WASWI – Designing Fabric?

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Yesterday, Abby Glassenberg of WhileSheNaps delivered an eye-opening post of behind-the-scenes information about the money in fabric design in our industry. Please go read it… I’ll be waiting for you when you’re done. And a continued thank you to Abby for researching and writing such important posts.

I woke up in the wee hours this morning fretting about this, and here’s what I was fretting about: WE must stop agreeing to work for negative income. 

At Quilt Market, just two weeks ago, the result of the Quilting in America 2014 Survey was presented by F+W, A Content + eCommerce Company. The major data point is that Quilting is a $3.76 BILLION industry. Yes, BILLION. To be told that there’s almost $4B of cash floating around in Quiltdom, and then to read that there are fabric companies that effectively force their designers into penury via footing the entire bill of Quilt Market marketing obligations is… just… appalling. Abusive. Manipulative. Just plain WRONG.

And I lost count of how many times I heard during market “I don’t know who’s getting the $4B but it sure isn’t me.”

Look – this isn’t about the companies (fabric or otherwise) that take care of their people. This is about those that don’t. If you are so desperate to see your name on the selvedge that you will sign a questionable dotted line, then you will live by that questionable contract (and really, is the “fame” worth it?) But here’s the thing: because you are willing to sign, it tells the company that what they are offering is good enough. So the bar stays low for anyone coming behind you. It’s the same thing I argue about pricing handmade goods – if you are willing to give it up for the “work for free” price, then you are educating the customer that “work for free” is the going rate. Which screws us all, you included.

These companies are not going to offer you a better deal out of the goodness of their hearts, any more than a craft fair customer will double your asking price for the sake of good karma. We are not going to get better contracts unless we refuse to sign the bad ones. And my guess is that if enough of us pass on the bad contracts, and the company faces Quilt Market with little new stuff to show, then they’ll get motivated to up their game.

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The quilting industry started its growth back when we began the fight for Equal Rights. Its initial population was founded on women who were brought up to be nice, and that pressure to be nice above all else, and especially above being business-savvy people, is still extreme. I know it can feel “not nice” to push back on a contract, especially when you’ve worked hard to achieve the offer of one. But a contract that screws you over isn’t one you (or our industry) deserves.

And in case you are reading this and thinking “I don’t design fabric so it doesn’t apply to me,” well, think again. If you knew which company treated their artists like this, would you buy from them? Would you encourage them to mistreat their people with your hard-earned money? I hope not…. many of us boycott several brands and chains for less.

We are, as always, in this together. If we demand better, we can achieve it for us all. If we take care of others as we rise, then we all rise. I believe we really can change our industry, but we really have to do it together. As Abby says at the end of her post “This kind of alliance can only happen when we speak up.”

So I’m speaking up. We truly Are $ew Worth It.

HDS Sew Worth It LOGO

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