Home > Uncategorized > About references and plagiarism in Art.

About references and plagiarism in Art.

Because of the conflict inflicted yesterday regarding the pop up in the market of a very similar product to our HURBANOS, because of our responsability as designers with our clients and the feedback of the responsible BILU toys, we find ourselves with the necessity to close this matter with this letter at least to the public.
The answer to our message to the people copying our toys was clear and overwhelming:
“We are aware of your toys and they are included in our reference list, but we don’t consider this as plagiary.”
This way, my design becomes a “reference” to the author of the new toy, which would have been perfect and amusing if it wouldn’t be that the reference is exactly the same as the final product. Isn’t it confusing? What can be called a reference and what can be called a copy? No doubt the toy author missed that class or forgot to read that chapter on the subject.
Every original creation comes with references that the author eventually picks up, is interested of and carries with himself/herself, this could be role models. It is inevitable, the history of inventions and creations is full of references inside the same discipline or sometimes inspiration comes from outside. For example, Cubism as other avant-garde movements of the time would not have been possible without the scientific discoveries in the field of vission, psychology, new ways of transportation, Cezanne’s experiments, the emergence in Europe of African art, etc. But, What does make a creation unique, original? No doubt its about the appropriation of those references to transform them in something new, different, superior of the already existed at least, that opens new doors.
My HURBANOS’s story, the characters in dispute, started one day of 2012. I can hardly name direct references. It has been years since I was doing research on toys design and “author toys” (topic that would deserve study aside). My research at that point was random I would say, driven by curiosity to see and wanting to learn. The sources at that point were few. It hadn’t been organized yet the fantastic show “Avant garde toys” at the Picasso Museum (October 2010), which I consider a breaking point that brought back the interest in this that I call the “author toy”.
I had already designed my first toys: the animals tower, the strong guys, the fishes and the harlequins. At that point my main referents were Calder circus and British Patrick Rylands toys. See and compare, plagiarism or reference?

Design references: Left: Patrick Rylands “Acrobats” (1980). Right: J. Alonso (2010)

Design references.Left: Patrick Rylands, “Bird” and “Fish” (1970). Right: Bird-Fishes, J. Alonso (2010)

Design references: Left: Lionel Feininger, city 1920. Right Hurbanos City, 2013.

Left BILU (2014), right HURBANOS (2013). Design references?

Left: BILU Facebook post, 2014 .Right: Mobile Lole, WatermelonCat 2013.
But in that moment I was driven by the pursuit of designing something that would break the cultural prototype of the “dolls house”. If you think about it, the dolls house is a toy full of ideological weight that tells a story about the worst prejudgments of society to our kids: the type family as a perfect model, the house with a gable roof as an icon of living, the american suburb as an urban model, the individualism as an economic and social scheme, etc. My research took me once and again to the city, where everything gets together and mixes, where the natural anarchy of living the urbanity puts together the poor and the rich, the crazy and the musician, the mother with her baby, the prostitute and the drag, the seller and the thief, the boy going to school by skate and the bus user in the same walkside. I wanted to Give all those characters to a kid, without any previous instructions, without prejudgments and see what could happen. That was the starting point of the Hurbanos. The example I took was from German author Lionel Feininger, a painter that during 1920 started creating toys to his children for Christmas. Some years later they had an entire city. That image was recorded in my mind for some time. Drawing, a sketch came out asking for attention and I made it in wood. It’s this one in the following picture.
And from that point a step forward was tu put the characters out of the car and “with body”. This brought more possibilities to the game. A woman’s head could be placed on a man’s feet. Gender got in naturally, intuitively for the kids, in the toy. This way, without needing to highlight any of this items, they were included naturally in the game.

Prototypes and original sketches from 2012.
Thereby the basic profile evolved and different characters emerged, men, women, kids, girls, even dogs and cats. This way different games popped up. That basic profile became the logo because of its strong graphic impact. My own personal signature joins every toy we make.

sketches, hurbanos, 2012

Hurbanos logo, 2012

Author signature that joins WatCat’s toys.
At that moment I felt very comfy about the work. Hurbanos City started having life of it own and traveled all around the world, thanks to Internet sale. It had its biggest recognition when it was selected to participate at the Castagnino Contemporary Museum, inside the Design Salon at Rosario, Argentina, as prototypes of possible industrial artwork with a strong design character.

Museo Castagnino Catalogue on top, DPI China magazine.

“Neighbours” Play set.

“City” Play set.

“Bus” Play set.

“Family” Play set (customizable)
To us, The Hurbanos had already become independent and made wings of their own, so during 2013 I started a new serie, the “Big Hurbanos”, using the same profiles in bigger sizes to make other designs: mother & baby, Mobile Lole, HuBoy, HuGirl and there is some other in the void that will come out any moment, all of them developed as the original profile, with some small variations and adaptations according to the particular case, but with the same characteristics: plane bodies and heads, no details on their bodies, no arms, hardly expressed legs, in the head the profile simulates the hair and the eye is drawn almost as the only figurative human sign.

Hu Mama & Baby, WatCat design

Mobile Lole, WatCat design

Huboy, WatCat design
Therefore, when a design is in dispute, or a part of it, and the answer to our claim is “We know your toys and they are on our reference list, but we don’t consider it plagiarism.” It seems like the “reference” is trying to hide a simple case of plagiary and they only leave us two options. To act under the law, presenting our opinion and proofs to let Justice have the last word or let it be and give the chance to the readers, followers and clients of WatermelonCat to decide for themselves which the answer is.
No doubt we will consult the first option, mainly because the authors don’t recognize the copy, and this puts in danger our own toys if they would decide to continue using the profiles or using ourselves as “reference” in future products. But we also want to trust the honesty and cordiality of the Uruguayan colleagues, so that given this debate they can reconsider their position and finish any chance of continuing producing in this design direction, after this first presented product.
To our followers and mainly to our clients we want to express once more our gratefulness regarding the support we received in very little time, and tell you even though you already know, that we will continue working every day to produce new original products, and that the copy of one of them doesn’t stop us, actually intensifies the original value of our design, which at the end of the day flatters us.
Greetings to all,
Juan and Susana.

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