Thursday, April 05, 2007

getting credit

Those of you who follow the Bay Area ceramic scene recognize the pottery in the picture to the right. That's my pal, Sara Paloma, featured very prominently on the cover of the latest Restoration Hardware catalogue. Pretty great, right? The pottery is (obviously) the most interesting thing in the room, and any artist would be pleased to be spotlighted on the cover of a internationally distributed catalogue.

The only problem is that Sara's work is not being sold through Restoration Hardware, nor is she even given credit for the work photographed here. A call to the 800 order number to find out how to buy the amazing pottery on the cover revealed an exasperated customer service rep who didn't know Sara's name, but had fielded dozens of calls from people interested in her work. Who is the winner here? No one, as far as I can tell. Restoration Hardware gets an eye-popping catalogue cover, but no way to distribute the work featured. This must disappoint and frustrate potential customers. Sara gets exposure, but no sales as only the most diligent and internet-savvy person is going to have the wherewithal to track her down and place an order.
How does this happen? Photo stylists and prop houses buy work from artists with an eye toward future photo sessions. There are no laws or regulations that say ceramic art needs to be credited in images, or that it is violation of copyright law to do so. I sell pottery to a prop house in New York City, and I have no idea where my work may show up. Here are my pods in another Restoration Hardware catalogue. My pots have also been in Design With Reach catalogues. Again, there no artist credit, and my fabulous name is not mentioned anywhere.

Sara and I started a discussion about this problem of not getting artwork credit after her RH cover came out. We are both used to our work being used to make interior design shoots look great, but this RH cover was too much. Why are we not given credit? Painters have to be given credit for their work; you cannot use an artist's painting in print ads without mentioning their name. But us mud-slingers are getting the shaft. If Restoration Hardware doesn't want to bother selling Sara's work, that's fine. But her name in fine print on the inside of the catalogue cover would translate into thousands of dollars in sales for her, and the recognition she rightfully deserves.

Ceramic artists need to start demanding that their artwork gets name credit in advertising. I'm sure companies don't want to do this, but since it is our work that making their products look more appealing, it's only fair. I would be very interested to hear what other people have to say about this.


  1. Hi - I've been a bit of a lurker and I honestly cannot remember how I found your great site. I'm so impressed with your work and when I read today's post, I felt disheartened that artists like yourself don't get credit when their work is placed in photos to sell other (and usually less original) products. It's frustrating, too, as a consumer because I currently have most of the big things I need for my home, so when I see photos like the ones you've shown, I am more curious about the smaller, more unique items such as the pottery, the original paintings, etc.

    By the way, I live in L.A. and dropped in Carol Young's shop - I'm too broke at the moment to buy anything there, but she is very impressive. I wish you both the best! m

  2. jtclay1:54 PM

    you're right that this really sucks. I don't know the quick answer on how to fix this in general, but here's a thought on how to direct the well-deserved traffic to Sara for the time being - maybe she can include a page on her website with tags like "restoration hardware", "current cover", and pictures of the corresponding pots. and artists with webpages like yours can help out by linking to that page, with the end goal that if someone can't get any info out of RH regarding Sara, he/she can google for restoration hardware cover ceramics and have Sara's website be the first link to pop up.

    this of course in no way addresses the issue of how artists get credit in general, but may help to capture traffic for the time being

  3. great post whitney!
    as usual ceramics/pottery takes the back seat to "so called" fine art and it is inexcusable! jtclay's suggestion is a good intermediary solution but really why should sara or any other ceramicist have to go to such trouble to get their well deserved recognition? it should be standard practice that artists get credit for their work when it is featured in ANY publication. i agree it takes a group effort to change things...i will make this a priority and insist any work of mine to be featured in articles of any kind be properly credited to me. we have to ALL insist on this otherwise we will continue to go unrecognized. thanks for speaking up. xo

  4. Sara Paloma11:13 AM

    It was a client of mine that first pointed out my work on the Restoration Hardware cover and she was congratulating me for getting picked up by such a huge store. (clearly she didn't look too closely at the catalog). What bothers me about it the most is that I make my living wholesaling my handmade pots to small boutiques and design stores that pride themselves on carrying items you can't find just anywhere. If I were to have my work sold by a major chain retailer like RH, these smaller shop owners would very likely not want to carry my stuff any longer. I have made a decision not to pursue getting picked up by one of the "big guys" (not with my bottles anyways, they are all handmade, one of a kind, my babies) and stick to
    being carried by many small stores. SOooooo, the fact that this catalog cover makes it LOOK like I am being carried by a huge chain (without the financial gain of actually being carried by them) kinda sucks,and could hurt me.
    My friends and loved ones think I'm crazy for not pursuing RH full force to carry my stuff. I tell them I'm holding out for Pottery Barn...better yet, SkyMall.

    As far as the ethical issue of using artisans work in print, I think they should have to give name credit when it is such a focal point, though I have no idea how you would enforce this.... would it mean having to give name credit to EVERYTHING in the picture, and every picture in print? THink about it,
    every rug, every end table, planter, chair. And would it mean only "handmade" things, or all objects (the designers behind manufactured objects are artists too). Or Maybe only when the object takes up a certain amount of space, or focus in the image? It certainly opens up a good

  5. hear, hear!

    Ceramics IS art!

    Pottery IS art!

    So what can we do about this dilema?

  6. I agree that behind every manufactured item there is an artist, but these are items that are meant to be consumed on a large scale, and there is a certain anonymity that goes with the territory of being a designer of manufactured goods. And yes, every rug, every planter, every end table, every handmade item in a catalogue should get artist credit. If the companies don't want to do this, then they should stick to populating their photo layouts with anonymous, manufactured goods-- it's what they are peddling after all!

  7. I say sue their rancid asses. I had an image of a vase I made (photoraphed also by myself) on the cover of the guild. When I showed it to a client w/ a showroom in LA that was doing rockin sales on them the client basicly said they had seen it, and it made them feel a little more dubious about the work...Of course they eant that special item not be extruded in mass quatities to the millions. I think that's cause for damages and a lawyer should be called forthwith. Intellectual Property!!! I (by the way) own several beautiful (and unique) Sara Paloma peices. I enjoy them every day...

  8. I agree. In the meantime, I'll do what I can by posting this cover and giving Sara some credit. Pay it forward. ;)

  9. This unfortunately happens all the time and these guys are too dull to realize taht it could be a win/win situation for all of them. My advice to Sara: You should find the corporate office for restoration hardware, get the buyer name for the appropriate dapartment, and send product catalog along with their cover as a part of your "press". Include a note saying you were honored to be featured and have heard that they have been bombarded with calls for your products...would they like to buy??
    I know they don't do it on purpose, it's a stylists job to create a stunning room, but it happens often and often leaves the artists in the dark

  10. yes, this is good advice and that is exactly what Sara did. I'm not sure she wants to sell through RH, all of her bottles are thrown by hand and I don't think she wants to be chained to her wheel just yet, but it's a good thing to rattle their cage a bit and let them know who she is.

  11. as an art buyer for a commercial ad agency, any recognizable artwork, brand, logo etc. run in a non-editorial advertisement is supposed to be credited by law. especially when it's a catalog. i know these big places do it all the time, but they probably don't expect you to go after them. all the more reason you should. that pottery is amazing, and certainly recogonizable and one of a kind, so i think she'd have a pretty good case.