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Echoes of Aja

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Project by SteveAltman posted 03-04-2020 01:21 AM 1159 views 13 times favorited 24 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Here’s a box I did in 2009. It’s made of Bubinga, ebony, and boxwood. It’s another design that seems to be pretty popular on the web – in that it shows up in all sorts of odd websites, Pinterest, etc.

Basically, that means it’s going to be copied a lot.





24 comments so far

View swirt's profile

swirt

5121 posts in 3711 days


#1 posted 03-04-2020 01:59 AM

Beautiful Somebody would have to have some impressive skills to copy it. Very well done.

-- Galootish log blog, http://www.timberframe-tools.com

View therealSteveN's profile

therealSteveN

5598 posts in 1314 days


#2 posted 03-04-2020 03:13 AM

Very restful Boxwood, and Ebony, and then that wild Bubinga, and that sap. Kinda looks like a furry collar on the Ebony.

Nice box, awesome use of the woods here, and legs. Love those legs.

-- Think safe, be safe

View MrWolfe's profile

MrWolfe

835 posts in 863 days


#3 posted 03-04-2020 03:15 AM

Gorgeous.
Your selection of woods along with your subtle designs are over the top.
Beautiful… Does the lid lift off or is it hinged?
Jon

View SteveAltman's profile

SteveAltman

84 posts in 2832 days


#4 posted 03-04-2020 03:42 AM


Beautiful Somebody would have to have some impressive skills to copy it. Very well done.

- swirt

That’s not really the case. It doesn’t take skill to do a copy. It takes skill to do a good copy. And most of the copies are pretty awful.

Look, it’s flattering when people copy your work. They should, of course, mention that it is a copy; they should, of course, mention who created the original. That’s just common courtesy. But they may not even know who did the original design. One of the problems with the web is that photos can be taken from any site to any site, pretty much without restriction. I find my own designs in the strangest places, on the oddest websites, sometimes that have nothing to do with woodwork at all. And, of course, there’s no caption that points out who did the original. So how would anyone know? Pinterest is like that. Supposedly, some of my boxes have been displayed 500,000 times or more. The most prominent name associated with the image is the person who pinned it, not the creator.

It’s nice when someone attributes the work he’s been inspired by. There’s a person on lumberjocks – zombeerose – who did it very gracefully here and I’m grateful for that. But there’s many more where there’s no mention at all where the original idea came from – even if it came from an image on lumberjocks itself. And what really irks me, and, I’m sure, anyone else in the same position, is when people sell boxes that are based on my designs. And that happens all too often. As far as I’m concerned that’s a kind of thievery.

I just don’t understand why people do it. Seems so…backward. Maybe someone can explain it to me.

View SteveAltman's profile

SteveAltman

84 posts in 2832 days


#5 posted 03-04-2020 03:51 AM


Gorgeous.
You selection of woods along with your subtle designs are over the top.
Beautiful… Does the lid lift off or is it hinged?
Jon

- MrWolfe

Thanks very much for the nice comment.

The lid lifts off.

View wildwoodbybrianjohns's profile

wildwoodbybrianjohns

1515 posts in 287 days


#6 posted 03-04-2020 07:04 AM

Yes, Steve, I have seen many or most of your boxes on Pinterest. Sometimes your name is there with a link to your website, sometimes not. Your work is of such a high caliber, it draws the attention of those who aspire to reach that level. Your work is also inherently beautiful, so theres that too.

I have borrowed ideas from other makers aplenty, and give credit if I know who the designer is (dont recall thieving any ideas from you-yet:)). And I agree, it is a kind of theft. I would add, that it is no different than copying a Malouf, or a Nakashima, an Amish design, or any antique, the amateurs imitating masters. And isnt that the way amateurs become masters. They imitate style while developing their own. And there is a definite “asian” influence noticeable in your work. The design of the handle on this box, for example, while original, is also noticeably “borrowed.”

