I reached a milestone yesterday. I finished something that I had been working on for the past several weeks. This was not easy for me, for while some of what I was doing was similar to what I always did, it involved thinking about things in a different way. And at times it was difficult.
I find that as I get older, learning new things becomes a bit more of a challenge. I understand that is natural, so I don’t feel too badly about it, and I allow myself time and try not to be too hard on myself along the way. I sometimes feel daunted by new challenges, but I don’t want to allow that fear of the unknown dictate my behavior and discourage me from trying new things. So I give it a go.
I have recently alluded to some of the new undertakings we are trying for our business. After some things happened recently in regards to how my patterns were being distributed, I realized that it was time to get out of my comfort zone and seek out new opportunities. After over fifteen years of doing what I was doing, I began to think that perhaps it was time anyway.
Scroll sawing is a struggling market. It is a very specialized area of woodworking and even though I love it, I do realize that there are other things out there that are related and possibly a more lucrative market for my designs. The other day when looking for something else, I noticed another company had a couple of my older patterns on their site up for sale. I had worked with them years ago, and when the company was bought out and taken over by someone new, their business plan didn’t involve working with outside designers. We parted on good terms, and it seemed that our association just gently fizzled out with no hard feeling or discontentment.
At the time of the old owners, I had created a series of plans for them that they bought outright rights to, meaning I got paid and gave up the rights. I had done this in the past with some ornament sets with Creative Woodworks (the magazine I work with) and it all turned out well. I needed the money desperately back then and selling the rights up front helped me manage at a time when I was having trouble.
But seeing these designs marketed under other labels felt rather odd. I can’t say that I don’t have some regrets in doing business that way and relinquishing my work to others in that manner. Now that I am on my feet, I made a vow to myself that I would be very careful before doing that again. I would really have to be in hard shape or the offer would need to be something that I simply couldn’t refuse.
But scanning over the site I mentioned earlier, I saw a mix of what I had sold the rights to and what I did not. Granted these were all patterns that were probably about ten years old, and certainly not the caliber of work that I do now, but they still were my designs and it was the point of the whole thing that got to me.
We checked over the site thoroughly and saw that they only had a few of the older designs (ones that I used to sell to them) and thought that perhaps on some of them, they were just using up old stock. But after ten years it was difficult to think that they still had any. While that may be true for some of the patterns, there were two patterns that were larger format that were printed by them and then I was to be paid a royalty. No stock was kept as far as I know and I didn’t see the purpose of them keeping the two designs on their site (whether they sold or not) if they no longer chose to do business with me and there was no inventory.
Here we go again.
I immediately wrote the ‘new’ owner an email, as it is very difficult to get them on the phone. That was a couple of days ago and I still have not heard back. I am not surprised.
I am not sure how I am going to pursue this issue. After the last couple of weeks of dealing with the other issue, I am quite exhausted. It comes to a point where I need to assess my own damages and also the intent of the company and figure out if it is worth the time and effort to do anything.
What I am thinking happened in this incident is that the new owners did not understand the difference between the patterns that they had a right to and those they did not. Since there were only these two that are still on their site from that time frame, it is very possible that they just assumed that they owned these designs outright, as the others. There was never a written agreement between me and the owner, as back then a word and a handshake was sufficient for a binding agreement.
I don’t think that many if any of the designs were sold, as when I introduced them with the former owners they didn’t go over well at all. I think I only sold a couple in the couple of years that the former owner was still there before the company changed hands.
I am going to pursue this next week when everyone is back to work. At the very least, I want them removed from the site and put to rest. I don’t believe that there was malicious intent with these, but I still would like to clean the slate.
It just makes me wonder though.
What we do here is such a volatile field. People think nothing of sharing plans and patterns among groups of friends and clubs and so forth. They use the excuse “that’s what libraries do” and wash their hands of any responsibility on their own part for contributing to the demise of designers.
There are many forums that forbid this type of sharing. Many times new people (or not so new) call out to the boards in search of a particular pattern. Usually there is a story behind the need that tugs at the heart strings. Sometimes other members will direct the person requesting to the designers’ site, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out when someone asks about a pattern and the response from another member is “email me privately” to figure out what they are doing. They just don’t see the wrong in it.
We try to make it easy for people to buy and use our patterns. We make them so that they can copy and print them on their own home printers, eliminating the extra cost of paying a copy service to reproduce their patterns so they can use them and still keep the original copies in tact. But as with anything, there are many people who abuse this service we offer and run off copies and email copies to their friends and so forth. While they may look to be the hero to “donate” these patterns to clubs and organizations or fellow forum people, all they really are doing is putting another nail in the coffin of the designers. And this goes for painting patterns too.
When I speak of giving up designing patterns in the way I am currently functioning, I get many protests from loyal customers who do things the right way. But some people don’t understand that by sharing patterns and plans, they are not only hurting the designers, but the industry itself. I have many friends who are very talented designers and whom I have the greatest respect for that could no longer hold on to designing because they weren’t compensated enough to make a living. We all lose then, as the good designers usually move on to better things. What a shame.
So it is time to get out and try some other things, I think. And that is where I am at now. I still plan to keep up designing for the scroll saw and painting patterns, but I also feel the need try things in new areas of designing and woodworking to see what will come of it. I am almost ready to take the jump, and I am just testing the water now to see how it can work.
I certainly will keep you all posted.
Have a great Saturday.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"