Friday, June 17, 2011

Cake, Ice Cream, and Ethics

Back in February, I ran across a tutorial for making the most adorable paper cakes and cupcakes on Tara Anderson’s blog, The Pink Couch. I printed it out, and put it in my “Must Do” pile (as if I have something as organized as that on my desk!). Tara has it listed under “For Kids,” which I guess says something about me!
I am trying very hard to eliminate that theoretical “Must Do” pile, in favor of lovely, completed projects, so this past week, I pulled out Tara’s tutorial, along with a big pile of paper scraps, and started making the most colorful, fun cakes and cupcakes based on her design.
There have been many, many blog posts recently regarding ethical issues surrounding the use of other people’s designs and ideas. For example, I have read the thoughts of Quinn at Quinn Creative and Chris at Parabolic Muse. Reading these posts, and completing this little cake and cupcake project has led me to pose the following multi-part question. I would really love to hear your thoughts!

My question:

Is it ethically allowable for me to:

A. Use these cakes and cupcakes (based on Tara’s tutorial) to make a card for my mother or create a gift tag for my daughter’s birthday package?

B. Use these cakes and cupcakes (based on Tara’s tutorial) to create a set of greeting cards to give to my mother as a birthday gift, so that she can send them out to HER friends and family?

C. Use these cakes and cupcakes (based on Tara’s tutorial) to create sets of greeting cards and gift tags to sell at a church craft sale?
Because I wasn’t sure if using the idea of cakes and cupcakes from Tara’s design to use for gifts or for sale was a breach of ethics, I thought I could safely take the idea of paper piecing (as it is a fairly universal technique, I think), and apply it to a different design. The idea I had in my head was of an ice cream cone.

But then I read a post by my “bloggy friend” Janet over at Just Me and My Art, and she had a lovely journal page on which she had created an ice cream cone, very similar to the idea I had in the wake of making paper cakes and cupcakes.

Uh-oh, I thought. Does this mean that ice cream cones are now off-limits, as well? For the sake of posing my question (and because I wanted to craft some cones!), I made these little projects:

My multi-part question is thus the same:

Is it ethically allowable for me to:

A. Use these ice cream cones (even though Janet had something similar in her journal) to make a card for my mother or create a gift tag for my daughter’s birthday package?

B. Use these ice cream cones (again, reflecting Janet’s journal page) to create a set of greeting cards to give to my mother as a birthday gift, so that she can send them out to HER friends and family?

C. Use these ice cream cones (similar to Janet’s journal page) to create sets of greeting cards and gift tags to sell at a church craft sale?
Because I wasn’t sure about whether ice cream cones would now present a breach of ethics, I sat down today and created a design out of my head that I have not yet seen anywhere (though it WAS inspired by the T-shirt a little girl was wearing in our music class yesterday morning)—a bright and fruity summertime drink, complete with fruit slice and straw.
However, I am starting to think there is nothing new under the sun, and it is entirely possible that a search of the Internet could turn up another artist/crafter who has worked with a similar design. Am I responsible for determining whether it’s been “done” before, before I can use these smoothie drinks as a gifts or for sale?

I know it SEEMS like the ethics surrounding others' art and crafts should be simple and straightforward, but I am finding that I still have some questions. I hope, hope, hope that if you take the time to read this post, you will leave a comment to share your thoughts on the specific questions I have posed.

Thank you for helping me sort out cake, ice cream, and ethics!


laurie said...

very good questions you pose... i'm not sure what ethics would dictate. i think you can use others' designs or inspirations if you give credit and don't make a profit (for yourself) but i'm not in the craft business. i'm interested to see what others say. but i love all the colorful, summer things you have created!

Janet said...

I personally don't have a problem with you making ice cream cone designs. Just because you saw them on my blog doesn't mean I'm the first person to ever think of doing that. If you copied one of my drawings exactly like I did it, and then used it to make something to sell then I would have a problem. All the ethical discussions even have me thinking about using magazine pictures in my own art journal even though it's purely for my own personal use.

Parabolic Muse said...

Oh, Andria!!

