ripped off again

Maybe you’ve been wondering why, if you follow all the social media, I haven’t posted anything over here about the copying mess with Cody Foster. Well, I was taking a few day off to relax after the crazy busy last 5 months… and then it all blew up. I had very little access to internet. Now I am home and trying to catch up with all the emails and everything else and thinking about what I ought to do.

Here is the deal. My lumberjack dolls from 2011 which are the ones most likely to have been used as “models”-


These are the lumberjack ornaments that Cody Foster produced-


I was originally notified about 1 1/2 weeks ago by someone I am connected with online that there was a striking resemblance. She has a flickr page to document the copying by this company. (She used a more recent lumberjack of mine as her reference.) I was in the middle of a big push for a deadline. I glanced at the tiny photo and thought, Oh Well, they aren’t that similar and I’m too busy to think about with this right now. On Tuesday I got several more emails and on Wednesday, well, everything blew up. And then I went and looked at the photos again. I searched and found a larger photo and that is when I saw the similarities- the details like the bottoms of the suspenders and how they made the eyes. Ugh.

Lisa Congdon wrote a blog post about the blatant copies of her work. She has a huge social network and the story took off like wild fire. If you are interested this story, here are a whole lot of links to articles and posts.

Abigail Brown wrote about it here. I love her incredible birds.

Wolfie and the Sneak.

West Elm reacted quickly once the story came out.

The story was picked up by Yahoo News. focused on Lisa’s story. It even made it onto Boingboing.

FastCompany article here and a follow-up with a response from This is an excellent article because it talks about how easy it is to copy and get away with it. The cost of fighting these battles is too high for almost any indie designer.

LATimes article.

As you might know if you have been here a while, this is not the first time this has happened to me. Now that I am home, I need to figure out what I’m going to do. Lawyer-ing up is probably not a financial option. I feel like a wimp even thinking of just letting it go, or even limiting the fighting to social media, but this kind of thing is incredibly draining. It is depressing and pulls energy away from my creative work. Right now, this minute, I am most angry that this whole mess ruined my vacation. I have been working flat out, 7 days a week kind of schedule, for many many months. It feels so unfair that the minute I take a few days off… yeah, I know. Get over it!

Here is the positive side of things- I have incredible faith in the internet to keep this kind of evil in check. I am regularly contacted by people who have seen things online that they think are copies of my work. They do this because they love what I do and they are protective. I appreciate this more than I can express. The eyes of the internet keep us all honest, hopefully.

And the funny- I got an email from etsy telling me that one of my listings (this lumberjack) was getting a lot of views! Subject line- Congrats! One of your items is very popular.

Soon I will get back to regular programming.

22 thoughts on “ripped off again

  1. Mimi, I am sorry this happened. Your work is so great. There are tons of uncreative people out there that are very dishonest. I am glad social media is calling them out on it. Take care. Miss you

  2. Mimi, so sorry this whole thing ruined your much needed vacation!! It is very upsetting when you put your heart & soul into your work to have it ripped off so blatantly! Luckily those of us who do love your work spot these things & spread the word. Hopefully all the publicity, even though it is negative in a way, will boost the sales of your real work. Which by the way is so far superior to any of these copies anyway! I would not be surprised if the other retailers who buy this Cody Foster stuff drop him like the slime he is! The internet is a powerful tool. Take heart that many people love your work & will continue to support you & your craft! Sending hugs your way, Jarvie xo

  3. I am sorry about this whole rip off thing. I love your work so much and you inspire me to keep doing what I am doing. When I first started to blog about what I made I was nervous about copying. I still am but I want to inspire others to create and I want to be inspired to create. My thought is love the work but if you want to make a lumber jack then make your own without copying how someone else made one. Draw up your own design, develop your own idea but do not copy! I hadn’t heard of this company before. Sorry it ruined your vacation.

  4. Mimi, When I compare your work with the alleged copy, there is really no comparison, your pieces have soul and humour, the little copy’s are nice enough but not on the same level.
    As artists it is nice to share ideas and we all do it, however to slavishly copy another’s commercial product is certainly crossing the line of what is acceptable. Question ; How can we protect ourselves without it costing us a fortune?

  5. I am really sorry this has happened to you. I think that by documentaing and publishing this info, it fosters a bad rep for the copycats who will have to pull the product and lose the considerable investment put into mass producing these ornaments. It may hurt the relationship between the copycats and the retailers who will progressively want to see a paper trail of authorization. Spending big bucks on lawyers to force the offender to behave in an ethical ay is moot (they will react by exploiting loopholes or building a chain of plausible deniability) I agree with you that the most important thing is to focus on your own awesome original work and maintaining the peaceful space you require to do that.

