Renegade L.A.

This past weekend I participated in the Renegade Craft Fair’s first ever Los Angeles show.  I’ve never done a Renegade show but I kept hearing form other vendors that the L.A. show was nowhere near as good as last year’s San Francisco show, which is coming up again next week.

Renegade L.A. was held in the California Market Center, the same venue where Unique L.A. is held.  It’s not my favorite space.  Firstly, it’s downtown, which is dead on the weekends, so there is no casual foot traffic, but I’m not sure there’s any place in L.A. that gets much random foot traffic full of eager craft buyers.  Secondly, it’s located on the 13th floor of the CMC, which can make loading in and out a nightmare.  This wasn’t as much of an issue with the Renegade Fair as with the Unique L.A. show because Renegade had fewer vendors.  Thirdly, the 13th floor is a labrynthine mess.  People can’t figure out where they are or what they’ve already seen.  This makes your success extremely dependent on your booth location.  If you’re near the elevators and bathrooms, you’re fine, but once you get into the deeper recesses of “the penthouse” traffic dwindles significantly.

I made a little more money at the Renegade fair than at Unique L.A., even though there were fewer shoppers, because Renegade skews more toward my usual demographic, which is less fashionable/trendy and more indie/crafty.  I don’t think I’ll be able to do any more L.A. fairs, though, because my sister is moving back to NYC.  That means no more helper and no more free room and board.

The best part of fairs like Renegade is the awesome people you get to hang out with.  I got to chat with Jenny Hart and Rob Mahar (each just shopping for a change), both of whom I never get to see because we all live in different cities.  I also exchanged hand signals with my L.A. “booth brother,” Adam from the Poster List.  We’ve been placed across from each other at every L.A. fair we’ve ever done, but he speaks quietly and I’m hard of hearing, so we communicate via sign language.  Adam is a real hardcore craft vendor.  He never leaves his booth during show hours (eight hours a day at Renegade!) and never starts packing up early.  I know he hides Starbucks lemon loaves under the table, but how does he pee?!

I also met a ton of fantastic new people this weekend, most of whom will be at Rengade SF this weekend, including my awesome neighbor, illustrator Caitlin Kuhwald.  How gorgeous is this painting?

I also got to know Robert Goodin, who traded me this jah-mazing refillable sketchbook (which I have been sorely needing) for a giant ham

woodsketchbook

…and all the ladies at Krank Press, where I bought the perfect little birthday calendar (which I have also been needing).  Each page is letterpressed in three colors and contains California planting and harvesting information for each month in addition to spaces for each date.  The whole calendar was only $15!  What are they, crazy?  I know underpricing is a craft-world epidemic, but how can you even survive on that?  Geez, when I think of the cost of paper, inks, binding, printing plates, AND the very skilled labor is takes to print 14 pages three times each, I’m a little astounded that Nor can eat three meals a day.

birthdaycalendar

I also got to chat a while with the gals at dust and co. and Porterness, where I scored this tote for a cycling friend who hates Prius drivers even more than he hates tomatoes.

fuckyourprius

Elijah at Figs and Ginger gave me a deal on these totally sweet earrings in exchange for some fashion advice…

…and Erin Dollar (also an underpricer in my opinion) wowed me with her varied crafty talents.

image1 image2 image3

Finally, Some Validation

I was delighted to read this article/interview by Jenny Hart about how important it is to keep accurate, current books.  She’s a super-savvy Biz Miss with a veritable empire of embroidery products.  Her emphasis on bookkeeping makes me feel a little more validated and a little less geeky for having taken all those Quickbooks classes.

Also, somebody (Gary Taxali) finally gave a huge company (Google) the finger (literally) for soliciting original creative work in exchange for “exposure.”  It has always floored me how ready companies are to try to take advantage of creative professionals, especially those companies who can afford to pay them fairly.  I have personally been asked for free products or services in exchange for “exposure” on many occasions and I don’t understand why I’m not supposed to be insulted by this.  I mean, you wouldn’t suggest that a lawyer work for you for free because you’re providing them with “exposure” to the dozens of “potential future clients” watching them work in the courtroom, would you? (NY Times via The Present Group)

Fred Flare's Next Big Thing

Deadline: Friday, May 2nd

According to fredflare.com: “The NEXT BIG THING contest is best suited for designers, artists, crafters and creatives who are serious about taking their business to the next level.”

