Who Stole Noa The Narwhal?

“Suzanne Scott from WhimSicAL LusH argues the case for supporting independent retailers, both online and in stores.”

I am delighted to have been invited to write another piece for UNESCO Dundee City of Design’s ‘Design For Life’ in the Courier’s Weekend magazine. Here it is, I hope you enjoy it…

As with most mornings I sat with a cup of tea, whilst browsing my work social media. That morning I opened a direct message on Instagram from one of my American followers,  “Hi! You’ve probably seen this already, but I thought I would give you the heads up just in case…” She then sends a link to a website that I have never heard of before that has my enamel narwhal pin advertised on it for sale, using photos and descriptions taken directly from my WhimSicAL LusH Etsy shop! I was shocked and angry. They did not have my permission and they had not bought any pins to sell. I immediately contacted the site, demanding that they remove my pin. I heard nothing back. I didn’t know what else to do. Had they stolen Noa the narwhal?

Noa is a little character I had drawn as part of a project about dreams. A wee girl had written in via my Facebook page (with the help of her dad) asking if I would draw a unicorn. “Yes” I replied, “but let me draw you a real one! Narwhals are the unicorns of the sea.” Noa the narwhal went down a storm. I couldn’t believe quite how popular he became. After lots of requests I launched a small range of notebooks, prints, cards.. and enamel pins. They flew out of my online shop and other places I popped up. I was delighted that my creation was making so many people smile.

Later that morning I wrote about Noa’s ‘adventures’ on my WhimSicAL LusH Facebook and Instagram pages. People who follow me online are a big support. It feels like a community, which I value greatly. I didn’t want to appear to be another online drama queen but talking about it felt like the right thing to do. If nobody talks, nothing changes.

People were horrified. They offered help and advice and even contacted the site on my behalf. Several also suggested that the site may be drop shipping. I was invited to join an Instagram group with artists from all around the world who were also dealing with the same website. Between us we found details of the person behind it and grouped together to report all our findings to the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Everyone working together felt great and  thankfully the website is now down. I learnt so much that day just by speaking out. I felt incredibly supported and even made new friends.

In Dundee, I know that artist Lazylinepainterbelle has had her unicorn enamel pin design stolen on several occasions. A while back too, designer Hayley Scanlan had a run in with a well known High Street Shop who had copied one of her T-Shirt designs. Stories like ours are popping up all the time now.  It often feels like all morals are out the window when it comes to art and design, that it’s seen as fair game… and it shouldn’t be. Our designs belong to us. The trouble is that we are all independent artists and makers, without big fancy lawyers behind us, and these dishonest people know it. But that doesn’t mean we are powerless and can’t fight back to make change.

Everyone can be part of that change, including you. In fact, we depend on you. Everything that you buy direct from us, even just a card, from Etsy, pop-ups, small shops or markets allows us to continue to create. You can stop that heartbreak of losing your favourite artist, designer, shop, or musician just because they could no longer afford to keep going.

In return you get something that you can treasure and enjoy, something that is not fake or mass produced, but unique and created with consideration and love. It is something that tells a story and creates a talking point. These are things that you cannot find on the high street or in fake websites.

So whenever you can please support small and independent businesses, shop local and feel a sense of pride whenever you wear that quirky limited edition enamel pin with a great story.

Thanks for reading

S x

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