***UPDATE 11/18/2011- I am happy to report that with the help of a friend we were able to connect with someone at Scotch and Soda who helped us come to a settlement that I am happy with. I am grateful that this was able to be resolved quickly and cleanly. Thank you for all your support.***


I got an email from Alisa at Ink Caravan this morning with a link to this-

When she looked at this fabric she thought, Mimi Kirchner. Well no, I did not design this fabric nor did I give permission to someone else to use my images. The drawings of the tattooed men heads seem to be taken directly from photos on my flickr stream. Like this one-

The other one is probably here. Maybe the designer thought if they flipped the image that would make it their original art? Honestly, what are people thinking? If someone looks at the artwork you are selling and says that looks like *insert other artist name here* did it, then you are probably copying/stealing.  Or at least not original. Also, knowing that said designer stole my designs, I assume that the rest of the images are traced off other artists’ photos online.

As I am writing this an email arrived (in reply to a cry of distress on Twitter) with more shirts. Oh, this is making me sad. Honestly, I am not sure I can bear to poke around and look for more.

I am very grateful for the eyes of the internet. Over the years, I’ve been asked if I worry about posting artwork on the internet- won’t your designs be copied? I always figured that no one would know what I did or who I am if I didn’t share. Also, if the art was no good, people wouldn’t copy. And, I have since learned, if you are known in the crafty/ design online community, when someone does steal, someone else will let me know. And thank you for that.

I have no idea what to do at this point. I guess I need to send them an email or something. Do I just take a deep breathe and let it go?

48 thoughts on “copying

  1. sadly, this seems to be a more and more common occurrence lately. i’ve known more than one designer for major apparel companies who were given another artist’s work and told “copy this but change just enough so we can’t get in trouble.” gross. and sad.
    if you want to take action, you might try looking up the Volunteer Lawyers For The Arts nearest you? they can help you with cease and desist letters or other official things to do to contact this company and attempt to sort things out…
    other than that, at least you have such a recognizable style that people notice such copying right away. you may have to ultimately take a deep breath and let it go, but if you let other people know not to work with this company, and maybe bring this item to the attention of Designers and Illustrators against plagiarism

    and the other blogs that share such infringements like and,

    at least people will be aware. nobody has total control over what they put out onto the internet… but i hope you keep sharing your work because it’s awesome :)

  2. Oh Mimi I am so sorry… having your hard work copied is so not fair. I would agree that the other images in the shirt are probably copied from other artists … it sucks. Perhaps you should contact the maker and see what they say? When I had someone copying me, I tried that and to my great surprise it worked. I so hope you can get it sorted out as easily. Good luck dear!

  3. I would fight it, or at least make a stink about it; goodness knows that such an endeavor would take a lot of time and energy. I did not know about the doll-making copycat; infuriating! This seems to be, sadly, an increasingly common occurrence these days. I am so sorry that this is on your doorstep too!

  4. Yes, make a noise about it. Email the company at the very least – and gather your troops around you (that is us, your friends and fans who know your work so well) – Twitter about it, put it on your Facebook page – there may in the end be little you can do to stop it, but quite often products have been withdrawn – just don’t take it lying down.

  5. Terrible. It is clear that they just copied your photographs. You’re right, when this happens it throws everything that artist/company has created into question. I would contact the company to let them know. It might be that the company has no idea that they hired a designer/firm that is copying others. They need to know, and they need to pull the design. The person who made those drawings needs to be made aware and there should be consequences. They didn’t pay a licensing fee to use your images, so it is stealing. It is very obvious that you were the unpaid “inspiration” for this pattern.

  6. Hell no should you just sit back and be quiet! Send them an email and see what they say. If necessary, look into a cease and desist letter. This is more than sad – it’s outrageous and unacceptable and I’m furious for you!

  7. Maybe we could start a twitter/Facebook/Google+ campaign to bring attention to the situation. Artists have to stand together. Sorry this happened to you.

