Yesterday I delivered my entry documentation for an embroidery and creative fibres exhibition that is to be held in New Plymouth, my nearest city, in a community gallery October. The information that was asked for in invitations was the work’s title and description (e.g. method used), fibres used, size and price.
I duly provided the detail, including where I had sourced my inspiration from. For 3 of my works, I had been inspired by the work of other embroiderers or fibre artists, so I duly acknowledged them thusly: “Inspired by the work of Lee Westfield”, “Inspired by the work of Jennifer Rochester”, and “Inspired by the work of Annette Emms”.
I received an email today from one of the organisers of the exhibition today that read: “Unfortunately the label size means I have to limit the amount I can put on the description. How important is the acknowledgement of ‘Inspired by work of..?’ Would you prefer me to leave out some of the description or the acknowledgement?”
I didn’t have to think about the answer. I chose to leave out the method, the description of the work … all of the things with creative meaning to me, and chose instead to retain the acknowledgement.
Here’s my response:
“Thanks for your email. And thanks so much for giving me the option.
People have been badly *pinged* by the breach of copyright/intellectual property implied by failing to give credit where it is due. In fact there was a recent article in Threads magazine reporting on an overseas artist who saw something very similar to her work in an exhibition photo and got very antsy—yet it turned out that the artist had taken the care to give the acknowledgement but the gallery had thought it unimportant and left it off.
So I'd rather you leave out some description so that the proper people's ideas are acknowledged, thanks. After all, these creations are only semi-original, so I certainly can't take all of the credit for the work!”
I appreciate the sentiments that “there is nothing any more that is new or original in this world”, that “imitation is the greatest form of flattery”, and that all inspiration comes from somewhere. My work certainly wasn’t a copy of anyone else’s, but I feel that it is really important that we, as artists, give credit where credit is due.
After all, how would we feel if another artist took credit for the original ideas in a work that was based on our own designs and did nothing to acknowledge our input? I have had this happen, and I found it a very upsetting experience.
I wondered if anyone else has had similar experiences when exhibiting work. Do other galleries take acknowledging sources seriously? Do other artists bother to acknowledge their sources? And how important to you think it is to acknowledge sources or have your work acknowledged when it is the source of inspiration for other artists?