When and why did you first start creating your products/designs?
In 1996 I left Cleveland College of Art and Design, where I studied textiles and surface pattern design. The HND was industry linked with groups like Jane Kitchen Design, Susan Hawes, and bigger groups like M&S, Crown Wallpaper and Skopos Blinds, a Northern group who were leading in the manufacture of fire retardant products. Alongside this we had annual trips attending exhibitions & shows; Indigo, Paris, Rati; silk tie designer, Lake Como, Versace Screen Printing, Milan, Decorex London, Osborne & Little, Liberty London. The course was superb, and towards the end I was gaining distinctions consistently.
I was a little daunted when I left as I was not ready to return home to Cornwall, so I stayed on in the North East and started to apply for Bursaries and Grants from the Princes Youth Business Trust (PYBT) and local resources, as I wanted to launch my own surf clothing line, which I did.
I exhibited at the PYBT Trade fair at The NEC Birmingham aged 22 years and secured greeting cards freelance design work with M&S, took large orders for handmade cards for various shops around the UK, and met a company called Big Yellow Taxi, from the North East who I worked with for a while.
This work was amazing and I sold out of my fashion line for that season, but I was over stretched and decided to go into teaching part time, as cashflow was difficult to manage. I also did some bar work along the way to keep my social life going, eventually realising that the work outweighed the money and so I committed to full time studies in teaching Design and Technology in secondary education.
Since having my children I decided to return to my art and have built up a small home business ‘Tidalmarks’, with a studio in my garden. It’s great to walk to work in 2 minutes and be on hand for my family also. I produce semi abstract paintings and landscapes of the Cornish coast and my new work is promoting issues of man- made pollution.
Did you have any knowledge of intellectual property when you started your business?
Part of my HND was indeed about copyright and I used to send myself my original designs of cards etc. in the post via recorded delivery and leave them unopened. I did not realise at that time that this method of supporting designs has never been proven in Court! I also read the HND course’s Copyright pack and realised I could not afford to officially register so many images with the IPO, for example. With hindsight, I realise that friends on my college course told me that another ‘friend’ from the same course was mimicking some of my card designs.
In fact, as I write this article I realise that people have been ‘influenced’ by me an awful lot! I can laugh now, as I even recall sabotage on my teaching degree which made me struggle to complete projects in time for deadlines. Obviously talent can bring about jealousy and mimicry. Just like the greats – the artist Turner had a huge problem with copying. He used to hang his work for exhibitions in advance, then go in and finish it quickly an hour before opening, to keep ahead of the game.
Which ACID Membership services have you used and how have you benefited from being a Member?
I have been quick to brand myself with the ‘Member of ACID’ logo in response to another company mimicking my techniques and style for 3 years, literally taking off the landmarks from my landscape paintings and reproducing styles remarkably similar to the backgrounds. I use the logo as my profile picture on all my social media pages and use the accompanying intellectual property statement on all my messaging and emails which gives me a huge sense of relief and peace of mind.
This mimicking has made me feel violated, especially realising that 3 accounts on Twitter and 3 accounts from Instagram from the same gallery were following my every move, very, very invasive and sickening to realise the levels people will go to.
I have used ACID’s IP Databank, to upload work from the past 10 years and I also accessed the legal affiliates for legal advice and found that Gavin Llewellyn at Stone King LLP was exceptionally helpful, regardless of the fact that I did not receive advice in my favour. The truth is that copyright law for art is flawed, in my opinion, unlike the music industry which seems to have more effective remedies for counterfeiting and plagiarism.
Have you brought anything new to the marketplace recently that you would like to share?
I have some amazing new environmental work that has taken 2 years to develop, using my litter picking at beaches and in the streets where I live to influence my progress, as well as the bombardment to my senses via social media, I choose not to share all of the horrific things that humans are doing to the planet, but instead take inspiration from it for my collection, which is called ‘natural beauty versus man made pollution’.
What is the best aspect of ACID Membership for your business?
I love the IP Databank! It is easy to upload many images at an affordable cost and at the same time be able to download a design certificate. It’s a huge asset to artists like myself. I do not believe that this service was available when I started out on my career and based on my recent experiences and with the window of opportunity still knocking via social media, it might seem like an unnecessary outlay. But I would encourage all artists to keep their new ideas close and do not share them until they have uploaded them to ACID’s IP Databank.
What advice would you offer to a new designer?
I have realised that you need to look at your work objectively and separate the qualities of your work yourself and support the intellectual property of each piece. The experience I have encountered has taught me, that people who copy are clever, that they know how to work the copyright system.
Why would anyone expect a semi-abstract artist to reproduce textures, techniques and style from a landscape artist?
Still thanks to the Member of ACID logo and dog eared determination the truth will come out and in the meantime it’s been fantastic to speak with the ACID team and be invited to contribute to Member Focus. Revisiting my career has been a shocking wake-up call and catalyst for me to produce some of the best work of my life and if this article does give insight and help to other artists then I am pleased to have contributed.
ACID values the support of its members to enable it to campaign for design law reform. Do you have any messages for Government/Policy Makers on IP issues?
I think that there is need for significant development in IP issues particularly via social media and online infringement. I have now spent over 200 hours producing an evidence timeline of documentation and liaising with Instagram via its copyright infringement department to no avail. The system to send a copyright infringement complaint was strange, as the writing was so small and I could not even tell if anything had been sent. As I do not meet their criteria there is no response
Further to this I feel the current copyright system for artwork is flawed, as discussed previously and more emphasis is concentrated on, for example, the Music Industry. As, historically, no investment has been put into supporting Design and the Arts these are blatantly being ripped off via social media, leading to loss of earnings. Copyists effectively make it look like I am copying them as they are pre-empting my development work and flooding the market ahead of me, causing a secondary, damaging impact on my sales.