Is Gift Wholesaler Cody Foster & Co. Responsible For Wholesale Ripoffs Of Indie Crafters?

reindeerYou’ve probably never heard of Cody Foster & Company, even if you own items that came from them. They’re a wholesaler with no public-facing catalog. You have to be a small gift shop or large-ish chain like Anthropologie to even see their site. You can buy directly from the independent crafters and designers who claim that the company took their designs, mass-produced them in China, and sold them to retailers with no compensation to the original artists.

The company’s narrative is of being a small business that a teenager started to sell handmade Christmas tree ornaments, and that now wholesales to boutiques all over the world. It’s a nice story. Their “About Us” implies that Mr. Foster himself designs and makes all of the lovely ornaments and housewares that the company sells:

When designing, I draw inspiration from many sources but especially from offbeat vintage pieces and unconventional antiques. Almost all our items are handmade, using honest materials and finishes. Our products are meant to be joyful additions to the home that over time become family collectibles that are passed down to the next generation. I hope you’ll enjoy owning them as much as I enjoy creating them.

Charming, isn’t it? Let’s look at some items in the Cody Foster catalog next to the items that independent crafters happen to have sold the previous year, generally on Etsy.

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Again, you can’t browse the Cody Foster catalog. Only retailers can. Maybe the little gift shop down the street sells these ornaments, but you’re not going to see them on mass retailer sites. The mass retailing is all on the wholesale level, invisible to the consumer. We only notice when such items end up on the shelves of, say, Anthropologie.

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These pictures come from the Flickr account indieripoffs. The person behind that account is anonymous, since keeping their access to the Cody Foster catalog is the entire point.

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Cody Foster made the news this week, though, when they put out some Nordic animal ornaments that look an awful lot like illustrations by artist Lisa Congdon. Because they’re pretty clearly based on those illustrations.

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Congdon explains that this isn’t a matter of Cody Foster producing ornaments based on antique photos or old paintings:

Some info about this particular artwork: it came from my imagination. There are no photographs online of actual animals wearing jackets like this. The patterning and elements on the jackets are very emblematic of my style. You will see them repeated in a lot of my artwork. The only way Cody Foster could have transferred the same imagery to their ornaments is by using my artwork as reference.

One of the original reindeer paintings is still for sale for $400…and the ornament version is $6.95 wholesale.

Since Jezebel wrote about the Congdon-based ornaments yesterday, Cody Foster & Co. has taken down their Twitter account and blog. Hmm, that’s kind of strange for a company that should be finishing up its wholesale sales for the holiday season.

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We didn't bother requesting access.

We didn’t bother requesting access.

We contacted Cody Foster & Co. for comment on Congdon’s allegations, but they didn’t answer.

Is Giant Folk Art Company Cody Foster Stealing From Small Artists? [Jezebel]
My Art Was Stolen for Profit (and How You Can Help) [Lisa Congdon]

FURTHER READING:
How We’re Ripping Off Indie Artists with Our Cheap Tchotchke Habit