Commenting on this post in particular, when I first saw this box, on Pinterest, I thought that dark strip in the front panel was glass, now I see it isnt. But I thought, ok, thats cool, as soon as I find a good source for glass, and learn how to cut it, I am going to incorporate glass in my boxes.

Anyway, that front panel, with the sweeping grain direction, the varied colours, is just phenomenal. You must have an awesome collection woods to choose from. I dont, yet, and thats rather limiting, and sometimes frustrating.

Cheers

-- Wildwood by Brian Johns: Because cheese isnt a healthy source of cheese, I will use grated cucumber to top off this raw food vegan pizza.

View Peteybadboy's profile

Peteybadboy

1878 posts in 2689 days


#7 posted 03-04-2020 12:18 PM

Steve, I agree you should get a nod for your original designs. I have seen on FB for example “photo by x”, maybe that would stop the cut and paste? I think that is a beautiful box. I really like the handle, and do plan to make an inspired version of that some day. I save it as a fav so I can mention you.

-- Petey

View MrWolfe's profile

MrWolfe

835 posts in 863 days


#8 posted 03-04-2020 02:26 PM

I am enjoying the interesting comments on design and copying or borrowing elements of design.

I agree with Brian’s perspective about amateurs imitating masters. While I can see a very distinctive style that you have developed and a level of craftsmanship that is superb I can only imagine how frustrating it is to be copied and not have the proper attribution to your original designs. Especially in this case of people copying and profiting from your designs.

I think digital watermarks on your pics going forward will help that but not for the ones that are already out there. I imagine you must have a published book on your work. That would help greatly to connect your name to your work but I think it would also inspire many more “flattering copies”. I totally get the concept of proprietary design work in my own recent pieces. I am not a master craftsman nor am I working with exotic woods or to the exacting standards of some excellent work I have seen but I do take a personal pride in my design work and often wonder if it will be borrowed. I haven’t had that experience yet.

Your designs are UNIQUELY distinctive and incredibly beautiful. The craftsmanship is seemingly flawless and allows the viewer to just focus on the excellent design and the gorgeous materials that you choose. Those of us in the know will think immediately “Altman”.
They will continue to inspire woodworkers and artists because of how stunning they are.
I am glad you are posting on this forum and sharing your work.
I wish I had more to contribute to this conversation.
I am following this post to see what others have to say.
Jon

View Ivan's profile

Ivan

15860 posts in 3607 days


#9 posted 03-04-2020 06:33 PM

Beautiful Asian style. Incredible wood colours, details and shapes.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View wildwoodbybrianjohns's profile

wildwoodbybrianjohns

1515 posts in 287 days


#10 posted 03-04-2020 08:54 PM

Prime example! Just saw this on pinterest. No credit to the maker! What your box and this ad have in common, I have zero idea.

-- Wildwood by Brian Johns: Because cheese isnt a healthy source of cheese, I will use grated cucumber to top off this raw food vegan pizza.

View MrWolfe's profile

MrWolfe

835 posts in 863 days


#11 posted 03-04-2020 09:13 PM

Wow

View PaxJen's profile

PaxJen

124 posts in 1396 days


#12 posted 03-04-2020 09:25 PM

Beautiful. But I really need a peek inside to get a good copy going . . .

-- Pax - Maryland

View SteveAltman's profile

SteveAltman

84 posts in 2832 days


#13 posted 03-05-2020 03:42 AM

Thanks, everyone for your thoughtful (and funny comments.)

When I wrote that little rant above, it wasn’t my intention to criticize anyone’s method for learning how to build and design items made of wood. I’m just an old man blowing off some steam. How someone wants to go about creating what they want to create is entirely up to them. It’s a free country. And, honestly, I get more than enough recognition for what I build – probably too much.

But I will say this: I have been asked, sometimes, here and in other forums, how “I get the designs. Where do they come from?” All I can say is that I’ve always purposefully refused to build anything that looks like someone else’s work. Maybe I’ve failed in that but it’s not from lack of trying.

