When West Elm Started Selling My Art

It’s funny when you think about selling artwork in a major chain; you’d think the moment would be full of celebration, cheers, and excitement!

Mine was not.

See… I had no idea West Elm has been selling my artwork for the past 6 months. Here is how I found out, and what I learned about contracting with big companies.

I received an email this past weekend from a woman I’ve never met, saying that she loves my work. She said she saw my painting in a West Elm catalog and wanted to see more of my work.

I was excited for a split second, until I realized that I don’t have a contract with West Elm. I went to their website and searched my name. On the first page of the Art & Wall Décor section of their website, a print of my painting North Gold is displayed where they have been selling it for $349 for the past few months. (Here’s the link to my painting on West Elm).christine_olmstead_west_elm_north_gold

Wonderful! At least they mention my name, but I don’t have a contract with West Elm, I’d like to know why they are infringing on my copyright. At least that was what I was thinking.

So when I learned West Elm was selling my art, I was not met with a celebratory glass of champagne and a smile. I felt extreme stress, thoughts of lawsuits, fears of copyright infringement, and mostly a lot of questions.

I did some digging and remembered that I entered a Minted competition last January where I submitted my work. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners got a cash prize and would have their work sold by West Elm and would receive 8-10% of the sale of each piece. Sounded great!

Only, I didn’t win, I didn’t expect to win after submitting my work. I did it for fun and to see what the process was like. When I didn’t win, I didn’t really think about it anymore. I didn’t invest time in my Minted account or check back. I figured it was done.

I realized that West Elm was selling my art as a result of this competition, they chose it even though I didn’t win the Minted competition. Which I didn’t understand because 1. I didn’t win. And 2. I received no communication from anyone saying that anyone was buying my work or that West Elm was selling it.

I logged into my designer profile on Minted and it also showed absolutely nothing. No sales, no messages, nothing.

I spent a lot of time on the phone with the corporate offices of both West Elm and Minted trying to figure out what happened and what authority they thought they had to sell my work without my consent and not pay me for it.

I finally got a phone call from a “Kaitlin” (bless) at Minted who informed me that they had sent me several emails trying to get my W9 form and my bank routing information.

The problem was that they had the wrong email address. I never got any messages. No one contacted me because they had incorrect contact info. And while I do feel that they could have tried a little harder to contact me (I’m very accessible online), I’m glad we finally got in touch.

So in the end, it’s all good. The whole thing was straightened out. Neither West Elm nor Minted infringed on my copyright. And while I don’t like the way in which it happened, I’m glad they brazenly went ahead advertising and selling my art because if they had waited for my permission, they never would have gotten it because it was being sent to the wrong email.

And now I’m having my celebratory glass of champagne. Cheers.


  1. I actually found your website because I saw this piece on the West Elm site. I LOVE it – but the size they have won’t work. So I’m contemplating buying a print from your Society 6 page and framing it so that it will fit in my space.

    Love your work and will be back!

  2. Pingback: What You Should Know About Contracting with a Big Brand - Rising Tide

  3. Wow what a story.

    Same thing happened to me, but it was a domino magazine challenge. I didn’t win the major prize but they did sell my art piece at the Domino website. I did get commissions out of it though. I know they pay quarterly. It took a while but. I got a few sales. Hopefully you got some Commissions for that.

  4. Thank you for your story!
    That’s amazing.

    I had a Studio selling to industrials for 20+ years & I do have a question:
    How much commission/money did you get for your sales? And how was it determined?
    Did you get eventually a contract for selling them your art?!?

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