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The power of no – defining your creative business boundaries

In yet another abuse of big corporate power it has been disheartening to see another artist’s work being copied and sold for profit by a huge multi-national company, not least one that purports to “take intellectual property very seriously, both in protecting what has been developed by our own artists and designers and also respecting the intellectual property and designs of others” [Anthropologie on BBC News responding to the social media storm erupting from ceramicist Tara Burke’s claims that they copied her designs, after she had declined to work with them].

Sadly, it has become an all too common news story of late, with the artistic community rising up in anger at the blatant disregard for the skills, time and work that go into developing their products. Yet still big business seems to believe that we can all be run rough shod over, and that we are likely too small and insignificant to be a serious threat to their profit margins. Indeed, the BBC news article cites several other occurrences of nefarious copying and stealing, yet I have not seen one instance where an artist has retrospectively been compensated financially for their stolen work (unless via lengthy and costly court battles that most of us would not wish to (or even could) embark upon).

So whilst it is great to see these bold statements and withdrawing of items from sale, it all seems a little too like a carefully managed PR exercise rather than a true admission of guilt and horror at their actions. Indeed if this were truly the case then how can it be allowed to happen on multiple (it seems) occasions?

One of the true powers of running your own business is the right to say ‘no’ to projects that don’t suit our ethos or ideals. Many of us run our own businesses precisely because we don’t want to mass produce items at the cheapest rates possible, or for lifestyle reasons – maybe many of us could be selling our wares in the thousands or hundreds of thousands, but we don’t want that life – we want to spend time with our loved ones, see our children grow up, enjoy the little moments that make up a life.

The power of no is being eroded by these corporate giants and it has got to stop. I have huge admiration for Tara and others like her in taking a stand against this abuse of our creativity, indeed our very hearts and souls.

Let us all band together and keep the power of no in our businesses a meaningful one.