  6. Mimi, we all know you as the original doll lady. Having met you in San Francisco, I know you are so much more than that and that this has robbed you of one of your most popular creations. Unfortunately, there are no easy ways to prevent an unscrupulous person from stealing your ideas. You are one of the few to share your patterns on line and it hurts all who admire you that someone has stolen them and is profiting from them. Artists need an income and it is hard earned one at best. Creativity is not a constantly flowing river, at least for me. It dries up and sometimes the dam cannot be opened no matter how much one wants/needs it.
    All your fans and followers are thrilled by your work and look forward to each show and purchase. You are always welcoming at your booth especially to others who are struggling with divining original ideas, families, jobs, etc.
    Your friends and fans appreciate all your efforts and your creations. We only want the original Mimi creations not the fakes. Thank you for all your efforts and the kindness and talents you have shown us all.
    Ellen Feeney

  7. this has been a problem my entire career, even before I got into sewing. about 15 years ago, I had a small run of figures cast in China. apparently the reference art I sent them went into some kind of Chinese clip art database, because a few years later a friend told me they saw my character on a product. sure enough, I went to my local Walgreens and there it was on the shelf. pretty surreal. of course, I have never been able to pursue it.

  8. mimi, I think you hit the nail on the head ! Apart from the copying and the business side of it all , it is SO DRAINING, and it can just eat you up. Its an awful awful feeling and the idea that you must act on it is very stressful. I am sorry it ruined your much-needed break. I have no wordsof wisdom but am here in your corner if you need any help at all.

  9. Hello!
    I don’t know you at all, but saw a posting about this on Facebook, and feel your pain. It happens too often, and normally I’d say just keep on creating and don’t let it slow you down. But this guy is especially egregious. His poor Granny, who he credits with inspiring him, must be rolling in her grave. My advice is to put out a call for help to shame Cody Foster. And get in touch with Lisa Congdon, maybe you guys should form a “we’ve-been-had-by-cody-foster” coalition. Best of luck with this & more importantly your creative endeavors, which are delightful!

  10. I am so sorry that you have had this happen. I really love your work. I also understand how upsetting this can be – the feeling of rage and helplessness, plus the injustice that the people who copied your work probably don’t have even a twinge of guilt. I do hope that you get some sort of justice, and just wanted to add my good wishes.

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  13. Contact Trading Standards and ask for their advice. Is there any way you could get a collective of artists to chip in together to take this company to court. It’s ridiculous. They are relying on the fact that most artists can’t afford to take them to court which is why they so blatantly copy designs. Is there no organisation in America where you can complain too?? Good luck with it. I definitely think you need to do something.

    Dawn x

  14. Here via Renee Garner’s tweets…I can relate so sadly to your words. “I feel like a wimp even thinking of just letting it go…but this kind of thing is incredibly draining.” After 15 months now, I am just plain stuck on how to proceed on my case. Letting it go feels horrible! Fighting is draining! I spent all my lawyer pennies 10 months ago. But since Lisa’s story broke and now I’m in the rabbit hole of copyright infringement again and I cannot stand by and not be in the conversation. I do not have all the answers. No, but you are sadly not alone. I’m sorry you are facing the same decisions I have grappled with. If you want to know more about my case, all the links are on the sidebar of my blog linked to this comment. UGH. Hang in there.

  15. There is an organization in Boston called Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, through which lawyers volunteer to represent artists who cannot afford to hire one. They also do reduced-fee arrangements. I have done trademark work for artists, housing issues, small claims to get payments, etc. I don’t know if this copying is actionable, but maybe they can put you in touch with someone who does know?

  16. Please look into crowdfunding at places like Appeal to all of the other creatives out there via social media whose work has similarly been swiped – I’ll bet the vast majority of us will be more than thrilled to make a contribution to your legal fund (or any legal fund aimed at bringing thieves like this to their knees). When I first heard about this story, I was angry. But then when I heard CF&Co had done this same thing in the past and had gotten away with it, I was absolutely outraged. Companies think they can get away with this sort of thing because they CAN. They simply lawyer their way out of it because they know the little guy can’t afford his own lawyers. Not any more. With social media and networking, this story has spread like wildfire. CF&Co has already lost revenue because retailers are severing ties with them. It is time to show other would-be thieves what happens to those who benefit from someone else’s creativity and hard work without compensation in the age of social media. Put a class action together with other victims and crowdsource your legal fund! Go! Go! Go!

  17. It’s awful that someone’s so blatantly copying your work. I agree with other commenters that – if the whole legal caboodle isn’t an option – then naming & shaming them seems the best route. I’d say, shamelessly exploit every contact you’ve ever made. Ask them to write about the issue, tweet about it, feature it in their local paper, start an online petition. Publicize the issue at every craft fair you have a stall at. If that kind of direct, assertive action doesn’t come naturally to you (and it wouldn’t to meek little me!) get a stroppy, no-nonsense friend to help out. Also – while the full legal route may not be viable – a lawyer’s ‘warning about copyright’ letter might help to alert them to the bad publicity that’ll increasingly come their way if they continue with intellectual property theft.
    Best wishes

  18. When I was in the early stages of developing some original art, I had a “free” consultation with a state organization (I live in Georgia) that pursued cases like yours at not cost to the artist if they deemed the case worthy, i.e. if it was highly likely that they would win. I understand completely that an independent artist cannot afford the legal fees that fighting this would involve, but unless and until the copycats incur large penalties, they will continue. Perhaps your state has some organization like this.

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