Donna Downey and the Tale of Fossil Purse Birdgate

Gosh, where to even begin!??!

I will try my best to synopsize the LONG chain of events, but if you really want the Low Down Dirty Scoop on this, you have a lot of reading ahead of you. And I’m warning you, I’m going to say ALLEGEDLY a lot because I’m not Donna or Fossil or Unity, and I don’t know for a FACT what has happened in any of this. I’m just reading what others have written and doing my best to summarize it to the best of my understanding … ALLEGEDLY :)

Once upon a time, there was a famous scrapbook writer and designer named DONNA DOWNEY. She had a sparkling personality and creative talent. She inspired scrapbookers and won lots of fans. She made a very successful business and a nice living from these endeavors.

Donna was a sought-after crafting instructor and gave workshops, often costing a pretty penny. But that was worth it and okay with many … it was Donna Downey, after all. She had a saying that I loved, and have quoted on this blog before: “Perfect just the way you create.”

Then one day, she became the subject of a major “scrapbook scandal.” To save you from reading the 21-page 2peas THREAD {although you are certainly welcome to}, I’ll try to summarize: Donna ALLEGEDLY refused to refund class tuition to a Pea who couldn’t attend for very serious health reasons. It wasn’t until the Peas did a perfect pile-on that Donna eventually refunded the Pea’s money, but most saw it as too little, too late. The damage had been done and a boycott was launched. In the years since, many Peas have stuck to this ban and the issue occasionally comes up in the context of other scandals, so we’re all reminded of the sitch with Donna Downey.

Okay, that was the background. Now, for the latest:

Started on Sunday, January 30, 2011, check out THIS 2 peas thread on the NSBR side, which spawned THIS thread on the Scrapbooking side.

It all started with a Pea who couldn’t sleep, and while surfing the internet she found THIS. It’s a post from a blog called “You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice … but we did” The blog says, “This site is dedicated to pointing out those things that give you that feeling of ‘haven’t I seen that somewhere before?'” In other words, people post there when they feel that someone’s art or creative work has been “ripped off” by someone else.

The blog article referred to THIS post from Donna’s blog in which she posted this, on December 26, 2010:

last weekend in Peddlers Village, PA, one of my students brought this really cool Fossil bag to class (hi sandy!). it was a different shape than this but i loved the birds. while at Quakerbridge mall in NJ, we saw the whole line of fossil bags in this print and i just didn’t like the shape of any of them. i am a “big bag” kinda gal. i have journals, pens, sunglasses, etc that i have to fit in there and they were all really slim.

today i woke up and felt the need to make my bird purse!
i took out a bunch of fabrics and just started tearing strips and layering them around the bottom of the bag. the design is the same (or basically the same) on the front and back side of the bag.

and as for the birds i hand drew them with a sharpie pen and they make me SO FRICKIN’ HAPPY I CANT TAKE IT!

the orange flower trim, shhhh, that’s mine too…you didn’t see that either.

it is not finished by any means but i just had to share!

The comments from Donna’s readers back in December were initially super-supportive … but the most recent ones have taken quite a turn. The great majority of Peas who’ve posted to the thread that broke this story (linked above) are quite unhappy with Ms. Downey, to put it mildly, and some have posted to her blog, the You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice blog, and have attempted contact with UNITY STAMP COMPANY via their Facebook page, and with Fossil, the seller of the purse that Downey was so “inspired” by.

Not only did Donna ALLEGEDLY make a purse for her own use, inspired by the Fossil purse with a nearly identical design, but she ALLEGEDLY created a stamp for Unity using one of the same bird designs, assumedly passing it off as her own design (the thought being that she would’ve had to sign an agreement/contract with Unity stating that the stamp design was original and not taken/copied/traced from another source). On top of that, she gave an “Artful Bag” class at CHA this past Saturday using said stamp …

From Prima Marketing’s CLASSES AT CHA listing:

Saturday, January 29th
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Artful Bag taught by Donna Downey – 10:30 am – 12pm

Donna’s new product line is so versatile and colorful. Join her as she shows you some new techniques using her brand new canvas bag, floral ribbon trims, iron ons, and lots of gorgeous fabrics.

