Art Seen: The Day the Internet Blacked Out

Sad Girl by EBSQ Artist Aylan N Couchie
Sad Girl by EBSQ Artist Aylan N Couchie
Loneliness by EBSQ Artist S. Key
Loneliness by EBSQ Artist S. Key
Crossing Your Path by EBSQ Artist Carol DeMumbrum
Crossing Your Path by EBSQ Artist Carol DeMumbrum
Village Cemetery by EBSQ Artist Naquaiya
Village Cemetery by EBSQ Artist Naquaiya

An editorial note: none of these pieces were created to address today’s #StopSOPA protests. Nor did EBSQ have any obvious gallery pieces that addressed censorship in general (that wasn’t of the girly-bits variety, which would have diluted the message too much)

EBSQ did NOT “black out” today out of respect for our paying customers who depend upon our services. But I think as artists, this is a conversation we should probably be having. I personally (and professionally) oppose SOPA/PIPA. From what I’ve read and researched it goes too far in limiting our freedoms and doesn’t effectively address the issue of piracy, which many of our members have unfortunately experienced firsthand. So I bring it to you: Where does copyright protection end and censorship begin?

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Is it over between you and Facebook?

Angel of Broken Dreams by EBSQ Artist Lynn Dobbins
Angel of Broken Dreams by EBSQ Artist Lynn Dobbins

Unless you’ve been living under a rock with Patrick Star, you probably know about the new changes that have been rolling out the past few weeks at everybody’s favourite online ecosystem, Facebook. Prior to today, most of the changes have been meeting with grumbles, but today’s complete overhaul of how one’s newsfeed functions was met with a serious roar, myself included. There has been talk of moving to G+, an irony given that competition with Google is the impetus behind these changes.  But is packing up the kids and moving to G+ that easy? And should you move versus sticking it out or even actively lobby to get FB to change things back?

Like it or not, Facebook has permeated our culture. On the EBSQ forums, the joke is often, “Where’s the like button?” in response to an awesome post. We’ve built patron voting around FB’s systems.  We’ve even considered further integrating with using FB as an alternate way to register/log in, and even as a basis for a comment system, since this is becoming a very common practice and lowers the barriers of participation for artists and patrons visiting EBSQ.  Having a Facebook page is becoming as required/expected for businesses this decade as a web page/blog became for businesses at the end of the last decade.  And that’s just the reliance on its technology.  Facebook is where everybody is.  Everybody. (Well, except for my dad, but that’s probably a good thing, lol. )  As a business owner and a very social being,  I’m locked into the ecosystem.

What about you? Are the latest changes a deal breaker for you and/or your art business? 

Guest Post: Handcrafted vs Mass-Produced

The following is a guest post by EBSQ Artist & Jewelry designerJulianne Carson

Why should you buy hand-created jewelry online instead of shopping at a department store or national chain jewelery stores where you are able to touch, examine, and try on the jewelry? I think you will pleasantly surprised at the unique jewelry designs and consistent high quality you’ll find, not to mention better pricing.

Handcrafted vs. Mass-Produced

The majority of jewelry you’ll find at your local department stores have been mass-produced, whereas the jewelry you’ll find from an online jewelry designer is more often than not, handcrafted. While some people don’t appreciate the quality and value of a unique handmade piece of jewelry, others appreciate the time and artwork that goes into the piece. There are many reasons to buy handcrafted jewelry versus mass-produced jewelry. The main reason being that when a jewelry product is mass-produced, the biggest concern for the manufacturer is their bottom line. How much money will each piece cost them and how low can they get their costs? This could mean the compromise of quality materials and assembly, which means you need to ask yourself if the metal is sterling silver or nickel, or, are the pearls on this necklace real? However, when a designer is constructing their jewelry designs by hand, they have complete control over each piece, its quality and materials, and each piece is approved by the designer because it was crafted by their own hands. When I create jewelry, I only use quality materials and inspect every element thoroughly before shipping the finished pieces to my clients.

Does buying more expensive handcrafted jewelry online mean greater savings?

When you buy from an online jewelry designer you are paying for the jewelry and for a very small percentage of their overhead costs. An online jewelry designer such as myself doesn’t have nearly as much overhead as your local department store.
Keep in mind that jewelry designers such as myself have to pay for their website store front, advertising fees and materials to make their jewelry. Most of my friends who are jewelry designers as well, work from their home, so they are using their home utilities and they don’t have to pay for studio space. When you look at working from your own home vs. store front space, the difference in rent is huge.

