Category Archives: Idea Exchange

Artists and Copyrights: Another Perspective

Our NMPCA Newsletter Editor, Christina Sullo, published an article about rules to avoid violating copyrights of other artists, which was reprinted with permission from the Corrales Society of Artists.  We posted this article to the blog here to facilitate discussion. This Post contains another point of view.

250px-marcel_duchamp_mona_lisa_lhooqThe Corrales Society of Artists article does not take into account the the widespread discussion about this topic nor the many modes of expression in the visual arts. One small example is this blogpost by Kathryn V. Williams, blogging as funnypumpkin, showing an example of an artwork that I believe would violate the “do not” rules in the article, but which is considered a valid derivative art work by Marcel Duchamps, pictured at left.   Another blogpost by Mike Masnick contains some comments about  about the source of creative ideas and the relationship to “copyright law.”  While viewing blogposts can be interesting, I don’t think we will be living our lives according to what we read there, but it does stimulate our thinking.

OK, so we are ceramic artists here.  What might this copyright violation look like.  Perhaps I go to a fair and see something that I fall in love with…and I don’t have the money to buy it.  But being a reasonably competent ceramic artist, I decide to make one for myself.  So, I copy the shape of the bowl or the look of the figurative sculpture.  Chances are great that I can’t get a duplicate glaze or firing effect, but suppose that I do come up with a creation that looks enough like the original that a reasonable viewer might think it was made by the other person.  Now, this doesn’t really become an issue until I decide that the copy was so successful that I am going to sell it and/or make more of them to sell.  At that point, yes, I think the copies violate the rights of the original artist.  Note that the motivation to create the copies was to reproduce the creative work of another person.

In looking at ceramics, I often see work that is so similar to other work that you have seen that I have to read the credit carefully to determine who make it.   More often, I will see a certain style, glaze surface, or angle of work that makes me think there might have been common sources or direct influence.  Does it make me want to buy the cheaper work?  No, but then I have seen other people buy similar pots when they could not afford the original.

Let’s consider a more common scenario.  As noted in the previous blogpost, creativity nearly always involves building upon ideas we have been influenced by.  He says:  “Art never springs entirely from 100% original thought. It’s an amalgamation of what else is out there — put together in a new way. What’s even more ridiculous is that, in almost every one of these cases, it’s difficult to see how the “original” complaining artist is even remotely “harmed” by the follow-on artists. If anything, it’s likely that the later art would only draw more attention to the original artist.”

There is a strong current of borrowed ideas running through all our work.  It is just the way the creative brain works!  I have a book titled “Steal Like An Artist” by Austin Kleon.  He points out that if people call something “original” that they probably just don’t know the original sources.

I have a story about this idea.  Here is a scan of the postcaGrettFriendman1994Geminird image for a 1994 show at David Rettig Fine Arts in Santa Fe.  The artist, pictured next to the work, is Grett Friedman, now deceased, who was a member of the NMPCA.  Grett had this piece fabricated for her from a much smaller, two piece clay sculpture.  Years later, in the 2000’s, I was visiting with another member of the NMPCA (who had never met Grett) and who moved to Santa Fe from Texas.  He made very large wonderful sculptures.  I saw a sculpture of his in his yard that he had made from clay that was a twin of this piece.  It was about 1/2 to 2/3 the height of her metal fabrication, made from clay in multiple sections vertically, but was so strikingly similar, including the angle at the top of the two pieces, that I was stopped in my tracks.  Grett was already deceased, so I don’t know the source of her work, but I talked to the other artist and determined that he could never have seen Grett’s work.  As I remember it, his work predated hers, but it had never been shown publicly, so that Grett could not have copied it.  I can only conclude that both were inspired by some other work that they didn’t remember.

Nelson-Moore_LandscapeAnd, here is an example of derivative art from my own work.  In 2011 and 2012, I created a few of these works that I call collage sculptures.  The imagery on this one at left consists of a collage of 5 landsat photos (which are published on the internet).  I think there is clearly no copyright issue here, because the source photos are explicitly without copyright and are placed on the internet in a context to invite incorporation into other art.  However, this next imageNelson-Moore_L might be more questioned.  It consists of collage images taken from photographs of Arizona rock formations off the internet and greatly modified and distorted images of paintings.  The impetus for this work was clearly NOT to copy the original photographs or paintings.  I feel it is a valid work of art that does not violate any copyrights.  What do you think?

