20 September 2015

Brand name, or generic term? And why?

I recently worked on an exhibition catalogue that listed the materials and techniques of the quilts shown. One aspect of copy-editing it was to decide whether to use the brand names of the products that the contributors listed.

This was hardly a dilemma as it's totally unnecessary to do so - we weren't getting any financial contribution from the manufacturers of these products, nor were these tutorials on techniques that depended on the performance qualities of a certain product rather than something similar but not identical.

So any material that started with a capital letter got a very suspicious look. Here's my list of trade names, and the generic terms to replace them. It's not a complete list by any means.

Brusho colour - concentrated watercolour
Egyptian cotton - cotton
fabric dyed by a named company or a named individual = commercially hand-dyed fabric
Inktense pencils - water soluble ink pencils
Lutradur - non-woven polyester 
Manutex - dye thickener (Procion dyes thickened with Manutex = thickened fibre-reactive dyes)
Markal sticks – oil sticks
Pima cotton – cotton
Procion dye – fibre-reactive dye
Superior Razzle Dazzle thread (or any named thread) = thread
Thermofax screens – screens
Transfoil – transfer foil
Xpandaprint – expandable printing medium

One that gave me trouble was

Angelina - heat bondable fibres? synthetic fibres? (some are not heat bondable)

Any suggestions?

In the art-gallery world, labels for drawings, prints, and photographs seem more and more to be stating the type, ie manufacturer, of paper used. No doubt different papers have different qualities, but you don't see "2B pencil" or "Golden watercolours" along with "Hannemuhle archival paper". I cynically wonder whether this is a kickback to the paper manufacturer, in return for a bit of generosity towards the artist. But maybe it's just the artist or gallery being reassuring to their customers that the artwork is made with best quality materials?


Kathleen Loomis said...

I think it's insecurity. As though artists have to prove their worth by stating that they buy brand name supplies, or have to reveal every step in their process, or else nobody will be impressed.

I'd probably go even farther than you did -- who cares whether watercolor is concentrated or not? who cares whether the dye was thickened? why not just plain foil -- who cares how it came from the store and how it got to the artwork? who cares whether the polyester is woven or non-?

Kim in ND said...

Egyptian cotton and Pima cotton are not trade names, they are varieties of cotton plant that yield particular types of fiber/yarn/fabric. They are capitalized only because they are proper nouns.

The Idaho Beauty said...

I always thought the way quilters itemized their materials and techniques was borne partly of the contest paperwork that seemed to want to know. I thought it peculiar to quilters and their curiosity about how something was made and what went into it. So I was mightily surprised when I started exhibiting with artists of "traditional" mediums where I thought the norm was merely to distinguish between oil and w/c, and the occasional indication of substrate (oil on canvas, oil on board). And mixed media was enough said - it's a mix of a bunch of media, do you really need to know which ones? Well, apparently so with this new group I was exhibiting with. Lots and lots of details showing up, even the photographers - a photo is apparently not just a photo but perhaps more special because of what it is printed on.

I admit to sometimes wanting to know more than my eye and personal knowledge can suss out. But then that is what artist statements can cover or I can just follow up by asking the artist.

Frankly, I found it disturbing to follow your translating of terms we so casually used to describe our work into generics. Some of them, I dare say, have become the generic name in the same way as facial tissue is most often call kleenex and the process of copying by machine became known as xeroxing. It's just so common to hear them or read them that to strip them down like that felt odd, perhaps stripping away some of our pretense about using them. Some certainly didn't need a brand name like the Markal sticks which many might not know were oil sticks to begin with. But others do give me definitive information in their name, like Lutradur and and especial Thermofax screens. Just to say screens, I think, is confusing to both those in the know and those who are not but who probably DO know what a Thermofax screen is.

And I had the same thought about Egyptian and Pima cotton as Kim did, although in the end, what real difference does it make in a description like you are working with. I do differentiate between commercial cottons and hand-dyed cotton as well as indicate silks and synthetics when asked to provide such info. I think it is habit.