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Crooked Letter + Tough Questions

I’m thinking (and being wordy) about art and business and what’s mine and what’s yours today…

Being creative means juggling all kinds of influences and inspirations. Coming up with “original” ideas is actually kind of rare. The concept has been much discussed recently in light of political flaps surrounding the lifting other people’s words or ideas. I see posts from illustrators and artists I admire all the time bemoaning the lifting of their work to be produced without their permission or compensation. In the age of the internet and wifi and Google, the concept of “ownership” has certainly been watered down, or at least misunderstood.

As an artist, I think it’s important to balance the influence of others with a staunch respect for another person’s ownership of their own efforts. I’m thinking about it today because I came across at the Mississippi “Crooked Letter” design below in an Etsy shop called Hypsy Gypsy Boutique based in Purvis, MS — listed on July 8, 2016. The design bears some resemblance to my own block print design. It’s not the same, of course. It’s not an exact copy of mine. It’s just similar. I think what caught my eye is the apostrophe. The infamous apostrophe up there between the eM and the eye! I notice it because I’ve gotten a fair measure of lively discussion (some might say flack) about that apostrophe in my work and my choice in this piece to leave out one set of crooked letters to spell M’issippi rather than the “correct” way.

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Is it just a happy coincidence of two southern artists with the same cultural references? Is the design influenced by mine? Is it a knock-off? Is it a copyright violation? Does my design (and hers) somehow belong to the digital ether once I send it off for viewing on some platform via wifi? Tough questions.

The design of concern is a digital download sold for $2 with a few restrictions prohibiting use on mass produced products. Ok. It will never become the hand crafted pieces I make from the sheet of linoleum I carved and now print by hand on the work table in my office. So, maybe the answers don’t necessarily matter in the big picture.

Maybe. Or, maybe in a world of 128 characters, share buttons, and a meme a minute, the questions deserve a little more attention.

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