However, although Unity appears to have ALLEGEDLY planned to release the bird stamp – as evidenced by it’s appearance on their website for pre-order (now missing), inclusion in their CHA catalog (alas, distributed with a sticker over the bird stamp image saying “not available”), and the inclusion of the stamp in the ad for Donna’s Artful Bag class at CHA – apparently, plans for Unity to release the bird stamp were scrapped (pardon the pun) at some point, which leads to even more questions … like what did Unity know and when did they know it?

Unity has responded on their FB page with this:

Note to all…this was never put into production. We have no intention of it being introduced into the Unity product line. thanks for bringing it to our attention!

In the 2peas thread on the Scrapbook side, this was just posted by AJ, the Unity stamps Design Team Coordinator:

Hi! Unity has no intention of producing this now, ever, or making it a part of the Unity line.

So, as best as I can piece things together, here is what is being assumed to have happened [[[[[ ALLEGEDLY ]]]]]

1. Donna Downey saw a Fossil bag and was inspired by it.
2. She made her own version of the purse, with fabric-strip buildings and bird designs that are a very close match to the original purse.
{Up to this point, most people are okay with it … she was inspired by a purse she saw, she made her own copy of it, and shared it on her blog for inspiration}.
3. Her fans loved the bag and many said stamps NEEDED to be made from the bird images.
4. Donna then worked with Unity on a stamp that was to be a CHA-W 2011 offering, included in their catalog.
5. Donna taught a class this past Saturday at CHA which was advertised using a picture of her Fossil-inspired bird purse, and what is thought to be a mock-up of the Unity stamp … which apparently has not and/or will not be manufactured after all.

I’m blogging this at 1:45 on Monday morning, the day after the 2peas thread started. According to their website, CHA runs from January 29-February 1, so we’re assuming that people like Donna, those at Unity, etc. are a bit preoccupied right now. As of now, Donna’s blog and her TWITTER account are devoid of any mention of this “scandal” and her “smoking gun” blog post with all the negative comments has not yet been removed (do we predict that it will be?). The 2 peas thread on NSBR is now at 8 pages and still growing.

As you can see from my post back HERE, I’ve tried to stay out of the fray so far with Donna Downey scandals. If you do a Search on my blog for “Donna Downey,” you’ll see that I’ve never badmouthed her. But it’s near impossible to keep my opinion to myself on this one … partly because it’s not the first time she’s done something I don’t understand.

At this point, I’m not going to say much. I don’t feel like all the facts are in. I feel like we’re supposing and assuming a lot. I hate to form opinions this early in the game. I try to be fair and discerning about this kind of thing.

That said, it ain’t looking good for Ms. Downey, as far as I’m concerned. If it walks like a stolen bird and talks like a stolen bird, well … you know the rest.

I do pray she has a good explanation for what has happened, and we can all eat our words. I like to assume that people ~ especially those I look to for inspiration in the scrapbooking world ~ are honest and true. But if what we “think” happened ends up being what actually happened? I’ll be very, very disappointed …

How about you … care to weigh in?

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19 Comments on Donna Downey and the Tale of Fossil Purse Birdgate

  1. Scrap Smacker
    January 31, 2011 at 4:52 am (4 years ago)

    Hi there Erica, the story actually broke much earlier than that on my blog after the youthoughtwewoundntnotice blog. One of my sharp-eyed readers posted on Friday, and I then opened a separate comment thread for discussing DD’s latest debacle. We’d wondered for a couple days why the peas hadn’t picked up on it, being such a huge resurgence if DD’s stupidity. Thanks for the recap though – the girls have linked us up with your post and all the 2peas, unity etc – come visit!!

    Reply
  2. Jennifer
    January 31, 2011 at 5:01 am (4 years ago)

    Thanks for the summary of what was going on. I hadn’t read about this yet. I’m like you, I will reserve judgement for after all the facts are in. I’m completely fine with her making her own purse and even posting it on her blog as long as it was credited to Fossil as I think it was. The rest gets real iffy though. It will be interesting to hear her side of the story.

