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shawnhar

Ripped off an artist, what to do with the piece?

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So... a local artist came to the studio and did a demo, super fun... he left the piece there to dry and I decided to try and replicate it, well I did, and it obviously looks like a direct rip off of his work...now what? It feels morally wrong to sell it, or give it to someone that doesn't know his work, or I could keep it but if someone sees it they will think it's his or I ripped him off. It also feels wrong to smash it...

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There is a phenomenon that occurs sometimes after you take a workshop or a course known as making Other People’s Pots, or OPP. You see someone making their work, and you connect with it in a way you can’t get out of your head, so you start copying things because it just. Makes. Sense. Typically you feel pretty inspired, and make a bunch of stuff in your exuberance and love of a new technique or style. Your skill level typically increases from looking at things in a new way and trying something different, and you have new tools in your proverbial and sometimes literal toolbox.  But the problem is exactly as you’ve described, and it’s obviously not your work.  

We’ve all been there. 

Making a direct copy for your own educational purposes is a common practice. But no, you should not sell the piece or give it away if you’re aware that this is too close a copy. That is indeed unethical. You can get into a lot of trouble just within your own community if people see you doing this. Keeping the copy on a shelf in your studio is totally fine, because it can act as a memory prompt or a form of visual white noise, to help you sort of work out the problem of what to do with the ideas you like about it while you’re working on something else. You should make sure it doesn’t go to anyone else though.

To avoid making OPPs after a workshop, I find it helpful to do a bit of research to find out what the artist was inspired by. When I begin to make work again, rather than look at their specific artworks, I’ll look at their sources instead and let that guide me. At that point it’s a lot easier to make something that’s in your own voice, but is still part of the same conversation. If you’re using someone’s signature technique, make sure that you put enough of your own twist on a thing that it’s obviously yours and not theirs before you set a piece loose in the world  

 

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While teaching years ago, I went to a workshop with a famous potter. This potter made wooden dies to form pots in, as in soap dishes and  covered boxes. He also did things with extrusion and throwing with slips and stains in layers. When I got home, I designed some of my own box dies using the hinges and screen door hooks for in the classroom. I also did an introduction on the potter, with a slide show of his work. Then I allowed the students to choose whether to make another type of simple slab form, for a first slab project, or emulate one of his using the boxes I had made. Unit went over well, and I think much was to be learned by it. In the end over the years I moved on, and the boxes were not used as much, but every once in a while. . . .. . 

My question for the community at this point would be. . . . who was the famous potter? Another would be how do you feel about my slab unit?

 

 

best,

Pres

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2 hours ago, Callie Beller Diesel said:

Other People’s Pots, or OPP

"....you down with OPP? yea you know me!..." ...if you dont know, google Naughty By Nature. Made me giggle a bit.

In regards to replicating anothers' aesthetic styles, or forming processes. Here's my take; ceramics is one of the oldest, if not the oldest art form out there. To be truly original with a design or style is very difficult when you are battling tens of thousands of years of ceramic art history.

Also, I didnt overhear this at the workshop, but someone else wrote it down, and I read it; a famous potter declared that when you emulate anothers' style, dont "borrow" the idea....steal it! Meaning, own what you are doing, and be blunt about it.

Now, Im not saying that we should strive to duplicate in every nuanced detail anothers' pots; not only does this say a lot about the copiers' lack of creative drive, but it is directly stealing an aesthetic look that the original artist worked very hard to achieve. We should however, take those influences, and make them your own.

I make mugs that are inspired by a tumbler, made by Matt Long, at a workshop which was consequently left at Miami U where I went to school. Was Matt the first to put a spiral in the bottom of a vessel? Will he be the last? No, and NO.  My glaze pallette I use now: mainly glazes made popular by Steven Hill, amongst others. Should I be sending Matt Long and Steven Hill a portion of every sale because Im infringing on what is their proprietary designs? I sure as heck dont think so.

