Feb 02

In retrospection

Written by: iwona    86 Comments

It’s been almost a year since I stopped blogging. After a good long, refreshing break I recently reconnected with many of my dear crafty friends, and I started revisiting my past work, getting somewhat sentimental in the process.

It’s been a good, fruitful year. It started off as a big personal challenge as I battled the return of depression and faced the decision of quitting a physically exhausting day job. I also found out that I’m pregnant and I’ve been on a hormonal ride ever since. We welcomed baby Jan (Janek) in November and he’s now a big, healthy 2 month old boy with plenty of smiles for everyone. He added so much to the grand picture and I feel like we’re now perfectly complete as a family.

The girls have been a wonderfully noisy, rambunctious, affectionate lot and I loved seeing them bond and grow together as sisters. They’re smitten with their lil’ brother.

In the works this year were also, building a house for our enlarged family (well underway now!), and opening an Etsy shop for my new little business. I’m enjoying the latter immensely, if I can find any spare time to tend to it that is!

I must admit that there were many days I missed being a part of the community I grew to love so much. While I found that Etsy people are the nicest folk, I felt like I lost something precious by disconnecting from the paper crafting world. Which indeed did happen.

Talking with my friends about familiar subjects brought me back to thinking about the reasons I stopped blogging here. I imagine the general assumption is that I needed to spend more time with my family, and while that’s entirely true, there’s more to it than meets the eye. And because I care a lot about the industry and the people who make it, I’ll lay it down.
I quit because I couldn’t carry on with such an intensive, time consuming ‘past-time’, once I discovered that there’s truly not much else I can do to make it more than just a hobby. Heck, I tried like it’s nobody’s business. I didn’t want to let go. I spent hours upon hours each day for five years, perfecting my work, learning, sharing. While it might have looked fancy and fun to other paper crafters, to my close family it became a burden, and to my extended family – a bit of a joke. And you know what, I understand them. Because I was working my butt off, and I was to expect no payment for this.

There’s leisurely crafting, there’s challenge blogs and personal blogs where people share inspiration just for fun. And there’s Design Teams. And yes, it’s great fun to share the joy of crafting; I’ve been doing it extensively on my blog and elsewhere (remember CASE Study?) and I wouldn’t change any of it, but the moment a paper crafter starts working for a company, and is expected to promote their product & help bring them income, by definition it becomes a job and everywhere else you would expect payment for the service.

Before I go any further, I can’t stress enough that I’m not pointing any fingers. I have so many good friends among business owners, running small stamp companies, etc. Same with paper crafters I became friends with, majority of them being active Design Team members & often tackling a few at a time. I love and deeply respect each one of these beautiful souls. The fault is not as much in people, as it is in the establishment that everyone grew to accept.
Plus the last two gigs I did, I was offered small payment for, so I really hope that someone will chime in with a comment that it’s been steadily improving since and no one really does it for free any more πŸ™‚

So let’s talk Design Teams.
The rule of thumb is that you create something with product provided and regularly share it on your blog. In the majority of cases we do this “for product”, which means that we get sent physical stuff we are to promote. The assumption is that the product is our payment, and somehow everyone forgets about the fact that in order to promote it, you need to have it in the first place. Therefore it’s not a reward of any sort, it’s a tool we need to turn into sales with our skilled hands.

Another interesting tidbit is that while we may be given free stamps, paper, etc., it’s our responsibility to provide cardstock, stamping tools, embellishments, adhesives, colouring mediums, and whatever else is needed to finish our piece. Anyone reading this blog knows that they’re crazily expensive.
Yes, yes, I know. We all have craft stash bigger than our closets, and bills from craft shops longer than grocery lists. We do it because we love it.

That’s not the point.

The point is, being asked to perform a job for someone else, so that someone else may run a successful business, makes you entitled to receiving payment for the said job. Sentiments aside, the ridiculous amount of fun aside, ‘we are all friends here’ aside. In the end it all comes down to the fact that it’s a business. If it wasn’t so for the company owners and manufacturers, they would give us their product in abundance and tell us to do whatever the hell we want with it. They pour their hearts and hard work into their product and they want it to be successful. They also want to be able to sustain themselves off its potential success. And I say, all power to them, I understand it even more now that I run my own small business. All the while I still don’t understand why DT’s are mysteriously stripped of this “privilege”.

I would rather not have a business, than ask people to work for me for free. Seriously. Would you??

I have a very understanding husband (he let me continue with my shenanigans for so long without complaining… so yeah) and he simply calls it exploitation. Why yes, it’s a harsh way to describe it, but how much exaggeration is there exactly?

Another fact is that on top of creating an art piece and blogging it, people need to perform a number of extra tasks. We need to be skilled photographers & savvy social media users. With the popularity of video tutorials, I’ve seen an increase in making them a requirement as well. We’re often asked to share not only our own content, but the rest of the company’s updates, across numerous social media platforms. We are required to be active on at least two or three of them, sometimes we need to join dedicated forums and be present there. I know and you know too, how big a job it is altogether.
Creating an art piece can take anything from half an hour to half a day (or more), photographing and blogging another hour or so (in my case much more, but I’m a perfectionist), social media and interacting with followers… well this one’s a true time eater.

But wait! You get free product!! Plus you become famous and everyone will love you!!
Really?? Ask me how much change it did to my kids, or my husband.
In fact, I’ve been in a situation before, where I overworked myself for a company to the point of emotional breakdown. I had more product out of it than I cared for, but none of it bought us groceries or paid our bills. And that’s all while supplying the bosses with endless paperwork, so that they can keep their records straight.
I also heard, or came to witness horror stories where say, an online store, asked successful applicants to purchase all product with their own money. Because hey, the fame you’ll be all getting! Because think of all the fun you’ll have!

I call b/s.

