In October I was hired by a UK-based company to design a Christmas moose. I was given particular dimensions and a description for the moose. They wanted long legs that bent in the middle and they wanted him to be sorta goofy and hapless. Here are some early prototypes (from my Instagram feed):
This was the first one I showed the client:
We had several Skype meetings and I made some edits per their request. The hands got less bulbous and the eyes changed. He also got smaller, and I made a mini moose version, too. This was the end result:
To make the pattern for this moose I began with my Jeremy Giraffe body shape. I always like to have somewhere to begin.
While I was making this moose I thought of another iteration. He could become a reindeer if his legs and arms were like Jeremy Giraffe's, he had different ears and antlers, a bulbous red nose and different facial expression. So I redesigned him after the project was complete and created Ruby.
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is a copyrighted name, by the way. Ruby is a cute name for a reindeer anyway!
I'm Jewish and I've never celebrated Christmas. It always feels like it's guesswork to design things for Christmas. Am I getting this right? Is this the way it should look? Ruby sold well, though, and I was really happy with him.
Then I got an email from Pauline of Funky Friends Factory that changed everything. I love Pauline. I love her toys. I think she's an incredible designer. I've featured her on my blog and I've made her Sandy the Seagull, which was amazing. Pauline told me that Ruby the Reindeer was violating her copyright because it looked recognizably similar to her Reggie the Reindeer:
Reggie the Reindeer by Pauline McArthur of Funky Friends Factory.
I've been through every stage of emotion about this. Surprise, anger, embarrassment, shame, self-doubt. I wracked my brain. Are they too similar? I immediately pulled Ruby from my shops. And immediately got emails asking where he'd gone. I referred everyone to Pauline's pattern instead.
Questions filled my mind. Don't Ruby and Reggie look as much like one another as they do lots of other plush reindeers on the market? My pattern pieces are totally different! Reggie is a jointed toy. He's got boots. His antlers are all one piece. He has footpads. But maybe I'm wrong! Did I copy her? No, I know I didn't. Then what?
So I bought Pauline's pattern for Reggie and made them both in muslin with dark thread.
This was a good thing to do. It didn't answer my questions, but it just made me feel better. My reindeer is totally different from Pauline's in it's design, but I can see the ways in which they are similar in the appearance. I'll redesign Ruby to make her more different from Reggie, but I'm sad because I love her as she is.
The whole experience has been really terrible. And totally unintentional on my part. But there it is.
I hope you're okay with my honesty today. I don't like to hide. I'm guessing this sort of thing does happen to other people from time to time. Maybe not. But I wanted you to know about it.