I regularly will give out my glaze recipes, firing schedules, designs, etc when asked for them; it took me nearly 20 years to get where I am now. Those who would want to "steal" my designs and remake my work, will likely not just "pick it up" immediately and start running me out of business. If in another 20 years when that person has perfected exactly how I made my pots, and Im still making THOSE pots, then I am not doing my job as an artist, and challenging myself to grow. If my style/work happens to be SO proprietary, then copyright it; personally I think copyrighting most (granted some stuff is REALLY easy to steal and copy) artwork is silly....similar to copyrighting the color blue.

Personally I think its 100% fine, and in some ways, good to appropriate another artists designs/inspirations, and turn them into something of your own creation. Making "their" pots, and signing/marketing them as "their" pots....definitely NOT ok. @shawnhar I think you should find what design feature you like about this potters work, and reincorporate into your work; make a lot of them, and let it evolve into something which is truly YOURS!

Not that anyone has yet to strive to duplicate my pots, but I think that in some ways, I would be honored if someone loved my work so much, that they wanted to make my pots.

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1 hour ago, Pres said:

My question for the community at this point would be. . . . who was the famous potter

Maybe your insinuating what Im thinking, maybe your not.

I have no idea who the potter is you are referencing, and in my head, the fact that I dont know who it is, goes to show that a forming method/aesthetic style/object, is rarely so proprietary that we can identify who the maker was, just by seeing a snippet.

Now, I think we all know who makes the giant, chromed balloon dog sculptures....

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This reminds me of one of my favorite assignments for art students. First, try to make an exact copy of someone's work. Second, make your own version of the piece, using your own aesthetic choices and 'fixing' anything you don't like about the original. It's a great way to learn techniques and figure out how to use inspiration without being too literal with it.

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It would haunt me day and night and give me the heebie-jeebies that someone, anyone, would notice what I did. For me, it would have to meet Mr. Hammer so I could sleep at night. 

I have to laugh tho--I had an instructor  who chastized me-and dismissed my creativity-by accusing me of copying a famous ceramist  via the holes I put in my odd-shaped slab work, and some of my rips/tears, and then he dissed my pressed-on-my face masks because it had "been done" and thus I wasn't being original. I had never heard of this stuff or seen the work. Never. I learned a lot about art criticism tho. 

Maybe keep the piece on your shelf and give yourself a  giggle each time you think about your own process----progress, not perfection. There really is nothing new under the sun and I bet you learned a lot doing the "homage" piece.  Hey-that's it--title it "Homage to So-and-So" and put it in a glass display case. 

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Oh Pres, that not a hint, that be a search string, ya Glick me?

 :P

Shawn, how you feelin' 'bout posting pics?

...fwiw, a bit of searching against some features (e.g the chattering of Mr Lin) I'd wanted to emulate revealed that, yep, they'd been done before an' ain't unique at all.

That said, some features are so strongly associated to a local potter, and recognized as such, no way to even consider copyin' 'em, like the Griffin fish (ok, it a whale) below.

 

Griffin.JPG

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Interesting subject!

As a teacher I would strive to tell students how I thought and did things and  convey these are my shortcuts / findings. My actual thought was if it took me this long to figure out how to achieve something in an easier fashion they should use it. After all they were there to learn what I knew, make it their own, and ultimately improve upon it or at least add it to their toolbox.

To me virtually everything has been done before in some form or fashion so it becomes in my mindset, an accumulation of knowledge. The ultimate failure to me would be in not inspiring the students to expand their own knowledge base. Copying what I had taught was actually very complimentary. When I have met former students 20 odd years later I get the greatest satisfaction listening to what they can do now and our conversation is usually inspiring, enlightening and pure fun!

Now as to copying creativity, that’s a tough one. If for profit and to leverage a successful look created by another,  then I think not laudable. If used in conjunction with their techniques and style, I think I would personally be honored.

Just  to add I understand the validity of both points of view though. Monetization or desire for singular recognition  probably helps amplify this dilemma.

Edited by Bill Kielb

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Ethically, I would state that my inspiration was someone else's work.  If it bothers you, don't sell it, put it on your shelf and use it as inspiration as you go on to create a new and unique form using what you learned from that exercise.   

