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Two ring circus: the Karen Walker original that looks like a copy

Octavia Cook’s work is currently on display at the Anna Miles Gallery, and Anna Miles, owner of that gallery says she’s noticed some similarity between rings produced by Cook and a design from heavy-hitting mass-producer Karen Walker.

Both rings are made via the cameo method and feature a left facing female form sporting a ponytail.

Gallery owner Anna Miles, who has represented Cook’s work since 2003, stops short of calling plagiarism on Walker’s design, but says the similarities are striking, to say the least.

“Ponytailed cameos are not that common,” she says. “Octavia has been doing these sorts of designs since about 2000, and it’s been part of her livery ever since. [That motif] is central to what she’s doing as an artist.”

She sees the similarity as an example of how the corporate world willingly appropriates the work of smaller designers, often without credit or compensation.

“It’s a case of how you regard others and the creative work that they do,” she says.

“Do you respect it? Or is it just grist for the mill? I think it’s unfortunate that the creativity that these [smaller] jewellers exhibit and the value around their work just doesn’t have value in the corporate context.”

We asked Miles if it could be just a case of an unfortunate coincidence.

“If you could give me good evidence for coincidence, I’d love that.”

We contacted Karen Walker’s creative director, Mikhail Gherman, and asked him if the Karen Walker piece was inspired by Cook’s design.

“Absolutely not,” he says. “Our Runaway Girl Cameo ring (or anything that features this print) was in no way inspired by Octavia Cook’s work.”

“I drew the Runaway Girl silhouette with pen and paper in 2001 for our London show. The Runaway Girl was inspired by Victorian cut-outs and is a registered trademark worldwide. Product featuring the Runaway Girl silhouette has been in market in many different forms and interpretations since 2002, one of those forms being a cameo. Our cameo costume jewellery is an evolution of the Runaway Girl, a key part of the Karen Walker DNA.”

“It’s a bit rich, and to be a frank, completely ridiculous for [Octavia Cook’s] representatives to claim ownership of the cameo genre. Octavia herself has admitted that she is appropriating a traditional and common form.”

“I think [Cook’s] work is quite lovely and feel sad that her representatives have put her in this position by making ridiculous claims and accusations.”

As far as the ‘wisdom’ of Facebook goes, opinion seems to be divided.


So where does the truth lie, Idealoggers? Innocent coincidence? Or corporate rip off?

Jonathan has been a writer longer than he cares to remember. Specialising in technology, the arts, and the grand meaning of it all, in his spare time he enjoys reading, playing guitars, and adding to an already wildly overstocked t-shirt collection.

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