Writing today's blog post is something that I have not been looking forward to doing. I like my posts here to be positive and up beat, and it is difficult for me to feel that way after receiving the news that I heard over the weekend. However, since word got out, I have been receiving many notes and emails and I feel that the best way to answer them all is to post about things here, so I will do my best to do so and share the information that I have on the matter and also some thoughts on the situation so everyone can better understand what has happened.
On Saturday afternoon, I received notice from my editor of Creative Woodworks and Crafts magazine Debbie McGowan that not only has the magazine been discontinued, but the publishing company of All American Crafts has filed bankruptcy and as of the close of work (last) Friday, closed its doors. As you can imagine, many people were in shock, including the editors, staff and contributors and designers. Many of us knew there were problems with the company, as the tell tale signs were evident, but most of us hoped that there would be some way for the magazines to pull out of the situation and continue to function. Evidently, there was not.
This is very disheartening for so many people involved. Not only the staff and contributing designers such as ourselves, but also the wonderful subscribers who enjoyed the creative inspiration that each issue provided. All American Crafts published not only Creative Woodworks and Crafts magazine, but also many other issues such as "Paintworks", "Create and Decorate", "Wood Turning Designs", as well as several quilting, scrap booking and beading magazines. All of them will no longer exist.
Right now, I am receiving many questions regarding what will happen next. I can assure you that I have little information other than what I already stated. I am assuming that we will just no longer receive issues to our subscriptions (yes – I subscribe to several of them as well, as I tried to support the company I worked with) and that will be that. Many people have inquired as to whether they would receive refunds, and I am making an educated guess that they will not. That is what bankruptcy is – legal protection against outstanding debts. I know this may anger many people – especially those who recently subscribed, but I am certain that if there were any way to fulfill the obligations, the people at All American would have done so. As a designer who contributed to several of the magazines over the last several years, I want you all to be aware that we too have things in the works that need to be sorted out. It is as disappointing to us as it is to you as subscribers, and we all are taking a loss as well. This is one of those situations where 'no one wins.'
With that said, I want to say a few things about the group at All American Crafts.
I began working with the company seventeen years ago when I met them at a trade show in Chicago. At the time, I had just began working with Scroller, Ltd., when they were owned by Scott Kochendorfer and Roy King. Some of the Scroller projects had been published in Creative Woodworks and Crafts and one of our collaborated projects made the cover of the magazine (April 1997) and had done very well. I was fortunate enough to say that it carved me a place with the editors back then and as a result of its success, they picked up projects from me not only for Creative Woodworks magazine, but also for Paintworks and Craftworks magazine. They were a huge help in getting my name 'out there' in the crafting world in several venues.
Not only were they helpful professionally, but as people, they were wonderful to work with. All American Crafts is not a huge corporation. It is a small, family-owned company that was founded by Jerry and Maddie Cohen. Their three sons also work there, and as Jerry experienced health problems and lessened his involvement with the company, his sons took over. Most of the editors and employees have been with them for many years or since the beginning. This gave a very close and 'family' feel to the company.
I can only speak for myself, but I always had the feeling that I was part of that family, from the first day that I met everyone. Not only did the editors treat me as a friend and colleague, but so did Jerry and his sons. In the early years I was associated with them, attending trade shows was much more lucrative and we all got together several times a year at these functions to promote our magazines as well as crafting in general. In these past seventeen years, I got to know the family very well and I always admired their kindness, desire and dedication to their business and their customers. They always tried to do the best for all involved and offer as much as they could to make their customers happy.
Robert Becker was the Editor of Creative Woodworks and Crafts for many years and I owe him a great deal for teaching me good business practices. His dedication to customer service always stood out and he was known for his win/win/win arrangements which benefited the customer, the designers as well as the magazine. He taught me that customer service was paramount and came before all else, as he realized that without customers, there would be no business. When he retired and Debbie McGowan took over as Editor, she continued to support that standard of excellence. She had worked as Robert's assistant for many years and I also had worked with her directly. This made the transition easy and I always admired her attention to detail and excellence in doing her job. I was proud to be part of the group and represent the company.
While it is difficult for myself and also the subscribers to see the company folding, I can't imagine what the family is going through. I know they spent years of their lives building their business and I am sure it was a gut-wrenching decision for them to finally close the doors. The difficulties were mounting, as costs for printing and shipping keep increasing and more and more magazines are going to a digital format. The publishing industry as a whole is suffering greatly, as more and more people and designers self-publish and advertise online. I believe it was just a matter of time and a sign of progress. I don't know why All American didn't offer their magazines in digital format so I can't comment on that question. I am sure they had a reason.
As for myself, I am heart sick about these developments. For the past seventeen years, I have been a contributing editor to Creative Woodworks and Crafts. While I never counted, I feel I can safely say that I probably had over 150 projects published with them and it has been a great boost not only to my credibility as a designer, but for my business as well. As I mentioned, I have also been published in their other magazines with both my painting and even my sewing patterns. I feel I owe them a great deal.
I have had several people ask if I will be OK with the magazine going under. Fortunately, I feel that my company is diverse enough to withstand this, but as with any designers, it is never an easy path. There is only one scroll sawing magazine left (Scrollsaw Woodworking and Crafts published by Fox Chapel) and one painting magazine that I know of (The Decorative Painter published by The Society of Decorative Painting). The resources are becoming more and more limited as you can see.
What I feel is important for you all to do is to support these publications as well as the individual designers. Many of the designers have their own web sites and publish their own patterns. I have listings of links to many designers on my site, and I invite those that I don't have listed to submit them to me for inclusion. I also ask that people don't share patterns with groups or friends and purchase their own patterns when they make their projects. If designers are not supported by the public, there will be no way for them to be able to continue to design. I will tell you that from experience. There are also a great deal of "free" patterns available for you to use legally. These are great for many things, but I find that buying patterns from designers usually provides me with a better level of pattern. Everyone likes different things though so I think it is good to shop around and see what you like and what suits your way of learning, be it when doing woodwork or painting. It is a small price to pay to keep people in business so that you have a wide variety of patterns to choose from. It also helps keep the industry alive. Too often I hear complaints that there is no place to order patterns or supplies, but if people aren't willing to support others, then there is no way that these small business can survive. No one would keep going to a job if they were not getting paid. Designers are no different.
Finally, I want to give a word of thanks to the people at All American Crafts and especially the Cohen family. My heart goes out to you all and I hope that you are able to land on your feet when all of this has settled. From the day I met you all, you treated me with kindness and respect and made me feel like part of your family. I admire both your business ethics as well as how you treated your customers and designers. You all were a wonderful role model for me in both my personal life as well as my business life. These last seventeen years of working with you has been a pleasure, and I wish you all the best in whatever you do next. Thank you for believing in me.
I am still digesting what has happened. It will be odd for me to no longer say that I am a Contributing Editor, as I have done so for such a long time that it will feel as if part of me is missing. But as always, I feel that things do happen for a reason and Keith and I will seek out new avenues to share and market our designs and in the end, things will happen just as they should. While I am sad about what has happened, I will embrace these circumstances and find some good in them. Change is never really comfortable, but without it we are not able to advance. I hope you all will join me in my continued journey.
I wish you all a good Monday.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"