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 🙂
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. 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.
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 :*