Votes for Women - A world first for New Zealand
Unless you are from, or have a connection with New Zealand or the Womens' Suffrage Movement, it is quite possible that you have not heard of this remarkable woman and her achievements. I certainly had not until I started my research. You can read all about her and her remarkable story, winning the right for women to vote in New Zealand - the first place on earth, by clicking here.
The quilt measures 24" x 30" and brings together images of several significant elements of the story that led to this historic victory. The largest and most significant part of this quilt is the picture of Kate herself which I decided to draw this directly onto a piece of fabric using Derwent Inktense pencils. Naturally I needed to use photographs of Kate Sheppard to help me draw her likeness and this is where the important issue of copyright comes into play. One of the most important parts of creating artwork such as this lies in ensuring you have the correct permissions in place when referring to or using other people's original work. Knowing whether or not you need permission is not always straightforward - so I follow a simple rule - ALWAYS check thoroughly. Just because an image is all over the internet does not necessarily mean it is free to use - others are quite possibly infringing copyright, so don't be the one that gets caught because you assumed it was 'ok'. Find out who 'owns' the material and then check. Besides - it is just polite!
Here are a few images of Kate Sheppard that are easily found by a quick Google search:
Although I was only using the photographs as inspiration to guide me with my own drawing of Kate Sheppard I was unsure as to whether I needed permission. I thought wouldn't as I was not making a direct copy, but to be on the safe side, I checked. Just as well, as it turns out! The University of Canterbury informed me that I did need their permission. Fortunately they were happy to give it once they understood what I was using the image for. A few emails and forms later I have a 'release' which I can give to the exhibition organisers and everyone is happy.
The quilt was a lot of fun to make and allowed me to play about with a wide selection of fabrics, dyes and stains. I used recycled velvet, linen broderie anglaise and kimono silk as well as quilters cotton fabrics which I modified with Rooibos tea, bleach and fibre reactive dyes. I added trapunto to several sections to add dimension and added heavy machine embroidery to give depth and texture.
Getting back to the complexities of copyright. I know it is not straightforward, and to make it more confusing still it also depends on national laws and whilst there is no International law on copyright there are many treaties and conventions which offer protection to foreign works; there are also all sorts of rules and regulations about how long copyright lasts, whether the rights are passed on once the original creator dies (and for how long), whether an image is in the public domain, or is licensed creative commons, not to mention the whole minefield of 'fair use'. In this instance I have a very old photograph which is held by a New Zealand University and I am making a piece of art derived in part from that photograph to be hung at a commercial exhibition in the USA. Complicated? Yes! But despite all that, I was able to approach the owners and get their permission to use the image.
A useful and well explained article on US copyright can be read here
and another on internet image use can be found by clicking here
Thanks for reading.