Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Spring, prom and intellectual property

The Living Threads ‘Extravaganza’ exhibition took place over the Easter fortnight, so my version of the ‘Thread Booklet’ was shown. It was only just about finished in time, and I intend to remake the cover later as it was not a great success. I’m also debating whether or not to be brave and get the heat gun on the Lutradur to distress it (perhaps a few glasses of something stronger than fruit juice first might embolden me!)

Overall view of Thread Booklet

Detail of the top pocket
The Living Threads Group has been in existence for 30 years now and was started as a group of textile artists who were also teachers and who wanted to exhibit work and to run workshops. Amazingly for this type of group it has continued and grown, now consisting of around 70 members. Not all current members are teachers, but they represent a wide diversity, with skills in many textile areas from traditional to contemporary.  Most members are creators of work for the enjoyment or as a hobby rather than as a career.

It was during the set up of this year’s exhibition that an issue arose which I suspect is a widespread one especially when makers who are not involved in thinking about themselves and their work as ‘professional’ are showing work. It is a common practice for members of groups to show work which they have copied from a book or have created on a workshop under another makers’ supervision. If the works are being shown for enjoyment, and especially if they are referred to as ‘after …’ or ‘inspired by …’ or  ‘created on a workshop with …’ then this is great, however it leads to a very thorny area as soon as the pieces are offered for sale.
For instance, one of the members had put a piece of work in the sales area which she had made on a workshop with another textile artist. It was virtually identical to the tutors work (I initially asked if the tutor had joined the group), was being offered at half of the price for which the tutor sells at and had no acknowledgement that it was at the least ‘in the style of ..’
This rang alarm bells in my head and it should in yours too! There is a form of copyright known as ‘Intellectual Property’ (IP) which means that no one should offer for sale something which is substantially the design, technique or style of another person. There are of course grey areas including what constitutes ‘substantial’ and pieces which rely on traditional patterns and techniques, amongst other considerations.
It can be easy not to realise that you are falling into the IP trap when making new work with new techniques, or are getting paid to teach something that you have learned from another artist or book.
As a teacher and author I am happy to pass on skills and hope that they are of use. I accept that once you have opened up how to approach or create an item, that it will be copied. However if someone then copied exactly a piece and offered it for sale without any acknowledgement of my input, how would I feel?
I did read an article a few years ago which seemed very familiar –then I realised that it was describing a workshop which I had taught and the images were the participants which she had taken during the day. When I looked more carefully, she did say that it was from a workshop with me which she had attended. I’m still not sure whether that was sufficient and okay or not. I hope that it encouraged people to seek me out or to be aware of me.
I know that it is a subject which is hotly debated and wondered about your stories and where you have had to draw a line, or what you have done if you have found your work copied and for sale?

For more information, ACID (Anti Copying in Design) is a useful organisation. It is committed to raising awareness and encouraging respect for intellectual property within corporate social responsibility.

Lambs at the Church door
On a lighter note, we have been enjoying a long dry and pretty warm spell, great for walking the dogs as we don’t return with two mud covered fur balls every day. 
It has now broken and there are short, sharp heavy showers at intervals which the garden is grateful for and the pots and baskets beginning to look like ‘something’. 

Setting out into Derbyshire
Grown up (?) boy
 We even managed as a family to have a day walking in Derbyshire. Idris (the chocolate one) gets car sick so taking him anywhere involves waterproofing his surroundings so that his fountain of dribble is well contained!
Our eldest was back from University for a few days and it was the perfect time to see the bluebells.
As you can see - lots of bluebell pictures!

Hills swathed in bluebells
More bluebells
Stjarna in the bluebells

The spring is well underway with cow parsley, damsel flies and briar roses all over, my little sister has been made a professor at her University, my old Volvo has been remodelled as a Prom car and I made my daughters Prom dress last week (I was very pleased to be asked, but as I only has 4 days to make it, it was a little busy last week!)

Mine is the one in green!

Now I am having a short gap before making a new set of work because considering which ideas to go for first is often the most painful part of starting. So I will put it off for a day or two and catch up with paperwork!


Willington Weaver said...

I agree whole heartedly with what you say about IP. Sadly, when artists and designers, textile or otherwise, are not working professionally they fail to see any of the implications of using another artist/designers ideas and often don't deem it copying.
I'm just back from the Derbyshire Food and Drink Fair and in the Craft Tent I saw one or two instances of breech of IP!

Alysn Midgelow-Marsden said...

It is difficult when high profile events such as the Derbyshire F&D Fair show makers whose work is supposedly unique but which is actually very similar to that of others - whilst accepting that certain techniques are traditional and so not IP-sensitive or are derivative of commercial styles, rather than in an artistic sense (hope that makes sense!).
I hope that the principle of IP is being taken more seriously as time goes on by both makers and by galleries etc. who are buying or showing work.
I can only say that at the Gallery we try to be aware of the possibility whenever we are looking at artist applications and on a personal level I try to avoid using styles which I know I have admired when looking at other artwork - whilst also allowing some aspects of the work infiltrate into mine to improve/develop it because that is also how we all grow as creatives.
Tightrope walking skills needed?

Maggi said...

Loved the thread booklet at Living Threads. You have shamed me into getting on with mine!
I do agree with you about IP. I have also seen items, whether for sale or not, that show no acknowledgement to the maker of the originals. I do think that most people who take a workshop and then display the finished item, on blogs for example, would strive to either acknowledge the tutor or at least provide a link to them. I know I do. It does appear though that for some, paying for a workshop, gives them the right to try to replicate the tutor's work as their own.

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