I know intimately how Design Teams work. I’ve been on more than I probably should have. Go on and hit the Design Resume tab at the top if you want (Find Me Here drop down menu, mind you I haven’t updated it since last year). I also like to think that I’ve been a good team member and brought the companies I loved a decent revenue, and the product justice.
I had SO. MUCH. FUN. I really did. I loved my Teams and people behind them. These were some ace times.

Now I have a business on my own, where I still get to play with all my cherished supplies, it’s doing fine and I’m proud of it. I tend to it with equal love. It’s my baby, just like this blog was. It’s also hard work and constant learning, but at least I know that every bit I put into it, will eventually pay off if I try hard enough.
Unfortunately, as much as I worked hard and yearned for it to happen cardmaking-wise (and my close crafting friends know how much I did), I failed to provide for my family while doing so.Β  And in the end, even the most enjoyable past-time becomes irrelevant when there’s more important business at stake.

I don’t enjoy as much any more seeing my crazily skilled friends getting all excited about the fact that they’re designing for this or that company, getting “free” stuff, and gaining popularity for working under big brands – because they think they’re just mums tinkering at their table between wiping spaghetti off small people’s faces, or changing diapers, or cooking dinner. Because nobody would know about them otherwise.

Guess what.

Working from home doesn’t make you less valued than any other person out there.
The fact that you don’t have a diploma to prove your skills, doesn’t make you less skilled.
If you’re contacted with an offer to join a Team, or you’re chosen to be on one, it’s not because someone took pity of you. It’s because your talent has been recognized.
It’s wrong to undervalue yourself thinking that it’s good enough to help run someone’s business for little or no financial reward.

And that’s basically what it is, my friends.
(Beside being an overly lengthy rant, lol! If you made it to here, you’re GRAND!)
I do hope that it’s somewhat different now. A lot can happen in a year. I want to see my friends empowered, because heck, there’s boundless talent out there and it should be recognized. The proper way. The way everyone else does it.

Oh, I still love you too, and I miss you. Darn, I miss your sweet comments.
If you want to see more of what I’m up to these days, feel free to check out my Etsy shop.
I’m also on Insta: https://www.instagram.com/inkdstationery/
and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/inkdstationery

Peace out :*

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86 thoughts on “In retrospection

  1. So glad I was able to read this and find out the real reasons… Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience with us. You are greatly missed too!

  2. Wonderful post Iwona – I loved all the photos and seeing your family grow, reading how far you’ve come in the past year. All of what you said is true. SO many wonderful people in the crafty community and all of the suppliers competing for the same dollars. I’ve never seen a profit of any kind. Always consoled myself with the fact that at least I could help defer the cost of all the things I MUST HAVE. There is a good lesson in here… do what you love because you love it.

  3. WOW! First off… congrats on the new addition to your family. Second… good for you to sit back and take the time you needed to heal/reflect and be with family and take stock of where you are/what you want to do. I really admire your honesty and sharing. Well-written blog post and one that hits close to home with many (me being one and I did remove myself from another part of our “craft” industry that was eating me up lol. I too, am in a better place). Thank you Iwona! Big hugs to you and yours! xo

  4. I was totally one of your biggest fans! Congrats on the new baby! I think of you often and miss your posts. I think you are 100% right about this. As far as I know, the industry has not changed at all in the past year. Which is totally sad. Best wishes on your etsy store.

  5. Congrats on your new baby son! Family is what is important and its good you have refocused on them. I thank you for the honest post. All the best with your Etsy store.

  6. Wow this is quite a story you have to tell….what an amazing sight behind the scenes…. you are so honest about it..such a very sad story too!
    I hope you let your grieve and pain about the whole thing out..so the healing process can start….
    I so hope you feel better now..being depressed is so hard…
    Take care…know that your family is the most precious thing you have…
    Hugs Holly.

  7. Iwona, what a delight to see an email with a new blog post from you! And I read the entire post (and well said, dear lady!). Your new little fella is just adorable, and I love all the photos you’ve shared. And what a blessing to read how much you’ve learned (or shall I say discovered and realized in a deeper, more meaningful way for you) about DT’s and “all that stuff!” I am definitely going to share this post with several friends…they need to read this. You are right on, and I am eager to check out your Etsy shop, IG, and FB. Blessings to you, and so glad to see you and your precious family! Hugs!

  8. to begin I must say a big congrats on your son and beautiful family!

    it’s so funny to read the comments from your husband. the words almost exactly echo the ones my own hubby says to me. and yet they are so spot on. everything you have mentioned is so very true. sadly things don’t seem to have changed any in the time you’ve been away.

    I appreciate your honesty and candor. thank you for this post. I wish you the very best! πŸ™‚

  9. Hello, I’m glad you’re back. I loved your blog and your amazing work. That’s what you wrote, it is unfortunately true, very bitter truth … But everyone thinks exactly as you’ve described. Very accurate approach the matter. I wish you great creations and plenty of time for your family.

  10. Good for you, Iwona!!! It does take skill and time to provide anything in a video or across social blogs/media. You should NOT be doing it for product or free! Your skill and talent inspires others to buy the products you demonstrate. You are essentially “living” advertisement and should be compensated for your time. Don’t settle for less.

    Your family is adorable! I also struggle with chronic clinical depression. I know how debilitating it can be. I hope you are doing better and feeling well. It makes a difference when you are treated well by everyone in your life. Hang in there, and know you are much loved and missed by everyone out here on the internet. πŸ™‚

    Hugs and warmest wishes for all you desire in life. πŸ™‚

  11. Glad you wrote this. This is why I moved into illustrating and enjoy it way more because I know I’ll be compensated for my time and can bring my ideas to life at the same time. Much more satisfying – creatively and business-wise!

  12. How I have missed you Iwona!! Congratulations on your new baby:) and the growing health of your little girls.
    Your thoughts and writings are filled with much truth and passion as your creations always were and continues to be. Super to see you move on to your own creative business. Blessings and big HUGS:)

  13. Congratulations on your gorgeous baby boy, and beautiful growing girls! I loved reading your blog in the past and have missed you, but it is lovely to ‘catchup’ with you now, and to know you are doing well and now enjoying life and creativity in a way that is good for you. Best wishes for your Etsy shop – your products are beautiful – of course!

