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Giant Folk Art Company Stealing from Small Artists

Last night, a friend of mine posted a link to a Jezebel article that left me fuming. A giant folk art company stole art work from small artists. As an artist and designer, I understand being amazed by other artist's work, however there is a fine line between using someone's art work as inspiration/mimicking design style and actually stealing it! We, the small artists, should be recognized and fairly paid for our work and creativity. Below is the article straight from Lisa Congdon's blog

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My Art Was Stolen For Profit (and How You Can Help)

by Lisa Congdon

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If you follow me on social media you are probably aware that on Monday morning I found out that the wholesale company Cody Foster copied my original work for use on holiday ornaments in their 2013 catalogs. The copy is so blatant — down to the design elements on the animals’ jackets — that it literally made my stomach turn when I saw it. An online acquaintance who is a vigilante for all things Cody Foster Copycat (they have been at copying the work of independent artists for years) alerted me. She keeps a Flickr set of all the rip offs that she has found.

Some info about this particular artwork: it came from my imagination. There are no photographs online of actual animals wearing jackets like this. The patterning and elements on the jackets are very emblematic of my style. You will see them repeated in a lot of my artwork. The only way Cody Foster could have transferred the same imagery to their ornaments is by using my artwork as reference.

In the world of art & illustration, you can use the artwork of artists on your products as long as you ask permission, sign a licensing agreement with the artist, and agree to compensate them. I sell my images to companies all the time, companies who ask my permission and compensate me for my intellectual property. In this case, I was never contacted, asked permission or paid. That is called copying. It’s also called stealing.

Another thing you should know: I don’t care about the money.  What I care about is exposing Cody Foster for what they have done and continue to do to independent artists. The people I want most to expose them to are the retailers who purchase from them. You see, Cody Foster is a wholesale company. Unlike other larger, public-facing retail companies who have been accused of stealing from artists, Cody Foster is hidden from the public eye for the most part. Except for a showroom in Atlanta and booths at gift shows designed to show their wares to retailers, they have a very limited public presence. Their products do not bear their logo. You buy them at your local gift shop or even some larger retailer. You might have Cody Foster products in your home, and you wouldn’t even know it. You can’t even view their catalog without having the login and password reserved for retail stores that purchase from them.

Last night as I lay in bed, I fantasized about being in a room with Cody Foster and his sister. Cody’s sister, by the way, purportedly scours the internet for him and purchases things that they copy. Many artists from whom they’ve stolen (including my sister three years ago), have sales records from her. I fantasize about looking them in the eye and asking them to explain themselves. How is this okay? How do they go to bed at night and feel okay about themselves? How do they justify this grossly unfair practice?

They have settled out of court with many artists. The way these things work, those artists can’t talk about their experience, because they’ve likely signed non-disclosure agreements with the company. This all makes you wonder if Cody Foster builds the legal & lawyer fees involved into the cost of running their business. They have ripped off so many artists, received a lot of bad publicity on the internet over the years, and been approached by countless artists and lawyers. And yet they still continue to steal from artists without apology or explanation.

I want to thank jezebel.com for being the first to write about this story. You can read the story here. But we need more exposure. How you can help: please spread the word of this to everyone you know, especially retail shop owners who buy from them or press contacts at larger media outlets you might know. 

 

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Closer Look: Michael Kerbow

This week I came across this San Francisco based artist Michael Kerbow, specifically his piece "Compulsive Actions", which became a magnet for me. I have been staring at it all week! This piece is a 16 ft wide oil painting and immediately reminded me of the mindset I was in while working on my thesis project, an installation piece focused on hand drawn patterns titled "Over and Over". In a blog post Kerbow wrote in January 2013, he mentions that piece was only supposed to be 8 ft wide and he just felt compelled to make it wider and wider, having it grow. After putting it up in a gallery he said it seemed small to him up on the wall and is considering painting it LARGER!!! I personally hope he does.  

"Compulsive Actions" by Michael Kerbow

"Compulsive Actions" by Michael Kerbow