Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Investing in creative ownership

Sometimes the icky feeling of finding a copy starts with just a little crumb of discomfort, like seeing a how-to of one of your favorite maker's wares. Except there's a style difference and everything seems innocent enough, the author is straightforward and somewhat apologetic about the whole approach.

But it seems like if the creator doesn't actively pursue branding and ownership of a unique style, it ultimately becomes something of a trend popping up elsewhere.

How much branding should the maker do to protect themselves? Is it fair to expect a lengthy amount of time to be invested in creative ownership of design?

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Paper and String

In case it seems I pick on the UO, Inc. empire a little too much, let's talk about Tiffany's, a brand closely associated with a more sophisticated design.

Recently the integrity of a jewelry line by Tiffany has been called into question. According to Unbeige, Tiffany & Co. are creating a suspiciously similar series of items to those of designer Kiel Mead's 2005 line. (Image from the Unbeige article.)

Before I read that article, I read about this experience, from Su Blackwell's blog,
The newly appointed Vice President for Creative and Visual Merchandising at Tiffany and Co. ‘Richard Moore’ contacted me back in August, with a proposal for me to create the designs for their Christmas Windows.
But then I got an email from him saying ‘We have proceeded down a slightly different route for this year’s windows, but thank you for your proposal’.
Seems like ‘they proceeded down a slightly very similar route to me!’

There is a follow up here. The paper cut sculpture above left is Su Blackwell's, as seen on her blog. The sculpture above right is the window display in question, at a Tiffany retail store for the 2010 holiday season.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Stories to Tell

When I first blogged the Cody Foster fiasco I received stories directly from artists who had similar experiences.

Pictured above left and below center are beds made by Shawn Lovell, one of the artists with a story to tell. Pictured above right is a bed from the Anthropologie catalog. 

Your blog was forwarded to me by a friend with a link to your "Drawing the line on theft" thread. I was approached by Anthropologie back in 2008 regarding my Tree Bed which I designed and began making in 1997 and have been perfecting ever since. Anthropologie asked if they could use one of my beds for a “photoshoot”, but I didn’t have one in stock to lend as they are one-of-a-kind and take about 200 hours to make, and are made on commission. Without any acknowledgment or permission they are now clearly selling a simplified knock-off version of the bed. I've attached a shot of the bed being sold by them as shown in their latest catalog and a shot of my original bed. Fortunately for me the Treebed is a difficult design to mass-manufacture and this is the closest they could come to reproducing it. (Notice, they even shot the bed in the exact same angle as my shot!)

Friday, May 27, 2011

It is, indeed, a very Long Thread.

Cody Foster Continues

Well, kids, I hate to say it, but it appears someone is back at it, and they seem to love Alyssa's work. If you recall the cable knit bone china candle holders last year at Anthropologie, also a riff from Alyssa's catalog.

How is this still going on?

What can we, as designers, do to claim ownership of a design without sinking all our hard earned money into the process?

What can we, as consumers, do to let companies know we won't support those that support design theft?

[Originally posted here.]

Thursday, March 31, 2011


<a href=http://www.etsy.com/treasury/4d9426610e436d91e147b624/little-birdies?index=256&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Treasury&utm_campaign=Share>treasury on etsy</a>

Can't you imagine the conversation? "Oh! Where'd you find such a cute necklace?!"  "You know? I found it on etsy. They have such unique, handmade things on there!" It makes me want to type things like WTF and OMFG, and I swear I don't type that way.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Drawing the Line on Design Theft

After reading Jan's Sidetrack Cafe post yesterday on Poppytalk I had a flood of thoughts. I reminded myself to keep working and moving forward, developing ideas and keep blinders on but maintain wisdom to know there are people in the world that will steal designs and ideas. I also wanted to reach out to all the people who felt like her message was telling "newbies" to give up. That wasn't it at all, the beauty of the internet as a medium is that there is a level playing field for everyone, but you're not playing fair if you're duplicating (stealing) another person's work.

Yes, people steal. Even on etsy. There are people who buy your work and ship it off to China to have it reproduced, then sell that work wholesale to big companies (Urban Outfitters/Anthropologie/Terrain, I'm looking at you).

UO/A/T also sell a lot of artist-made items, so somewhere between buyer and seller the integrity of their wares becomes muddled. {And yes, it's a bit scary to call them out because they do support the independent crafts person.}But they also support Cody Foster {perhaps inspired by this?}, a gift ware wholesaler who does shop etsy, and seems to send those hand-crafted items off to China to be duplicated and resold, without the consent of the artist.

I could go through their whole catalog and attribute 75% of their goods to online crafters' wares. These images are just an example.
So what do we do? I'm going to write a letter to Anthropologie and let them know I won't be shopping with them while they support design thieves. I don't know what else to do, but this will be a good start. And maybe, just maybe, others will do the same. And someone will see Cody Foster wares at another retailer and let me know and I'll send that retailer a letter. . . and maybe something bigger will happen.

Maybe not, who knows. But as we all figure out how to maintain image rights and property within the abstract realm of technology we have to start drawing lines somewhere, right? Anyone else up for a boycott?

(Obviously this blog post is written based on my own observations and findings. I am not aware of any court findings or judgements on the subject. I am only presenting things as I see them.)  

Credit where credit is due

Let's talk photo crediting ~ over on Design for Mankind. Actually, this is good for referencing for all kinds of copyright issues.

Poster design by Erin Loechner, Pia Bijkerk, and Yvette Van Boven