i’ve been meaning to write this for so long. like. so long. probably close to 18 months, but i’ve never known how best to approach it.
it stems from an event that happened a couple of years ago. remember when i used to paint onto driftwood? remember when i did a few avengers pieces to mark the release of one of the films?
you might not, it goes back a long way. so you probably also don’t know or remember that as a result of that i have a cease and desist from the legal team at marvel comics for painting iron man’s mask onto a piece of driftwood. seems petty to do it for a single item i was charging £2 for, but marvel is kind of known for doing this on sites like etsy.
did this impact me? not really. i took the piece down and managed to sell it elsewhere. it was, after all, only one item that wasn’t easy to reproduce (not like a print, mug or phone case). and i had a number of original designs and pieces to fall back on.
i usually split my work into two categories: attention pieces and sale pieces. an attention piece is self-explanatory, it’s something that is visually striking and often large and expensive. something like my violin and ukulele pieces. they may not sell quickly but they draw eyes over to my work and can lead to me selling other items, my sale pieces. a sale piece is something like a print, mug, phone case etc. an item that, once i’ve finished the design, doesn’t require much effort to reproduce and i can sell for a modest profit. the profit margin doesn’t have to be high because i tend to sell more of them and they can be quickly and easily re-ordered or manufactured.
but if my business was based on marvel characters on various products etc, i’d have been screwed.
my point here is that marvel was right to issue that cease and desist to me because the image i used wasn’t mine to profit from. i was just fortunate that i had a portfolio of other original pieces to fall back on, which some people don’t consider doing (or for whatever reason aren’t able to do).
with christmas coming there’s sure to be a number of companies selling “knock-off” products from big companies which is understandable, we’ve all got bills to pay and things like that can really help. but what i’m really trying to encourage is building your own brand rather than relying on other images.
when i first started out i did that. i wanted to sell things so i made what i thought people would buy because it was familiar to them. it was all twee and trying to be cute but it wasn’t very “me” at all. it’s only been a couple of years of focusing on my own stuff and i already have people coming to me for my style and being able to recognise my work. replicating other popular images is ok if you want to make a bit of quick cash then have your etsy account deleted and claim the industry doesn’t support indie artists.
the longevity depends on your originality and your ability to stand out among so many other people trying to do the same thing.