Alperstien Designs

How Alperstein Designs collaborates with Aboriginal Artists and Art Centres, and the importance of ethical licensing.

Alperstein Designs collaborates with Aboriginal Artists & Art Centres around Australia, creating unique ranges of lifestyle gifts and homewares. Artist Mick Harding is currently collaborating with Alperstein Design and belongs to Yowung-Illam-Baluk clan of the Taungurung people.

Hear from Marc from Alperstein Designs and artist Mick on their collaboration journey, commercialisation and ethical licensing, and IP protection.  

Alperstein Designs X Ngarga Warendj

IP and collaborations

Mick:
It started just as a bit of a hobby. I've always been a bit of a woodworker. We went from making shields and boomerangs, mainly, and some clap sticks, then I started doing some drawing. People wanted artwork for reports and reconciliation action plans, and we're miles away from that now. So we're very, very busy now.
Marc:
It's very family business based in Melbourne and we wholesale a range of lifestyle gifts and homewares around Australia. We work with a lot of Indigenous artists and art centres. So we started working with Mick quite a while back, and Mick's work is very different. So we felt that it would be really complementary to what we do.
Mick:
Marc was really attracted to the black and white stuff that I do, because it was a point of difference as well from all the other licenses he has. We get to know one another and then we can bounce ideas off each other. And I always get to sign off on that stuff before it goes to production. It's a good relationship.
Marc:
There is a history of exploitation within the space so there is an element of having to build up trust. So when making a new product with an artist, the first thing is coming up with a license and setting the parameters of what you're able to do. When entering your licensing agreement, we're very mindful that we're not buying the copyright. We think it's really important that the artist always maintains the copyright of the license. A licensing agreement is essentially an agreement, so both parties have to be on board with it. And also for the artists to know that they're protected as well.
Mick:
I upright on licenses almost all the time. I've never sold my copyright to anybody. So the reasons why I do licensing for is the designs I'm using, now, some of them are similar to the way my old people expressed their connection to our country. So if I sell that to someone in terms of the copyright, no one else can use that then. Well, if our people using it in the past and we're using it today, I want to make sure that it's there for our children and children's children into the future.
Marc:
If you're looking at, I guess, licensing and artwork from an artist or a designer, I think it's important that you have a proper agreement in place. We sought legal advice from an IP lawyer to make sure that it was the correct document, but we suggest and we encourage the artists or the art centres to get external legal advice as well to make sure they understand it. From our perspective, we want to make sure that you understand what's going on and that you are a hundred per cent on board. Then it leads to a very productive relationship.
Mick:
If there was an Aboriginal audience, make sure you get advice. If someone wants you to sign something, take your time, understand it fully, otherwise you might be signing something that could be detrimental to you or your community.