  8. how unfair! it makes -you- sad but it certainly didn’t make the one who did it feel sad or ashamed… why would they thrive on your talent, work, and the fact that you’re simply too nice to make fuss…

  9. Oh dear Mimi I do hope something can be done about this. Don’t you have an attorney you can contact for advice on this matter? It really should be stopped. It’s just a shame people do this.

  10. You must have felt sick to your stomach when you saw this. On YouTube 3 of my videos were copied (by just filming the computer screen, so you got crappy audio and video. Then to make matters worse they edited the beginning and the end, taking out my name and website). I filed out the copyright infringement papers and YouTube took action for me and copied/stolen videos were taken down. I too don’t know if I can go searching again to see if anyone has used them again! But you have to write to the company saying this was copyright infringement and go after them. The clothing people are making money off of your design and I know lots of people just accept it, but I also think that’s why more and more people are stealing videos, photographs etc… My 2 cents.

  11. I am a big fan of your work and it is very obvious that these people got very inspired by what you do. Don’t let them get away with it!
    Do let us know how you get on and I am sure people will give you support if you need it. Good luck and don’t get too upset about it – we all know you are the tattooed dolls master ; )
    Johanna (from Belgium).

  12. i follow your blog and several others, so i remember the same thing happened last year to sandra from herzensart –

    dont know how it ended.

    it is infuriating… but as has been said here, your work is so fine and distinguished it cannot be mistaken. plagiarism will always look like what it is – a sorry copy of someone else’s hard work.

  13. Some how you can always tell who the original person who executed the work is. Your work has soul and is so beautiful, it just shines through! All the love and details in your work are exquisite, and I would love to someday buy one of you dolls!!!

  14. So sorry this happened to you! I would have thought you helped design the shirts if I had seen them, too. The characters are def. yours. I’m sure you feel violated.

    I had a similar problem – someone copying and my dolls (down to the tiniest detail) and selling them. There was no original spin on them…absolutely nothing. And what’s worse, I have several emails from the person where they had asked for advice on several techniques (and I had given it to them!). They said they were just making dolls for their daughter. Complete lie. If I had known their intent (to replicate and sell), I don’t know how helpful I would have been.

    I think in some instances, the definition of copying versus “inspiration” can be murky…but in some circumstances (like yours) it is so apparent. And this post I saw just minutes ago…sad. Can it not be more clear?

  15. Yuck. I hate to read stories like this. I’ve had some similar but much smaller issues with internet *borrowing*. You’d like to think it won’t happen to you and then it does. I’d definitely pursue it. It’s so blatant in this case.

  16. So sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings Mimi! Do go after them!
    I’ve heard that a lot of the time the designer is freelance and the company hasn’t even realized. If you contact them (perhaps with some legal advice up your sleeve) they may take them off the market immediately or offer the licensing fee that is owed to you.

  17. I enjoy seeing your work on line and wish I was as talented as you. So please don’t take your designs down. People could steel them from anywhere especially with all the small digital cameras these days. I’ve had my work taken and used by other people without my permission too and that was even before the Internet. The way I had to finally look at it was as a compliment to a job well done. Not sure if this helps.

  18. Hi Mimi, so sorry to see this. FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT! I have been following and admiring your work for a long time. Get a lawyer and fight…at very least it will stop this from happening to you again.
    (you may remember me from our brothers Paul) All best.

  19. Mimi, it is so disheartening when you feel someone has taken your idea without permission. I have nothing very helpful to add I’m sorry but I think I would feel the need to at least email and see what they have to say.
    I hope it gets sorted.

  20. That is awful Mimi, can’t believe copiers do not realise that the internet has made the world a very small place and they will always be found out.

  21. I’m with them fellers.

    If you have the energy, at the very least, send them a registered/official/bombastic letter. I know nothing about any of this stuff, but some of your commenters do, it appears. I know Jessica Jones on How About Orange every once in a while will post pictures of the knock-offs of her fabric, if only to make us aware. I don’t know what she does behind the scenes.

    Hang in there!