Local department stores that sell jewelry have to pay rent for their location, which is usually their most expensive overhead cost, plus  salaries for their employers, advertising costs, licensing fees, utilities, wholesale merchandise, and the list goes on. In addition to these overhead costs, the merchandise itself is shipped and passed through many hands before it reaches the retailer. The manufacturer has sold their merchandise to a wholesaler, who then sells the merchandise to the retailer, who then displays the merchandise to sell to you, the customer. In many cases, the prices are more than doubled at each stage, starting from the manufacturer.

As for your savings, it just makes sense to support local jewelry artists and people who offer hand-made goods. When you buy your jewelry from an online jewelry designer, you know that you are getting a customized, high quality piece of jewelry. You will find that materials and assembly aren’t compromised, and the amount of money you are paying for your jewelry is much closer to the actual cost of making the jewelry. Yes, your online jewelry designer is making a profit because it is their business. However, they aren’t selling their jewelry to anyone before it reaches you. You might be paying more for handcrafted jewelry, but you are paying for quality work direct from the creator instead of price inflation, your local department store’s rent, and subsidizing advertising costs on an ad you probably never even saw. Additionally, when you buy direct from the creator, you are guaranteed a truly unique piece of jewelry that will serve as a keepsake for years to come.

When you buy from a small online jewelry business you are going to receive the personal attention you deserve as a customer. Your contact is usually directly from the designer when you place an order. I love that when you deal with a small business you aren’t treated like a number in a huge array of orders. Unlike a large business or department store, a small online business offers great customer service, which will result in a higher customer satisfaction. When you are buying unique handmade jewelry that will serve as a one-of-a-kind accessory for your jewelry collection, you want the personal attention that a small business can give you. In addition, you will probably find out about the designer’s background, or exactly how each piece of jewelry was made, which adds character and greater personal value to your purchase. Custom orders are a common service through online jewelry retailers.

There isn’t a better place to buy unique handmade jewelry than directly from the jewelry designer. You will find the quality and value you are looking for in addition to a truly unique piece of jewelry for your collection.

When we take a look at the recession, I think that a lot of us have had to watch spending and do more with less, myself included. I have to watch how I spend that hard-earned money and I understand the importance of “good” deals.
I could run to a department store and get a couple of things versus purchasing one handmade or local item. When I think about it, are the department store goodies as special and unique as that local handmade treasure? For me, the answer is an absolute NO. I want that one special item. I also want to know that I am making a difference to the person I am buying the item from.
I totally support buying local, handmade items because I want to make a change, not just for myself, but for my fellow artisans who are devoting their time to making beautiful works of art to support their families. I have heard every reason why many people still go for the quick, cheap, and mass-produced stuff that is most commonly manufactured in other countries. As we saw in some children’s jewelry produced in China last year with compromised materials, it can even be lethal! On a personal note, mass-produced work is simply not the right choice for me or my family.
My hope is that I can get a message out to my friends, and they in turn pass the message on that supporting local artisans selling handmade items can slowly, but definitely make a world of difference in our economy. It could also help change spending habits.

Would it really make a difference? YES! Please support original artists and artisans selling handmade this holiday season.

EBSQ Artist Julianne Carson of Hippie Chic Jewelz has been creating handmade jewelry from her studio in Texas since 1995.

Help Haiti and get a jump on your resolutions

Beautiful People by Virginia Ann Zuelsdorf
Beautiful People by Virginia Ann Zuelsdorf

January is a time of new beginnings. It’s like a giant “do-over” where we annually give ourselves permission to do the things that make our lives and the world just a little bit better.  It’s an excellent time to join a supportive arts community like EBSQ

Need more of a nudge?

We’re donating $5 to the Red Cross for every new paid artist membership created through 31 January 2010.

Please help us support a neighbour that’s very much in need of a new beginning.  See? Two great ways to start off this fresh new year all in one go.

Join EBSQ Now

Already an EBSQ member? Please text HAITI to 90999 and $10 will be added to your phone bill in support of the Red Cross’ relief efforts. We’ve heard that all US cell carriers have now dropped the fee (retroactively!) for these texts.

