Thanks to the steady rumblings generated from a simple blog and then tumblr post, which then reverberated all the way up on to the Wall Street Journal, and everywhere in between, I have sold every single Metro Card used subway card painting I had put up for sale at my Etsy shop.
All 18 of 'em.
The little charmers sat, barely noticed, and certainly unsold, for 3 months. Until the MTA ordered me to stop "selling them." Or, better said, ordered me to stop not selling them. Do I have to tell you how delicious it was to see them snapped up, the entire collection, in less than 24 hours?
Yeah, it was pretty tasty.
I had to turn people away, with the promise of a speedy email as soon as I create some more Metro Card used subway card paintings.
I've accepted commissions from determined New Yorkers who know what they want and accept nothing less.
And I got nice email from Mark Heavey, Chief of Marketing and Advertising for the MTA, asking that I,
"simply change the listing on Etsy to read something like “Original hand-painted art on a NY transit fare card,” and refrain from using an image of an original, unpainted MetroCard in the listing, you may continue to do what you are doing."
Done, Mark. Actually, I did that last week and the Intern still indicated that I should make arrangements for a licensing agreement.
But let's not bicker.
I have to say that I really liked having the "before" image included. But, come to think of it, who really doesn't know what it looks like before I paint one?
I pointed out to Mr. Heavey that I had turned the somewhat sour lemon of his unpaid intern's "cease and desist" letter into a rather sweet, refreshing citrus beverage.
"I wish you continued success with your “fare card art” project....the media does love a good David vs. Goliath story. . . . Continue to make lemonade!"
Ok, so you all can lay off Mr. Heavey.
At least until the next time.
Now, off to the post office and to find your new homes, little troublemakers :
My little paintings on the surface of discarded subway cards have caused a bit of brouhaha in my little corner of Manhattan this week. I'm finally coming up for air to fill in my Night Shifters. Whew.
After blogging about the MTA's demand that I remove my paintings from my Etsy site, and also posting the same info on my tumblr, the story quickly snowballed. Within 24 hours my story was all over the local blogging community AND the mainstream media. From bloggers to the Wall Street Journal, from the tabloids to local TV affiliates -- I got my 15 minutes.
As of this afternoon, I'm scheduled to appear on WCBS-TV, CH.2 here in NYC at 11pm - they interviewed me here at home this morning. I also conducted a telephone interview with 1010 WINS radio here in the city.
Meanwhile, my stock of paintings on subway cards has nearly sold out. Hardly anyone had noticed them during the past 3 months.
Not until this week, when the MTA demanded I take them down -- thank you MTA............
I received a rather formidable communication today from New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority, regarding my paintings on the surface of discarded subway cards. I've shared the images here with you and, as you know, have them for sale in my Etsy shop.
The letter writer (an intern in the marketing department, hmph), wrote, in part:
"While we at the MTA are flattered that you recognize the value of our brand to consumers, please understand the MTA has a well-established product licensing program which markets authorized versions of such products. While we have no record of your firm requesting or being granted such authorization, we are prepared to initiate discussions with you about acquiring a license from us.
The MTA's intellectual property is protected by applicable copyright law and trademark law. The manner in which your web site markets these items, such as your reference to New York City subway, implies involvement and/or endorsement of your business and products by the MTA.
The MTA considers its intellectual property to be a valuable asset which we protect from dilution and confusion in the marketplace. The MTA obtained and maintains its registered trademarks, copyrights and intellectual property in the public interest. It is important for the MTA to be able to communicate with the public about its services, as well as operate its established licensed products program, without unauthorized users of its intellectual property creating confusion.
Please reply to me by email or in writing to acknowledge receipt of this notice, and to indicate your intention to remove this item from Etsy and cease any sales of the item..
Thank you for your understanding and cooperation......."
My big bad oil paintings, on the surface of discarded subway cards,
are apparently a huge threat to the sanctity of the MTA's intellectual property. Unless, of course, I want to throw down some big cash and pay for the privilege of referencing the MTA in any way.
Check it out -- a full gallery exhibit of art work on Metro Cards, solicited from artists from around the world (I heard about it too late and missed the deadline, dammit, but I plan to submit for next year's show).
So this begs the question - Why single me out? A full-scale gallery show is permitted, at top-notch prices of $100 per card, but my handful of offerings on Etsy, and at a lower price, are not?
If you google "art on Metro Cards" you'll see a slew of work, not to mention extensive coverage of the Singlefare exhibit at the Sloan Gallery, including coverage by The New York Times, Reuters, and the AP among others. What gives?
Want to help a struggling artist out?
Email Mark Heavey Chief of Marketing & Advertising at the MTA. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org -- and urge him to permit the unfettered use of the discarded cards in art.
In addition to my traditional, professionally-made art prints, I've begun making these smaller prints, with a twist: a print of art sewn to watercolor paper.
The image is digitally printed (not photocopied) on to a beautiful grade of art paper -- 100% cotton rag, 64lb weight (250gsm) with a hot press/semi smooth surface. This is the same paper stock I use for my mini-prints.
I cut the print to size, typically about 4" x 6" or slightly larger, and then sew the print to the surface of an 8" x 10" sheet of cold press watercolor paper.
Here's a close up of the stitching ---
I've created these with several of my paintings, including the larger sized pieces -- now they are available in this format as well, and in a size that is ready for easy, standard-size framing.
All of these prints will be signed on the front, beneath the image, and on the reverse side of the larger paper.These make a beautiful yet affordable gift, with a handmade touch.
This print is available here. See the full array of available Sewn and Stitched Prints here.