Copycats have become increasingly problematic for me in recent years. I try to ignore it and stay focused on my own thing, but the problem is getting really out of hand. Last night, I encountered two more of them in a span of 30 minutes (one small biz, one large scale manufacturer). I’m still furious, so I’ll hold off on saying much more until I’m capable of being civil. In the meantime, I’d like to offer this food for thought:
Category: small business
Policies for Custom Work
I’m currently taking a brief hiatus from custom work, but I will begin accepting *limited* commissions again next month. Before I do, I’d like to revamp my policies in order to ensure that all parties have clear/shared expectations for this process. To that end, I would love input from both my customers and my fellow artisans. Here are a few of the topics that I’m pondering:
Have you ever commissioned an artist before?
If so, what are your hopes and expectations for this type of transaction?
Are you willing to sign a contract or agreement?
What policies or practices might help you to feel comfortable with the process?
What policies or practices might ensure that you are happy with the end result?
Do you require a deposit? If so, how much — and is it refundable?
Do you charge for “extras” such as sketches, custom colors, additional photos, multiple revisions, etc?
Do you make a distinction between “customized” (ie – recreating an existing work in custom colors) and “completely custom” (ie – designed from scratch to the customer’s specifications)?
Are there any topics or policies that you feel are critical to a good commission agreement?
Thanks in advance for any input that you can offer!
More than an object…
Support real people!
Thank you for understanding…
This little gem has been floating around Facebook recently. I shared it on my fan page, but I’d like to elaborate on the concept a bit…
Sometimes I’m surprised by the random people that write asking for (deep!) discounts on my creations, even though we’ve never met.
I’m tempted to reply sarcastically, and ask them to give me the equivalent of half a day’s work too – you know, just because.
Similarly, I’m puzzled when folks ask for – or even demand – patterns and detailed construction information. While I don’t mind sharing certain tips with friends or peers, I’m not in the habit of giving my business away to strangers.
Worse yet are the ones who just take without asking –
This year alone, I’ve caught three different “artists” selling direct (and bad!) knockoffs of my original designs. Not only did these people duplicate my original works, but they opted to sell in the same venues that I do and undercut me! This is a mark of the copycat – they almost always sell their reproductions for less than the original. I suspect it’s because they know what they’ve done, and feel ashamed … but that’s an entirely different rant, so I’ll save it for another post. Bottom line: when you take something off of a store shelf without paying, it’s called stealing; please don’t kid yourself – helping yourself to my hard work is no different.
My point is that many people do not seem to value creative work.
There’s an expectation that it’s easy or effortless, or that it’s some sort of cute little hobby and not a real job. If you believe that crap, please allow me to disabuse you of your misconceptions – I work my ass off! For reals. I have invested decades into learning my craft, honing my skills, and developing original products. I’ve also poured an amazing amount of money into tools and supplies. In addition, I devote countless hours to “invisible” tasks such as SEO, photography, writing copy and so forth. This is my livelihood — what I do to pay my bills.
|via the talented Valorie Wilson of http://www.valoriewilson.com/|
As this sketch illustrates, professional artists generate a host of business expenses in the course of creating and selling their work.
My pricing is structured to cover such expenses and provide a livable wage. So when you ask me for discounts, tips and freebies, you aren’t asking for an intangible bit off fluff that I dreamed up in my “spare time”; you are asking me to work for free. I might like you better if you at least offered me a trade – how about a free meal at your restaurant, a one hour massage, free teeth cleaning, or whatever it is that you do to support yourself?
I do try to be generous with my work by offering sales throughout the year. Likewise, I donate a lot of my creations to charity, trade with other artisans, give to friends and family (and even the occasional stranger); but I don’t simply give my work away to everyone off the street. Can you think of any sustainable business that does?
My apologies if this post sounds ranty or bitter – but I see so many of these rude “requests” and outright thefts that it’s hard not to get that way. I’ll back away from the soapbox and leave you with this request:
Please treat me (and my work) with the same basic courtesy that you would show any other professional.
