Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What do you call this?


Detail from "Death and Life", Gustav Klimt, 1911-15, oil on canvas.



Swatch from "Kaffe Fassett's Pattern Library", 2003.


Want another? How about Klimt's portrait of Adele Bloch-Baur, painted in 1907?


To the right, you can see a variation of Fassett's famous "Persian Poppies", plus patterns of squares similar to some of Fassett's more recent work.



Inspiration? Inevitable similarities produced when working with basic shapes? Copying? COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT?? (Actually, a big no on the last one. Klimt's work is old enough to be in public domain. Plus he was so fucked over by the Nazis, there's not much exploitation left to do by a few knitters.) I sincerely don't know. I do think some things are inevitable - if you play with circles, you'll eventually wind up with things like what Klimt produced. Ditto for playing with squares. Though I do find the first example of the crosses-in-squares rather obvious - even the colors are the same; I think Fassett did take that specific idea directly from that specific painting.

I'm still stuck back on the "Is it wrong?" question. The producers of many fine arts would sneer at the idea of being copied with knitting, and be either horrified or amused. But is it right, ever, to claim something was an original idea, when it wasn't? I know Fassett is usually generous about admitting where he got ideas - Islamic tiles, textiles from all over, and ceramics are favorites of his. So I don't mean to make this some kind of attack on his ethics. He's better than many others, who copy more directly and make not a peep about where they took the information from. And years ago, it was considered a compliment, among musical composers, to borrow each other's melodies and do your own version of them. Before the advent of copyright and the ability to profit from your own ideas, the concept of having to produce something original would have been considered very strange.

But I can't help but wonder... what do you call this?

15 comments:

Donna Lee said...

It seems to me that common decency dictates that you give credit for your inspiration even if the work is in "the public domain". To claim it as original is stealing. And that makes all your other work look suspect.

KnitTech said...

It's been said, everything has been done by someone.

As Donna said, the best option is to document, document, document.

Julie said...

I tend to agree with both of you. In the past I've knit things inspired by other's work but try to give documentation and credit where it is due. Often I even name the design after the previous source. ...and I intend to do it more in the future. :)

Brewgal said...

If you claim someone else's ideas as your own it is plagarism. Good manners dictates revealing the source of the inspiration, if only to encourage others to check out the original. I love Klimt!

Liz said...

As someone who based a whole set of City and Guilds embroidery pieces on a study of Klimt's use of symbol, I could possibly be accused of plagiarism, too... I agree that naming a design after the source is a good idea - but we also know Klimt took many of his symbols from traditional Persian carpet designs in the first place...

Julie said...

Yup. And Kaffe has said he got the inspiration for "Persian Poppies" from some Persian textile or other, hence the name. Go figure. Is this one of those deals, like fiction writing, where there's nothing original left to do?

Still think giving credit's a good idea, though.

Bells said...

Probably giving credit is a good idea but you know, what if I made a design that had stars all over it and looked like a Van Gogh? Does he have a copyright on the night sky?

Sheepish Annie said...

I like to think of it as inspiration. But, common courtesy really means giving credit where credit is due. There are one or two original ideas left out there. If I ever happen to have one, I'd like to think that others would at least give me a nod should they find my work inspiring enough to build on it...

Amy Lane said...

I don't know... it's funny, I was listening to the Simon & Garfunkle song "Richard Cory", which is, of course a variation of the EA Robinson poem by the same name... they gave their 'apologies' to Mr. Robinson in their lyric sheets. I know that back in the post-modernist class that I suppressed Foucoult or someone had a term, an entire philosophy that dealt with art begetting art and copies begetting imperfect copies until what remained was an original that was as different from what inspired it as a work done by another artist in another time.

