Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Follow Up To "Saying No"

When I make a blog post, it not only posts here but it also posts to a couple of other sites like The Hive and a few other places. While I only had a couple comments on here on my post Saying No , I did receive nearly 50 comments in total, and 7 e-mails over this post.  99% of you fully understood what I was saying, but a couple of you thought I was too harsh or even "mean" with my policies.  So I am going to take a moment to put it into context, and also help you understand what goes into the creation and sales process of each piece. 

Also if you asked to be able to repost the original post, you do have my permission to do that.

If I walked into any department store in town and wanted buy say a coat that cost 350.00 and I took that coat to the counter and I asked them to hold it for a week until I could get it, they would tell me the most they could hold it would be until the end of the business day.  This is standard practice.  So by my holding it for a week, I am being more generous.

If I asked them to put the coat on lay away, I can't think of a single store in town that would do that.  Most of them did away with lay away long ago.

If I asked them to change the pockets and collar on the coat, they would probably say no, but they might say yes if they have an in house tailor.  They would also charge me a whole bunch extra to make the alterations.

If I asked them to make me a custom coat, they would flat out tell me they don't do that.

If I asked them if I could have a discount on the coat, they would say no.  Period.  Even if I said I had bills or something unexpected come up but I really want it.  They would explain that they have bills and overhead and things that come up too.

If I said I wanted the coat shipped to my Aunt in Australia and could they please lie about the cost of the coat, they would say no because they could get into a lot of trouble for that.   Chances are they wouldn't even ship it to Australia for me anyway, but if they did they would have set fees to do so.  I will ship to other countries.

Yes I am an artist, yes I make teddy bears and teddy bear artists are nice people...we are also business people.  I don't do anything any different than any other business, but yet people ask me to do things all the time that they wouldn't ask other types of businesses to do.  When I won't, they think I am mean and rigid.  But yet if they went to a department store they wouldn't even consider asking for these special things.

My policies aren't anything that I wouldn't do on the other side of that fence if I was a customer.

I asked for a custom piece three years ago, the only thing I asked was that the bear be a specific color that I knew the artist had used before.  Beyond that I told her she was free to make it any way she wanted.  I would have absolutely hands down bought that bear...even if it wasn't what I pictured, because I would feel it was unethical to do anything else since I ordered it.  The artist said it was no problem they would be happy to do it.  I am still waiting for it, and I am never going to get it.  I think it's better to be honest and say no and tell you why I won't do the thing you might ask for than saying sure and having you be disappointed.

Now I am going to take you through the entire process I go through to make a piece so that you will understand what's involved if you are reading this and you are not an artist.

First I order mohair and glass eyes from an importer.  Mohair is 200.00 a yard and up, plus the shipping cost.  I have to go to the hardware store for jointing supplies.  I have to go to the fabric store for stuffing materials.  I have to shop all over the place for things to costume the bear or animal.

I have to design the patterns.

I have to conceptualize the design of each individual piece since they are one of a kind.

I cut out the bear and sew it together. 

I also cut out the wooden part of my own joints.

I assemble and costume it.

I distress it, this alone takes a day or two for each one.

I have to photograph it in order to put it online for sale.  I usually take about 50 photos of each piece.

I have to sort through the photos of each piece and edit them to the proper size.

I have to design a page for my website for each piece and type up all of the information.

I have to post the piece to my website, etsy, my blog, facebook, bearpile (which I pay for) and the artist's guild.

I have to do print ads, which I have to design myself, which also cost a great deal of money.

When the piece sells, I have to wait for the money to come in and clear.

I have to print a packing slip, package it nicely, get in my car and use gas to go to the post office where I usually have to stand in line using at least 20 minutes, sometimes up to an hour and a half of my time.

This entire process takes a huge amount of time, money and effort on my part to bring you those sweet little faces you love.  I do it all myself, and sometimes I work up to 20 hours a day...fall into bed in an exhausted stiff and sore heap and get up the next day and do it all again.  I don't have shoe maker elves and fairy dust to help me out.  It might be a warm fuzzy business but it's still a business.

So yes, I am an artist, I make teddy bears and I am a nice person who is usually willing to work with you as much as I can especially if we already have a nice business history.  But I am also a business person who doesn't have unrealistic demands, because they are the same as most businesses on the planet, and more lenient in many instances.  But I have to protect myself as such.  I sincerely hope that you can understand and respect what all goes into my business, and that of all artist's businesses.  I love making bears, I love making people happy.  I have been doing this for 30 years.  But you have to see my side of it a little too.


Miz said...

I understand exactly what you're saying, and sadly, am not surprised you got those kinds of comments on the previous post. I used to do the occasional corset sale, and the stuff people thought was negotiable... It blew my (then naive) mind. You can get bad behavior on both sides of it, of course, but I hate seeing the sellers get called all kinds of names for wanting to protect themselves and, I don't know, actually get a fair deal out of transactions!

(SO happy I never did custom pieces--that is a whole other can of worms.)

Amanda said...

Thanks for telling it how it is. If other artists want or can be more flexible, thats their prerogative. Most of us though, have to work like you. I hope by this post people can see the bigger picture.

I once had a Dutch lady ask me to lie about customs, I understood as I've been hit too by them but apart from fraud, how do we go on about insurance? Luckily I did not have to say no, she thought I was from USA and I'm UK so no customs charges anyway.

Kathy-Catnip Studio said...

You had me at the first post - I do try to be as accomodating as reasonably possible, but sometimes it's just NO.

Alyssa said...

I can absolutely see your side of it. While I'm grateful when an artist is willing to do custom work, I can see how there can be pitfalls to it.

I do ship overseas, and I've had customers ask if I'll post the item as a gift. Unfortunately that's not a good idea for them or me!

Thanks to your post, I have some things to consider if and when I open my own shop online.

FenBeary Folk said...

The thing I love about you Kelly is your honesty.
I have a main income BUT I have to make this pay to continue. Like Amanda I do layaway (I have not yet been let down) I have had a custom order that was declined due to lack of funds, which turned out to be excess spending on ebay on the part of the collector!
It is a stange business this one of ours and I will agree, we are not meant to anything other than warm and fuzzy, in my eyes the too are separate, you create - thats the fuzzy bit, you buy supplies and sell -thats the business bit.
Beary hugs

Debora said...

Very well put, Kelly! Thank you for sharing this. You are definitely running a business. I often wonder why things take me so long in the bear making process, but to see them written out like this makes me say, aha! No wonder! :o)

I don't take orders because I hated making people wait, and making people wait for slow me took the joy out of making the bears for me.

Great couple of posts!

Heather said...

I'm amazed people responded to your first post with complaints... it was pretty straight forward and fair.

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