Usually,  I do not make exact copies of someone else's work, I apply the technique to my own forms and ideas. Then it is mine...no ethical debate (in my mind).  The first time I saw one of my forms on a piece in a shop window for sale, I was speechless.  My friends were upset, it was not almost like....it looked like I made it.  At first I didn't know how to feel.  But after some thought I felt flattered.... I shared a technique that I had learned and it inspired someone else.

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9 hours ago, Hulk said:

Oh Pres, that not a hint, that be a search string, ya Glick me?

 :P

Shawn, how you feelin' 'bout posting pics?

...fwiw, a bit of searching against some features (e.g the chattering of Mr Lin) I'd wanted to emulate revealed that, yep, they'd been done before an' ain't unique at all.

I'm going to the studio tonight and will take a pic, hopefully his piece is still there, might be in the kiln by now. Chattering to me is a just technique, like trimming a foot and has no inherent ownership. What I did is something entirely different.

Justin tried a different take on chattering... with a weed trimmer!

 

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Anybody who has given a demo knows full well that there are going to be people watching who fastidiously take notes, sketches and take photos of the process and work. They know that their pots will more than likely be copied when they give their demo. The newer the potter then more likely it seems they are to do this. The more seasoned potters in the audience seem to just take in the process, perhaps picking up a nuance here and there. IMHO it is part and parcel of doing a demo, if they don’t want their work emulated then they wouldn’t be demoing. Insofar as the presenters feelings about having their design ripped off I don’t think that enters the equation. Should someone copy the presenters work and then profit off a unique design ripoff, nope. As a learning experience, absolutely it’s okay but then take it and make it your own.

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I suppose those conducting workshops could make everyone sign something legally binding that those in attendance are not allowed to copy what was shown in any substantial way or form except for personal use.

That might put a damper on the workshop though.

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Workshops to me have been more about discovering new processes and methods and less about learning to make a specific object.  That said, it is probably easier to pick up these methods while copying some work precisely.  Important to not then co-opt that item as your own. You may have built it, but it's someone else's creation.

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It wasn't a workshop, he was the featured artist and happened to be doing a demo. His name is Bryan Wilkerson, I really like his stuff.

Anyway here's his and mine, don't think you will have a problem telling which is which, lol.

 

copy pot.jpg

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Yeah his stuff is great! Looking at the side by side now, it's less "ripped off" and more, "poor attempt to replicate", lol. I would not have tried to do something like that, except watchin him work was so freakin inspiring I couldn't help it.

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The photo really helps, it’s important to see how distinctive the original work is, and how much of a copy yours is.

Do not sell! There are too many specific elements that are a direct copy of something distinctive and original. Keep the piece in your studio or home. 

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I have an ongoing discussion with a particular friend about this, and one night she made the comment to me that "No one owns clay."  No one really owns the broader forming techniques.  No one culture owns clay animals. No one person owns all the clay printing techniques. Pots have certain forms that crop up all over the place. The style in which those techniques are what makes the difference. When you're learning, there's definitely copying involved to develop skills. It's what you choose to do with those skills and techniques over time that creates your own style.

 

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On ‎2‎/‎6‎/‎2019 at 6:45 PM, LeeU said:

There really is nothing new under the sun and I bet you learned a lot doing the "homage" piece.  Hey-that's it--title it "Homage to So-and-So" and put it in a glass display case.  

While is was taking college level Ceramics I. I came across a vase in "500 Vases" that I really liked and proceeded to reproduce it. The first version of it blew up in my hands after I tried to move it when it was bone dry...apparently too many stresses on the piece. I contacted the artist of the original piece and told him what happened. We got into a discussion of the fabrication process and it turned out that my method was almost the same as his with one or two variations. He encouraged me to try again, which I did, and was successful the second time around. He has a style of glazing that is characteristically his, so, in my variation, I changed the glaze effect which made my piece similar, but different. 

I feel that it is possible to reproduce the work of another artist and, with a slight variation, make it your own. Another point maybe the market your in. Someone who markets their stuff on the east coast may never have a piece show up on the west coast...an entirely different market. In many cases it is virtually impossible to duplicate another's work unless it is super simple. In that case it would almost be so simple that it is basic. If one was to make a white mug, for example, are we to try and find out who the person is who made the first white mug and give them credit?

Think about it...

JohnnyK

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