    Reply
  3. Just Me
    January 31, 2011 at 6:14 am (4 years ago)

    This reminds me of the 80’s when people had alot of craft boutiques in their homes. You’d frequently find items made with homemade disney charictors etc. Or when you see clothes designers make their interpritations of oscar dresses for the masses at a cheaper price point.

    I notice both pictures of her homemade purse are different from each other. The second is even more differentiated from the “inspiration”. I don’t think that this purse would be bought/made by the same person who would purchase the fossil bag. Just my opinion but i think the two have an intirely different feel. Similar elements to be sure but i find the fossil bag more tough feeling and her bag much more soft and feminine.

    Also her bag has different functionallity. No zipper etc. I think it appeals to a totally different group. Yes if i had created the birds for fossil i might be miffed but i think its just like the generic bird graphics you see all over the place. Every digital scrap designer seems to have the same version of a basic outline bird w/o detail. Now this isn’t the same as those designs. But i think its the same idea. Alot of people draw birds the same way. Just go to a Zoology lab and see how the students all sketch a bird sample out.

    I’m not familier with this lady or the whole backstory. But this doesn’t strike me as intentional rip off. I think she just reimagined the purse to suit her needs. Her fabric striping is dramatically different. The only thing remotely similar is the birds. And she did make them each slightly different than the original. I don’t think that their is any real issue with this purse.

    Reply
    • Monique
      January 31, 2011 at 8:37 am (4 years ago)

      “I’m not familier(sic) with this lady or the whole backstory. But this doesn’t strike me as intentional rip off. I think she just reimagined the purse to suit her needs.”

      ……. Erm, well yes, if her needs are to make money off other people’s ideas; blatantly steal original designs for her own financial gain; lie to and mislead the companies who have placed their complete trust in her artistic “integrity” and produce and market her product lines in good faith; and generally make a complete mockery of real artists and designers who truly *are* inspiring, original, creative and who are, above all, ethical and earn an HONEST living from their authentic and unique ideas.

      With all due respect Just Me, perhaps you should ‘familiarize yourself with this lady’ and the whole back story before you blindly assume her innocence, just saying.

      Reply
    • anon
      January 31, 2011 at 11:58 am (4 years ago)

      “I notice both pictures of her homemade purse are different from each other. The second is even more differentiated from the “inspiration”. ”

      No, the birds and fabric are identical. I think she just added the text and blue fabric and the quote after she posted to her blog.

      Reply
  4. Christina
    January 31, 2011 at 7:26 am (4 years ago)

    Nice recap of the situation-I’m not sure how you managed to stay so impartial but you did. :) That being said, if I had designed that Fossil bag and those bird graphics and some scrapbook “designer” decided to be “inspired” and copy my birds nearly line for line to make a potentially very profitable line of stamps-I would be furious. FURIOUS. I’m not really a fan of DD-her work has never really appealed to me. I just would rather not spend my time or energy on people that have that little respect for others.

    Reply
  5. Monique
    January 31, 2011 at 8:36 am (4 years ago)

    “I’m not familier with this lady or the whole backstory. But this doesn’t strike me as intentional rip off. I think she just reimagined the purse to suit her needs.”

    ……. Erm, well yes, if her needs are to make money off other people’s ideas; blatantly steal original designs for her own financial gain; lie to and mislead the companies who have placed their complete trust in her artistic “integrity” and produce and market her product lines in good faith; and generally make a complete mockery of real artists and designers who truly *are* inspiring, original, creative and who are, above all, ethical and earn an HONEST living from their authentic and unique ideas.

    With all due respect Just Me, perhaps you should ‘familiarize yourself with this lady’ and the whole back story before you blindly assume her innocence, just saying.

    Reply
  6. anon
    January 31, 2011 at 12:00 pm (4 years ago)

    Check out this exact identical copy on a pillow on Etsy:
    http://www.etsy.com/listing/56537499/perched-pillow-cover-invisible-zip

    Not to defend Donna but at least she deleted the birdhouses and made one birds tail feathers wider and the other bird looking in a slightly different angle. This pillow is identical to the purse.

