Did I just read that???

Posted by Expert Gadget Reviewer on Monday, 24 September 2007

Apparently, I am, according to one blogger, the queen of knockoffery. This is the core of a post--and several thereafter -- that appeared on the web in reference to my furniture.

When I first started building furniture for Mod Mom Furniture, I did it for a reason. I was nannying at the time to make ends meet since we'd lost my salary from A&E and The History Channel. I figured out that if I sold a one toy box, I could make the same amount of money as I would taking care of an OPK (other person's kid) for TWO DAYS! So I built the mid-century style toy box (Gracie) and the mod toy box (Sammy) and really thought I'd stop there. But then the drive (and I'm a bit ADD so I get bored with building the same thing) to try more took over so I started pouring over kids' catalogues looking for things I could test out. Basically, really find out if I could even MAKE them. So I made a push cart similar to another on the market and a cubby on wheels, similar to MANY cubbies on wheels on the market. I cranked them out and was happy I succeeded in the carpentry part. I changed bits of each design (and added custom options) instinctively knowing that I needed to but also knowing that similar versions of everyday things are everywhere in every shape and size. I saw a similar cubby on wheels at Target and Ikea. And I really didn't think past that. Naive, I know, in retrospect, now that I know how the "modern" design world works.

At the time, I was gearing up for a kids market here in LA called The Little Monster Market so I needed more than two toy boxes to take to market. At the same time, I realized if I was going to sell to stores in LA, I needed a website. So a photographer agreed to do trade and I lugged my toy boxes, push cart, and cubby on wheels to her studio.

Shortly thereafter, I built a website and added the photos so I would be prepared when I approached stores and would possibly get a few sales from people who stumbled upon my website.

THEN THE INTERNET HAPPENED....in a great and very surprising way. I was picked up by a blog and from there, many modern design blogs posted about my furniture and for the most part, honed in on me being a mom who does this in her garage as a great thing. It was really wonderful and overwhelming. Then one day, a negative attack came from one daddy blogger accusing me of stealing designs. And even calling into question whether or not I really make the furniture myself. The list goes on but clearly he was peeved....and still is. I periodically find other negative slams (or more of the same slam) pop up on Google and it's all from the same guy.

Do I regret making the look-a-like furniture? Yes and No. No, because it furthered my skill as a carpenter and led me to where I am now. Building stuff that you don't see on the market but is still influenced by the mid-century period. And "no" because I truly didn't go into thinking I was doing something damaging to the modern design world. And YES, because I feel like a bit of an idiot for not knowing I'd be ripped to shreds by the modern design purists for making something that is similar to others on the market. Frankly, in the beginning, I was very much just testing my carpentry skills and really didn't think of myself as a designer. I was just proud I could put furniture together that looked similar to stuff that was being sold....to actual people...with real money. Something tells me that if I'd made some traditional kids' furniture with wood cut-out heart, the person who invented a wood cut-out heart wouldn't be coming after me. Guess that's the difference between the modern design world and other furniture genres.
It's hard to read what has been written about me without taking offense and wanting to explain how it all happened. And knowing that my intent was never malicious towards the designers who created the pieces in the first place. I truly was in a "can I build this?" way of thinking at the time. I now understand the power of the Internet and the laws of modern design.

Obviously, I'm no longer making those pieces that were similar to others on the market. Ended up just giving them (all two of them) to charity because they didn't sell at the Monster Market. There's some irony for ya! I'm learning something new everyday and feeling more confident everyday. And I'm striving (almost at a paranoid, "oh please don't tell me there's anything else like this on the planet" level) to make all new, never-been- seen-before, furniture designs.

I'm having fun with it but most importantly, I think people should know I do this as a way to make money and still be at home with my kids. I was not a bored housewife sitting around trying to figure out what to do with my time. It's money that keeps our family afloat. And frankly, while I am a fan of modern, mid-century style because my husband turned me on to it, I didn't know anything about design when I started. Nor did I know the names Eames or Herman Miller. I saw a niche, thought I could build plywood furniture, and went for it....because we need the money. I'm still learning and getting better at it and will fully admit I've made mistakes along the way but I won't have my character attacked because of my design naivety.