So the #FairFiberWage train chugs along. By and large I think it’s generating some valuable discussions and I am glad it’s happening.
I was waiting for the “who do you think you are, you deserve nothing, quit whining, not everyone gets to do what they love to do” charges to begin because that seems to happen any time a group of artists complains about their treatment, and while there’s been a little of that, it hasn’t been too bad. Someone on Facebook essentially called us a bunch of no-name diva teachers who didn’t have a leg to stand on but I think Diva Teacher might become a thing now and I am ok with that. I am pondering T-shirts, maybe with sparkles!
But apparently I have one more thing to say. I’m reading posts from teachers that say “I am not ok with sharing a room because bad things happened when I did”, or “I have a medical condition or other life issue that makes it harder for me to recover from a long event” or “I’m sorry I am expensive but here’s a breakdown of how many hours I work and how much money I spend on prep to justify my rates”. All of these things are true. And all of these things are relevant to the discussion.
But at the end of the day none of them matter. I need a safe place to sleep whether or not something bad happened to someone else. I deserve to be paid fairly, because I deserve to be paid fairly, regardless of what my medical or life situation is. I am sorry not everyone can afford to pay large convention prices – hell I can’t either – which makes my classes out of reach for some students but empathy doesn’t change that fact that if I am hired for an event I expect to profit from it.
Not break even, not make a little over expenses. Profit. Because that’s how business works, and I am running a business.
There is risk when I develop and put out a design, or a video, or a book, and I accept managed risk because if I accept all of the risk then I also get to accept all of the rewards. But if Company A hires me to do X at Z time and location, then we are by God going to negotiate a fair payment for me to do X, or I am not going to do X. That does not make me a diva or full of myself or any other negative thing you want to call me, it makes me a business person. That also does not obligate Company A to hire me – they are entitled to go hire anyone they want who will accept the terms to fill that job.
What I am absolutely tired of is this:
Company A (or B or Q or Y): We would like to pay you this much money to do this much work.
Me: That is below my rate, can you come up to this much?
Company A: No we can’t.
Me: Thanks for considering me, unfortunately we won’t be able to work together at this time.
Company A: Well so and so will do it for our terms!
Me: Great! Hire so and so! Everyone wins!
Company A: Well so and so doesn’t offer the advanced classes like you do (or have the experience you have, or have the name recognition in this market that you do, or work in that technique or write a good pattern or whatever), and we need someone who does what YOU do. So you should do what you do for what we want to pay.
Me: Already said no thanks – I wish you well in your search.
Company A: CLEARLY YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND, LET ME EXPLAIN WHY YOU ARE WRONG!
Listen, stuff doesn’t work out all the time. I can’t afford to work here or there, they hire someone else. I really, really want a specific job but I don’t get it for whatever reason. Disappointments abound.
But I am tired of apologizing for running a business. And I wish we, as artists and teachers, didn’t feel the constant need to justify our existence. So from me and my friend JoJo, here’s a little music video-
(Obviously NSFW – read the title before clicking!)
The version of this post that I have been writing in my head is longer than some books I’ve written so I will try to be concise.
I will start with the caveat that I am only speaking on my own behalf here. I have spoken to several other teachers who were affected by this mess or have taught the venue in the past. I can say that I am not the only teacher offended and I am far from the only teacher who has withdrawn from the “opportunity” so graciously presented to us. But the opinions shared hereafter are mine – I do not pretend that I speak for anyone else.
Having been teaching for several years – mostly crochet but knitting and crafty business classes too – I made a conscious effort to increase the number of events at which I teach to help my cash flow along. Let’s be honest, print publishing is not what it once was and that’s where the bulk of my income has come from in years past. There are some places I won’t teach and some places I wish I could teach every year but that’s not what they want (I puffy heart love you DFW FiberFest), but I have seriously been working on more teaching opportunities.
So a couple of years ago along comes a new show from an old player, and I get asked to teach, and the contract doesn’t work for me so when I politely decline I am made a better offer and off I go. The show was great, the students wonderful, and I am glad that together, the venue and I could make it work. This year comes, I still have a minor issue with the contract and have a good conversation with the promoter about it. I sign anyway, have a great time, really feel like I am starting to develop some regular students which is terrific in such a relatively new show. And I feel heard about the issue I brought to their attention so I apply to teach for 2017. As an aside, since every venue has a different way to handle class submissions and only one promoter that I can think of off the top of my head keeps your general class pitches on file so you don’t have to pitch the same stuff every year, do you guys have any idea how long it can take to do an application for a large show? We pitch way more classes than we have spaces to fill so the promoter has a selection from which to choose. An application can take a whole day away from other work! And if you don’t get selected to teach that work is wasted.
