Wednesday, February 16, 2011

User Friendly ~ Things That Never See The Light Of Day

I told you a couple posts ago that R had his heart set on a smart phone.  He is an electronics junkie and he really wanted this.  He didn't actually need it, but he doesn't ask for a lot out of life so I don't say too much.  He wanted me to get one too, but I can't justify it because all I use my cell phone for is an occasional call.   I have roll over minutes until the year 3000. 

Friday I called our service provider to find out what the monthly charge on the data plan for a smart phone is.  After going through a whole series of  menu options and punching in personal numbers, then waiting on hold I finally got through to a live human being.  I started to explain to him what I wanted when I realized I was talking to dead air.  Apparently his phone had died.

Feeling a bit annoyed I called again.  I went through the whole series of menu options, numbers and waiting and got another live person.  I asked her about smart phones and data plans, etc.  She was telling me how smart phones were much more user friendly and could simplify your life even more than your computer.  I said to her that she may not be old enough to remember this, but I come from a time when you stuck your finger in a slot, rotated a dial and a real person came on the phone immediately to help you.  Now THAT was user friendly and simplified my life.  She actually did remember them and agreed with me.

We ended up chatting for about an hour and a half.  She was a really friendly girl and had lots of useful information.  I also got my bill reduced by $10 a month.  YAY!

Now yesterday I showed you the prototype for the pig I made roughly 15 years ago.  Someone told me my pattern was common, and I didn't make things that were truly unique and one of a kind.  Actually at the time it wasn't a common pattern, very few people were making four standing jointed pigs, and the ones that sold were pretty unique in their costuming and even having jointed wings on some.  Obviously I wasn't going to go the distance to dress a prototype I kept.  I told you that I have since redone the pattern and was going to make it when I discovered that everyone was making pigs, so I set it aside.  I also told you I was thinking about doing a French Bulldog and set that aside because everyone was doing those as well.

I got a lot of comments and e-mails from people reading the post the various places it appears.  I learned something interesting.  Many bear artists are designing other animals and setting the patterns aside when they learn it's something lots of others are doing.  They are doing this for the same two reasons that I do it.  One we don't want the drama attached to someone suggesting you copied something...even though that would most likely not happen, but there is the potential and most of us just don't need the headache.  The second reason we do it because we don't want to be perceived as jumping on the latest trend.

For most of my career I made something, took it to a show and sold it, or I sold it to a shop.  I only encountered the work of other artists, through those shows, shops and the bear magazines.  So I only saw the things made by others maybe once or twice a month at the most.

Then along came the Internet, and bear artists started using it as a medium through which to sell.  It seemed like a good option that would simplify our lives.  Now it's so common that you can see other artists work all day long if you chose through websites, blogs, guilds, forums, twitter, facebook, flickr, ebay, etsy, Bearpile...and the list goes on. 

The interesting fall out of all this simplification is that it didn't simplify anything.  In fact it has made it much harder on all of us.  Back in the day I wouldn't have thought twice about making my pig or bulldog or any other animal because I wouldn't really have immediately known what anyone else was doing. 

It make me wonder how many things never see the light of day because of it.  So many potential wonderful creations from artists that fall by the wayside.  I have spent hours on pattern design for things that I am not going to make for the reasons listed above.  My bulldog might have been really fabulous, and been just the thing that someone really would have loved...we will never know.  How sad is it that so many artists stifle their impulses because of they are afraid of public opinion or being accused of something they didn't do.  All those hours may have been spent making other things instead of being wasted.

Another bit of fallout of all this simplification is that we now have to be experts on other things.  We have to be expert photographers and computer programmers and writers.   I spend as much time photographing things and uploading them to the various places on the Internet as I do actually creating something.  For a long time I thought I had gotten slower about making things.  That's not true, it just takes me twice as long to get to move on to the next piece.

We worry that we might say something on our blog or facebook or twitter that will will be taken out of context or misunderstood and cause someone who might have bought something from us to not make a purchase.  (I lost a follower after yesterday's post.  I always lose followers after I make a post like that because some people only want to read the pretty and fluffy and they don't want anything in depth.  Of course that's only speculation, I have no idea what caused them to leave.)  We have to guard ourselves and hope we don't offend someone because they couldn't hear our voice inflections or our intent when we write it.  We hope we don't inadvertently do something to make people judge us too harshly.  We pray that no one decides to post nasty things about us, despite not really knowing us or our intent, because they can and the anonymity of the Internet affords them easy access to do just that. 

We try so hard to remain unique but we are constantly bombarded with image overload from the works of our peers.  It's no wonder that things end up looking similar and trends are created in a day.  Yes we could choose to avoid reading blogs and going places where we would see what others have created, but it you want to sell things on the Internet it's almost impossible to not see images of other works.

It gives us the impression we live in a smaller world.  We make friends through the Internet and we feel as if we know them.  But we really don't.  Whatever perception you get from me is probably only a small piece of the whole picture of who I am at heart.  Most of us never look each other in the eye depsite "knowing" one another for months or even years.

Computers and smart phones and a whole host of other electronic gadgets simplify our lives...or so they say.  So why is it that if our lives are simplified we spend much more time worry and fussing with things we never had to deal with before?  Why does it suddenly seem simpler to load my pieces into the car and drive half way across the country to do a show?  Why does it seem more user friendly to talk to collectors face to face at a show?  Why do I find myself wishing for that complicated time of long ago when I had to leave my house or talk to another person in order to get some information.  Just because it's available at the push of a button now, doesn't simplify my life after all.

Maybe I will make my updated pig anyway.


