Amazing how many thieves there are, in all enterprises. So many politicians in fields so far from politics. So much dishonesty though the claim for integrity tops a company’s mission statement. We pride ourselves on the highest standards of ethical behavior in the industry. Sure you do. Don’t sit – your pants are burning.
I used to design artwork that became fabric bolts that were made into active wear, a lengthy process involving many companies and several countries. Think bathing suits, bikinis, Hawaiian-style shirts, all directed toward teenagers and college students. Also the usual hangers-on who acted cool and hip, ignoring their aging thighs and bellies.
As an artist, the prima ballerina position in the company, I was supposed to get back any of my original work that was produced by a manufacturer. There was no monetary gain, just a phantom badge of honor for having created the artwork that had been purchased for production. An artist’s coup, the feather in our cap. Look, that kid over there is wearing my art on his tush! You’re familiar with the companies but I can’t name them here.
Over the years, none of my original art was ever returned to me, and I questioned Boss Lady, the art department lead. She insisted my work hadn’t been used by the manufacturers. My artwork must not have been returned to our company – lost in the mail, eaten by mermaids, something like that. It wasn’t true but I had no proof. You can always tell when someone is lying. She couldn’t look me in the eye, she fidgeted with desk doodads, her voice dropped to her lowest register so none of the other artists in the studio could hear.
One day I sorted older fabric samples and there I found my art printed on cotton, proof of purchase and manufacture – except Boss Lady had manipulated my original work. She’d changed just enough that she could claim it wasn’t mine – but hers. Where I’d painted turtles, she’d changed them to fish. Where I’d used one color way, an orange-purple-lime combo, she’d switched to another – orange-purple-turquoise. She’d assigned me the wrong information to intentionally force me to paint something incorrectly, then made the “corrections” herself, and called the “new” designs her own.
I’d been hired by a previous department head and had no formal art training. (I had a degree in English but had done free lance art commissions.) Boss Lady constantly flouted her art degree. She hated that I had a gift for art that hadn’t been university trained.
Boss Lady was talented and accomplished. Once she became the department head she had little reason to fire me as my work was excellent, but she fabricated a work place that was palpably unwelcome and emotionally toxic. But why would she do this? Basic jealousy. Arrogant disdain. Pure nastiness. She probably considered it eminent domain.
It’s always about power in the end. No matter how altruistic one may appear before their whiskers grow in, no matter how much talent and passion may have directed first forays into a field, eventually the corporate ladder and the wallet’s bottom line take over. Laying claim over others’ successes, denying culpability for all failures becomes modus operandi for managers. They call it delegating authority, a catchphrase for dishonesty.
I resigned the fabric converter company after three years of their soul scorching routine and launched the career that defined me. That fulfilled me. I taught art through a city recreation program, then in several schools, developing curricula for kindergarten through twelfth grades.
And I always remembered, throughout those decades of teaching kids, of watching them flourish and delight in their creations, that their mastery was not mine to claim. They trusted me to teach, not to take credit for their work.
No one trusts a thief.
Photo of Hawaiian fabric courtesy Pixabay