Handmade Holiday Gifts 3 – Jewelry
|leather peacock feather earrings|
|beaded bracelet by Beadware|
|beaded necklace by Blazin’ Beads|
|tribal skull necklace by Erthe Fae|
|wire wrapped bracelet by Faerie Kat|
|deer necklace by Heidi Kummli|
|necklace by Rainwater Studios|
|earrings by Seattle Chic|
She says: “I can’t imagine a life without passion. Making imaginative, original jewelry & photographing it keep me busy all day & up half the night. When I do sleep, I dream up new designs & can’t wait to get up to make them real. I hope you find something here that you love & sense the joy I felt when creating it!”
|ancient eye bracelet by Splendid Fish|
Splendid Fish says “Each piece of high quality handcrafted jewelry from Splendid Fish Studio is based on original designs imagined and hand tooled by B. de Corbin.
You won’t find pieces like these made by anyone else, or sold anywhere else in the world. I work with copper, brass, and silver using a variety of ancient techniques such as forging and enamelling. My work is derived from the work of the ancient metalsmiths, but is still contemporary, and is designed and constructed to please the discriminating collector. This is not just costume jewelry – each piece is an original, quality piece of art!”
|ear cuff by Thyme2Dream|
|thistle ring by Winged Lion|
|filigree earrings by 1000 Dragonflies|
These artists’ work may or may not be to your taste. Of course, I hope that you will love their work as much as I do, and choose to support them … but if you don’t, please consider doing your holiday shopping with other independent artists on Etsy, or at local craft fairs.
Handmade Holiday Gifts Part Deux ~ DIY Supplies (or Gifts For Your Bead Babe)
As I’ve mentioned before, creating beadwork is soothing and meditative. If you opt to make your own gifts, your recipient will not only have a lovely and meaningful gift that was handcrafted by you; but you may de-stress a bit in the process of creating that gift! Win, win — right? I’d like to enable … I mean, assist you with that goal. Below, you’ll find a few of my favorite beady businesses. These are woman owned small businesses, run by people who actually bead (the latter may sound funny, but I assure you that this is becoming increasingly rare)! They are passionate about their products, and they add beauty to the world not only through their wares, but through their spirits. Each one is worthy of your support, and you can feel good about supporting small businesses and amazing individuals in one swell foop. I am including their locations, in case you’d like to take it a step further, and buy locally:
|Beyond Beadery’s infamous wall-o-crystal!|
Beyond Beadery is owned by Betcey Ventrella and her sweetheart of a man, Mark. They are based out of Rollinsville, Colorado.
Miz Betcey is the undisputed queen of Swarovski crystal. She carries these sparkly confections in every imaginable color, size and shape. She also carries an impressive selection of Japanese seed beads, as well as those super special heavy metal seed beads. Scrumptious stuff! You should have no problem finding gorgeous supplies here — or perhaps a gift certificate for your favorite beader?
|photo via whimbeads.com|
Another excellent source for seed beads is Out on a Whim , which is located in Cotati, CA. Out on a Whim is owned by Beki and Shawn Haley, who are absolutely beautiful people! Their shop has been family owned and operated since it opened in … sheesh, at least the early 90’s? Beki is a talented bead artist and instructor so she definitely knows her stuff! Her staff is equally knowledgeable, and their prices are highly competitive.
Beki recently taught at the popular BABE show, and she is scheduled to teach again at the Bead and Button show in Summer of 2012. She designs original patterns, which she offers as kits (complete with materials and instructions). If you’re looking for projects to make as gifts, or even just gifts for the bead addict on your list, you should definitely visit her kits page.
Those of you in the midwest might prefer to pay a visit to Stormcloud Trading (AKA “Beadstorm”), which is located in St. Paul, Minnesota. Stormcloud was opened in 1987 by the fabulous Sandi Graves. Her shop focuses on traditional and contemporary beading supplies, as well as leatherworking and metal supplies. Sandi is an accomplished beadworker, and she also works with enamel and metal.
|Amazing work by Julia S. Pretl|
If you’re looking for easy gifts, why not try a book, pattern or bead kit? As I mentioned above, these are great stress-free projects because they simplify the design process — and they make excellent gifts for bead fanatics! If you want to go this route, I have some great recommendations for you. First, I suggest books or patterns by the intensely talented Julia S. Pretl of Baltimore, MD. I’ve gushed extensively on this blog about Julia and her work (seriously, just check my tags to the right) so I will keep this suggestion simple: Julia is amazing. Go check her out!
|BQ squares designed by Charley|
Another bead designer that I love is Charlene Hughes, AKA “Beady Boop” of Arcata, CA. She was one of the first designers to start publishing pattern books, and she remains one of the most prolific and innovative designers of intricate peyote patterns. Charley no longer maintains her own website, but you can still find many of her books and patterns at Rita’s site.
