Arlington resident Nicole Dinardo built her hobby of customizing KitchenAid mixers into a successful business. But now she says KitchenAid has partnered with another designer to sell mixers that seem to copy her own.

Dinardo started hand-painting mixers made by the company in 2007, making them for friends and family.

It's something I've put 110 percent into, said Dinardo. My heart, my soul, my passion.

Dozens of man hours go into each design. The blender bling became so popular that Dinardo opened a company -- Un Amore Custom Designs -- in 2008. She teamed up with KitchenAid to make custom mixers for Britney and Beyonce, and her designs wound up in the swag bags at the Academy Awards last year.

According to Dinardo, she spent months negotiating with KitchenAid for a holiday line. But when those talks failed, she guessed the company would seek another artist.

Then this month, when the company unveiled it CustomMade limited edition line on its website, Dinardo was stunned. Some of the designs seemed to be a copy of her own, the colors and patterns strikingly similar.

It's like a stab in the back, said the mother of two.

The company admits its representatives spoke with Dinardo, but the decision was made to go with another artist.

We ve talked with a number of artists about this, including the Seattle artist you mentioned, said Beth Robinson, Brand Experience Senior Manager with KitchenAid, and came to an agreement with Dean Loucks based on the quality of his work and the originality of his designs.

A spokesperson for Loucks said the patterns in question are too common for them to belong to one artist.

To Dinardo, it's more than losing a contract. It's losing credit for her creation.

This is my life, she said. This is what I built my business on.

Dinardo said she has a copyright on her work. She declined to say if she would pursue legal action.

The KitchenAid CustomMade mixers are $1899. Dinardo s designs run from $350 to $1400, not including the mixer.

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