Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Rant

Who's idea is it anyway?

Today’s rant is on the contentious topic of plagiarism in art. In a field where many of us learn by mimicking, where is the line drawn? 

This is an issue that comes up in visual art a lot, particularly in community arts. Because unlike commercial art, the rules are not clearly established at the community level. Although this is a hobby for some, it is a career for others. Many of us are familiar with the sting of stolen intellectual property.

Let me give you a scenario that was discussed at our studio this week. An artist makes a product. They take that product to a market.  Another artist goes to the market looking for ideas. Sees this one, goes back to their own studio and makes the same thing.  This happens a lot on the lead up to Christmas when craft fairs are everywhere and many makers spend the year producing work for this time.  

Where do we draw the line? Is it okay for that artist to make the object? Most of us, especially those who teach would say, absolutely! This is how we “fill the well” of our knowledge. This is how we practice and grow in the craft. It is a compliment to the maker. Is it okay then for the artist to keep that object? Or should they just use it as an experiment and through it away? I would argue that it is fine for the artist to keep the object. Okay, so if the artist has the object in their possession what are they permitted to do with it? Can they give it as a gift? This is where it gets murky. Because the original artist is attempting to make a living on this very premise.  

Most of us would agree that it is not okay for the second artist to profit from it. It may not be illegal, but it is generally thought of in the community (the way I understand it) as not okay. So the second artist cannot go ahead and make a dozen and take it to another market to sell it. 

Why? The second artist is also trying to make a living at their craft. Is this not how ideas spread? Is this not how great ideas become great? (Just look at Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque) One would agree that, at the very least, one should credit the original designer. Anyone who was taught how to cite a reference in an essay would recognize this. But, how do we do that in visual art? 

There are ways. In pottery, if I, hands-on, made the pot in a class with an instructor, I personally, put both our names on the bottom of the piece. So no matter where that object ends up, it is clear who made it. As with the one I made with the assistance of Master Potter, Robert Shiozaki. I made the pot. And I will share it because I have added my own artistic flair to it. But I will not claim that throwing a vessel that large is entirely my work at this point. And because he literally had his hand in the clay, I would never dream of selling it. Not this one. But the next one is mine to do with as I please. I took the class to learn a skill to develop my craft. If a skill is learned in a classroom then the student has paid to “own” the skill. And the instructor has given that to the student. 

Likewise, in my opinion, anything that has been put out to the public domain is available for use. I believe we are all teachers and students. All of us who produce work and let it leave the confines of our studio is for consumption. So that is taking it to a fair, gallery or putting it online. Then we just have to trust that the consumer is ethically responsible with our work.  As we are a community, where possible, I usually contact the artist directly to make sure they are okay with what I am doing. 

That may lead to a debate on where ideas come from. That will be another rant. 

Please, please comment below. This is only my opinion. However, when I asked my instructors and mentors this question over the years their answers varied considerably. Hence the on-going debate. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

New Work

New Work Fall 2018

Driftwood Tea Set

Stoneware. 5"X6" 
with beachstone top and bamboo handle.

With cream and sugar.

With "snuggle mugs."

Sgraffito Platter
12" X2" stoneware.
Zen Doodle inspired by the four elements of the earth.
Inspired by Zentangle designs by Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts.

Driftwood Cookie Jar
with, master potter, Robert Shiozaki.
12" X 12" with driftwood handle. Stoneware. 
Inspired by the absence of sea stars.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Professional Practice


Making Do Installation 5' X 5'. 2011.

Making Do Quilt 5' X 10'. 2011

Making Do Grad Project at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Exhibited in the Concourse Gallery in June 2012. 

This work expresses the increasing struggles of the family.  Making Do Quilt is made of reclaimed fabric from a woman's work suit on the right and a baby spit up blanket and tea towel on the left. A large knit piece connects the two halves of the 'work'. 

Making Do installation exhibited at my convocation from ECUAD in 2012. Exhibited again at the Deer Lake Gallery in January Blues 2017.