I know that many of our most beloved works (including Shakespeare's) were inspired by other works that the copy surpassed, and I know that John Gardner's Grendel carries as much poetry and power as the original Beowulf and the the Burton Raffel Beowulf is not the same as the Seamus Heaney Beowulf any more than the Roy Orbison 'Pretty Woman' is the same as the Van Halen 'Pretty Woma' or the Patty Smythe 'Fire' is the same as Bruce Springsteen's. (Although she really did steal that one.)

I think it just comes down to art begetting art--and the only real 'wrong' would be in not giving props to the person who inspired you... even if (as is often the case with fine arts versus crafted ones) the person who inspired you would think you were inferior. (And then woudn't tey be embarrassed to be wrong:-)

Jejune said...

Oooh well spotted!!

I agree with you, I think you need to at least give some nod in the direction of the original artwork, even if it's in the public domain... 'inspired by...' or somesuch. And cite your sources. Bit slack on Kaffe's part!

Catie said...

I'm more likely to say that it was slack in this case, as JeJune did, as opposed to plagarism because I have seen the post about the other knitwear designer who is so strongly opposed to copyright infringement and then does it herself. As a knitter, I like to see where the inspiration comes from, often it tends to impress me if they are in two such different mediums.

Alwen said...

Maybe he has a head like mine, that hoovers up stuff and remembers it, but often fails to footnote where it came from!

I was just thinking about this yesterday, trying to remember where I learned to do a "button start" for a netted bag.

But yeah. If you remember where the inspiration came from, it's only politeness to say. Not saying, and having people figure it out, tends to make them look all squinty-eyed at you and wonder what else you just took.

Julie said...

I tend to do that, too - learn things from all over and forget where I got them from. Though even then, I will usually say "I can't remember where I got this from, but it's not my original idea." It just feels dishonest for people to think I'm brilliant for coming up with an idea I really read in a book somewhere.

And yes, I love when people say where they got their inspiration from -- I often learn a lot of new, interesting things.

debsnm said...

I was thinking about this last night - I'm currently thinking about doing some charting to see if I can knit a Celtic circle - maybe in the middle of the back of a sweater - and I remembered a show I was watching on Discovery or the Travel Channel or some dumb thing. It was about these monks who make these really beautiful sand drawing and then destroy them when they're finished. My first thought when I saw one of them was - "WOW! I bet I could knit that circle-thingy in intarsia!" Long way to the point, which is this - inspiration comes from whence it comes. I don't think it's necessarily pilfering, especially if its done in a different medium. Guess it depends on which side of the Kaffee Faset fence you're on. Seems that he's either genius or a hack, there's no middle ground.

Anonymous said...

Here's another one that has come up in some of the Japanese knitting groups. Marianne Kinzel's Springtime design (used in tablecloths in her First Book of Lace Knitting, pages 83-89), has popped up in the Japanese book Lets Knit #11.

You can see the Kinzel design in Grumperina's Feb 15 2006 entry titled Mosquitos (the rightmost of the three images). And you can see the Let's Knit project in the second photo of needleartsbookshop.com listing for Let's Knit #11 (sorry, it won't let me paste URLs).

According to the comments on the KnittingElegance KAL blog entry on Sept 11 2007, the Japanese comments to the pattern call it a Kunst flower motif. But I looked through my two shetland lace books (Sarah Don, Shannon Miller) and didn't see that motif, and from my reading of Kinzel's book, the patterns are all original to her. And a few months ago, someone else who noticed this similarity compared the charts and said they were identical.

So now I wonder where all the other wonderful designs in this series are being taken from.

And yet another: in the current issue of YarnMarketNews (industry publication), there is a long article about copyrights and how illegal any copying is (shops can't copy patterns) and how ripped off authors are when their designs show up elsewhere. Yet one of the complainers has published plenty of designs that simply reflect what is already out there in the knitting world.

No designer works in a vacuum. Designs build on what we have seen. When people tell the story of where what they use came from, it makes it so much more interesting (i.e. crediting sources). But simply copying the work of others is definitely plagairism.

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