Anyway I get the email – you’ve been selected to teach! Yay! Stand by for the contract which we will send next week! Yay! I am anxious to read the contract because I hope my issue from this year has been addressed. So I get the contract and I read it, and I read it again and I say “Oh HELL no!”. I wait a day so I don’t send hate mail to intermediaries because none of this is their fault, and I read the contract with fresh eyes because surely it can’t be as bad as I thought it was but yes it still smells, and I send an email saying there’s no possible way I will sign this contract. And I get an email back offering to explain it to me. Now not only am I offended that I was offered this piece of crap masquerading as an employment offer in the first place, I am offended that they think that I do not understand what a piece of crap it is! So I decline their offer of a telephone meeting.
They are shocked! They are appalled! I hear through the grapevine that a second version of the contract has gone out to some teachers (but not me) and it is still a bad contract, but a slightly less bad contract. Other teachers try to negotiate but keep hitting brick walls. I ask a colleague why I was not offered the second contract and was told “you said you wouldn’t teach the event so you are being taken at your word.” Ok, that’s true, that’s exactly what I did say. So I am sad to lose the show but surely not sad enough that I will lose money teaching it, so I sigh heavily and move on. I worry that my regulars with think I abandoned them but there’s nothing I can do about that. Sigh.
Then I hear from a few more teachers, and a few more after that. Some have signed the second version, many are waffling, several have done what I did and withdrawn from the event (and I love each and every one of you!). And then it moves to Twitter (#FairFiberWage or #FiberTeachersNeed if you’re interested, or search me at @Hooked4Life because I am copied in a lot of that pile o’ tweets!) and then the lovely Abby Franquemont had a say about it which you can see on Facebook, and then I decided I needed to add some words. Ok a lot of words. In fact if you are still reading, high five!
Then some vendors chimed in – if there is a teaching kerfuffle going on shouldn’t they know it? Of course they should because it could affect attendance and therefore their business. And some students said “well if you guys are getting screwed, shouldn’t we know it so we can vote with our dollars?” And of course they should too. But every damned time something like this happens the fiber community gets up in arms in our defense (love you guys for that) and then the people who disagree come by and say we need to suck it up and get real jobs, whatever those are for someone with my very specific skill set, and then people yell at each other and a week later it’s over and nothing changes.
I had a savior complex for a very long time. I ranted on Getting Loopy and I called people out on their bullshit ways, and I fought for recognition at TNNA and other purportedly professional organizations. I was going to make life better for designers EVERYWHERE. And then I gave up doing that. Because it stressed me out, it didn’t change things much, if ever, and oh yeah there were the death threats on Ravelry (true story – and hilarious now that it’s five years past but it requires cocktails to be told!).
So why am I writing this novella? There’s a sea change happening and in what I hope is the extinction burst of my savior complex I feel compelled to point it out.
Teaching was the last hope for many of us to keep making a living and if those contracts are under attack – and they are – shit’s about to get real. Book advances have been decimated in the last few years as well. The rhetoric behind these changes from those in power is eerily similar and sounds like this “It’s ok to take a teaching contract with no guarantees or per diem because if you sell out every seat in every class you’ll make more money!” Or for books “It doesn’t matter if the advance is terrible because you’ll earn out quicker and you’ll make the same amount you would have anyway on royalties !” What both of these proposals do, though, is shift the financial responsibility of a given project making money away from the shoulders of the corporations that profit from the end product, and put that weight on the shoulders of the artists that make these projects possible. If a corporation has put out a big advance on a book or made a financial guarantee to a staff of teachers that corporation has skin in the game. They are incentivized to do the best they can to sell that product because if they don’t they’ll lose a sizable chunk of money, which is much more quantifiable to the bean counters than the more general “we should be profitable” mantra. Profit is good – it’s what keeps all of this content in the marketplace for consumers to benefit from. But a company the size of Hooked for Life should not be expected to subsidize expenses for a company the size of … Well let’s just say that I don’t think it’s coincidence that the parent company’s name begins and ends with F U…
Back in January I lost my mind and attended both the TNNA show (the trade show for yarn, needlepoint and cross stitch, and related products) and CHA (the trade show for all things crafty and big box yarns) in California on the same weekend. Fueled almost exclusively by In and Out burgers and adrenaline I drove up and down Route 5 and saw all the people I could see and test drove all the products I could lay my hands on.
I was fascinated by all of the paints and dyes I saw at CHA and was on the lookout for ways to color my crochet and knitting, but get an end result that wasn’t stiff – that would enable my textile to retain at least most of the drape it began with! I found my wish with Design Master Tint It. It’s an aerosol dye that gives a saturated color, but doesn’t make the resulting fabric stiff as a board.
Here is the pillow I created – I hope you like it!
