Steampunk art stolen by Design Toscano?
When you see someone getting blatantly ripped off without being properly paid and credited, you should say something.
I have a large number of artists who I know, who I am friends with, and who I respect greatly for their amazing talent. One of those artists is the Ukrainian-born artisan leatherworker Bob Basset. I have known Bob and his art since the early 2000s, back in the days when Livejournal was a big thing to use. I encouraged Bob to post his work on my Steampunk fashion group as I felt his stuff really fit in well with the steampunk aesthetic and he does fantastic work that should be seen. Bob did as I encouraged him and he posted his stuff for steampunk fans to see, and soon he was picked up and blogged about by Cory Doctorow at Boingboing.net. Images of his masks and sculptures went viral (rightly so) and shot around the web like crazy.
Now that is great for an artist. They need their work to be seen so they can continue to make a living off of their art, and thus continue making the art that we all love. Making a living as an artist is very hard. Being a working artist involves a lot of juggling between trying to sell you art, getting more work, producing your art, and promoting yourself so that you can make the sales you need to pay the rend, buy food, clothe yourself, etc. It’s hard work but it’s incredibly rewarding for the artist and for the rest of us we get to see lots and lots of incredible art.
So having known and loved Bob’s work for 10 years at this point, imagine my happiness for him when I came across a sculpture of one of his masks being sold on this site. I thought “Great for Bob! More of his work is out there and it’s a great paying gig for him!” (Toscano is a multi-million dollar company so they can afford to pay their artists well and they often give credit to the artist). Then I had the horrible thought that maybe this isn’t good and it’s a case of a big company ripping off the little guy, which has happened before and will happen again so long as companies can get away with it. So I popped over to Bob’s personal Facebook page and linked him the online catalogue page with his mask and asked if he knew about it. An hour later, he replied with “Yes, I know they simply stolen our design. But what I can do from Ukraine I don’t know.”
So there you have it. There is no mistaking that the sculpture is a copy of Bob Basset work: his style is so unique. Not only was he not given credit for it, but he was not compensated at all for their using his mask. Now I hate to have to bring this to light because I have loved Design Toscano for years. I have a lot of fantastic statues and art from them lining my walls. But something has to be said. And you have to wonder, why did this happen? Toscano makes good money on the art they sell. They didn’t need to copy this work without compensation. Why not have approached the artist who made the masks they obviously liked and wanted to sell and commission a sculpture from him? Artists live or die by their sales. They need to be paid by people who want to make use of their work, and they need to be credited for their art.
What I am hoping is that whoever the main people are at Toscano did not know that this statue is a copy of an another artist’s work. I hope that Toscano is made aware of the situation and does what must be done to make it right. Bob should be compensated and credited and given an apology. I hope that happens and everyone can go about things nicely. I hope we will get a statement out of Toscano over this. But I strongly advise anyone reading this to rethink buying anything from their shop until they explain what happened and makes amends. If they did this to Bob, I’m afraid to wonder how many other artists have copies of their work in Toscano’s catalogue and have not been paid for it. Each Toscano sculpture we see, we have to wonder “is this really just a blatant copy of something made by an artist who is too small to have a voice to point it out?”
So if you would like to know how this happened, please email them at CustomerService@DesignToscano.com and politely ask what happened. Feel free to use the info you find in this post. If enough people contact them and enough of a big deal is made about this online, maybe we can get an answer as to how this happened, who is responsible, and what they are going to do to make this right for Bob Basset. If this gets set right it’s not just a win for Bob; it’s a win for all working artists who don’t know even the first step to standing up to a big corporation like this
*Update as of Thursday December 20th 2012*
I’m very pleased and excited to announce that my post about Design Toscano’s appropriation of artist Bob Basset’s work has been linked to on Boingboing.net. It’s important that as many people as possible see this so that they know what is going on. Bob still has yet to be contacted by Toscano, as you can read here on the fan page post in the comments (or see the screen grabs I have included, where Bob Basset states that he has not been directly contacted by any one from Toscano). So we need to keep pushing and asking questions to make sure that something is done. It’s important for us to stand up for independent artists.
I should note that Boing Boing mistakenly listed someone by the name of Rob Murdoch as the writer of my post. Obviously that’s not the case (I’m the only person who writes on my blog here), and I assume it’ll be fixed soon.