In short, it’s a contest in which you submit your art/design/craft products for $5 an entry in the hopes of winning $1,000 and having your stuff sold on fredflare.com.  There will be 27 finalists, each of whom gets a spot and a bio in the limited-time Next Big Thing Boutique section of the web site.  Then in June, the polls open, and customers vote on their favorite product.  The winning artist/designer gets $1,000 and Fred Flare will buy out the rest of their stock.  In the future, if your item does well, they will keep you on as a wholesale vendor.

Although there are traditionally a huge number of entries and you face some pretty stiff competition (Jay McCarroll of Project Runway, Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching, and Amy Sedaris have all been finalists), there’s a lot to potentially gain and only $5 to lose.  I’m definitely going to enter the Sweet Meats. One tip: read the rules carefully because they’re very specific.

Great Publication: Venus Zine

Yesterday I was browsing the magazines at Booksmith in the Upper Haight. I felt a little bad because I didn’t intend to buy anything. I was just there to page through all their glossies and write down the ones to which I might be able to send press kits. But then I stumbled upon an awesome publication called Venus Zine: Emerging Creativity (women in music, art, film, fashion, d.i.y. culture) and I finally had something to justify using an independent bookstore as my personal research library. The perpetually surly counter clerk looked especially pissed that after half an hour of standing around I put $4.50 on my business Amex, but I didn’t let it get me down.

I don’t know why I’d never even heard of Venus Zine. It’s apparently been around since 1996 and it rocks — quite literally. This issue’s cover stories include a run-down of the best female guitarists of all time and how to start a DIY business. Though I’m a little beyond many of the most basic suggestions (yes, I have already read Craft, Inc. from cover to cover) there were enough informative tidbits for even an experienced business owner to get something from the articles. For example, I learned about indiebizchicks.com (which has some great articles even if the site is not super well maintained), Sublime Stitcher Jenny Hart’s monthly “Crafting a Business” column, and various free communal workspaces for when you want to get out of your home office. New York’s Jelly (now also at other locales), Philadelphia’s Cream Cheese and San Francisco’s Citizen Space all sound like great places to work somewhere productive (and collaborative) without having to spend $3 an hour on coffee and pastries.

So if you’re an artist, musician, businesswoman, DIYer, or like me, you consider yourself a little of everything, check out an issue of Venus Zine. It’s both informative and inspiring to the woman who’s trying to make her own way.

Rip-offs and Licensing

Tonight I attended an intimate little gathering at the Stitch Lounge in San Francisco to promote the new Sublime Stitching book by Jenny Hart. If you’re a member of the craft community, you probably recognize items from her hip embroidery empire. I recently bought some Sublime Stitching materials for my sister’s birthday (that she loved) so I was excited to meet Ms. Hart. She was very generous, friendly and forthcoming.

Everyone who was at the table tonight owns and runs their own creative business. Unsurprisingly, talk soon turned to rip-offs. A lot of good points were made, and I’d like to share a few with you:

  1. Some people steal without remorse. Many big companies send scouts to small events like local craft fairs, looking for ideas to steal. Many of them have no qualms about ripping off small designers or artists, because the artists either a) never find out, b) don’t have the courage and/or resources to pursue legal action c) require such a small settlement that it is still financially worth it to be shady. The only way to stop this, is for every ripped-off artist to sue. If you’ve been ripped off by a bigger company, I’ll bet it wouldn’t be too hard to find other people who have been similarly robbed through web sites like Etsy or Craftster. Then everyone can pool their resources and file a much more dangerous class-action suit.
  2. Just because you bought it does not mean you own it. This is often confusing for people. It certainly was for me. If you buy a font, for example, you are buying a license to use it, including on things you might sell. You can use it to create printed note cards, for example, and selling those note cards is well within the terms of that font license. But different licenses use different terms. It is usually not okay, for example, to buy a knitting pattern for a scarf and then sell the scarf you made from it. Similarly, it is usually not okay to buy an embroidery pattern and then release a line of dishtowels you made using those patterns, even if you made them all by hand, designed the colors and placement of the images yourself, etc.
  3. It’s easy to borrow legally. Many designers, including Sublime Stitching, will let you license their designs. Though fees vary, a standard licensing agreement usually involves paying the artist about 5% of the gross sales of any product on which you used their design. So if those dishtowels sell for $10 apiece, every time you sell one, you would pay 50 cents to the designer of the embroidery patterns you used. That said, a licensing agreement is just that — a signed agreement between the licensor (the artist) and the licensee (you with the dishtowel line) that often includes certain conditions of use. Maybe the designer only intended for them to go on baby products, not dishtowels. Maybe your dishtowels are made using toxically produced fabric, or are just plain ugly. In any case, it is the artist who gets to decide whether or not and how their designs are used.

I think that’s enough for today. More on intellectual property in posts to come.