Tangent: Pack Pamela’s

Pancake Breakfast by Kelly Sheridan
Pancake Breakfast by Kelly Sheridan

I’d admit this post has absolutely nothing to do with art. Unless you consider crepe-style chocolate chip banana pancakes to be an art.  As you may know, Pittsburgh, home of EBSQ, was also home to the G20 this past week. And like other forums of this nature, Pittsburgh saw its share of protesters and just general rabble rousers out to break stuff because they could. One of the businesses that saw damage was Pamela’s in Oakland.

Now, I take this as a personal offense. My mom worked at Pamela’s many moons ago when she went to Pitt. And when I took my turn at Pitt  roughly 20 years later, this is where my family always went for breakfast when they came to visit me.  Pittsburgers agree this diner is a local treasure.  It makes no sense to me that a family-run small-business would get its front window shattered by people protesting corporate greed.  But that’s unfortunately what happened.

University of Pittsburgh student Heath Curran decided to do something to help. He’s organized a “Pack Pamela’s” event this morning, starting at 11am. According to the WTAE,

Protesters tossed bricks and garbage at several targets in Oakland, including Pamela’s Diner, which had a plate glass window smashed. A local student is trying to help by launching an event called “Pack Pamela’s.” The idea is to have as many people pack the restaurant for as long as possible to help repair the business.

“This is more about being Pittsburghers, and as a Pittsburgher, we don’t let these things happen — and not only that, we get together and fix them,” said Heath Curran, the organizer. 

 

So if you’re in Oakland (or even if you’re not), I hope you’ll consider stopping by, even if only to have a cup of joe.  But if you have a little more time, try the pancakes.  They’re awesome.

Remembering the USS Leopold

USS Leopold
USS Leopold

I’m taking some time out from art (and BBQs) to remember my Uncle Frank, not the easiest task since he died in 1944, several years before my mother was  born. He was the youngest boy in a family of 6 children, and his family called him “Noonie” for reasons no one has ever explained to me. My grandmother is the baby of the family, and she recalls with some amusement how in her freshman year of high school, ALL the girls wanted to be friends with her in hopes of getting noticed by her handsome brother the senior.

Like all the other boys in town, Noonie joined up after Pearl Harbor. He was a Seamam 1st Class in the Coast Guard, and his ship, The USS Leopold, had exactly two trips. He was one of 171 lost at sea when their ship was taken out by a torpedo by a German U-boat just south of Iceland on March 9, 1944. The ship itself sank on March 10th.

For further reading about the Leopold:

The wikipedia entry on the USS Leopold

A list of crewmen lost in action

-Amie Gillingham

Do you have someone you want to remember today? Please share your story in comments.

Why changing @replies at Twitter is FAIL

I’ve personally been on Twitter since February 2007. And not long thereafter, I saw the business implications for Twitter and started an official Twitter account for EBSQ as well in April of the same year. We didn’t use it terribly much at first, mostly just for sharing important site updates. But as Twitter became more and more mainstream, we’ve been using it to have conversations with customers in general. We also use it as a tech support tool. Some of these customers were following us when we first conversed. Some were not.  And this hasn’t been a problem…until now.

From the official Twitter blog:

We’ve updated the Notices section of Settings to better reflect how folks are using Twitter regarding replies. Based on usage patterns and feedback, we’ve learned most people want to see when someone they follow replies to another person they follow—it’s a good way to stay in the loop. However, receiving one-sided fragments via replies sent to folks you don’t follow in your timeline is undesirable. Today’s update removes this undesirable and confusing option.

What this means in practical terms:

If you’re trying to get our attention with a question or problem and we’re not yet following you, we’ll still be able to find it (eventually) using search tools, but our response time will be seriously lagging.

If we try to reply to your questions, comments, problems, etc, and you’re not following us, you’ll have no way of knowing unless this policy changes RFN.

This impacts every single business who uses Twitter for some aspect of customer service. It hurts artists who are using Twitter to bring new fans to their work. This change is detrimental to how people meet and interact with each other on a very basic level.

If you agree that this change is “undesirable” please let us know via comment to this post. We’ll make sure The Powers That Be hear you.

Respectfully yours,

-Amie Gillingham

co-founder, EBSQ