what is ethical in casting?
You pose some interesting questions that I’ve thought a lot about in
the past year or so.
Here’s my take on it…
Objects from nature are sources for a lot of my work. I think
they reflect and transform the beauty we see around us, making
people even more aware of the easily overlooked beauty in nature.
My PERSONAL approach is that each item from nature is an original.
I don’t mold them and replicate them. Mother Nature created each
one to be unique, so who am I to say there should be a thousand of a
particularly nice leaf or twig? Within my art, that adds to the
perceived value of each piece, as well.
Manufactured plastic objects can be used in some circumstances.
Again, the issue is transformation and respect for copyright. For
example, I would likely get into deep doo-doo if I used plastic
Monopoly markers as sources for my pieces. They are highly
recognizeable and part of the copyright of the game; additionally
the company markets various Monopoly pieces in metal and such. So
this is an area I’d definitely stay away from.
Having said that, there have been times when a component of a
plastic modeling kit has been the “perfect” item to use in a design.
As an example, an odd-shaped torpedo component from a plastic
modeler’s kit of a submarine worked out beautifully for a shape I
was having a devil of a time replicating in a piece. The component
outside of its intended context and use would be completely
unrecognizeable and I don’t feel that I’d be infringing in any way
upon the copyright of the original model maker.
Likewise, some items are so common as to be “outside” of
copyrightability. The examples that leap to mind are a generic,
clawfoot hammer or crescent wrench. I can, of course, spend the
time to carve it out of wax, or I can purchase a plastic model that
is already the right size/shape. The design is generic and the
result would look the same no matter which way I obtained it to
cast. So I don’t feel at all that there’s a problem using it.
No matter what, you will be transforming the object in some way.
That’s your art. That’s the point of using a common object everyone
would recognize – to introduce some type of incongruity in its
presentation (presenting something in metal that everyone is used to
seeing in plastic, for example). Claes Oldenburg was the great
champion of this approach in art (the Clothespin, the Spoon Bridge,
and other works); he used size as his transformation medium instead
of material, but the underlying artistic principle is the same.
And as to your final question, I don’t make a distinction between a
one-off piece and a production piece. If done right, both have the
potential to be seen by many people, thereby indelibly attaching the
"ownership" of the design – or any questions about its authenticity
– to me.