  14. Love ya, Chupa! Love your honesty, love your virtual company, and love to see you taking a stand in doing what’s right for you and your lovely family. <3
    If it is any consolation, I do know that some companies do pay actual pennies for a designer's work and do not 'pay' in product only. Not every company is doing it, and it seems that for every designer who refuses design work based on this principle that there's always an eager designer just waiting to do it for product only. Unfortunately I feel like this will always be the case… I guess the only thing we can continue to do is to make the decisions that work the best for us. For me, life is not a popularity contest. I don't track statistics, followers etc…I'm just happy being me, sharing what I enjoy doing and making friends with amazing, creative people like you! πŸ™‚ xx

    • Thanks sweet friend! I know of companies that do pay for DT work, and as I wrote above, I had a pleasure to be on a couple towards the end. Regardless of the fact that it was more like a token payment, it was still an improvement πŸ™‚
      I’m well aware of how many of my friends would disagree with me, hence I’m not expecting many comments, but I’m tired of people saying that they do it because they enjoy it, so it doesn’t matter for them if they’re not paid. It’s ok to enjoy it, as well as it’s ok to respect yourself πŸ™‚
      One of the most important things creative pro’s taught me during Etsy workshops, is that undervaluing (underpricing) oneself hurts the whole community of makers. I can’t say how many Etsy sellers said that they sell themselves cheaply because, well, they like doing it, they’re happy enough if anyone buys it at all, and at least they have their supplies paid back.
      But then there may be another seller out there, trying to make a living with their hard, honest work, who prices their work fair including their time, supplies and effort. And yet they never sell a thing because of this other person who innocently, and unrealistically lowers their prices and teaches the customers that it’s indeed how much an artisan’s work is worth.
      We know we’re worth something, because we get a ton of feedback from readers, and the stamps that we promote sell well. So where’s the missing puzzle piece there?? Just sayin’ πŸ™‚
      MWAH! xoxo

      • Yup. I totally agree! I think we creative creatures are our own worst critic in respecting ourselves and our work. I know that I am anyway! There’s certainly that missing piece you speak of from a lot of DT gigs. I think I’m lucky (or empowered depending on how you look at it!) to choose to accept the opportunities to design for awesome companies that really do value me and treat their designers fairly. Oh, and I’ve definitely been caught up in a whirlwind of excitement in the past of simply working for recognition and product. I think most of us do when we start out. Now I guess I’m more picky! πŸ™‚ xx

        • Oh I’ve been the one to go completely bonkers over my DT gigs!! LOL!! I know what you mean.
          Until the reality slowly started trickling in.
          Somehow the euphoria of designing for the best, and the fact that anyone else was looking at me with a mixture of bewilderment and disapproval, didn’t quite match. I’m sure you heard that to many outsiders, especially creative people doing other design work, our industry is a bit of a laugh πŸ™‚ There’s been articles out there where people said they don’t know how it could even happen in the first place.

          • That kind of thing – selling goods cheaply or offering for free because you can afford to – is called anti-trust and has strict laws against it in US (and Europe I guess) for big companies. Example Microsoft and IE (taking one from my field). But that doesn’t apply to handmade unfortunately.

  15. How wonderful to see your post, and I would first like to say CONGRATULATIONS on your beautiful new son. I am full of respect for your candid outpouring here, and hope it was somewhat cathartic for you. Your talent is amazing and I have missed seeing your incredible work. I hope that the drums are “bonging” out there and “a lesson is learned” by the relevant people – even if it starts small. I applaud your bravery πŸ™‚

    Wishing you every success and happiness πŸ™‚

  16. Congratulations Iwona on the birth of your gorgeous little boy – he is adorable! I appreciate all that you have said in your post and have come to realise that people are on DT’s for many different reasons – some for the sheer enjoyment and the product which is validation enough for them, others to inspire and perhaps build a lifestyle and bring in $$ – which if course we all need to live. I have worked for product and have always appreciated the generosity of the owners – along with the opportunity to learn and evolve. I am now very blessed to be on Design Teams that pay and pay well for the work I do for them online and off – a rare thing I know and am very grateful, I am also on a couple for the sheer pleasure of it. I do know this – the day I stop enjoying it – is the day that I stop. I could not have done it while my family were young and admire you for taking a step back and re-evaluating – all the best with your Etsy Shop – looks great!! I love the saying that I see so often lately ‘Do more of what makes you happy’ something we all need to apply – whatever we set our hands too! {{{hugs}}}

  17. Great to hear from you again. Your girls sure have grown and your new son is precious. I’m sorry to hear about your struggle to creat such amazing cards and dealing with depression. I know you didn’t get paid for it, but I always looked forward to Thursday CASE and your other blog posts. My own style has been very much influenced by you. Thank you and lots of luck.

  18. Congratulations again on your super cute little Janek! The girls are getting so big! Enjoy every minute…time does fly by way toooooo fast!
    I agree with you about on your DT perspective….I’ve been there too and I had to take a break! It’s easy to get sucked into this whole blogging world. I’m lucky that my kids are bigger now and I can enjoy my little hobby while their at school. I’m also blessed to work for two wonderful companies that treat me well…otherwise I would not do it! Anyways…keep posting photos of the kiddos when you have time! Big hugs ❀️

  19. God bless you and your beautiful family! Take care of yourself and them and continue to do what you love. You are extremely talented and I wish you all the best.

  20. Well said and very, very true. I guess it will continue though while there’s still people willing to do it. I stopped all unpaid DT work a long time ago, it’s just not worth it, I have enough stuff! I only do paid magazine commissions now, which I’m extremely thankful for but it’s not something you could earn a living from although it does cover all art and craft supplies I want. I’m exploring different creative fields at the moment and hopefully I’ll find the right creative fit for me soon!