Heather said...

I LOVE this post!

... and I can't believe someone said your designs weren't unique. I never have problems picking your work out... the attention to detail is always exquisite.

Anyhow, yeah, I learned so much from the one Teddy Bear show I went to (as a customer)... things I never would have learned online. Granted, online has connected me to stores and supplies I never would have had access to otherwise... so I am thankful for that, but it always starts to get sticky when it comes to interacting with people online.

There are several artist I love, and every once in a while I send them a note commenting on something they've done (in a positive way)... and have had conversations with them online... but I know that I don't truly know them... and never really will, and it kind of scares me. I'm always afraid I'll inadvertently say something that is really offensive to them... or that I'll bug the crud out of them.

I've got a twisted sense of humor... so I always have to guard myself because I don't want to offend someone in some way.

Heck, I worry I bug you with responses to your posts! But... I love these "not fluffy" posts and would hate to see them go away, so I respond. (and even when I don't respond, I always read them)

I'm not even going to start on how much automated calling systems make me batty. I'll just say, I absolutely love the ones that just hang up on you if you choose the wrong option >8(

I would love to see one of your flying pigs! :)

And yes, it is sad what people don't make because someone else has already made it... I don't think I'm ever going to get sick of seeing a specific kind of artist plush... and the more variety that is added to the genre, even if it's the same creature redone, the better.

As for smart phones... I just got a Droid X and I do love it... there is an amazing app out there that lets you accept credit card payments straight to your bank account, and even comes with a free little slider for your card (the app is free too)... not to mention that I can listen to the radio all day at work through my phone now... but the price is outlandish and I've been wondering... "I know I want this stuff... but do I really want to pay so much for something I don't really need?"

Kelly said...

Oh Heather you never bug me! I like it when people comment, even if they don't agree with me. At least I know they thought about something.

As for the person who made the comment about my pig, they never saw me before, they were basing it off of one image of something I made years ago.

I hate the slight paranoia I feel every time I express a definite opinion. Even after the post yesterday and the people who said they liked it, I woke up this morning second guessing myself for making it. But I learned a long time ago that no matter who you are, what your intentions are, or what you do...someone somewhere will hate you for it. I actually read an article in a newspaper many, MANY years ago written by a man who hated teddy bears and the people who made them and charged such outrageous prices for them.

When what I wrote posted to the hive, a lot of the comments made it clear that people just missed the whole point of what I said. A few of them thought that I was saying it was ok to copy someone. I never said any such thing.

Some of them seemed to think I was endorsing someone specific, that wasn't it either.

They suggested I read everything that happened before I judge...I couldn't have cared less. That wasn't the point of my making the post. Nor was it about just one incident.

Artists have a bit of a stigma attached to us about being professional business people. The thing is, we perpetuate that so often.

As for smart phones, I have been tempted. It's easy to buy into the hype and get excited over something. But I have learned to think this stuff through. Just like R wanting a Nook. He loves it, he said it's so much more convenient than a book and that I should get one. But you know what, I don't see how it's more convenient. I love going to the book store. It's a fun outing. It's roughly the same size as a book, it weighs a little more than a paperback. So how is it more convenient?

Heather said...

Oh yes, I've been avoiding the e-readers... but there's a site called NetGalley that lets you get advanced copies of books for free, and they have (or, will, next month) a kindle option that makes it way easier, since they don't offer hard copies... and I have to say, I love that my smart phone has a kindle app for free... it means I don't have to buy a kindle... but I can still read these awesome books from NetGalley.

You know, when you post anything like this... or anything controversial, you get people rushing to tell you "Don't be so quick to judge," "take time and think about it, you might not be right" and so on and so on... to the point where I actually start to get annoyed at reading their responses. They aren't helpful... they don't add anything to the conversation, and often they say nothing more than, "maybe you should just think the same way everyone else does... your opposing thoughts/actual opinion are rocking the boat".

Now... there is a time to say "Whoa... calm down!" but your post wasn't one of them.

It's also amusing to think anyone took away from that post that you were condoning copying.
If anything, my reply came the closest to that by questioning the legality of telling people you can't sell what is made from patterns.

The person who commented on your pig was a dweeb... that's just my personal opinion. (well, the way you phrased it made them just seem rude... if their comment was actually constructive, then I forgive them)

Kelly said...

The person who commented was right though, my pattern designs aren't that unusual most of the time. I make traditional stuff, which by it's very nature has to be something recognizable. I like traditional.

Heather said...

Yeah, but there's a huge difference between a traditional style and "common, and I didn't make things that were truly unique and one of a kind."

There's a reason I keep coming back here and staring longingly at your bears, while not paying much attention to quite a few other traditional bear artists.

I find your bears faces to be some of the most captivating I've seen... and that's something that comes from the personal touch of the artist... not to mention all of the amazing detail you put into each piece... from the distressing to the embellishments. Yeah, you can say other people do that too, but it's your style that really makes your bears amazing, one of a kind and unique.

To say what they said is absolutely unfair to the artistry you put into these things.

Yes, the base (the bear body/pattern) itself is important... but when it comes to artist bears... I kind of see it more like a canvas. Most of the time what really makes the bears stand out is the sculpting, painting, needle felting, detailing that goes on after the body is assembled.

Your bears are anything but common.

Anonymous said...

This was a great post!

The same thing happens to us writers. We come up with these "awesome" ideas only to discover, upon research, that it's already been done to death.

Anonymous said...

This was a great post!

The same thing happens to us writers. We come up with these "awesome" ideas only to discover, upon research, that it's already been done to death.

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