Paperchase has withdrawn four products and apologised to an artist whose work was copied in their design after a week of intense online criticism of the retailer.

In a statement published on the Paperchase website, chief executive Timothy Melgund said the stationery retailer had established that an artist working for a supplier had copied the design, and accepted that it should have acted sooner.

The creator of the orginal artwork, an artist known as Hidden Eliose, complained to Paperchase about the copied artwork in November 2009, but the retailer had accepted its supplier’s assurances that the design was original and continued to sell items based on it.

Dissatisfied by the retailer’s response, the artist documented her case on her blog and on the microblogging site Twitter. Her allegations gained widespread attention last week when science fiction writer Neil Gaiman alerted his 1.6 million followers to it, making it one of the most hotly-discussed issues on the microblogging service and attracting national press attention.

An initial public response by Paperchase last week did little to dampen criticism, and Hidden Eliose continued to press her case as the retailer investigated her claim again.

The retailer’s supplier, design studio Gather No Moss, along with an artist working for it, have since issued statements accepting that the design had been copied.

Melgund said: “This is not about blame, as some have suggested, but a genuine attempt to discover what went wrong. You must decide for yourselves where the faults lie. In retrospect we, Paperchase, are certainly not without blame.

“So we have been chastened by this experience and offer Hidden Eliose, our customers and those from the social network community our sincere apologies that we were not more rigorous in establishing the truth in the first instance.”