    You’re lucky to have such a happy and healthy family. It’s going to be an exciting year for you with building your new house and expanding your Etsy business. I know there’s a lot more in you creatively that we haven’t seen yet, you are very multi-talented my friend!

    (don’t forget to learn to drive this year, it will give you a lot of freedom!) : )

    • Aw Clare <3 It IS in my plans to brave up and take this bloody test this year! lol
      I really have no choice any more.

      Anyway. See, it should take an action from above, not below, to make a change. I'm well aware that there will always be people willing to work for free. But they would have less chance to do so, if there were less such offers around.
      What perplexes me most, and always did, is that we all know this industry is full of the kindest, most caring souls. A lot of them being the owners of businesses and offering DT work. If I had a business within this industry, I wouldn't dare asking anyone to work for me for free. My conscience simply wouldn't let me. I mean, come on. I'd be trying to make a living there, and who am I to say that the creative people I employ, are not entitled to the same?

      I would LOVE to see this post being shared, passed on, discussed. It took a lot of time and some guts to write. I'm still super self-conscious about the fact that despite my best efforts to make it as impersonal as possible, some people, those dear to me especially, may feel hurt. I'm afraid that from what I can see so far, it's still a taboo and I probably won't see any business owner come up and agree with me.

  21. Hi, Iwona, you will probably not remember me, but I was a follower of your blog and left comments from time to time as I was a big admirer of your work (…and I miss it!!!!) I’m not on any DT’s, but I have enjoyed reading your post and getting a bit of the ‘behind the scenes’ look!!!! Your honesty is wonderful and you have a great talent for writing!!! I always wonder how people can be on a bunch of DT’s and still do the everyday family life, too!!!! So happy for you that you have found your happy place and I wish you luck with your new business – I’m off to visit!!!!
    O, and big congrats on the new little bundle of joy, hey – he’s so cute!!!! Thanks for sharing the lovely photo’s!!!!
    Keep well!!!

  22. I took a two year break from blogging regularly, my marriage failed and my family was falling apart and I partly blame creating for the sake of recognition. Finally at a good point to start creating for fun again. This post is amazing, you are amazing.

  23. Here, here! One puts out a lot of time and effort for very little return on DT work. And then to be required to promote a certain item in a certain way at a certain time and place… frequently at the eleventh hour… it can be grueling. I’ve left teams because of this and ultimately left off blogging altogether due to the burn out. Why do we do this to ourselves? I think you’ve outlined it nicely. That said, we design for very nice business owners with very nice team members, so it’s often difficult to walk away. I enjoyed reading this post immensely. Congratulations on your new family member. I will now visit your links. Thank you.

  24. Congratulations on your sweet, baby boy, Iwona! I’ve missed you! You always inspired me beyond words! Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any income from my DT efforts. I even got cheated BIG TIME on a number of publications that I was told would be paid in actual cash, even more yet where I never got my projects returned. I don’t understand it, but I don’t foresee any change, either. I just play along at what I love, enjoy when bloggers find time to leave me a little love, and try really hard not to compare myself to others; because at the end of the day, I started paper crafting to preserve priceless, family memories and create little lovelies to gift. Everything else was/is just icing on the cake.

  25. Thank you all for your comments. Keep them coming, keep the conversation going. It’s important that we do. Please share this post if you can / want to.

  26. So so good to read your blog post, Iwona! Congrats on your new bundle of love. I do miss your inspirational work so much; just this week I wrote how you have been one of my crafty inspirations. As one who has been on multiple teams at one time, working with product, some of which I did not even like, I can completely understand what you are saying. There is definitely a draw to be in the crafty community, and being recognized. I have thought about this often over the past year and came to the conclusion that I needed to do what I like, for me and me alone. Unfortunately, that is not always easy and getting drawn back into the ‘hip crafty scene’ happens all too often. I have no doubt you made the right decision and appreciate your honesty here.

  27. Hello Iwona! So good to see you again. Your baby girls are no longer babies… they grew up to lovely young girls. Big congratulations on the birth of your baby boy Janek, he is a born seducer :).

    Maybe I shouldn’t comment about this issue, but I will. I think you’re absolutely right, no one should be asked to work for free, but the truth is what was already been said by Aimes and yourself, there are many paper crafters willing to do it. This is an expensive hobby, many people would love to keep the hobby while having the costs reduced by half, or more, if they received free goodies to work with, that is what I think to be the reason of those willing to do it for free, that and prestige.

    In my opinion there is one more reason for (some) brands feel like they don’t have to pay for the work of DT members. I’m here only for almost three years, while most paper crafters are in this community for much longer, still, I can see a growing tendency from companies to “seduce” paper crafters with big giveaways, candy bags and so on, with success. Not only they invest a lot of money doing that, as they take out some of the prominence the most talented DT members had in the past, they become a little bit secondary. Of course I may be wrong, but this is how I see it.

    I hope to see you and your amazing talent at least from time to time, and wish the best success for your Etsy store.
    The best of wishes also to your lovely family!

    • Thank you Cris, I appreciate your response! I’m the first to admit that the high from receiving product for free, and getting worldwide recognition because of working for trendy brands, can take us far.

      I know that there will always be people willing to do it. I understand it to the core, I’ve been there. Company owners understand it just as well, so they know they don’t have to worry about a steady influx of people into their teams. It’s a cheap and extremely effective way of branding yourself, a luxury really.

      I dare say that 95% of the companies on the market today, would fold if they didn’t have talented people doing the marketing for them. Design Teams are EVERYTHING in this industry. Many don’t ever think about it, but if they stepped back and saw it from a fresh point of view, they’d be like WOAH MAN! We’ve vital in getting this whole thing going!

