Posts Tagged ‘fiber artists’

I really wanted to make the title of this post “If I want exposure, I’ll get my tits out, but the internet being what it is and working (or not) the way it does, I wasn’t sure if it would be risky or risque, when it is actually neither. It is the honest and slightly caustic response of one brilliant fiber artist to a request that she donate a large amount of her time and wares because it would be good “exposure” for her business (i.e. work for free).

The fiber artist was the Countess Ablaze — a dyer of yarn and spinning fiber in amazing colors with (to say the least) irreverent names. She ran an amazing business for ten years before she moved on to her next adventure. Other than her amazing yarn, she will be remembered for a venture called the Tits Out Collective.

Two events precipitated this movement. First was the above “offer.” In response to that offer, she dyed two special colorways and donated a significant portion of the sale of each skein to a woman-supporting charity. Second was that another dyer bought a skein and copied the colorway.

In response, the Countess published the color recipe she used, encouraged other independent dyers to create their own version, and they all released their yarns collectively on July 1, 2018. This blog post from A Woolly Yarn provides a bit more background.

Click on the image to watch a Facebook live video for the original announcement. It is a bit choppy, and the language is a bit salty, but you don’t need a Facebook account to watch it. If you have an account, you might be able to go further back in the feed to find more posts.

The Countess holding her two charity colorways “Shit Tea and Tray Bake” and “If I Want Exposure, I’ll Get My Tits Out. Copyright Countess Ablaze

If you listen carefully, you’ll hear a reference to Etsy raising the fees sellers pay to do business on the site, and she flat out tells people to raise their prices accordingly. Supplies are expensive. You should be fairly compensated for your time and expertise.

It is now almost exactly four years later, and Etsy, which did HUGE business during the pandemic even as so many makers and artists struggled, is raising prices again. In between, I have noticed (and heard from a few sellers who moved away from the platform) a push to offer “free” shipping and discounts on items added to a wish list or the shopping cart.

As a result, sellers are going on strike, putting their shops on “vacation” from April 11-18 and encouraging customers not to shop during those days.

A percentage point or two might not seem like much, but it adds up, and it eats into already miniscule profit margins. Yarn and dye and dye studios and all of the tools for dyeing are expensive. Payment processing fees are expensive. Shipping fees and materials are expensive. And that’s just the overhead. We haven’t even talked about actually paying the person or people doing the work — dyeing, twisting, labeling, photographing, listing, packaging, and shipping.

At least with yarn dyeing, there is a tangible item which might justify more expense. It is more difficult with patterns. Even a simple pattern needs to be written, edited, test knit (with yarn which much be purchased), and formatted. Then there is the expectation of introductory discounts. Some designers can sell thousands of copies of a single pattern, but they are few.

Designer Ruth Brasch wrote this blog post where she breaks down the effect that fees from sites such as Etsy and Ravelry have … and she only includes the parts of the cost which she pays someone else (yarn and tech editing). She doesn’t include her time spent knitting, writing, photographing, and formatting.

Some small businesses are surviving or even thriving, but so often creative businesses struggle to even be seen, much less turn any kind of profit.

Don’t just shop small. If possible, shop direct. And if you love the work of a particular small business (artist or no), tell everyone you know in every way you can.

Every drop into the ocean makes a ripple.

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