I felt I wanted to speak out about this topic. I have been a victim of this and quite often on forums and groups I have seen posts of upset and broken artisan’s so I want to speak out from our side about cheap copies and how it affects us.
Its not just frustrating for the artist on the discovery of their work being “ripped off” or copied, it destroys what makes them unique. An artist is not just a painter per se, an artist is someone who sees and creates, the materials they use defines them, which in turn unfolds mesmerising pieces for eyes and minds to open and discover.
Our creations are part of us and we have battled over our design ideas, usually equating to being up all hours perfecting things- something which is often never reflected in the price of our work. Many of us will only charge for the time to make the actual pieces requested or for the final creation. The pre-attempts become irrelevant in pricing which can add up more than 10 hours for some.
We take time and consideration on each piece- unlike those who attempt to replicate our work. You can not justify them as creative, clever or have anything defining about them. If they are unable to think of an idea of their own in the first place, how will their work achieve the levels of a true artist? The answer is plain an simple- it won’t. Its very clear when you have an original and a copy in hand, the consideration, care, effort and soul of the original piece shine through which helps to make what it is, where as a knock off, well, there is something lifeless about them.
I’m not sure who I feel for most in this situation, the person without the ideas, desperately needing to feed off someones hard work or the artist who has been stolen from. In some sense its flattering that they want to be like you and produce the work you do but yet it is so soul destroying.
What’s more is they probably have never considered the reason why prices are not a few pence. It is because this is our job! We have over heads and expenses to pay. Its not just buy some bits, put it together and voilà. No, its not that black and white.
You see, this is usually our primary job so, surprisingly we pay taxes, national insurance, private pensions just like the everyday employed person. We do not get an hourly wage either. We earn from our creations, so all that thought and care in designing is our free time! This usually consists of hours upon hours of work to get it right before we go ahead with our final plan.
We work all hours, we don’t rest. More often than not we work more hours than the average employed person. Christmas time alone I was working 7 days a week for more than 12 hours a day often not going to sleep until past 1am with my work schedule. On top of this I am a mother, so I have to fit in the every day things on top. I do not get a wage slip at the end of the week and go spend my pennies.
We have to pay for websites to help generate traffic/customers. This is one of the biggest expenses for a small business/sole trader. Without this or a retail shop how would we find potential customers to expand. I’m sure many of you are unaware the cost of a great website and if like me you are not able to create your own you have to pay someone. Websites are not fixed and finished when you are handed them, they are an on-going project and require upkeep, attention and training. Lets not forget that there are annual fees and payments for training. To give you an idea a decent eCommerce site for a non tech individual is around 3k, plus annual hosting fees of around £100+ . The cost of this has to be recouped from the business and an extremely small percent is added to the cost of products. I’m always on my site trying to think of ways to improve, develop and further train my skills.
Marketing, is another role we do, many people are paid well in this position in the working world. This is part of what we have to do in order to grow.
Overheads such as electrics for lighting, P.C’s, heating etc things you often take for granted working for an employer. Yes we too have bills to pay for being at work not just when we go home.
The cost of tools and materials. We have to charge for the materials, the maintenance of our tools and servicing. Did you know the reason large stores can charge a little less for an item is they have the power and funds to buy in large bulk, not hundreds here or there they buy in the thousands, which means competitive prices, prices small companies can not even compete with.
Then there is the need for staff. Some small companies get to the position where they need help. To need to pay another person to do admin work or assist to keep things a float requires a cut from your piece of the pie, more tax work, needing to know new laws and legislation. Health and Safety needs to be in place and this can be time consuming.
Finally, the money you do make is put back into the business to invest in it’s future. Advertising, marketing, stock, tools etc. So after all the hard work, you plough back what you have into the business to enable it to grow. Resulting in you working for peanuts.
To break it down for you, the artist is actually working for a very small cost & percentage wise has been made a a mockery of. The copy cat has just walked off with your money, someone else’s idea and has taken far more profit than that very talented individual who offered a piece of their sole. Just because an item is cheaper on the label, doesn’t mean the artist is a fat cat exploiting your purse.
Maybe consider who is the bigger fool in all of this. It’s sad to say, but it is the customer. By opting for what you deemed as a cheaper alternative, you have managed to con yourself from having a one off unique item for what you deemed to be cheaper, but the reality is what you though was cheaper is actually another persons greed, avoiding the taxes and costs to run a legitimate business.
I support the artist and always will, I wouldn’t buy a knock off designer handbag- I’d be too embarrassed. Why do it with art?