      I have seen some of what you’re talking about. I don’t pay much attention to giveaways and I don’t endorse this kind of marketing, as a rule of thumb, but I know people love them.
      There’s no valid reason, in my opinion, to justify the decision to employ people to do free work for them. Tough market, competition, “just having fun”, “I wouldn’t be able to carry on otherwise”. Nope. Nada. If you can’t do it honestly, don’t do it.
      And it does hurt me to see some of my favourite companies folding here and there. I have some good friends I’m watching struggling at the moment. It’s very hard for everyone. But trying to desperately ride the wave and stay afloat, at the expense of good, talented folk, is NOT how it should be done.

      • Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to justify the attitude of those companies “employing” artists for free, I’m just describing what I believe I see in this industry… think of me as an observer. You are still 100% correct – no one should work for free, period.
        I know that Design Teams are EVERYTHING in this industry, I could also see during the past (nearly) three years, some (almost) unknown companies taking flight just because of their extraordinary DT members, so I’m aware of their value within a company. What I don’t know is whether those tough marketing strategies, being so attractive to a large number of crafters, will ever allow DT members to successfully claim their rights.

        • Oh Cris, I wasn’t attacking you sweetheart πŸ™‚ Just replying with a continuation to your comment. Since this issue is so close to my heart, I may have gotten slightly heated up in process. My apologies if you thought it was aimed at you πŸ™‚ I’m really thankful for everyone’s responses!

          • TouchΓ©! Besides a gifted artist you seem to be also a good fighter… and I’m just a peaceful girl πŸ™‚

  28. Congrats on your new baby boy … he is precious. As is your daughters. What a lovely family you have.

    And thank you for your perspective. I can relate to what you say. I am now at a point where I am making cards for me. And I love to share on my blog what I make and how I made it. I am constantly learning new things and experimenting. That is the joy for me. It took me a while to get to the right place for me. I have been on many Design Teams, and have worked for a stamp company. All this for free. I have spent many hours every day, working hard for the success of others. It’s time to be all about me and my love of the hobby. Thank you. It’s good to know that there are others that share my views.

  29. Well said and I totally agree! What a lovely family you have! Enjoy them while they’re little. They grow so fast! Best of luck on your new business venture. I have so enjoyed your talent and have many of your designs in my CASE file! Thank you for sharing your talent and your words.

  30. Great post, Iwona! Have loved your work and glad to hear why you were on a break. Congrats on your son, your growing, expanding family and new home! How exciting! Thank you for sharing your opinion and thoughts. How very true!

  31. Hi Chupa! So good to see some update from you. Congrats on your new baby boy! I totally get what you’re saying. Great perspective I think you say what many of us are thinking. πŸ™‚

  32. Dear Iwona,

    My heart is totally with you, and you are right on the “money” or lack of it as they say. While I am not in your particular situation, I relate, agree and stand by your reasoning.

    I think that after 5 years of working as hard as you have, trying to be a major contributor to the financial stability of a growing young family, and meeting all of your obstacles, I too would be at my wits end.

    We all want what is fair, and also to meet our crative as well as financial goals.

    In my career, I am a problem solver. I find out the who, why, what, where, and concisely articulate, negotiate, and argue the points on how to resolve the problem. So I hear you … and it is my nature to want to help. All I can offer is a suggestion, a different point of view, and the hope of possibilities that can make a difference.

    Recently I have run across a few crafters that are instructors at thei site called Craftsy. Now it is a site where you do waht you have been doing, and teach a class, here is where you investigate how to be an instructor: https://www.craftsyhelp.com/hc/en-us/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&query=become+a+teacher&commit=Search

    I don’t have the details, but I know math, and if you check out the paper crafter classes, you will see that there is a class for $29.99, and scroll to see over 1,000 people have taken that class, that is $30k, and I have no idea how much of this revenue is sent to the instructor, but I know this. It is worth checking out. If I had HALF the talent, and all around drive that you have, I’d make it a point to at least check it out. Right now, and I am not everyone, but I do take classes at least once a month at $35 a pop to enjoy other papercrafters work and learn new creative techniques, meet up socially, and possible networking.

    I would personally pay $39.99 to take a video class of yours.
    I think MANY would.

    I will forever and always be a fan, whether you create pubicly, or not, rant withstanding, or not. You are a bright light in this creative world that deserves to be what you are, an INSPIRATION. That is given what is deserved.
    Blessings to you and your family and your creative ventures!
    All the best -Kimberly Wiener

  33. Amazing post. I used to visit your blog everyday on the train to work and loved the vids you started doing (was it on stamp nation?) and really missed you when you ‘left’. This is an extremely articulate and thought provoking article, and is something I always wondered about! Kim’s point about craftsy is a good one. I wish you all the very best with family and business! Jenny x

  34. At the end of the day, family matters. You got your priorities right, girl. Be happy. And do, please, continue to use your artistic talents cuz you are gifted. Thanks for sharing your adorable family photos with us.

  35. I really appreciated your post, Iwona! It was thought-provoking and interesting to read – especially from someone with quite a bit of DT experience to back up your perspective.

    Paper crafting (and art in general) can be a very lonely experience. Some of us are lucky enough to have a local crafting group. Some have a supportive family or circle of friends. But for the majority, we’re completely alone – squared away in our crafting rooms creating things that bring us immense joy and satisfaction without really being able to share it with someone that “gets” it. So, when you get that DT offer, it’s not just a validation of your talent (although that is certainly flattering and nice). It’s the opportunity to share something that matters to you – something that you’re proud of – with people who will get the same kind of enjoyment and fun out of it as you do.

    The thing is… The internet is a vast space. The crafting community is a vast community. There are countless people with talent, drive and a desire to share. But unless you are good at promoting yourself, no one will ever find you. You can be the most talented card-maker ever with incredible ideas and poignant tutorials, but your blog will sit and gather dust if you’re not continuing to push yourself out there again and again. If you stop posting regularly, people stop reading. If you stop using the most current/in-demand products, people stop reading. So, you have to keep working to stay on top of it. And it’s exhausting.

