The Power to Share

As a hands-on tactile learner, I struggled through my own school experience. From our first days in the education system, we are taught facts and systems, history and calculus. I love books and facts, but unless I can make it alive by participating in a process I don’t get much from it, which is difficult for teachers to do with a class full of different learning styles. As a result I had to teach myself to learn, and now learning has become a life-long passion—the idea of discovering a new fact or idea or skill will never lose its appeal to me.

When we opened Clawhammer Press in 2011, I had a meagre amount of knowledge about the retail world and the local market. I didn’t even have enough experience in printing to really be considered more than an intermediate printer. What I did have was a lot of initiative, a hungry mind for learning, and the confidence to give it a try.

After a couple of years of running Clawhammer, growing my experience and products, I realised I had exhausted my knowledge about the craft and I needed new input. I signed up for a large conference for letterpress printers near Chicago. Printers from all over the world meet there to listen and share knowledge (as well as a few beers).

When I arrived at the conference, I was eagerly welcomedinto a world of new friends, colleagues and printers of all levels and ages that freely shared knowledge and passion and time. There truly was an excitement about giving up some little lesson or tip about the process. I left feeling like part of something greater than myself, and honoured to be part of a worldwide community of letterpress artists. I had found my people.

That experience got me thinking about why it was such an appealing group of people. There is a kind of humble strength in sharing what you know: it’s an acknowledgement of the weight of the learning, and a concern about the future of its existence. It’s also a confidence that adding your knowledge to the greater world will benefit you in tangible and intangible ways. Part of the motivation for sharing in the letterpress world is that we know that our trade is so rare and old that if we don’t share, the trade will die. The other part is this secret that most artists know: the real power of having knowledge comes not in the acquiring of it, but in the sharing of it.

Like love and money, knowledge has this characteristic: when we hoard it, it becomes a negative force in our lives: we can use it to control and manipulate, but it makes us miserly and miserable. When we share it, however, together we raise ourselves up from where we were.

Here in Fernie we have vast resources of knowledge that we can use to make our town more beautiful, sustainable, equitable, and interconnected. The people of the Elk Valley, as well as our planet, are facing all kinds of new challenges and we need to move towards this open source model of knowledge sharing in order to solve these issues before it’s too late. We have a great education system, and access to all kinds of knowledge, but there’s too much information out there for any one person to be able to hold all of it. In this era of specialisation we are ever more dependent on others to make our knowledge come to life.

To truly harness the power of knowledge, we need to apply our creative thinking by learning to learn, and then we need to make that knowledge available to others. This is the only way we will be able to pick ourselves up out of this hole of our own making. The bonus of doing so means that we will find ourselves in the middle of a community of like-minded people all looking for the same kind of connection.

Never stop asking, never stop listening, never stop learning, and never stop sharing. Knowledge is a kind of power, but it’s only when we share that power that we truly become a powerful people.