Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Is There Any Room For Quality?

One of the most frustrating things for me, as a crafter, is finding good quality products at an affordable price. If I buy at one of the chain craft stores, and you all know who I mean, the emphasis is on price. Some items are better than others but you can be assured that the birdhouse you buy for $5.99 and on sale for a buck less, must have cost them $1 at most. And when you spend as much time as I do and fight the white glue blobs and splotches, you know exactly what I am talking about. This is just a cheapie product.

It didn't really matter at first. I was new to the idea of crafting and any old thing would do. But now that I have an ETSY.com store and am trying to sell to other venues as well, I realize that while the design and workmanship of my work is a labor of love, it is on a cheap canvas. (To see what I am talking about, check out my ETSY.com store. Type in KrugsStudio to go directly to the store. While you may not like the style or design, you will see that it took many hours to complete.) The comparison would be to grab any old tea towel, staple it on a wood frame and say you have a canvas. It doesn't work that way.

I have looked online and while there are some wonderful examples of wood craftsmanship, the cost would put it out of my ability to buy the base product and charge for what I hope to do with it. And many of them are really meant to be just used. The finish is not adaptable to my painting.

Complaining one day to a friend, he thought he knew some sources in China that might be willing to make items I designed, of much higher quality and still be able to sell them at a reasonable price. This would mean then that not only would I have a more reasonable cost alternative but would be able to sell them at wholesale to others as well. If we can get past the "price" issue, a whole new range of ideas and products could become available. Even the ability to accept custom orders!

Here is one of the designs I created...I call it the "Craftman Birdhouse."

The beauty of this product was that it remained lightweight, uses outdoor grade Sycamore wood and was glued with outdoor glue...furniture grade outdoor glue to meet the standards in Japan. I thought that I wanted the top to be removable but in hindsight will move the screws to the bottom, add drainage holes and I think it would be good to go. The cost? Under $20 each and even less if bought in units of three or six at a time.

The screws will continue to go into threaded inserts so the screws never touch the wood. This birdhouse can be hung outside as is, or for crafters and others, stained, painted, and sealed for an even longer life.

For a painter such as myself, this is a dream come true. However, the question remains, is there enough of a demand for such an product line? Is there a place for a "middle" price point, a product that isn't the cheapest nor the most expensive but does offer a longer outdoor life? With any hobby chain product, even in California, the birdhouse is guaranteed to fall apart in a year so I can't even imagine what it would be like in the midwest. I used five coats of Varathane but it made no difference. Would people be willing to pay more and then not have to buy a new one every few years? Is the time spent by a artist on a much better product, the money spent by the end user worth a few dollars more?

That is the question.

Please feel free to reply or contact me here.

Best regards,

Alan Krug

Thursday, July 26, 2012


I have been home about a week now from an Alaska cruise. This was a last minute event...tho one that had been discussed back in February. The person that we wanted to see in Anchorage died in a tragic car accident so we didn't think about going there again.

When my wife was checking out travel deals on the Internet she came across a cruise to Alaska, 14 days yet, for an unbelievable price that we decided to check it out. After confirming this deal with the AAA agent here in CA, we booked the cruise, got a deal on the airfare and seven days later boarded out flight to Seattle to board our "love boat."

Growing up in Portland, I was always aware of the artistic styles of the Northwest Indians. Back in the day, we called them Eskimos. Now there are a variety of names and the one we heard the most in Alaska was First Nations. The artistic styles are very similar and after doing a variety of Pennsylvania Dutch designs, I was ready to branch out. (Anyone looking at my store on ETSY might wonder if I am indeed ADD. There are now many styles!)

One of them, in my "Crazy Quilt Series" won a national voting award through a contest held by DecoArt, one of the premier vendors in the craft world. I heard about that docking July 2 and was stunned! I mean, who would have thought such a crazy idea, trying to copy fabrics in paint, would win in a national contest?

As we saw and met more and more First Nations peoples, I began to question the style and motifs that were used. No one could give me a definitive answer. It was near the end of the cruise, at a stop in Sitka, AK,  that we wandered the town after a tour. Along the way back to the boat was a book store and on a wild whim we stopped in. Looking at the books I found one that was a design book that explained the styles, motifs and how to create them better than even the native peoples could. There were two volumes and while the first one seemed complete, am glad I bought them both.

After reading the first volume on the boat, I couldn't wait to get home and try the designs out. In my mind, I had already formulated what I wanted to do. So, after consulting the book to make sure I had the idea right, and there is plenty of leeway I discovered, here is the result.

The design is basically of salmon...the front is a full view of the salmon, the back just its head. I used the motif of a human face, front and back, and hands on the side to signify that it took humans with hands to catch the fish. While it may take awhile to achieve the extraordinary detail of the people there, I was amazed at how close I came. Using the nesting hole for birds in the middle of my fish, I solved many problems and didn't seem to effect the design features at all.

This is the beginning of what I hope will be an interesting series. It appears the First Nations people decorating just about everything. So....