    Reply
  7. Jessica
    January 31, 2011 at 1:06 pm (4 years ago)

    The reason Donna Downey pulls this shit is because she CAN, and she has, and she will again in the future – because when all is said and done, she gets away with it.

    To date there have been no *real* consequences for her actions.

    So what if there’s a big stink over at 2 Peas and a post on the smack blog? It’s all a storm in a teacup and after the furor dies down it’s business as usual – people still invite her to give classes both locally and internationally; reputable companies continue to produce, market and endorse her product lines; her “Inspired” event is a sellout; her calendar is filled with ‘celebrity’ appearances and her rabid fans swoop like vultures to buy her trash on eBay.

    She’s not stupid or ignorant, she’s cocky and ARROGANT to boot, and it seems she can afford to be because she has a blindly loyal following that will actually rip each others eyes out to get their hands on her latest ‘creations’ – she blatantly taunts her fans with this certain knowledge here:

    http://donnadowney.typepad.com/simply_me/2010/12/ruffle-bags-for-you.html

    “so, i have gotten so many emails and inquiries about the 2 ruffle bags i made a couple weeks ago, i decided to list them on ebay. (and let you fight over them, LOL!)”

    As long as her minions are drinking the DD Kool Aid and enabling her by feeding her ego, her rampant greed will run unchecked and she will continue to believe she’s bullet proof.

    I will say it again, Donna Downey is not a fool, the sycophants who support her so loyally are the idiots.

    Unless the big name companies who endorse and sell her products blacklist her or there is a worldwide DD industry boycott or one of the the companies she has ripped off launch a massive lawsuit against her, this latest incident will do nothing to knock her off her perch, pardon the pun.

    Sad, but true.
    And she KNOWS it.

    Reply
  8. Pat
    January 31, 2011 at 7:02 pm (4 years ago)

    I swear, I don’t think I ever saw as much bashing about Martha as there is about DD! Give me a break people there are real problems in the world. If you are short of your share, I know a couple of folks who would share their burdens with you.

    Reply
    • Audrey
      February 4, 2011 at 7:25 pm (4 years ago)

      Pat, I agree with you.

      Reply
  9. Mary
    February 1, 2011 at 7:11 am (4 years ago)

    Am I the only one wondering if it’s a stunt to drive up the traffic to her blog? I noticed she has a lot of sponsors …

    Yeah I’m cynical like that!

    Reply
  10. Eileen Mailloux
    February 1, 2011 at 1:41 pm (4 years ago)

    Darn it. I knew those birds smelled fishy.

    Reply
  11. Angie (mommiextwo)
    February 2, 2011 at 4:49 pm (4 years ago)

    You know, I actually saw that post when she had it up on her blog, and I never even read her blog. I was fine with it just being for her. Then cha ching…the dollar signs started to come up. Here’s what it boils down to for me. If the shoe was on the other foot, the proverbial tables were turned, she would sue the fanny off of fossil for ‘borrowing’ her bird stamp images, right? Nuf said.

    Reply
  12. tracy
    February 6, 2011 at 5:50 pm (4 years ago)

    Personally I think the purse and image are ugly, lol.
    Never read the 2peas drama, its like a snowball rolling down a hill. It gets bigger and bigger and meaner and meaner.

    Reply
  13. Nicole
    February 8, 2011 at 10:51 am (4 years ago)

    Donna Downey is reprehensible on so many levels. I hope she gets everything she deserves.

    Reply
  14. Ketra Oberlander
    February 17, 2011 at 4:07 pm (4 years ago)

    Just as a quick FYI because the bag photo clearly shows our brand, Art of Possibility®, clearly printed, Art of Possibility® is a registered trademark of Art of Possibility LLC and its use in this case is an infringement of our trademark. That bag and its creator have no relationship with Art of Possibility. Please, please don’t mistake this for an authentic Art of Possibility® product.

    Reply

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