3 skeins Lily Sugar’n Cream yarn in #00001 White
Crochet hook size H/8/5.50 mm or size needed to obtain gauge
14″ Home Elegance pillow form
1 can Design Master Tint It in Jade
1 Loops and Threads fat quarter
Hand sewing needle
3 stick on Velcro tabs
Gauge: 12 sts X 7 rows = 4″ (10 cm) in LDC
Row 1: Linked double crochet (LDC) in 4th ch from hook and in each ch across. Ch 3, turn. 42 ldc
Row 2: LDC in each LDC across. Ch 3, turn.
Rep Row 2 for pattern until work measures 14″ from foundation ch. End off.
I took the finished front outside, laid it on some cardboard to save my porch floor, and sprayed with the Tint It. I layered the color so the finished piece had a strong diagonal feel to it, going from dark in one corner to just barely sprayed at the other.
Once the front is fully dry, work the edging as follows:
Rnd 1: Join yarn in any st, sc around, placing 3 sc in each corner. Join rnd with sl st in first sc. Ch 3, do not turn.
Rnd 2: Dc in each sc around, placing 5 dc in each corner. Join rnd with sl st in top of beg-ch. Ch 1, do not turn.
Rnd 3: Sc in each dc around, placing 3 sc in each corner. Join rnd with sl st in first sc. Ch 1, do not turn.
Rnd 4: Crab st in each sc around. Join rnd with sl st in first crab stitch. End off.
Weave in all ends.
Cut two pieces from the fat quarter, each measuring 15″ wide X 9″ tall.
Make a 1″ hem across one 15″ side on each piece. NOTE I had to fiddle a little bit to make sure the print would align – make sure you are happy with the alignment before you cut!
Overlap one hemmed edge 1″ over the other hemmed edged, topstitch into place in the side seam allowance.
Press under 1/2″ seam allowance on all four sides.
Pin the fabric back to the crocheted front, and hand sew into place.
Place Velcro tabs evenly spaced across to hold the overlap in place.
Insert pillow form through the overlap, and Velcro the overlap closed.
One of the things I like about using the Tint It instead of simply using colored yarn, is that the dye lays more heavily on the top of the stitch than in the furrows, which really accentuates the density and texture of the stitches. I can also stitch away without worrying about yarn colors pooling or not laying exactly the way I want them to, because the color is added after. I can see trying this with a stencil too!
Thanks for stopping by – MBT
I am trying to get into the habit of blogging on a particular day, and not just whenever I feel like it. Because while I often feel like it, my brain usually convinces me that other things are more important and then the blogging never happens.
So I am starting a program of Thursdays are for Tips! Not the kind you leave for your waitstaff, although now that my daughter is a waitress I feel strongly that tipping is a thing that should be done, but tips on various crafty pastimes. I am always working on something, it’s never the same thing from week to week (which is a good thing), and I am often surprised at how a little thing that’s resting in my brain is news to someone else.
The last few weeks have been all about the sewing! I have a new sewing book coming out within the next two months…
… and I have been doing a lot of playing with fabric. I have also been using a lot of bias tape/bias binding. A. LOT!
Did you know that bias binding has a right side and a wrong side? Right from the package, if you lay it flat you will notice that one side is ever so slightly more narrow than the other side. That’s on purpose! If you apply the binding with the narrower side towards you, even if you are topstitching on the very edge of the fold, you can rest assured that you are catching the other side as you sew, even if you can’t see it.
Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you next Thursday, if not before!
I have migrated the website and blog yet again. The previous server was simply too damned expensive for the value it provided, so here we are elsewhere, again!
While I am still all about the yarn and related crafts, I have also been expanding my publishing horizons into sewing and general craft – in fact my next book is about sewing and I seriously cannot wait to show it to you. Sometime in May, I expect.
While for the longest time one was either a capital K Knitter or a capital C crocheter – or Spinner, or Scrapbooker or whatever else was the craft of choice, I feel like we as a community are finally moving back towards the idea that different people might want to enjoy different crafts at different times. So I am not planning on limiting myself any more, as to which crafts I post here. My plan is to do what I do, post what I post, and trust my readers are smart enough to skip over the parts that don’t interest them without being offended that I have strayed off the One True Path of alpaca, or whatever. We shall see how it goes!
Here are my two most recent releases, the Transition Shawl to Crochet and the Transition Shawl to Knit. The patterns (and the colorways they show) are available exclusively at Patternworks through 6/16, so get them while they’re hot!
Here is the crochet shawl –
And here is the knit version –
The yarn is Frolicking Feet Transitions from Done Roving Yarns. The yarn colors come pre-attached and the yarn itself is already wound and in it’s own container. Because of the way the yardages are calculated, when working a shawl top-down and center-out in knit or crochet, you wind up with stripes that are roughly the same size. Most other yarns are divided equally so as the piece gets bigger the stripes get more narrow. Or of course you can stripe something yourself but who needs the ends?
Anyway thanks for stopping by – more soon!