    I think that promoting ourselves is difficult for a lot of crafters. A part of it is confidence (or lack thereof), a part of it is that we want it to be effortless. We want people to notice us, appreciate us or be inspired by us just because of our talent. Why else would we share our creations? A DT is that easy way to promote ourselves – at least in the beginning. We find it easier to get views and comments when a company is presenting our work. We find it easier to generate excitement when we’re promoting a product or a company we like. And if it’s the kind of product we use anyway, there’s really no difference between creating it in our own time and creating it for a company.

    Then the reality of it sets in. It’s a lot of work behind the scenes. It’s a lot of effort, a lot of time, a lot of energy. Many people get disenchanted and that original excitement and drive isn’t there anymore. We start to wonder why we’re doing it and if it’s worth it. We start to (justly, I might add) want more than just free products or a brief spot in the spotlight. And at this point, it becomes exceedingly easy to burn out, drop out or stop being a part of it all. That’s not even counting the situations where family and life in general get in the way…

    I think being compensated fairly by companies would help a lot. It would keep that momentum going and really continue to give us that validation we need; that way of saying what we do matters. A payment would help. But so would reducing other team expectations and figuring out how to appreciate the person for all the work they do behind the scenes. Maybe become more transparent about what’s involved in making that release/blog post/sale happen (as difficult as that is). Because people don’t know and they won’t know unless they get on the team and start working – at which point it’s too late and they’re stuck.

    At the same time, I also think crafters need to make some changes, too. I think we need to start drawing lines long before we’re at a point of burning out. Long before we’re even a blip on the radar. We need to join things on our own terms and in ways that work for us, personally, without spending so much time worrying about who is (or isn’t) reading our blog. We need to learn to say no without wondering if that’s going to ruin our chances of something great down the line. And, most importantly, we need to be able to talk about it. We ought to be able to actually tell crafters about the reality of DT work or any other kind of creative work without feeling like we’re burning bridges or creating massive drama.

    Anyway.. that’s just my thoughts on the subject.
    Congratulations on your lovely boy! Your family looks amazing. πŸ™‚

  36. Chupa so glad to see this post today! I have missed you but you have done something so important–you had a beautiful baby boy. Welcome Jan! Your family is beautiful.

    Your words today are truly insightful and I couldn’t agree more! What I have seen this last year is an explosion of talent in this community and design team posts that are almost a full time job to follow. I am at point where I am questioning what I am doing. What started out as a hobby doing something I love to keep my fingers moving so that they are not crippled by MS, has become a full time job where I work for free and added extra stress on me that is exactly what I should be avoiding.

    Your Etsy shop is full of your amazingness! Hope to see you post how life is going from time to time. xoxo

  37. Congrats on your wonderful new addition! I’m thrilled for your new business as well. I’m excited to check it out as I’ve truly missed your work. I appreciate your honesty, too. And yes, I read the whole thing. πŸ™‚ Off to check out your shop…

  38. I have missed your work and words! Always loved stopping by! I definitely hear what you’re saying! Almost ten years ago when a lot of other stamp companies were starting up, I had the opportunity to be on several design teams early on. I was a poor university student and definitely loved the high of getting free goods and the form of fame. However, it didn’t take long for me to feel kind of exploited.

    One team I was on had done up this whole huge contract where there was to be payment for items published and for time at trade shows and projects made, but it never was finalized and nothing came of it. I gradually stepped down from all my teams, and I totally miss being one of the “cool kids” and would love to design again, however I too can’t afford to put in the time unless I receive payment for my time.

    If I was a graphic designer designing an ad campaign for a major clothing company, I wouldn’t expect payment in clothing, I would expect to be paid a wage. Why is this industry different? And like you said, the people of this industry are so kind and generous in so many ways. It’s a shame design teams aren’t treated as paid consultants. Hoping for change one day!

    • Wow, that’s an insightful feedback, I hope everyone takes the time to read it. Thank you. I too had a similar contract-wise experience with one team, I wonder whether we’re talking about the same people…

  39. My husband calls it the “cult of the cards” ha. He says it is like having a job, but I don’t get paid. I got burned out. And am now just doing it for fun. Hugs to you Iwona. Happy to see you doing what you feel good about.

  40. A post from the heart. I really enjoyed reading about the realities of the business. So glad that you have chosen your own path. Good luck with your Etsy shop and your children are absolutely beautiful.

  41. So good to be able to get caught up on what you are doing, Chupa πŸ™‚ A HUGE congrats on your newest bundle of joy – and yah for a boy! They are a totally different breed lol. Well said re the post too. Glad you have found your niche and wishing you all the best as you grow your business ((hugs))!!

  42. Big Congrats on Baby Jan, I’m sure his big sisters will spoil him! Somehow I missed this post but found it through Taheerah’s blog. I’m huge fans of both of you and I gotta say that I love how the awesome Papercrafting Community builds these amazing friendships…I enjoyed reading both perspectivesβ™‘

  43. Iwona – so good to see your blog pop up in my Feedly again!!! I’m following you on Insta and love seeing your creations again already as you always inspired me. First and foremost, congratulations on your newest addition! He’s so adorable! I wish you all the best with your expanded family, the new home and your new biz! Thank you for your insight on what really goes on behind the scenes – it was a very well written post and very thought provoking.

  44. Hello there! So happy to see your blog post, Chupa (I still like to call you that!). Congratulations on your bundle of joy! Family comes first and I think you definitely got your priority straight. I can relate to all things that you mentioned with regards to being on DT. Long time ago, I was once a wanna-be DT and have learned my way over the years. I am finally reaching to the point–> ” what makes ME happy?”. I have now learned to listen to my heart and trust my gut feelings. So, in the end, I am much more content and happy. I hope that you are successful in your Etsy shop. You truly are gifted in paper-crafting and I know you would continue to go far and inspire! Hugs!

