaching example, what concerns me most about the poor state of affairs in that situation is the unfairness to the "consumers"--the kids--and the impact it will have to the scientific community down the road.  The kids deserve better and how is the field to improve and thrive if so many "consumers" (kids) are turned off because of their negative experiences?  Unless I miss my guess, I think this is the sentiment Erica is voicing, that consumers are having negative experiences due to inexperienced or poorly trained calligraphers and that she feels badly for those consumers.  She's also concerned that this state of affairs will get worse if there are large numbers of people who treat calligraphy as an easy way to make money.  And, having seen the impact a similar situation happen in another artistic profession, she's worried about impact on the calligraphy profession as a whole.

Whether or not the problem is new, unique, or systemic may be beside the point.  Do you have to be certain that the field is going to hell in a handbasket before you get involved in making it better?  In fact, even if you are absolutely certain that it is not, is there any harm in working toward improvements?



*Personally, I haven't been part of the calligraphy community long enough to know if there is a problem.  It's not my profession and, aside from this and a couple other forums (fora? fori? I wonder what the correct Latin plural is?), I don't spend much time time chatting with other calligraphy enthusiasts.  Therefore, I'm mostly speaking hypothetically.

IMHO there is no problem with the current situation. The guilds, IMAPETH and the International Conference are healthy and thriving. All three are welcoming to anyone who has a love of letters. The wannabes will fade away. They have no foundation. They may get a job or two, which they will botch - and then they will quit. To have staying power in any creative field, you have to really love what you do. If money is your motivation, you will fail.

It has been my experience with scribes as well as people in other creative professions - that when we hear about someone wanting a career in a creative field because they want to make a lot of money, we pretty much fall on the floor laughing. The older you are, the harder you laugh.

If the consumers are getting duped - that is unfortunate. But there is no way to police aesthetics. Try to be comforted knowing that there is not a single instance of *bad* art killing *good* art. They co-exist. Yin-yang.

There is always cream - and it always rises to the top.