Judy Nelson-Moore

Artists and Copyrights: The Article

The article below appears in the January 2014 issue of the NMPCA Slip Trail newsletter, reprinted with permission from Corrales Society of Artists. Realizing that this is possibly a controversial issue, we invite your thoughtful comments to further the discussion here on this blog post. Read down and then post your comments at the bottom.

As artists, we’ve all been faced with the individual that diminishes the effort that it takes to create art or believes that they can duplicate or reproduce our work. Some of us have overheard visitors at our booth say, “I could do that.” Or, someone will take pictures of your work for refer-ence. (Editor’s note: I remember my first big juried show in New Mexico; I had someone come into my booth and do both, in one felled swoop! She walked in the booth, pulled out her camera and took a picture of a difficult handmade paper piece and said, “I can do that, I just need a picture for “reference” and walked away before I could respond!)

According to an article on, “When a group of artists were asked how to respond to this type of com-ment (situation), there were just as many responses as art-ists polled. But, basically, they were grouped into two schools of thought.

“One group holds that no one can duplicate another per-sons’ work. They can take the same subject matter, transfer it to a canvas, using the same medium as the original creator, but because the two individuals are entirely different people, with different skill sets and experiences, no two outcomes will be exactly alike. There may be similarities but each stroke of the brush will have a different depth, strength and length; color will vary and, most importantly, the soul of the art cannot be replicated. This group of artists, how-ever, also acknowledges that there are professional craftsmen whose role is to duplicate masters’ works–counterfeiters whose skills and abilities can fool even the most seasoned museum curator. But, we are not usually referring to this level of skilled individual. This group also holds that imitation is a form of flattery and they turn their heads the other way. “The second school of thought, holds that it is copyright infringement, outright theft. The problem is how do you punish or stop the ‘thief,’ especially in this digital age? According to the copyright laws of the U.S., the moment you create anything visual—paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, etc., the work is automatically covered by copyright. While not required, you should get in the habit of putting the copyright symbol, your name and the year the art was produced somewhere on your art.” Many artists put a copyright symbol, their name and the year the work was created on the art work; however, by law, it isn’t necessary. The artist still owns the copyright, even without using the copyright symbol. If anyone copies your work and/or sells it with-out your written permission, you can take them to court and sue for damages; however, it is more difficult if you haven’t registered your copyright with the U.S. Library of Congress Copyright Office. The benefit of taking this additional step is that it creates a public record of the copyright, which may be required to prove infringement in court. What many artists do not realize is that they still hold the copyright to their work after it is sold. The buyer cannot make or sell copies of the art unless you’ve provided permission in writing. And, according to U.S. copyright laws, your family or legal heirs will continue to own the copyright to your work for 70 years after your death. Stay informed. For more information about copyright laws, visit or consult an attorney specializing in copyright laws.
Editors Note: Both and have great articles and tips, including product reviews, and resource links for budding and professional artists on their respective websites. Be sure to check these sites out for more information on copyrights and other valuable topics.

Art, Photography and Copyright Guidelines

The law states that, “Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) to the authors of original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works.” This protection includes authorship of photographs. When a photo-graph has been published it cannot be copied except with the ex-press permission of the owner of the photograph. It is a violation of copyright law to prepare derivative works based upon the copy-righted work. It is also important to note that works do not have to bear the copyright symbol to be protected. “Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, and a work is created when it is fixed in a copy or photo record for the first time.” The copyright protection extends “from the moment of its creation, and is ordinarily given a term enduring for the author’s life, plus an additional 70 years after the author’s death”… “for anonymous and pseudonymous works (unless the author’s identity is revealed in Copyright Office records), the duration of copy-right will be 75 years from publication or 100 years from creation, whichever is shorter.” Transfers of copyright are normally done through contract. An artist or photographer may sell his or her copyright in various forms, including first use, one-time use, limited use, or unrestricted use. It is then legal to use the work, but only under the terms of the contract. Here are the guidelines as most professional artists practice them: • DO NOT– copy someone else’s photograph to create a work of art. • DO NOT– copy a picture that has been printed in any form including book, magazine, etc. • DO NOT– copy a major part of a photograph (an animal, for instance) and place it in a different setting. This is a “grey” legal area, but it is still considered unethical by most professional artists. • OK – to copy your own photograph to create a work of art. • OK – to copy works that have exceeded the time limits for copyright protection. References: Copyright Basics Circular 1, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC. 1995;,, and

Ghost Ranch Peace Mural Update

Submissions for the River of Peace are coming in from all over the world.  We have extended the deadline for these submissions to February 14, 2014.  We wanted to give people more time to get their submissions to us.  We have less than 30 writings received so far and would like to have closer to 100.  The date 02/14/2014 seems like an auspicious date, especially since it is Valentine’s Day, a day to celebrate love.