  22. Mimi you have amazing talent and people are always going to be inspired by that. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all. I’ve seen versions of your little Pearl Dolls on sale at local art markets and it would be so easy for people to put a line in to say ‘Inspired by the work of Mimi Kirchner’. I hope my work is not too derivative but I will make sure I attribute you as the inspirational source when I can.

  23. Oh, Mimi, I was so sad to read your story. I enjoy so much seeing your creations – perhaps this person is just ignorant – not mean. But the result is the same. I agree with your earlier supporters. Write to them. Let them know what they did. Fight back. But keep your energy in creativity if you can. It feels better.


  24. Heavens, that’s shocking!!! I’m infuriated on your behalf and, No, I wouldn’t let that go… let them know that you know, for starters. Give them the chance first off to pull the design. Next, how about asking how many they are producing of each design and bill them accordingly – retrospectively – for the licence? That might help hammer the point home.

    But srsly, I’ve no meaningful expertise here. If I were you, I’d think about consulting someone with real knowledge of international intellectual property law.

  25. You can submit product reviews on that site. I just did one saying it looked like a rip-off of your work…it is now “awaiting moderation”. Maybe if enough of us write reviews…

  26. As aggravating as it is to see someone blatantly stealing from you, I suppose some comfort can be taken from the fact that you are so well known – (maybe even more than you realize)- that people might very likely say something like – “Oh – that design was most certainly inspired by Mimi Kirchner!” ;) Whenever I bring your work up in crafting circles I get loads of comments about how much people love your work.
    That having been said, these people at least need to be told that you are aware of what they are doing. Hopefully that will be enough to send them off looking for inspiration elsewhere. Keep up the amazing work – don’t let the bad guys get ya down! <3




  28. This is disheartening, at best, Mimi. We like to believe that in the world of ‘handmade’ a code of ethics exists that respects the boundaries of intellectual property, which includes artistry and creativity. So sorry …

  29. Gah. What a mess. I’m not sure what I’d advise. Most interactions I’ve had with “stealers” have left me feeling worse than before I contacted them. Doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have, but still, it’s something to consider. The nice thing, like you mentioned, is that your fans will let you know when someone’s crossing the line. They are good like that! :)

  30. I have Just finished my Arts Degree in textiles, and without a doubt during that time, I have seen more Mimi inspired dolls to populate a small nation. But in saying that, they were all differant. None of them were the same, they were extremely varied, and each student brought about their own interpretation to the works.Personally I felt Mimi’s works were inspiring students to find positive ways to link to their own identities and the use of materiality in crafting techniques, developing skill sets that they could move foward with and not hang on to, which was indeed the case. Mimi, your works are an inspiration, they have a legacy for those that are inspired to embrace an essence of the love and passion you contribute to and share in your works. I feel there is a differance in what has occured with your designs in this case.I hope you find resolution in your own way. Goodluck.

  31. I would at the very least email the site. The thing that would bug me the most about this is that this thief thinks they are ‘getting away with something’. At the very least if you email and say something it forces them to consider the fact that a real person has been hurt by their actions.

    sigh. so very sad.

  32. Mimi,
    I have just started reading your blog and came across this discussion of someone stealing your work. As an artist, I have just recently started a new style of softie and I was just thinking about how worried I am that someone is going to copy it. I know how you must feel.
    On the positive side, I guess imitation is a form of flattery. Just keep doing what you do and be strong. Don’t let it stress you or bring you down because it will stifle that amazing, unique creativity of yours.
    Best, Jenny :)

  33. Mimi,
    You need to take legal action with this. This is horrible. These are corporate jerks, and in my opinion, people like this will not stop until someone stands up to it. I think it would be a clear open and shut case. Seek the advice of an attorney by showing her/him your art and the copies.

