This week – Simon Sez: Fur!

This week’s Simon Sez theme is fur. Stephanie D’Aigle is Simon this week and this is what she says regarding her decree: “Your job this week it to make my heart melt and show me some fur.  The fur can be anything.  I just love me some fur.  OK, not all critters have fur do they!  My MinPins would laugh at me if I called their hair fur. Yet they still qualify! Be it domestic or wild, a drawing or painting or photograph or what have you. I wanna see some fur please!  Unlimited entries, knock me out!”

As usual you have until 11:59 Sunday night to submit your entry. This week Sunday is February 15th .

Joseph J. Callahan
Joseph J. Callahan

All Simon Sez challenges are open to everyone. To enter Simon Sez: Fur! and to see  more than just the above entry,  simply go to the EBSQ Forum, find Member Groups, Challenges & General Art Discussions and then go to Challenge Central. All the challenges past and present – including Simon Sez, can be found there.

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Food for Thought: State of the Biz

This was originally posted in the EBSQ Glass Forum (now viewable by the public!) by resident glass artist Dawn Thompson and I felt it was extremely appropos for Labour Day. If you’d like to weigh in on this conversation you can post a comment  here or respond to Dawn directly in the EBSQ Glass Forum

It’s tough out there folks! What strategies are you employing to compete?

The glass business is certainly not unique in being hard hit by China, but it has definitely been particularly hard hit, along with other labor intensive fine craft. The stained glass lamp business in the US is virtually non-existent, with the exception of repairs. In the span of 5 years, nearly every lamp maker in this country has been put out of business. Cheap Home Depot lighting has taken a product that was once considered to be truly a luxury item and reduced it to trinket trash. Of course the product itself is not trash. It takes hours of painstaking skilled labor and is intrinsically beautiful. But perception is everything. Where once, the customer was willing to pay for that beauty, now they perceive it to be “cheap stuff” and can’t understand why a lamp made by an aritsan, taking many hours and hundreds of dollars in materials, should cost any more than the one at Wal-Mart.

Panels are suffering the same plight. As are garden items, chimes, fused vessels, jewelry…..the list goes on. When I first saw Dianne’s garden stakes and Andrea’s wind chimes on eBay, I had never seen anything like them. And they were fetching good prices for their work. But in the last several years, I’ve seen similar, albeit inferior, products in the aisles at Hobby Lobby. It is a known fact that the Chinese manufacturers’ marketing teams scour the internet to see what labor intensive craft is popular and fetching good prices. Then they copy it and sell it to US marketers for pennies. Their turnaround time is staggering to me. How quickly we have to adapt!

The smaller items suffer less, as time and materials make them more affordable to the consumer, and thankfully, some consumers are still willing to spend on artisan made craft.

Add to that the massive influx of “hobbyist” competition in online sales; those who truly don’t care if they make a profit, or are even paid at all for their work, but are simply subsidizing their hobby material expenses, and the full time artisan is in a real bind.

Are we being phased out? Is there a place for us any more?

I believe there can be, but it calls for hard work and hard choices.

One choice is commission work. I don’t know of any artist that would rather realize someone else’s vision rather than do whatever moves them, but for me, it is a necessity. To get good consistent commissions, you have to develop a whole different set of skills. Patience. Making the client feel special and involved. Educating the consumer. Easy for some, tough for others.

Another tough choice; maximizing the efficiency of your operation. “Elite” materials v. affordable materials. Home studio v. outside studio. Difficult and unique products v. fast, easy and saleable products. More expensive marketing v. legwork and simply “getting your stuff out there”. This requires experimentation and is in constant flux.

Above all, I’ve found that I have to be adaptable. The moment you’ve come up with a fast, inexpensive and unique item, someone will copy it and offer it for less. You have to constantly be changing and stretching.

What are your thoughts? How are you adapting? What are your strategies to compete?

Food for thought for the long weekend!

Peace,
Dawn

languishing in our walled garden

A Breath of Fresh Air by Poxodd

A Breath of Fresh Air by Poxodd

A long time ago, in an internet far far away, EBSQ used to be a 100% open community. Anyone could post on our forums. And often did. Much bitterness ensued. And we built a wall around our city to keep our residents feeling safe.  

Six years have passed since our forums went, for the most part, private. We’ve weathered a lot of ups and downs.  I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to keep a community healthy since then.  Our community is harmonious, no question. Folks are generally happy, and quite comfortable. Real friendships have grown out of conversations started on our forums. But I also fear that walls are keeping as much out as they’re keeping in, and we’re becoming stagnant. I’ve been slowly trying to nudge folks toward opening a window or two in our wall, and letting a little fresh air in.  One existing section that I’d love to see go public is our media-specific forum. I think EBSQ as a community could really benefit  if the wider artistic community had reading / posting access. I have to say, I have been surprised at the resistence I’ve been getting. 

Open Community  vs Walled Gardens

Now, there have been some good arguments for why members don’t want to open this subdivision of our online neighbourhood to the general public.  One artist is learning a new technique in her media and has a lot of questions. She’s concerned that she’ll appear unprofessional to people who might have otherwise bought her work.  Others feel this section should remain strickly a perk for paid membership and that folks have to pay to play.  Some folks just want the privacy to say whatever without having to worry about whether the section is public or not. One artist came right out and said she doesn’t like change. Period. 

Here’s my problem with the above arguments. I think our forums would become even more valuable if this small but important section was open to the public. It would allow us to tap into a pool of knowledge we don’t currently possess while also letting our members add their collective wisdom to the general search engines for anyone to find.  Regarding the previously mentioned artst who is learning a new skill–wouldn’t it be great if she actually had the courage to ask her questions publicly and someone who might not have been familiar with out community otherwise stumbled upon her questions and was able to give an answer that wasn’t available within our existing community? Or what about the non-member that was thinking about learning scratchboard art and found that we have in our community what I consider to be an expert in the field? Why can’t artists just talk shop? 

Now, we’re not talking about throwing our doors wide open. We’re simply talking about metaphorically cracking a window and letting in some fresh air.  As it is, I feel our lack of diversity, our lack of openess is killing our community. Slowly perhaps, but killing us all the same. 

And so we put it to you, who ARE our community. How do YOU feel about this issue? If you’re a paid member of our site, we strongly encourage you to come vote on the poll we created to debate this issue internally. And if you’re a registered user, but not a paid member of EBSQ, or even just an artist who’s been considering EBSQ membership, we’d love to hear from you as well via the comments section of this post. Do we keep the walls up? Or may we crack a window?

Composition Workshop and Discussion at EBSQ

Harlan has started a Composition Workshop and Discussion on the EBSQ Forums. You can find it under General Art Topics – General Art. It is going gang busters and shows no sign of slowing down. There is a lot of wonderful information to be had, some great questions answered and lots of people participating. You really should come and check it out – it is more than worth your time.

You do need to be an EBSQ member to sign in and access that section of the Forum. To find out how to join, go to the Join page on the main EBSQ site. It’s easy and you will gain access to one of the most vibrant art communities there is.

Looking forward to seeing scads more people there!
-Melissa