So far the nature of the submissions have varied from original thoughts to quotes from other sources, both of which are welcome.  The subjects include peace between nations, races, and cultures, cessation of violence in our workplaces, schools, and communities, caring for the earth and reduction of natural destruction, and  ideas conducive or leading to inner personal peace.

The imagMarionGaffene in this post is a submission from a Dutch woman living in Israel.  She wrote her writing, photographed it on her iphone, and emailed it to me.  So wonderful that we can share this from half-way around the world.  She  learned of the project from a friend in Israel who had heard of the project from Michael Lancaster, one of our NMPCA members.  Here is the text of the message she send accompanying the image for our project:

Last week Morris told me about the river of peace and asked me if I would be willing to write something about peace for your project in Dutch.
What a wonderful project !!
I hope that the little “wave” that I wrote from the heart may contribute to the river.
I  will give you a little bit of background as for you to understand how close your project  is to my heart.  I am an art-teacher in Beir Tuvia high school and retorno a rehab-center of N A, working with kids 15-18 yrs old.   I live in Israel was born and raised in Holland-lived in France a bit–volunteered in Israel- traveled “around” lived in NY city – Philly then moved to Montreal – Canada- moved with 2 little children to Israel !
Now 18 years later (exactly on new-years day ) The harsh reality of my son joining the army has arrived.
This week at the ” swearing in “ceremony for my son at the Western wall in Jerusalem – I got overwhelmed with mixed emotions – sadness and pride – my son being chosen for this special fighters-unit – Feeling sad to  see all those hundreds of boys standing there- holding a weapon, feeling that this is their duty as Israeli boys to protect their country.  Besides some strange patriotic pride also skeptical thoughts occupied me – this is absolutely absurd – what kind of mom am I – did I do something wrong – what can I do to  spread peace – besides here and there some art projects – talking peace  with my students and as a mom – living a peaceful life – being at peace with myself and others – ???
I pray that our eyes will open to this magical planet and still have not lost hope that one day there will be PEACE for all beings on this planet.
May your garden of peace bloom and spread all over. May your peace-river flow peace.  Thank you ! With love

Marion Gaffen Vermeulen
Sent from my iPhone

Supplies and Equipment Ideas

I asked member Judy Richey if she had any ideas about what we could post about supplies/equipment.  Here’s what she sent me:

“I have been developing really painful arthritis in my right hand.  I have always reprocessed and reclaimed all my scrap clay and struggled with wedging clay that I purchase that is either way too wet as is often the case from NM Clay, or too dry – Laguna.  My husband gave me the most incredible Christmas gift last year.  He gave me a Peter Pugger VPM-9 stainless steel deairing/power mixing, power wedging pug mill.  The most wonderful machine.  It is small (batch size 25#), relatively quiet, and does a fantastic job, saving my spirit and my hands.  This is one of the few – maybe the first? completely stainless steel pug mill, which is necessary for my studio as I do porcelain which tears up a non-stainless mill. 

“Other than that I think a link to MUD TOOLS, Michael Sherrill’s web site would be good.  He makes the most amazing ribs and his throwing sponges are incredible.  I first became aware of his ribs and sponges at a workshop that I attended at Geil Kilns before I bought my kiln.  Tom Coleman was the artist at the workshop and he showed these tools to us.  The sponges were on back order for some time and several of the people in the workshop were familiar with them and were also waiting to get some.  Then I saw him at NCECA in Phoenix.  I am a devoted fan.  He has amazing tools.  His website is

 “Wonderful brushes at reasonable prices:  Oriental Art Supplies in Huntington Beach CA.  Website

“Last but not least are Phil Poburka’s trimming tools.  He is known as Bison Studios.  These tools are wonderful because they stay sharp forever.  Take some getting used to as they are very sharp.  They do best with leather hard clay and a slow wheel.  The tools are more expensive than other trimming tools, but they last forever or he will resharpen them for you.  The tools are made of Tungsten Carbide and will break if dropped, but as with any excellent tool, taking care of them becomes second nature.  He is always at NCECA. website:

“These are just a few of my ideas.  I would love to get some wonderful tea pot handles.  Most of those I have found locally are really crude.

“Hope these ideas are of some use to others.”