  45. If blogs came with “love” buttons I would totally click it for this. πŸ™‚
    Congratulations on your newest addition to your family Chupa.
    I absolutely believe what you have written took a great deal of guts to post such truths.
    but, I don’t have any answers to see things changing in any major way any time soon either.
    Good Luck with your new store!!

  46. Congratulations on your new baby and welcome back! I can’t help you with this problem you discuss. I think it’s all a bunch of bunk. Create to make yourself and those around you happy. Period. A hobby artist is a perfectly fine label. That’s what you can call me. πŸ™‚ Hope to read more soon! xoxo

    • Thanks Aimeslee! Just to clarify, I never once stated above that I’m against having paper crafting as a hobby. If you knew a little bit about my work, you’d also know that I created in the past for my own enjoyment EXTENSIVELY. The whole CASE Study concept was just this, and I’ll never forget how fun and fulfilling it was, despite the enormous amount of work was required to maintain it.
      My sentiments pertain ONLY to “commercial” Design Teams, as in for manufacturers and retailers. Not challenge DT’s, creative projects, or personal blogs where one shares for the joy of it. Please take the time to read and understand my post well before passing the judgement. Thank you.

  47. AMEN SISTER! I am fairly new to papercrafting and I brought this up on a message board about a year ago and got totally brushed off πŸ˜‰ IMO it’s sexist, too and devalues the work of WOMEN specifically. I don’t see companies asking male software developers to create FREE iPhone apps for them to promote their work, and I don’t see men lining up for the chance.

    • Hey anandi, I had a chuckle as I read ” I don’t see companies asking male software developers to create FREE iPhone apps for them to promote their work, “.

      I work for a company that makes a very successful app for Mac, iPhone, iPad, and the Apple Watch and we constantly have people getting angry at us for daring to (a) charge for the apps, or (b) charge for the app on each platform.

      It amazes me – I wonder if those people do work for free? It seems that in the minds of a lot of people, software developers are this mystical species that doesn’t have any expenses because it exists in the magical place where you have no rent to pay, no equipment to buy, and you never need to eat either.

      I know it’s not exactly the topic here, but there is the expectation of free work, free support, free upgrades etc. in other areas as well. It ticks me off to no end – who in their right mind would go into a store and demand to get a car for free, a jacket for free, a fridge for free …? πŸ™‚

  48. Hello and thank you for this update, Chupa! I missed seeing your creations, as I consider you one of the most talented crafters in our community and I hope that your Etsy shop will take off and finally pay you off for the amazing work you do.

    Your post hit home quite a bit; I have only been part of the community for three years now, but I’ve been on a number of DTs, up to six simultaneously last year, and it made me consider why I am doing it. As you’ve said, it’s fun, so much fun, and that was always my main reason of doing it. And sure, getting supplies for free is awesome, but in no way does the value of the supplies equal the value of the time I spent on making them shine. Creating, taking photos, editing photos, editing videos, doing voice overs, writing blog posts, sharing via social media, replying to questions and comments – I usually spend a minimum of 2 hours per post, and often up to 8 hours. Next to a demanding day job.

    I love it. I love playing with all the supplies and sharing what I do and I’m a sucker for the great feedback I get. But it started to be _the only_ thing I did next to work. So, 8-10 hours in my dayjob and then come home late and craft (blog, video, photo…) until midnight. Repeat next day. Do it all weekend. Do nothing else.

    As you pointed out, at some point we have to decide what priority we want to give this hobby in our lives. I understand that getting paid for the work we do would be ideal; and I’ve been lucky that in a few instances, I’ve actually received adequate payment for my work. In most cases, it’s still payment via product.

    Right now, with my responsibilities scaled back (fewer teams, and I’m taking a break because I’m moving) I am comfortable doing this as a hobby, without payment. But I am now very conscious on taking on more responsibilities because then it becomes a job, and I’m also not willing to do that without compensation. I’ve decided that my free time is more important to me and that I want to craft how and when I want, and not subject my entire life to a hobby that doesn’t pay anything but compliments (which are great, but still) πŸ™‚

    Not sure if my ramblings make sense, sorry! Baseline: I love crafting, and right now I’m in a happy place with great teams and the social interaction I get out of it and the product are all that I expect of it, and that’s ok. But I won’t take on more because I feel that there needs to be balance between personal life, work, and hobbies.

    All the best to you!

  49. I’m a huge fan. I’ve followed your blog for a long time, and I am so glad that you had the courage to come back and post all that you’ve been thinking about your role in the crafting world. I am in whole-hearted agreement and also taking an honest look at why I create and blog.

    Life is so short and your family is precious.

    Iwona, please know that you have gifted me with the time you spent sharing your creations on your blog. Each one was beautiful and inspiring, as are you! Wishing you huge success with etsy and all you do.

  50. Iwona, it was so good to see a post from you. I dont know if you remember me or not but yours was one of the first card blogs I started following and commenting on. Always loved/still love your style. Your new addition to the family looks totally adorable as do your girls. I cant believe how much they are growing. I will go and check out your shop soon too. Its funny how life goes and I would think of you often wondering what you are up to and after reading your post and all these comments it is a real eye opener. I can think of times where I have thought gee I wish I was good enough to get on a design team and then I would wonder how do you all find the time.
    Everything you said is so so true, I draw sign language graphics and teach sign language for special needs children and cant tell you the number of times that people would ask for or expect free resources or me to draw for them for free or workshops at great discount. Even working and being asked to wait months for payment (even from government organisations) yet they would expect to be paid each week for what they did.
    I think there are so many fantastic talented people out there in the world and so few are aware that they should be asking for more than just a free product. seeing others doing so well is such a draw card and when you look at the amount of prouct these companies are pumping out these days in stamps, dies, inks, embellishments etc it just blows my mind.
    Your a fantastic inspiration and even more so when you are willing to speak your mind and say what many may think but not say.
    ps I reckon that person who posted in the negative is probably just a troll, and they just get off in life saying hurtful things, not worth the air you breathe.

