I woke up this morning knowing that by the time today is over, all the boxes will be packed full of the pattern kits that we have been working so hard on this past week and a half. That is a good feeling.
Somehow this job seemed to take longer than that. Not because it was any more difficult, but I think it was because in between cutting and packing boxes, I was also writing up the pattern packets. Most nights I wouldn’t even begin that part until after spending the day cutting. By that time, I was rather tired and should have been spending the time winding down instead of gearing up and being sharp enough to write instructions. I have already decided that I will try not to allow myself to be in that position again if I can help it. The next time, if I am not ready I will wait until the following catalog deadline and let the cards fall as they may. I think that is a healthier way to do things.
I love hearing how some people view designers. Not only scroll saw pattern designers, but all designers in general. It appears that many people look upon us as if we are doing this on the side as an afterthought and have little regard for what it takes to create a good design.
I bring this subject up because in the midst of the past week of working the long hours that I have worked, I came across a post on one of the forums that stood out to me. It was posted in the form of a ‘want ad’ where someone was seeking the services of a designer to design scroll saw patterns so that he could make the projects and sell them for a profit at shows and to shops. The ad clearly stated what ‘criteria’ was required of all who ‘applied’ for the job. Everything was stated in a very professional manner, and very up front.
The requirements included:
- Quality work.
- Timely service.
- Specific finished size of pieces.
- A request to send samples of work first before a commitment was made.
This all sounded reasonable to me. And professional. It sounded like the person was serious about finding a good, quality designer.
Then the kicker came in:
The ‘starting pay’ would be $10 per pattern.
It hit me like a ton of bricks.
I thought – “Wow!”
Then I thought it was a joke.
But it wasn’t and as I re-read the post, it became clear to me that the poster was dead serious. I just sat here and shook my head.
After I got over the shock of what I just read, my first inkling was to post a caustic or sarcastic response. But those of you who know me know that I am not like that. I decided to do what I usually do and just watch and see what came of the offer, and stay out of it.
I suppose by writing about it here today, you figured out that I still think about it. In fact, I surprise myself at how much it bothered me. After all, I spend a bit of time online and I have grown what I believe is quite a thick skin to things that are said on the internet and I usually don’t allow them to get to me. But I think the combination of my own exhaustion from working so hard the past weeks and trying to go above and beyond to make a good product and then seeing how designers in general are viewed (and artists too, for that matter – are you reading Martyn?) really made me feel kind of bad. There are just times when we feel as if we are continually fighting an uphill battle.
I am not only speaking for myself, but for the many, many designers and artists that I know that are struggling to market their talents and get a fair price for them. And get the respect they deserve for their time, education and talent. I know of very few (if any) designers that are getting rich from their talents. The ones that are making it are in that position only because of a pure, deep love of what they do and endless hours spent on creating. This includes not only the designers, pattern makers, and artists, but also the people who buy the patterns and spend the many hours creating the beautiful things that they make. We all know the true artisans are those who do it for love, not for the money. I have yet to meet a successful crafts person who is in that field for the money. It is because of their love of beauty and creativity that they continue, and unfortunately at times they tend to undersell their talents because they love what they do so much that they compromise themselves in order to continue. This has set a dangerous precedence among artists of all nature and as a result of that, they devalue not only themselves, but their talents too.
I realize that this has been going on since the beginning of time, but it still doesn’t mean that it is right. Why, I wonder, does liking what you do mean that you have to undersell yourself to be successful? Shouldn’t it be the opposite? Shouldn’t your work be valued more because of your love of what you are doing, which usually leads to better workmanship and quality? Maybe in a perfect world (or on a pink cloud) that is how it is.
To me, $10 for a custom pattern is insulting. Especially given the aforementioned criteria. Even at a low wage of $20 per hour (which I don’t think is insane considering the cost of education and learning the computer programs, equipment and program cost, and all the other things that should be considered) that $10 per pattern would mean that you needed to crank out a custom pattern in 30 minutes or less to even realize that wage. Any designer who has had any experience at all will tell you that meeting that criteria would be impossible.
We pay doctors for their education. Lawyers, too. Mechanics for our car earn a decent wage. Why is it that our services as a designer or artist don’t qualify for a fair price? Not a ‘getting rich’ price. Just fair. I wanted to ask the poster if he would be willing to work for the wages he is offering at the criteria he suggests. I suspect not.
I tried my best to ignore this post and not make my blog here a platform for me to rant. But heck, I work hard and I know a lot of wonderfully talented people (designers and artists and crafters alike) and it sickens me when I see how they are continually demoralized by people who don’t give them credit for the talents, education and work that they put into their love of creating. I think they are worth much more than they sometimes give themselves credit for. There are many wonderful designers that even give their designs away for free. They are wonderfully talented and by their own choice they are in the position to offer their services because of their love of creating. I have a great deal of respect for them and think that they help make our industry grown and help people who otherwise not be able to afford patterns.
But putting this out there and offering so little for services is something that is very sad. It exemplifies how some look on us as designers, artists and craftspeople. And I had to mention it.
I will get off of my soap box now, as I had my say. While I know that I will not change anything with my rant, I hope that in the end, I will awaken your awareness to this issue.
I am going to spend my day packaging up my patterns and kits, knowing in my heart that I did the best job I could in creating them and grateful that the time and care I put into them will be appreciated by many.
Have a wonderful day.
No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist. – Oscar Wilde
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"