Judy Richey

Coming Out of the Art Closet

I never thought to be doing this…coming out of the closet, but finally I have decided to confess my secret.  So, here on the blog, and witnessed by my fellow NMPCA members, I am going to reveal my story:  I don’t sell much clay work.  And, I don’t feel this lessens my work or my stature as an artist.  I have been thinking about how and why I find myself in these circumstances for quite a while and have decided to set down what has led me to this state.

For several years now, I haven’t had regular gallery representation, just a few pieces here and there.  I used to be in a few galleries and had good success.  I also used to do temporary shows/sales events and had success there, as well.  Despite these previous circumstances, a confluence of events over the last several years has led me to a place where I don’t sell much of my clay work.  I hope that by telling my story I will help other artists who don’t sell much, either.

So how did this happen and what is the effect on my art?

Of course, since I don’t sell art, I have to make money in other ways.  I haven’t yet found a method of not bringing in money and still eat, dress, and have a warm, safe place to live.  I have chosen to make money through computer software work, and I am fortunate to have been able to do so for over 45 years to fuel my passion for the clay.  I used to feel like a divided person, devoting considerable energy and time to business and at the same time, considerable energy and passion to the clay work.  Increasing age has blunted the feeling of divisiveness, and I now feel a nurturing relationship between parts of my life, and I credit my art with bringing about this integration.

We refer to different “worlds” … The art world, business world, civilized world, natural world, everyday reality. We fragment and compartmentalize our lives. My art is an expression of my dreams and visions as I attempt to balance and integrate these separate frames of reference. 

I feel I am flying in the face of cultural stereotypes and conventional measures of the successful artist.  I have encountered people who think you are not a “real” artist unless you work at it all the time (to the exclusion of other money-making endeavors).  To that idea, I simply say hooey.  I am also going against the desires of marketing/gallery thinking by NOT making a cohesive “body of work.”  Instead, I make different kinds of things, sometimes widely different, when I feel moved to do so.

When I was selling work on a regular basis, I felt pressure.  I would try to analyze what it is that people wanted to buy and what price they would pay for it and try to make something to meet these expectations, and still feel good about what I was making.  I was always getting strange requests…make me another one like that only in pink.  I would also get strange feedback about the work, like “Your work is too colorful”  “not colorful enough”  “Too painterly”  “Not painterly enough” “Looks like the work of the devil.”  When receiving some feedback, I would either say I don’t DO pink, or I would dutifully struggle to make something in pink.  I never tried to get the devil out, though…actually I try to cultivate that aspect of my work.  I even incorporated into one of my artist statements these sentences:  “Pieces … are like “demons” of change. Joseph Campbell talks about how “demonic” originally meant the dynamic aspects of life…

With the falling away of commercial sales, I don’t have to worry about other people’s perceptions of my work.  I can focus on my best voice and inner demonic, and concentrate on making the work that I was put on this earth to create.  OK, so that makes its own kind of pressure and struggle, but it feels like this is the right kind of imperative.

Conventional thought would say that an artist who doesn’t sell must not be making art that is any “good.”  After thinking about this, I reject it as an absolute valuation of my work.  By external measures, I get positive reinforcement of my art:  I have won several awards for my pieces and I continually get positive feedback about my work.   By internal measures, I find my work now more meaningful and a fulfillment of my best self.  Certainly, the work that I make by my own and other’s evaluations is just as “good” as work by artists who are making more conventional sales.

I have always been somewhat of a rebel against what I am “supposed” to do.  I was “supposed” to have children…well, I decided not.  I was supposed to keep pursuing promotions in the business world until I rose to the highest level…well, despite success in the direction proscribed by society, I dropped out of corporate life to become an independent software consultant.  So, I guess it should come as no surprise that I am unwilling to do the kind of things, make the kind of work, promote myself and the art in the ways that would lead toward more conventional artist success.

This doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t be happy to sell my work.  I would like to find “happy homes” for my pieces.   If a buyer or gallery approached me to say that they want to buy/represent my work as it is, I would be happy to see that my communication to the world reached sympathetic viewers.    And it is true that I would like my art work to be better known…so that it is not like a tree falling in the forest with no one else around to witness.  Also, I would like to relieve the pressure on my heirs so dispose of so much work after I die.

I applaud other artists who successfully sell their work…I even buy it as much as I can.  However, for myself, I have come to a sense of peace about my current lack of conventional artistic success and bask in the mental richness of possibilities in making the art…so much clay, so many ideas!

Judy Nelson-Moore, Santa Fe,, 2008/2011