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Cody Foster responds to copycat accusations

West Elm recently pulled the lumberjack ornaments, left, from its holiday collection after hearing accusations that its supplier, a wholesale gift company, was copying the work of independent artists including Mimi Kirchner, the doll artist who created the lumberjack at right.
(West Elm; mimikirchner.com)

Three weeks after an Oakland artist accused Cody Foster & Co. of copying her designs, the home decor firm -- a supplier to stores such as West Elm and Anthropologie -- released a statement in its defense.

As we reported earlier, Lisa Congdon said her illustrations appeared on Nebraska-based Cody Foster ornaments without her permission. West Elm, Anthropologie and Fab said they were pulling Cody Foster products from stores and severing ties with the wholesaler.
On Tuesday, Cody Foster released a statement to The Times that read in part:

“Cody Foster & Co. acknowledges that a small number of products in our catalog of more than 1,800 items bear strong similarities to ones being sold by others. When this issue first came to our attention in mid-October, we immediately pulled those products from our catalog and offered refunds to any of our customers that asked for them. We deeply regret any harm we may have inadvertently caused to our customers and the artist community at large. We are instituting new processes and procedures to reduce the likelihood that this happens again.

“Our explanation for how this happened is simple, though not excusable. Unfortunately it occurs regularly in this industry. Documenting ‘artistic inspiration’ for reproduced craft products -- particularly for those based on folk designs -- is a difficult process and presents a huge challenge for suppliers, artists and retailers alike. Our own designs have been directly lifted by other suppliers on many occasions and we have generally found straightforward ways to settle amicably between parties.”

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Congdon declined to respond to the statement, citing legal reasons.

Artist Mimi Kirchner, who said several of her designs had also been copied by Cody Foster, said she was offended by the statement.

“I strongly reject any assertion that my designs are based on folk art,” she said in an email to The Times. “And I think that’s Cody Foster’s only excuse.”

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Twitter: @lisaboone19

lisa.boone@latimes.com

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