It’s times like these when I kind of get discouraged. It seems like there are times when no matter how hard you work and what you do, it just doesn’t pay off. With the economy so tough, I am certain that hobbies such as scroll sawing and wood working are not high priorities on most people’s lists. I believe I have talked about this before, as I realize that it is an ongoing thing and that people are going to do what they can to survive. I don’t really feel that things will be booming again until people regain the confidence in their own jobs and the economy and that doesn’t seem like it will happen anytime soon, if ever. There are days when I wonder if I will be able to hold on to this job or if I, too will fall to the economy.
I realize that I am one of the last of the hard core scroll saw designers that is still in business. There used to be about 20 main people/companies when I first came aboard. These people were the pillars of the industry, and their designs were all wonderful. But over the years, one by one they seemed to have slipped away. There are only a handful of us left who have been around a long time and of that group, not one is what I could call ‘flourishing’. Some are doing better than others, but others still are privately contemplating if they are going to be able to make it through another year and wonder if it is even worth it.
It isn’t because their designs aren’t any good anymore. Lately I have seen some of the most innovative and attractive designs imaginable coming from their companies. I think it is a multitude of factors that adds to the already sluggish business. Of course the economy is the number one factor, I believe. People watch every cent that they spend and rightfully so. Just because there is a little extra today, doesn’t mean there will be the certainty of having it tomorrow.
The internet is also a double-sided sword for designers. Most of us can’t survive without it (I know I can’t) but in the business of selling patterns, it is an easy target for piracy and theft. Stevenmarin just did a piece on someone who was selling thousands of plans for a mere $49 or something like that on one DVD. Presumably most of these plans are unauthorized, incomplete and stolen. I applaud his efforts to try to put a stop to it but from previous and present experience, I realize that it is nearly impossible. I will do what I can to help, however.
Ironically, it was brought to my attention yesterday that (another) one of my patterns was stolen and placed on a site and was being given away for FREE. This was on another woodworking forum that I belong to (Yes, the person had the GALL to give away my pattern on a site that I was a somewhat active member of -AND it is the only place that I have a banner advertising my own site on the top of the page of the site!) This is a site that is dedicated strictly to scroll sawing. It has over 3000 members and many people on it trade ‘free’ patterns, which are supposed to be their own designs.
When I saw the pattern up there, it literally made me sick to my stomach. It was the exact deer head that I did in a plaque, but only the frame was different. My original pattern was done in a leaf shape and from a series of wildlife leaf plaques that has sold very well over the years, and the frame he changed it to was a flower shape which one of my competitors had sold. So he took the inside picture from my drawing and the frame from someone else and called it his “design”. (Oh, and he did mirror it, so I guess he thought that made it OK!).
I do my drawings in vector which means you get clean, smooth lines and on the final patterns they are .5 pts. thick which is about as thick as the this———line. This guy obviously took a JPEG of the patterns and copied them because you could see the pixels and they were thick, jagged lines. I wouldn’t have been able to cut them properly and no decent scroll sawyer would. But all it did to me was cheapen my work and put a bad taste in peoples mouth who did recognize the pattern as my own. What if they though that I drew the patterns like that?
I guess one of the worst parts was that the pattern was posted in MARCH, so it had been in that forum of 3000 free for the taking for months. It makes me very sad.
For those of you who read regularly, you see my days are pretty full. Besides this forum and Steve Good’s forum (which was not the one it was on) I do go to the other from time to time, but I just don’t have the TIME to look at everything. That forum consists of mostly portrait style scroll saw patterns where people take pictures and photos and turn them to ‘scroll saw patterns’ using Photoshop or other computer programs. Although a very few hand draw them to make them work and look beautiful, most people just adjust the color and contrast and make them through the computer. I have never done this type of ‘designing’ because although I have seen a few beautiful examples of how it works when done properly, it has been bastardized to the extent of most of the stuff on the market is crap and I think ‘uncuttable’ (I think I made up that word, but you get the jest). I am not trying to slag the people who do nice work and take the time to make things works right and test them, but to me it is a further blow to scroll sawing in general when people try to make these untested designs and are inevitably unsuccessful. Again – it just puts a bad taste in their mouths for scroll sawing. My partner has tried to do a couple of these types of designs, but he painstakingly draws them by hand and cut both designs he has tried so far to insure their success. There is a gentleman I know personally, Mike Williams, who has also been published in the magazine I work for who takes literally MONTHS to perfect and cut a design. It can be done right. But it seems that anyone with a ‘contrast’ button and a computer can now call himself/herself a designer and ‘artist’. (Sigh!)
So I immediately contacted the culprit via email, including a picture from my own pattern he copied (he is in the Netherlands, by the way) and also sent a copy of the message and complaint to the moderator/owner of the site. I received a near-immediate apology from the moderator and he told me he removed the post. He also apologized profusely although I have no blame at all toward him. There is no way he can police and research each pattern that is posted on that site. At some point, people have to be responsible for themselves and their own actions. I truly appreciated his support however and I did thank him for his efforts.
However, the damage had been done. I find myself pretty deflated and the rest of the day it was very difficult to motivate myself to do anything. For those of you who have come to ‘know’ me in the past month, you know that usually isn’t an issue with me. Business has been slow, as most other woodworkers can attest to. I work just about every single day and I have some of my best ideas in the works. The well still isn’t drying up, and even just joining this site has inspired many more new ideas and plans. I realize that it is summer and it is typically our slowest season, but I can’t help but wonder why I keep hanging in here. For the moment I have no choice, I guess. I live in a remote area and jobs here are scarce. They stopped the ferry from Yarmouth to Maine this summer which was another blow to the already precarious economy here in my area. I have to realistically consider moving back to a larger city and seeing what kind of job I could get there. It would be a really difficult decision to make, as I love it here so much, but I won’t know what else to do.
I guess the incident I just told you about was just another nail in the coffin. I am a fighter though and as one of the last of the long-term designers left standing, for me anyway the war isn’t over yet. (Although some days I feel like the knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail hopping around on one leg and saying “Come, on, Come on, I’ll fight you…...I ain’t dead yet. I may feel like it, but I’m not.”) I guess I just need my time to feel crummy for a bit and then regroup and come back fighting again. I feel that I offer designs for people who want more than Photoshopped crap or patterns stolen from others. If I keep on my own path and do the right thing, things will be ok.
Besides . . . . Right always wins over wrong. Doesn’t it? (It does on the pink cloud, anyway)
-- Contributing Editor, Creative Woodworks and Crafts, Sheila Landry Designs http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com "Knowledge is Power"