I fear now that my blog post did not say what I meant it to say. This is v. sad for me. Because I did not in any way suggest that following a tutorial or learning a process from a class and then doing the same thing is in any way unethical. NO! I don't find that unethical at all.

I mean, outright copying and pasting of an image or a written procedural about a craft, and putting it on your blog and not giving proper credit. I mean, putting someone's piece of work on top of a cigar box you've altered and then selling it. I'm not talking about making a craft based upon someone's freely offered tutorial or a class project! That's not stealing at all.

I think I may have to write a clarification on my post.

I really like what you've done, and I also think that your completely original design inspired by the teeshirt is the cutest of all.

You rock ON!

Andria said...

So far, so interesting hearing from everyone, here, on Facebook, and via email. I hope more folks will join in the discussion! It sounds like most people have a vague feeling about what SHOULD be okay and a lot of questions about what really IS.

Thanks, Laurie! (These were the papercrafting projects on my desk that I alluded to in my Wednesday post!)

Janet, I'm with you...I'm pretty sure other people have put together ice cream cones, and probably smoothies, too, like ours. I'm sure every animal in the zoo has been done, too! I am working on an art journal now that is almost exclusively magazine images, and I'm wondering as I post the pages on Flickr if it's a problem. I can't imagine that anyone thinks I'M taking all these professional photos! I would hate to give up catalogs and magazines as a source of images for my journals.

Chris, this post is definitely NOT a direct reaction to your post, so don't worry about how it was worded. And I agree, the no-brainer would be to put the tutorial up on my blog as though it were my idea. And I'm glad you like my smoothies! :-)

Unknown said...

As a professional interior designer, it was brought to my attention again and again that designs can't be patented. I've yet to see anything truly original in art. We need each other to grow.
As an educator, I would say if someone posted a tutorial, they are inviting your interpretations.
In the situations you presented, it doesn't sound like you're trying to benefit from knocking off someone's work. Gifts from the heart (and hand) are above ethical controversy. And, in my eyes, sales at a church bazaar barely offer a chance to cover material costs... You're not stealing.

lee said...

oh its all so confusing,i just wanted to say I like everything you made

Andria said...

Thank you for your perspective, Michele; I appreciate you commenting! And, Lee, it IS terribly confusing, isn't it? Thanks for the compliment! :-) said...

My goodness... now that my head has stopped spinning, I could answer the question :] (heheeeheeee)
What is ethical here, to recreate an art project you see on a website, blog, or magazine, is fine. Notice the word "recreate" as oppose to "coping" the art;directly copying the artist's artwork and claiming it as your own... BIG NO NO!(you know that already) Recreating artwork you see, an e-course, or from a free tutorial is okay, but you should give credit to the artist who inspired you. Selling the artwork, this is a sensitive subject here... but can be answered. I would say, do not directly "copy" another artist's work; paste it onto something you wish to sell. Free tutorials on how to create a craft, see a piece of artwork on a blog, website, magazine, and wish to recreate it and put it up for sell is not stealing, but give credit where credit is due. :]

Joyfulploys said...

Hi Andria...I agree with Janet and also Muse. Outright copying would be wrong. I sometimes worry about using magazine images too...I almost always try and change them in some way. Good post...and btw, great cakes and ice cream :)

Anne said...

After reading all the responses it would appear that it's VERY ethical to create any number of cones, smoothies, and cupcakes for my mean your Mom's birthday. Go for it Sweets, I''ll love all of them.

Andria said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your sense of guidelines, April. Thanks for commenting, Mary! Hmmm, Mom....somehow I knew you would say that! :-)

Regina said...

I love all the little cupcakes, cones and drinks that you may. As a tutorial writer, I would say that AB are totally okay. It would be, I hope, what the creator of the tutorial had intended. As for the drinks (and probably the cones) and would say it is probably safe to sell at a church craft sale. The lines do get incredibly blurry and definitely confusing, but asking the original creating is always a safe bet.

Regina said...

sorry about all the typos (someone is tired). I meant "made" and "original creator". geesh!

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