  34. I already commented on this post (my YouTube videos being stolen by other YouTube sites and photoshop tutorial sites), but I must add that there is a difference between someone in a “cottage industry” taking inspiration and selling several of something and then a large company manufacturing it in China or wherever and mass marketing it to a huge audience and profiting from it financially. I see nothing flattering about copying your images, making incredibly expensive clothing and then selling it like this at all. It is an opportunist taking advantage of you (but to be fair they may not even know it was a stolen image – so tell them!). Large companies go to the extreme to protect their images (I used to be a paralegal on Wall St. and one person was in charge of making sure Credit Suisse’s ignot image wasn’t used by anyone – and the minute a charity or whomever used it – a scary legal letter was mailed out ASAP). So why shouldn’t a craftsperson try and do the same thing to protect their images/photographs/products that are protected inherently by copyrights?

  35. Just popped up to cheer-lead Jules – I think your comment is spot on. If you do nothing else, Mimi, at least make sure that the large company is aware that they’ve infringed your copyright. I’ll bet they’d be fast to protect their own designs if someone else copied them.

  36. 1. Send a cease and desist. You can get a template from a google search. If not, we can email ours to you.
    2. You are the brilliant genius, not them, and you are the one with the fan base and reputation.
    3. You are the one that is inventive and original, and copycats will always be second-rate and a step behind.
    4. You will be offered book deals and more, not the copycats.

  37. Mimi, I posted a blog entry about copyright infringement that you might find helpful. You can find it here: Please take a look at it and the linked resources.

    I agree that you should contact an attorney, if possible, but you could also write a cease and desist letter to the company yourself. If you have copyrighted your designs with the government, you can get financial restitution. Without the paperwork, you can still call the infringers on it and require that they stop.

  38. I left my own message of disapproval at that bogus site! “Online thievery is still thievery!” I have LONG been a fan of your work and am a graphic/fine artist always concerned about people taking my ideas and running with them. Always speak up for yourself! This is YOUR genius in jeopardy…you deserve the kudos!

  39. Mimi, Do not let it go! This is copyright violation. This is huge, and what you do about it affects all other illustrators and artists. When I received an advertisement in the mail which had my own artwork on it, I was furious, I sweated, fumed, and then talked to illustrator and photographer friends about it. I researched and phone-called, and found my way to the art department responsible for this, and I emailed the head a simple letter saying that even though this might have been a mistake or an oversight, it is clearly copyright infringement and would he please contact me immediately to discuss compensation for the use of my artwork in this and any other medium. He got back to me right away, I billed him for the use, and he gave me several other illustration jobs after that. Go, girl — your artwork has great value – and to get paid for it is the only way you’ll be able to continue and grow.

  40. Hi Mimi,
    Just wanted to share a quick story – I sold a few needle felted sculptures on Etsy to some folks in Nebraska, turns out it was Cody Foster Inc., a company that makes cheap stuff in china and sells to Anthropologie, etc. Someone alerted me – as you were notified, that my work was being copied. All the sculptures I sold to this ‘person’ in Nebraska were in Cody Foster’s wholesale catalog – a polar bear, owl, swan and robin. Unfortunately, the sculptures were not registered with the copyright office so I had no real legal recourse. I don’t sell finished pieces on Etsy anymore. I understand the frustration. But no one can steal your creativity and imagination. That will always be yours. Best of luck!

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  42. Mimi: It’s been a while since I have taken a peek at your blog. And I feel so bad this theft has happened to you. I do know how hard you have worked to get where you are today. I’ve watched you develop your talents and creativity over the years, I remember you saying one day at our meeting. I want to figure out a way to sell my work. And by hook or crook you did it. You have sewn your fingers to the bone. Your talents and hard work have grown and look at all of these people supporting you. Yes, I feel you shouldn’t let this matter go on. Get some legal help. Some lawyers work on a percetage of what the out come is. The Company should be paying you, after all they have made a profit on thier theft of your design. Good Luck Mimi, we all support you in a big way ! Your hand work is beautiful and your imagination is incredable. I’ll never forget the zipper pull, Brillant ! And so adorable.
    You know ever since you made that doll, I have been finding zipper pulls on the ground or a floor somewhere I can’t just leave them lying there. I have a collection of them now. ha ha and I think of you every time I find one on the ground or the floor. Hang in there I have a feeling this will work out for the best in your favor…
    Hugs Barb
    PS. Happy thanksgiving !!! <3

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