Like the industrial age before it, the digital age in America appears to have sparked an arts & crafts movement. There is a difference, however: a century of exposure to brand marketing has added logos and trademarks to our vernacular and thus to our efforts at creative expression. In other words, welcome to the age of do-it-yourself knockoffs.
Some of these DIY projects take the form of artistic commentary on consumerism and luxury brands, while other projects seem more purely commercial. Consider Rylan Morrison's jewelry line White Limousine, featured in this week's Time Out New York magazine. The designer/student/nanny uses Shrinky Dinks -- thin, flexible plastic sheets that can be decorated, cut into pieces, and baked into hard disks -- to form unique made-to-order baubles. I vaguely remember as a small child having an artistically inclined babysitter who entertained us with the same product. But take a closer look at Rylan's designs: many of them incorporate product images or corporate logos.
Would anyone mistakenly believe that Chanel and Mercedes-Benz had teamed up to produce plastic jewelry in a toaster oven? One would hope not. Nevertheless, White Limousine and similar endeavors raise questions about where art ends and commerce begins, the concept of consumer confusion, and what constitutes expressive use of a trademark that has become a household word.