Pine Ridge Mural. 88 Ceramic Tiles mounted in wooden frames. 5' X 5'. 2015.

This is a community project currently exhibited at the Pine Ridge Housing Cooperative. An art initiative on the theme of Home, where a representative from each of the 88 households from the 4 buildings created a tile on the subject of what home means to them.

4 panels 1' X 5'.

88 ceramic tiles with sgraffito and/or cone 6 glaze. 4" X 4".

Ceramic Crows. Cone 6. 2" X 8" average. 2016.

With Linda Lewis' porcelain cups.

Attempted Murder, 89 ceramic crows, were exhibited at the East Side Culture Crawl November 2016 at Hello Wold Ceramics Gallery and Studio on East Hastings street in Vancouver. And at the Coquitlam Library.

Garden Crows exhibited and sold at Little Critters Gallery and the Farmers Market in Maple Ridge in 2015. 

Flower Pond. Cone 6 Ceramic. 7". 2018.

Kelp Pond. Cone 6 Ceramic. 7". 2018.

Leaf Pond. Cone 6 Ceramic 6". 2018.

This work was exhibited and sold at Inspiring Creativity in the Port Moody Art Centre Gallery August 2018. Although the show exhibited the work of the instructors at the art centre who inspire creativity in their students, this work was inspired by the desire to protect our beautiful BC coast. 

Images may not be used without permission from the artist at babcock.smith@gmail.com

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Peripatetic practice


Mother and Daughter 2002. Pastel on paper. 10" X 14"

I refer to my practice as peripatetic because I have never been able to settle on one medium, inspiration often comes when I am walking in our beautiful BC nature, and I am often conceptually inspired by the ancients.  When I was in art school I changed my major repeatedly from ceramics to painting and finally illustration where I fell in love with creative writing. For years I tried to master one craft. However, in my later years, I have come to accept that this is my practice. I am a wanderer lead by inspiration yet fettered to my duty as an artist.

Wiccan Garden, 4' X 4' quilt. Reclaimed fabric.

Wiccan Garden was born out of my World Religions studies. It is a small quilt made for my mother's lap, after her hip surgery. Entirely made from reclaimed fabric from the clothes she had bought for my children. Now outgrown. Divided into three sections representing water, earth and air. I share this piece to express that we are all artists and we are all beginners.

I brought my quilting skills to the ceramics studio with this series in 2013.

Quilted Mug, 3" X 5" Ceramic, Cone 6

I experimented with text on ceramics with this 12 piece place setting of a 12 stanza poem on the subject of a changing family represented at the dinner table.

Text Plates 6" X 6" Sgraffito Cone 6.

If there seems to be one common thread of my work over the decades, it is that I like to work in the realm of domestic politics. 

Beach Bowl 7.5" X 2" Ceramic Cone 6.

As a coast artist, I am forever inspired by the juxtaposition of where the land meets the sea. 

This series was made after a family vacation to the Oregon coast, impressed by the extensive sand dunes.

Driftwood Pot 7" X 7" Ceramic Cone 6.

This series of work was inspired by a trip to the west coast of Vancouver Island summer 2018. 

Kelp Pond, 2" X 4" Ceramic, Cone 6.

Much of my studio work has been inspired by my travels through Europe and Asia, looking at art and studying World Religions abroad.

Alley Painting. Watercolour 8" X 10" 

In 2016 I went through my own version of the "blue period" and I attempted to make a murder of 100 crows. 89 ceramic crows were exhibited at the East Side Culture Crawl and sold in various markets. To me, studying, drawing and sculpting crows represented my own dissolution with the world. I felt the murder circling overhead as my family witnessed our way of life eroding with the bad news for the environment and the economy all around me. 

Attempted Murder, 2" X 6" Ceramic, Cone 6.

Not in chronological order.

Images may not be used without permission from the artist at babcock.smith@gmail.com

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Magic of the Western Woods

A Children’s Story for Pine Ridge

After a devastating oil spill, fairies living in the Western woods, need to journey to the secret garden to collect a sacred crystal which will harness the four elements with unusual power and save the world.

