I suppose I kinda, sorta got “unstuck” yesterday. As usual, I find that being patient and staying on my own path proved to be the best solution. In the past, I have spent much time and energy trying to “fix things” that I had no control over. This left me with less of both to move ahead and continue on. It was a domino effect that greatly limited what I would accomplish.
As difficult as it is for me to do, I have learned to stop trying to fix everything. I am also learning that if I don’t get immediate answers about things, it is best to fill the time with moving ahead on unrelated tasks instead of laboring over what cannot be forced. How many times do we find ourselves in that state? We wait to hear about one answer or event in our lives and it completely stifles us from doing anything else.
We all want resolution to the conflicts around us – especially when they deal with us directly, but I am learning more and more that when some of these things happen in our lives and there is nothing that we can do about them, the most productive way to deal with them is to focus on something else that we are doing that is positive. If we can’t think of anything positive then why not create something that is? It is quite simple, yet very effective in dealing with the stress. At least we then feel that we are actively doing something to improve our lives and situation.
There is quite a bit of stress lately in the craft industry in general. We all know the state of the economy, no matter where you live in the world. Times are tough for everyone and let’s face it, arts and crafts such as woodworking and painting aren’t what one would consider as one of life’s necessities. People are concerned about paying for more important things like food and housing and health care and general living expenses and there is far less expendable income than there used to be.
I heard from my magazine not too long ago that they are bumping a couple of our projects from the holiday issue to the next. Initially, my partner and I were to have four projects and an article in the holiday issue between us. But I was told the issue was quite full and that they were moving one project from each of us to the following issue. I wasn’t that disappointed, but I think my partner was. The way I looked at it, it gives more people a chance to be in that special issue. It isn’t like they aren’t taking the things, only that they will be published a little later.
What it does affect most is the date that we will be able to include those items in the catalogs put out by the wholesalers. It kind of kills those projects for the entire holiday season, and severely limits the income they would bring for another year.
It used to be that we were able to sell our items as soon as the magazine was out, as per our “first rights” agreement. Now however, I am being told that we need to wait two full months from the newsstand publication date until those items included in that magazine can be included in the catalogs. Since much of the work that I submit is seasonal, this just about will take the project out of the market for the entire year.
From a marketing perspective I do understand their reasons for this. But from a designer’s point of view, I am quite disappointed. Even though this “two month” time frame was only brought up to me yesterday (unless I missed something – and I don’t think I would have missed something that important) it was presented to me as if it was the policy all along and it always was that way.
It makes me think I am going crazy.
I found myself questioning my own memory and going so far as to pull the old contracts to check and see if I missed something. As far as I could see, I did not. This apparently is one of those times when a deal was made between the magazine and the wholesaler and this was agreed upon between them and someone forgot to notify the designers of the changes.
In the past, I distinctly remember that the items that were in the holiday issue would also be included not only in the holiday catalogs of the wholesalers, but also the fall catalogs prior to that. The fall catalog ships at the beginning of September and the holiday issue is slated to be on the stand on August 16. It was a close call but it was acceptable.
The holiday wholesale catalog ships sometime in October, and the problem there is that all the photographs and materials are due to the wholesaler at the same time as the previous catalog (which is just about now, by the way) Also because of the dates, the projects that got bumped up will be completely out of the running.
I know it is just a couple of projects and yes, I can make more but it just brings to attention how far down on the totem pole that I, as the designer, sits. Little by little I see the tables turning and the demographics of the relationships between the magazines/wholesalers/designers changing. And since both the magazines and the wholesalers have far more resources, it frequently appears that they come out ahead. Instead of a “win/win/win” philosophy that used to make things work well together, it is more of a “win/win/still-in-the-game” philosophy that has caused many designers that I know of to get out of the business altogether.
(Et tu, Brutus?)
So knowing what I know, that the world is what it is and I can do little to change others, I realize that the only way to come out of this well is to change my own behavior. This is a matter of survival for everyone, myself included, and there are several things I can do to improve my own odds of succeeding. Diversification is one. I am already working on that with the painting aspect of my business. Another is focusing on my own website and customers. You all know that I have been working on that and I will continue to focus efforts there. Since I have direct contact with my customers in that forum, it is probably my favorite one to work on anyway.
I apologize for the length of this post, but these are some valid points for the many who read and ask me about what it entails to do this as a full time business. There is no magic formula, it seems. I just have to be resilient and able to diversify enough so that if one aspect changes, the business doesn’t come falling down like a house of cards. It sometimes is a tricky game to play, but in the words of Monty Python “I ain’t dead yet!”
I don’t look at either the wholesalers or the magazines in a negative sense for any of these things. After all, they are also just trying to hang in there too. I probably wouldn’t have much respect for either of them if they didn’t try their best to make things work for them. However, it is a delicate balance between the three parties where each one needs the other two in order to survive. I only hope that they realize that too.
With all that said, I will leave you with this thought for the day:
It is not the strongest
of the species that survive,
nore the most intelligent,
but the one most responsive to change.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"