What’s a folk design and what’s an original design? The origin of a design like a rag doll is lost to memory, but should the specifics of a given doll’s design be the property of its designer? That’s the question at the core of the ongoing controversy over Nebraska-based holiday trinket maker Cody Foster and its items that strongly resemble those sold by independent artists.
Throughout this whole controversy, the company has stayed silent. Their catalog, blog, and twitter feed have reportedly been open only to customers for years now. Finally, today they spoke up. In a statement sent to the Los Angeles Times (but not to Consumerist, even though we also asked them to comment on the situation.)
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.
You be the judge: here are the Cody Foster ornaments and Etsy seller Mimi Kirchner‘s dolls side-by-side:
Meanwhile, art critic Brian Sherwin points out that Lisa Congdon’s paintings in turn very strongly resemble photos by famous wildlife photographers. That, or her animals just happen to be standing in very similar poses. Can you paint an animal from someone else’s photo and call it original art?
Lisa Congdon vs. Cody Foster: What about the photographers? [The Art Edge]
Cody Foster responds to copycat accusations [LA Times]