Charley only beaded one of the 9/11 Bead Quilt squares on the panel to the right, but the other 3 squares were created using her designs. As you can see, she has an excellent eye for line and color.
|Sparkly Wheels by Nikia Angel|
Another great source for bead kits and patterns is Buy the Kit, which is owned by Nikia Angel of Albuquerque NM. The site features a wealth of Nikia’s beautiful bead designs, along with many other talented designers’ work. At this point, BTK represents over 20 well known bead instructors, many of whom teach at high profile shows such as Bead Fest and Bead and Button. Their designs reflect a wide array of styles and skill levels, so you’re sure to find something that suits your needs.
You’ll find complete bead kits with materials and instructions, or you can choose from their “Beadless Kits” (AKA patterns) for necklaces, bracelets, bags, earrings, dolls, hair wear and more.
|vintage glass cabs from Treefrog Beads|
Last but not least, I’d like to give a little plug for my own virtual bead store, Treefrog Beads! I’m based out of Seattle, WA, and my focus is on vintage and antique beads and cabochons. I’ve been collecting old and unusual beads since the 1980’s, and I especially love glass cabochons, Swarovski crystal and antique micro seed beads. You can find my complete selection at my website, which is linked above — or you can peruse my listings over on Etsy. One caveat about ordering from me right now, though — I’ll be on the road from mid November through early December, so if you order during that time, there will be a slight delay in shipping.
So there you have it! If you love beads — or if you love someone who loves beads — you have a wealth of choices for great supplies and/or gifts! Again, each of the small businesses listed above is owned and operated by a wonderful woman. If your holiday list includes beads or beading supplies, I strongly encourage you to support one of these shops!
Handmade Holiday Gifts ~ Part 1
Last year around the holidays, I made a big deal about the importance of supporting independent artists and local small businesses. I recently posted on my facebook fan page about my intent to do the same this year. My goal is to promote independent artists and businesses (including my own).
One reason that I am so passionate about this is that your purchase from a big box store is really just a drop in the bucket of their profit margin; while your support of an independent artist actually has a powerful impact on the life of an individual! Buying handmade also benefits you and your intended recipient, in that you’re choosing to give something unique — which (at least in my book) is wonderful and special.
|“Y is for Yule” via http://www.etsy.com/shop/EmilyBalivet|
Another reason that I’m so vocal about this is that there were several years when the holidays were really really stressful for me. I made myself crazy and spent far more than I could afford, trying to make everything perfect — and by the time the holidays arrived I was uptight, angsty and disappointed. It occurred to me that the reason for this was that I had become a very well trained consumer — and in the process, I lost sight of the things that really make the holidays magical and special for me. Sappy as it sounds, those things are family, love, comfort, and taking time to relax and reflect on the year behind me. For the past 4 years I’ve made a concerted effort to focus on those aspects of the holidays, and it has made a tremendous difference in my stress level and satisfaction! I’d like to share that serenity with you.
Our consumer culture is so driven by the media push to “buy, buy buy” and to “act quickly!” and “don’t miss that super gonzo mega sale!” that we actually think that we have to do these things in order to express our love to our family and friends! Really, we don’t. Black Friday is a media construct and we can opt out, or at least seek meaningful alternatives. We can choose to do things with the folks we love and we can make things for them; if you’re not the crafty sort or you don’t have time to make things, then please consider doing your gift shopping with independent artists!
|Tree topper via http://www.etsy.com/shop/faeryspellcreations|
In the coming weeks I’ll showcase handmade items that I love, in the hopes that you’ll support these amazing artists too — or at least feel inspired to support other artists and small businesses. I’m also going to spotlight special treats that you can give or do for yourself, because self care is SO important this time of year! Hopefully, I can do this in a way that is tasteful and low key; it is not my intent to bombard you with more pressure to consume. I simply want to offer positive alternatives that I hope will help you to create a more serene and meaningful holiday season.
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