Calgary

Coincidence? West Elm accused of copying Calgary artist's piece with bedding look-alike

Calgary artist Jill Paddock says a bedspread for sale at West Elm shares an uncanny similarity to a painting she until recently had on display in the store.

Jill Paddock's painting hung in a West Elm store for months, now a similar painting is printed on a bedspread

Calgary artist Jill Paddock pictured with her painting, and a West Elm bedspread that she believes was inspired by her artwork. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

Calgary artist Jill Paddock had one of her paintings on display in a West Elm store in Mount Royal Village until just a few months ago.

But three weeks ago, a friend texted Paddock a photo of a bedspread the store was selling and asked if Paddock had done a collaboration with them. Paddock said she was taken aback.

"I was quite surprised to see the picture she included and said no," she said. "I just kind of got this sinking feeling.

Not a 'coincidence:' artist

"I can't even imagine how this is a coincidence especially because this specific painting was in the local store for eight months."

The painting — and the bedspread — are covered with a similar, abstract collage, made of blue, yellow and white scrapes of a pallet knife.

Jill Paddock's painting, left, is pictured hanging in a West Elm store in Calgary. On the right is a bedspread for sale on West Elm's online store that Paddock says bears an uncanny similarity to her work. (Jill Paddock, WestElm.ca)

Paddock said she has a good relationship with the local store, working with them on pop-ups and an art auction, so she called them to ask if they knew about the bedding.

"Some of the employees actually expressed to me that they were embarrassed how similar it was and quite shocked to see what looked to be my artwork on a product that they sell," she said.

Store representatives said they weren't aware of the product as it was new and was only being sold online, and helped Paddock get in touch with the design team behind it.

"It took about two-and-a-half weeks for their lawyer to call me … they denied any infringement, they had a purchased pattern they worked from, and they did send that to me but they still have not told me when they purchased it or who they came from," said Paddock.

West Elm's storefront in Mount Royal Village in southwest Calgary. Jill Paddock's painting was on display in the store until a few months ago. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

The company, which is a branch of American retail giant Williams Sonoma Inc., sent Paddock the bedding set, and in an email sent photos of both the bedding and her painting to highlight differences between the two.

Paddock provided a copy of the pattern West Elm said inspired the piece to CBC Calgary. The pattern has muted colours, and abstract shapes that largely cover the background — with none of the texture of a pallet knife swipe that's present in the other two works.

Paddock described it as only bearing a passing similarity to the painting and the bedspread, which she said are much more similar to each other.

Jill Paddock holds up the pattern that she said West Elm told her was the inspiration for their bedding. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

"I recognize that it is not an 'exact copy,' but unfortunately, I still feel that your product looks more like it was inspired by my artwork than your 'purchased pattern'," Paddock wrote in an email to the company. 

Paddock said the company also claimed the creation of the bedding product began in May 2017, and she asked them for more information to back up that claim.

"I had given no permission for my artwork to inspire, or be used on anything of theirs," she said. "I feel like I got taken advantage of. Just because my work is in the store doesn't mean it's theirs to use however they want."

Her painting was made for the West Elm store and exhibited in October 2017.

As of Sunday afternoon, the duvet cover and pillowcases — titled 'Organic Abstract Petals' — were still available on the company's website.

Paddock posted side-by-side photos of the bedding and her painting on social media and called out West Elm, writing "What are you going to do about it?"

Paddock said she's left feeling upset and frustrated, and unsure of what recourse she has.

"I just want them to not deny it," she said. "I am very flattered if any company wants to work with me on a collaboration … had West Elm contacted me to do something like this I would have been thrilled."

West Elm Mount Royal Village declined to comment.

CBC Calgary has reached out to West Elm's corporate media relations and has yet to hear back as of the time of publishing.

However, West Elm's public relations team did send a statement to Paddock on Monday.

"I want to assure you that we take your claims seriously and are thoroughly reviewing the matter. As you know first-hand from your work with our Calgary store team, West Elm is a fervent supporter of local artists and makers from around the world, and would never willingly infringe an artist's work," read the email, which Paddock supplied to CBC Calgary.

With files from Anis Heydari.

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