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!