In the western woods, there are many neighbours who nurture the young fairies. As fairies are not born but bloom from flowers and tree buds in the spring, they are raised by all.  

A red fairy is a master of nutrition
A yellow fairy is a master of physical health
A brown fairy is a master of the spirit
A black fairy is a master of the mind. 
A blue fairy is a master of creative expression
A pink fairy is a master of music.
A green fairy is a master of critical thinking

Along with tall evergreens, the protectors of history called the elders; these fairies keep the natural cycles moving. 

In the forest, there are different factions: the Crossed faction, the veiled ones, the Orange Robbed ones, and the Naked ones. Someone from each camp has been chosen for this important quest. 

In the bark of the tree sometimes you can get a glimpse of the sun god. But he is fading into history now. The fairies don’t bother with him much. Likewise, under the light of the full moon sometimes you can glimpse the goddess glowing in the deep recesses of the forest. 

One day a terrible tragedy occurs. An oil geyser springs from the mountain drowning all living things in its oily ooze. The oil monster arises and grows larger. 

Our young group of fairies are reared and trained by their chosen master of a particular talent. Armed with gifts from each of their mentors, they set out on their quest.  

They must take the Crystal to the tower in a strange city, where a ruler called The Energy Giant, lives. The group of young fairies must give the Energy Giant the crystal so that he may power his city with it. Thereby ridding the world of the oil monster for good.  

Content may not be used without permission from the artist at babcock.smith@gmail.com

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Shades of White

Author's comments on work.

Q: What is this book about?

A: “Shades of White” is a collection of three short stories braided together to create a series of snapshots from history alongside contemporary issues.  It is a commentary on the messages that make us up as individuals; from the influences of fairy tales to feminist theory. Tracing three generations of Canadian housewives through the pioneer days, the war years, the sexual revolution, to the 21st century; It is a love story of loss and longing. 

Q: What would you say the message of this book is?

A: The message is that first love is a beautiful magical thing that doesn’t last. But it sometimes shines a light on lasting love. Lasting love is not so magical. It is often dull and hard; but with years of polishing, it becomes just as beautiful. 

Q: What were you thinking as you wrote this book?

A: I was thinking about how things resurface in tides over and over, in our lives and in others. It is a message to young women that the drama we experience in our lives is not unique, but has been experienced before and will be again. This book looks at that through the issues surrounding love and marriage in my life, my mother’s life and my grandmother’s life; leaving it with my daughters to make informed decisions in this regard - not being ruled by the passion of the heart.  

Q: Who is your intended audience and how do you address them? 

A: My daughters are my intended audience.  I have woven in the cultural and historical elements of these women's lives to punctuate the turning of time in reference to the three waves of feminism to give my children a sense of their own heritage within a historical context. 

Q: What genre does this book belong to?

A: I'm not sure there is one. This work is more of a literary art piece than a novel. The style is a portrait of our time. People multi-task now. Therefore, this story does not flow in the traditional way. It is choppy. It is written in sections. This is intentional, I think it reflects who we are. We hear a lot, “No one reads these days. They have a short attention span. They want everything easy and short.” Like snippets. People don’t take in information in order. They jump around.  Shades of White moves from the traditional to the contemporary, in style. Rose’s story is chronologically in order and fleshed out appropriately, but Diana’s story gets shorter and more like snapshots, creating an image like a collage.

Q: Would you say this is a Canadian story?

A: I would, it traces our ancestors from across the sea, to the family farm on the prairie, to life on the west coast. It illustrates the lives of women from the age of clearly defined roles, the sexual revolution, to blurring the gender roles. It reflects the three waves of feminism from women getting the vote, to equal pay in the workforce to equality between the sexes in this country. The protagonist being, not an activist, but rather a product of her environment. 

Nicole Smith

Visual artist and art teacher
Content may not be used without permission from the artist at babcock.smith@gmail.com

Meandering the Cone Scale

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