I heard some sad news the other day. Apparently there is another painting magazine that is going to cease to exist. As I was reading my facebook news feed which is a mixture of friends, family, woodworkers and painters, I caught the thread where the announcement was made by a very respected long-time author of many painting instruction books. My heart just sank.
She had also said that not only was their painting magazine going to fold, but the other craft type publications as well. I couldn’t help but wonder if woodworking and scroll sawing were very far behind.
I know there will always be woodworkers, but in the years since I have been involved in woodworking and the crafts industry in general, I have seen it take hit after hit and it is now only a fraction of the industry it used to be.
When I first met the people from the magazine that I work with, I was at a huge convention in Chicago. It was one that most have probably never seen the likes of, and may never be that way again. It was held at the Stevenson Convention Center, which is a huge complex in Rosemont, a Chicago suburb near the airport, and it typically lasted over a week’s time, with the first several days being dedicated to classes and lectures and seminars. From Thursday through Sunday was the trade show which was isle upon isle of new and wonderful products which included selling scroll saws, to selling beads, paints kits and anything you can imaging crafting could be. The center was so huge that it would take you literally two to three days to get through everything and there were demonstrations and make-it-take-it booths where you could try all type of new products.
You needed to be “in the industry” to even get in the door and it was so packed with people that there was barely room to walk in the aisles. I remember coming home with bags of literature and information of new products and later on when I was more established with the magazine as a designer I would come home with armfuls of actual samples to try and design with, as they didn’t want to have to take their wares back home with them. I was happy to lighten the load.
When I met the people from the magazine that I worked with, it was a large group of editors from the various magazines that All American published. There were representatives from the general crafts magazine, the painting magazines (there are two) and and the scroll sawing magazine as well as others and front office people and the owners and their families. I came home from that first show with a handful of business cards from editors of three magazines that were going to publish my work and several new friends. That was almost fifteen years ago.
Now the conventions are much smaller. The scrap booking industry has given the general craft industry a boost, but there is so much available that I wonder how they are doing right now. I have been out of the convention loop for the past several years since I moved here to Canada, but the shows are much smaller I hear and they have really toned things down. Even my own company only send a few of their necessary people anymore. The two major general craft shows – the one I mentioned and another one which was traditionally held in California – were combined into one show now I believe due to the escalating costs and shrinking attendance. So many magazines have gone under that it is frightening to someone like me who makes my living through the publishing industry.
I also hear that my own company is eliminating one of their two painting magazines. Since I have known them, they had two publications – one for beginner painters and one for more experienced. On the same thread that announced the end of the competitors’ magazine, someone mentioned that my own company would be combining the two magazines into a single publication. That leave it as the only magazine of its type both here and in Canada. There are a few ‘fine art’ type of painting magazines. but nothing else to represent the type of decorative painting that I am doing with my little skating set. Would it only be a matter of time before my own magazine would be eliminated?
I understand the reasons behind all of these happenings, and I can’t say yet whether it is necessarily a disaster. The cost of paper and printing is escalating. The cost of shipping is also going through the roof. Add that to the ever-growing development and availability of the internet and there are many factors that are obviously contributing to the decline of the printing industry. Oh – and people don’t have the dispensable income that they used to either.
I am following a blog right now of someone who is for the first time publishing a Kindle book. Until about two or three weeks ago I didn’t even know what Kindle was. I have since looked it up on Google and it looks like it would be something that I would like and be interested in learning more about. As I watch the step that he is taking to publish this book, I see that the process is something that makes publishing your own book quite accessible for just about anyone. The cost is minimal. The risk is minimal and the result can be very positive. It will be interesting to see how things work out for him and I am hoping that they do.
In our own woodworking industry, we realize that we are no longer bound to printed material as we were in the past in order to learn new techniques and educate ourselves and obtain new patterns. We now have the internet which offers forums such as this, as well as online patterns and educational videos. When I was growing up, we only had our weekly dose of Bob Vila and “This Old House” to teach us the basics of woodworking (if it did even that) and other than that, we needed to go to the library and look for some printed materials on techniques or take a shop class somewhere if they were even available. Now we are fortunate to have all sorts of information, tutorials and patterns available whenever we choose by just going to our home computer on our own time.
As for my own business, I can honestly say that one of the best things I did for my patterns is to make them available via PDF files. I find that approximately 90% of my customers prefer this method of purchasing patterns from me. They not only save the shipping costs, but they also get their patterns almost immediately. If they lose a file, it is simple for me to look up their order if I don’t remember and resend the item to them. It saves me the time to print and ship the order, as well as the cost of the paper and ink. I find that I am able to put more step-by-step color photos in my patterns, as I no longer worry that it will cost me an arm and leg to print these patterns in quantity. That keeps the cost of my patterns lower for the customers too. I think it is a good thing for everyone.
So is the change really bad? I think that like most people, I am uncomfortable with change. I like the feel of a tangible magazine in my hands. I like being able to sit in bed and read and take a book with me to the doctor’s office or out where I want to go where I can’t take a computer. But times are changing and like it or not, print is becoming more and more expensive and impractical in many instances.
I have many boxes of magazines and instruction books that I will always cherish, but I realize that in the next ten years or so the pile will probably not really grow. I also find most of my information here in a digital world and I enjoy the vast selection and convenience of obtaining information here on the computer. I hope that over time, I will prepare myself so that if one day I receive notice that the magazine I work for will no longer exist, I will be ready and diverse enough to still be able to sustain my business in other ways. Being prepared will be key to my survival.
So as I look into the future for my business, I realize that the one thing I can be certain of is that it will not remain the same if it is to be successful. I am preparing myself for the changes to come and I am keeping myself aware of what is happening around me in the industry. Preparation will be the key.
Although I am saddened by the fall of one of the last remaining painting magazines, I am grateful for the wake up call that it has sent me. With the capabilities of my new site and the advancement of technology, I feel that the opportunities will be there for those who want to embrace them. Things may even be better.
“Today is not yesterday: we ourselves change; how can our works and thoughts, if they are always to be the fittest, continue always the same? Change, indeed is painful; yet ever needful; and if memory have its force and worth, so also has hope.”
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"