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Arts and Crafts Renaissance

Updated: Oct 26, 2019

It's that time of year again where everyone in the Kingdom starts spend-spend-spending and work-work-working to either earn extra bucks or to keep up with the demand for services. At this time of year, I don't think there is anyone who has an easy time of it. Whilst I have the luxury of some really big sales recently, my usual card exodus to America hasn't happened yet. There is a little story here, which I thought you might like to know. It was suggested by my online shopping platform that all crafters offer free postage to the USA on orders over $30 and to compensate for the postage losses, the platform suggested increasing the cost of all sale items to make up for it. I was enraged by this, totally flabbergasted.....why should the rest of the world pay more for goods, just so the US market gets free postage?

The way it works is that the free postage items would take priority in listing searches, over 'postage to pay' items. I am sticking to my guns over this and feel it is a shame that although my shopping platform made good money from all of my card sales in the last few years, they are also depriving those that bought before from seeing my items in searches. I may have cut my nose to spite my face but I refuse to put up my prices to cover free USA postage. They also suggested everyone had a 20% sale.....I'm sorry, but if you can drop your prices by 20% they were clearly too high in the first place!! I would just like to point out that last year I did subsidised postage for the rest of the world. As I do free UK postage, I thought it only fair to deduct the same amount off international postage. Personally, I understand that postage must be paid if buying online. If you drive the car and pay for car parking at the shops, it costs money, so what is the issue with paying postage online? I wanted a unique patio umbrella and they were all standard until I found one in India, exactly what I wanted. The brolli was £96, which for a fabulous, handcrafted, handsewn garden parasol was a great price. It was perfect, just what I had envisaged and I didn't think twice about paying £48 was cheaper than a flight to India.

At the start of Cats Punky Stuff I decided to never have any sales across the whole shop, but instead charge a genuine price for Stuff, mostly a little cheaper than others in the same league. Many people have suggested my pricing is a little low for the goods being produced, but I want my Stuff to sell, be used and be loved, not sat on a shelf waiting for a new home. As an example, my cards have only gone up by 50p over 4 years, even though the quality and overall finish is far superior than it was. This time last year I had a rant about the poor quality and variety of a lot of crafted items, and how the true tradition of being a Craftisan has been lost. I see no skill in going to a high street shop, buying a basket full of pre-made things, banging them together then bunging them in a jiffy bag for the post.

As an example my cards for 2019 start out as:

8 metres of natural calico fabric

600 heavy stock cards, cut and folded

600 clear cello bags

20 Embroidary skeins

500 Tibetan silver charms

10 packs of Epsom transfer paper

600 satin bows

My own watercolour designs, prepared in Photoshop

600 'Handmade' stickers

They took 2 years of research, trials and tests to perfect. The whole process of making the cards is completely handmade, with each card taking approximately 25 minute from start to finish. It becomes quicker as I do one whole process at a time. For example: tear all 800 fabric squares at once and fray the edges which takes 4 days, then a whole day to iron them all. Buying a kit from The Range would be so much easier, which is probably why so many people do it. But is that a craft?

The Arts and Crafts Movement needs a revival, with the principles it supported and the unique creativity that was produced. Modern technology has resulted in the same frenzy created by the Industrial Revolution, where mass produced stuff ensures everybody has the same thing. At this point I just want to say there are some fabulous crafts people out there, making incredible things, but by the same note there are a lot of people making...well, not incredible things. And here is the problem, you have to go through a lot of brushes before you get a masterpiece! The Arts and Crafts Movement of the 1860's wanted to inject style and craftsmanship into the decorative arts by going back to the techniques of Medieval times. This is something I think is not only organic and primative, but it was a simpler time, where a finished piece represented the skills of the craftsman, not his shopping skills.

I only work in simple mediums like wool which doesn't need the same sort of training as a silver smith or wood turner, but the design development, creative input and individuality is still the same. Initially I didn't have the income to have a workshop and so chose crafts I could do at the kitchen table. We are in the process of building a workshop and I plan to branch out into some woodwork, to complement and accompany my wool crafts.

I am trying to inject the principles of the Arts and Crafts Movement through my wool Stuff. All of my wool crafts are various combinations of wool, wire and twine. The birdies, the drafties, the wreaths and soon to be the Middle Eastern tassel door curtains are all simply wool in different formats. I made the first drafty about 7 years ago and it is still going strong. They take a day to make and most have over 20 different types of wool. The key to drafties is the gradual colour change which is something that turned out to be a mathematical equation. Dark colours change the feel of the drafty much quicker than lighter colours, which in turn offer a more gradual, less dramatic colour change.

I also make all of my own labels, hand print my own parcel paper and design my own information tags, compliment slips and address labels as well as design my own web site. When you collectively look at what a crafts person has to do to be unique and realise how much work is involved (when you don't just nip down to The Works), you certainly have to question the industry when it suggests slashing prices by 20% in a sale and at the same time telling you to offer free postage whilst suggested putting everything up to cover the losses on said postage!!!! Imagine if William Morris was crafting today.....we've come a long way since the Industrial Revolution, and I don't think it was in the right direction.

I wanted to write this blog to instil a confidence in myself, to put into perspective what I am trying to achieve and where my market should be. I had a beautiful message from a lady today, expressing how happy she was with her order of goodies, which spanned most of my range. I also had an amazing message from a chap who had some Drafties made, really encouraging and genuinely lovely words. Their reactions have confirmed to me that I am on the right path, I just need to persevere, to keep doing what I am doing and have faith in my Stuff all year round, and not to just rely on the American card market in Winter.

Mr Morris would be proud!

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