  51. I followed your blog for a long time and was sad to see you leave as I enjoyed your beautiful cards so much. I appreciate your insight and honesty about your experience in the industry and long wondered ab how it all worked. As a now retired business owner, I understand the challenges of getting a business up and running in a profitable way, but, at some point, if you can’t pay people a fair wage, then your business is not sustainable. Over the 10 years that I’ve been making cards the industry has grown and changed immensely. I suspect there are just too many companies vying for the same dollars because they come out with very similar products. I would hope that the companies that truly come out with innovative products, new designs and those who pay a designer a fair wage, whether in product or cash, will survive.

  52. I am curious, have any of the stamping company owners commented? I was so shocked to read that most of you fabulous designers are not paid, and have decided to scale back or cut out all together my craft purchases. I’m sure most of you are like me and have more supplies than you could use in your lifetime! Since I usually spend anywhere between 300 – 500 per month, my contribution to this atrocious lack of respect to paper crafting artists is to stop spending.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kelly!
      There’s been a lively discussion on the topic elsewhere and some company owners did chime in. A lot of them run small businesses on a scale that doesn’t allow for extra expenses, the market is hard and unforgivable. Many of them are my friends and being a business owner myself, I understand very well the struggle to stay afloat. However, personally it still wouldn’t give me an excuse to ‘hire’ people for free.
      Plus I DO think that established companies should pay their Teams accordingly – sadly it’s them that often fail in this department.
      I do see some slow improvement in the industry, but we’re still talking about bread money for the kind of job we’re doing.

  53. Great post! I appreciate the honesty. There is so much truth in your text. In the past several years God worked in my life so that I, after exploring a possibility of a similar business in my country, saw just a small part of it and decided not to go that way. And I did not regret it. That is why I still love to make cards and similar projects. There were also many changes and difficult months in the past several years leading me to a recent depression where I started to lose interest for many things and for the first time in my life saw how this stage can effect my creativity. After taking some rest I finally have the joy of making cards again. Love to see your work and I hope you will have much joy in it too. Your girls are super sweet. Hugs and kisses from Croatia. πŸ™‚

  54. Chupa, so glad to see you again! Congrats on that beautiful baby boy! And congrats on taking a long overdue step back to find balance in your life. I shared this post over on SCS today because I think it is a very important discussion that needs to be brought to light. We need to keep this craft in perspective. Personally, I would love to see companies that have only two or three paid design team members promoting their product, rather than a company that has two dozen members that are giving away their talent for free. (Been there, done that, never doing that again!) Our time is way too valuable for that. I think that there are a lot of us in this craft who get totally sucked in to the cycle of buying and crafting and then blogging and then hopping and then commenting, not to mention the companies and their boards and social media platforms. In the end, we are burned out and we cannot even remember why we loved this craft in the first place. We have a vague notion that we once did it to feed our creativity, but the more we accumulate, the less creative we feel. I hope that you will soon find your “sweet spot” of creativity again. Blessings!

  55. I was just reading SCS and saw Mary Rose’s post, so I came to read. Congratulation on your baby. He is probably 4 months old now? I bet he is precious! I loved your posts on Stamp Nation and still look at the postings you created. Now, I will have to see your Etsy shop. So glad you found your creativity again and it is at a pace that works for you and your family.

  56. I am late to this post but you have spoken what is in my heart too. My DT experience is limited but I find myself on the rollercoaster trying to work for free…. and that is pretty insane. I hope that having someone with your talent say this out loud starts a change. Thank you for years of inspiration in your art and now in sharing your thoughts.

  57. Hi Iwona,
    Wow – you’ve had a lot going on in the last year. Congrats on your beautiful boy! I can’t believe how big the girls have gotten!

    I have to say, I completely agree and have had similar feelings myself in the industry. Might I also add that I have found at times that DT work does become a job and can take the joy out of creating – especially if one feels under-valued. It is only right that designers get paid for their work and intellectual property – especially since you’re right, it doesn’t only take a lot of time to create projects for DTs, but, it also costs A LOT of money in supplies! I agree that it is up to the companies to act on principle and pay their designers for their work!

    Anyway, I am SO glad to see that you and your family are doing well!



    • These comments are so refreshing and thought provoking! As a crafter on the outside looking in, I have wondered how in the world all these ladies are balancing the work of being on design teams with the time it takes to have a life. About 2 years ago I found myself in the “suck zone” of experiencing the high of finding my creative self through the craft of card making. What is it about this hobby that can be all consuming for some of us?
      I think for me, it was the fact that I am a created being, created by the ultimate artist, and I have that DNA to a certain extent. Not considering myself to be an “artist”, but an “artist want to be”, I myself would never take on any artsy kinds of things. So when I discovered card making it appealed to my artsy fartsy heart, which I could briefly justify the time and money spent with the fact that -hey,I always need some cards! Now as we all know, I could own stock in a card company for all the money I have spent on card making, and could have started my own business in the time I have spent making my own cards. Funny, I still never have the cards I need to send, and I sometimes still have to run to the store to begrudgingly buy a store bought card!!! For a time I fantasized about having a blog in hopes of being chosen for a design team motivated me for a while, then I stepped back an analyzed my situation. I have decided to move in a different direction now, one in which I may have never considered had I not gotten myself into what I call the “suck zone”. I will view the time and money I have spent on this craft I love as the spring board to the rest of my life. Moving forward, having a grateful heart, with thanks of being in a community of beautiful, loving and talent women spurs me on! Read through all the comments and see how wonderful and smart and talented you all are! And generous to boot! And you are beautiful, and talented and generous-and I cheer you on to wherever your talent and dreams take you! I think you are one of those people who have no idea just how talented you are, or the heights you are capable of hitting! When the time is right, your eyes will be opened to it, and it will be beyond your wildest dreams! Best wishes to you, and thank you for sharing your talent and experiences with us all!

Your comments make my day!