Monday, 1 October 2012

What Price Ideas? Do you have a moral compass?

Hello readers and welcome to October.  I thought I'd open up this month with a bit of a discussion about what is and isn't morally acceptable when it comes to using ideas as 'inspiration'.

I was at a wedding fayre yesterday and I was talking away to a couple when another couple (who were clearly Mum & Dad of a Bride) walked straight up to my exhibition and the Dad took out a digital camera and photographed one of my designs and then just walked away.  So I excused myself from the people I was talking to and asked the man very politely if he had just taken a photograph of my work - he replied that he had but would delete it if I wanted him to. Again, very politely I asked if he wouldn't mind.  His wife was then incredibly aggressive and rude and said something about the Bride not seeing my work, to which I said she was most welcome to come for a consultation, if they'd like to book one on her behalf. The women was again really aggressive and said that there was no chance of this happening now.  The couple I was with were really shocked at their manner, but we just carried on with our conversation and it was only afterwards that I realised that they hadn't even taken a business card of mine - so how were they going to get in touch for a consultation, they had no idea who I was but were happy to take my ideas.

I've had people do this before - walk up to my work and take a photograph without asking (or even worse pretend that they're not doing it and then giggle as they walk away) Yesterday was the first time  that I felt confident enough to do something about it.  The fact is that I've never (knowingly) either had someone come for a consultation or booked anyone who has behaved in this way, so surely they're not interested in working with me - they just want my ideas.  I guess the question is would you do it?  Is it acceptable behaviour?

The problem I think, is that lines are so blurred these days with it being accepted practice to download images - my designs appear on facebook, my blog, guest blogs, magazines and my website - the majority of which are right-clickable.  These means that not only bad florists download them and pass them off as their own by putting copies in their portfolio, but Brides too collect them and take them to competitors.  I've only ever had two consultations where the bride didn't book with me - one was my first ever (which I will admit I fluffed due to nerves) and the other had literally handfuls of my work run out - but tried to conceal them from me during our consultation. I know now that these images were taken to another Sheffield florist, who may have used them as 'inspiration' or sadly might simply copy them.

So I guess the question what do you think is fair?

I understand that not everyone is visually literate and that people have difficulty expressing themselves in an environment which is foreign to them, but happily I'd say 90% of my lovely Brides would only used images as reference. I know I certainly only ever use images they bring to me as a starting point. They'll tell you that in my consultations, I use Wedding Flowers Magazine regularly, along with my portfolio and some industry catalogues to help identify specific flowers and colours.  Every design I make is different, even when someone comes to me and says they want something just like a design I've already made, I always adapt it to suit the season, colour scheme or the personality of that Bride. I suppose that as my reputation and business grows, I should take comfort in the fact that every Bride I ever work with has a unique design and I will become known for this.  Individuals who are just that, will, I hope, be drawn to me because they recognise that like hairdressers, there are florists and then there are florists!

Going back to yesterday, I think that photographing your work is so visible (in some respects I'd really rather not know who's been copying my designs and I've never explored this as I know it will upset me).  I'm not sure what the solution is - I've toyed with putting watermarks across my designs but they do look so ugly - my husband is a graphic designer and hates them - he really fought me not to put them on my website.  Instead we came up with 'Inspire' a downloadable magazine with some nice editorial copy which Brides can use with my images - its not overtly branded but it's obvious to anyone that the work is mine!

What do you think? Do you think that if I use the interweb to market myself then my ideas are 'fair game' or do you feel that qualities such as originality and uniqueness should be recognised?

I'd love to hear your comments ... in the  meantime, here are a few of my designs from yesterday which I show you freely!

A matching headdress and mini bouquet of daisies for a little bridesmaid. Thank you Darcy for modelling it - you looked adorable!

My herb bouquet from freshly cut from my lovely flower farmer, Rachel - it was filled with sweet smelling oregano, lavender, dill and other fragrant beauties

An Autumnal buttonhole of scabious seed pods, locally grown wheat, green bell and dahlia buds finished with hessian and lace - a new favourite!

We're aware that Brides like to have lots of lovely imagery at their finger tips so, we've recently launched our fabulous new style guide - Inspire.  It's packed full of ideas for everyone to share, it's downloadable and it's free! Click on the link if you want one!



Maddie Drury said...

I think you should be pleased that the couple at the fair liked your work, but I agree that they acted inappropriately in their aggressive behaviour and like you said, didn’t even take a card so were clearly just looking for some inspiration.

I think there’s a line between (a) passing the work of others off as your own (which has happened to a few photographers I know) and (b) couples taking inspiration from the work of several suppliers, but ultimately booking with just one.

If someone uses your images on their website, or in quoting for a job then they’re in the wrong as the images should remain your “artistic property”. A good florist shouldn’t need to copy the work of anothers and should create something entirely different based on their own ideas, and not simply trying to gain a job based on like for like quotes.

It must be so difficult for brides nowadays to know who to pick when they’re bombarded with gorgeous imagery on blogs, Facebook, Pinterest and so on. I know when I was looking for a florist for my wedding I found it difficult as I didn’t know much about flowers and was overwhelmed by the choice, style and type of arrangements out there. In the end I just clicked with my florist and fell in love with the designs which she had created for other brides.

Campbells Flowers said...

I completely agree that using a florist who copies something like for like is defeating the object and hadn't really appreciated that Brides could feel saturated by imagery and therefore a little confused too. Thank you.

Rachael said...

I think in these days of smart phones and mobile internet and social media there is a sort of expectation that anything and everything can and should now be shared! I suppose to a non-florist, its not obvious to them how personal your designs are, how much time and effort and thought you put into them and how you would feel protective of them!

Personally I don't see what the point of taking someone's designs and asking someone else to recreate them for you is- original is always going to be best surely!

Campbells Flowers said...

That's kind of why I wrote this Rachael - it wasn't really a means to vent my irritation (although it did help!), more as an open question to everyone. I felt that the way the couple behaved might have been a result of how society generally has changed it'a perspective due to things like mobile downloads etc. What's interesting and heartening is that it seems people do want 'bespoke' and recognise that anyone can copy anything! One thing though, I think it's up to me to make sure people understand that although I share my ideas, they are still precious to me and the result of much thought, experimentation and experience! Thank you - that's cheered me!