Yes, there’s an “Asian” influence in my work – because I’ve become acquainted with Asian design and particularly admire the clean lines and unique proportions of that style. For example, The little handle in this box is a (rather poor) representation of Japanese torii. Because I find them beautiful, that’s all. And the little area in the middle where the ebony is surrounded by the sapwood, maybe that looks (something like) a robe – or kimono. I might have been studying John Cederquist’s exquisite cabinets that month.

As for amateurs imitating masters – that’s never appealed to me. I’d rather study masters in decorative and fine arts , go to museums and galleries (some people know a lot of my ideas come – oddly enough – from Wassily Kandinsky), visit art blogs – This Is Colossal is my current favorite – but the attempt is try to understand what they’re trying to accomplish. What’s the point? Why? How? Does it make sense to me?

I’ll finish with this. I’m lucky enough to know Phil Weber a little bit. If you don’t know who he is, you’re missing something special. I’ve pored for hours over the boxes on his site. marveled at his work. But I would never, ever, have the audacity to try and copy what he does. I can’t even imagine trying to do it.

You know, there’s this famous saying, good artists copy, great artists steal. It’s been attributed to Stravinsky, Picasso, Faulkner, and Steve Jobs(??) Everyone has their interpretation. I have mine. You have yours?

View wildwoodbybrianjohns's profile

wildwoodbybrianjohns

1515 posts in 287 days


#14 posted 03-05-2020 07:33 AM

There is a good example of what I was attempting to describe as “amateurs imitating masters” on that Colossal site. The latest jewelry collection by Mara Paris. The artist, Ayca Taskan, has taken Picasso´s single-line drawing idea and turned that into a stylized jewelry design. Anyone who is familiar with Picasso will notice immediately that these jewelry design ideas are borrowed from him, using the “eye” as she does, for example. She is getting recognition in her own right for someone else´s ideas. And likely making money thereby. Would Picasso be flattered, or perturbed? I dont know. And anyway, he is dead, so it doesnt matter.

In my comments above, I was not suggesting that you were imitating anyone, or would. I was merely answering your request as to why someone might copy your work, ie., steal your ideas. In other words, you are the master who is being imitated.

A comment about Weber, I think he is the foremost reason why ebony is so scarce and expensive today. An entire ebony forest must have gone into those boxes of his. Yes, I am trying to be humorous. I know that piano keys came first.

-- Wildwood by Brian Johns: Because cheese isnt a healthy source of cheese, I will use grated cucumber to top off this raw food vegan pizza.

View SteveAltman's profile

SteveAltman

84 posts in 2832 days


#15 posted 03-05-2020 12:43 PM

You’re absolutely right, Brian. People do that all the time. And you may be right about her making money, but that’s actually quite a different issue. People make money doing all sorts of things.

As for Picasso. Understanding what I do of what he was like personally, he would, depending on what she looks like, want to go to bed with her, or, failing that, sue her…

As for Phil. I know why he liked ebony so much and where he got the ebony (a large commercial yard in PA where he was friends with the owner). As a matter of fact, I have a lot of his ebony. When he retired he asked me to come out to his place in PA to see if there were anything I might want to buy. He was getting ready to retire to Malaysia and was trying to accumulate some extra cash. (I promise you, he made very little money, which is just awful given his staggering talent, but it doesn’t seem to bother him a great deal. He likes his life.) I bought almost all the ebony he had left and a few other things, including the booth he used for craft shows, which I now use.

He is a completely unassuming human being, very agreeable, extremely laid back. What you might find interesting is, at the end there, when he was finished, he was making those incredible little boxes out of Corian and other plastics. You can see them on his site, on the last display pages. I asked him about that, why Corian, and he said “because it’s white, really white. I’m so tired of holly, which really isn’t”. Gives us an insight into how he thought about making gorgeous little boxes, doesn’t it…

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