Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Is It Time To Find A Manufacturer In Asia?

Several years ago I became painfully aware that the items I was using, birdhouses, trays, and other craft items were subpar. It was painful to realize that for all the time and work I would put into something, the "surface" was less than ideal. Then, when after more than several coats of Varathane, my favorite birdhouse hanging outdoors came apart I realized that I needed to find better products as my standard surface so these kinds of problems would be a thing of the past. Michael's and Hobby Lobby just weren't going to cut it.

Wozniaks Conundrum
After looking at suppliers on Etsy whose pricing would put my initial cost at around $20 each, I designed about 6 birdhouses and had a friend with ties to Chinese manufacturers look into having them made. I then balked at the cost of $15,000 to buy and ship to the states. Even more, what would I do with all those birdhouses? I thought maybe I could wholesale the blanks, and use what I wanted for my creations. After contacting a few of the retail sellers with stores on the Internet, I realized that they could buy something similar for about my same cost before I marked it up. No one was interested. That project died stillborn.

Today though, I read that Etsy is going to promote Etsy sellers and give them the opportunity to sell to major retailers. The fee is $100 for a year with the standard 3.5% selling fee when the sale is complete. Since they opened the floodgates last year for mass production of items designed by Etsy store owners, I guess it would be the next logical step.

However, it puts owners like me at a terrible disadvantage. You have to laugh at Wozniaks conundrum shown above as he struggled to make the first Apple computer. For a creative person we do well to get one item made, let alone many. Here he tried to marry a by now an old analog system, the Remington Typewriter to a CRT of the new digital age. This is just about how I feel. A creative artist suddenly competing against the mass production of items once sold singly to maybe millions. As, as well all know, Apple too migrated to China.

Today I make one, maybe up to three of the same design but because everything is hand sketched and hand painted, there are differences from the first to the last. Its inevitable. What steps does one follow to make more? The allure of success beckons but as we all know, the public has fickle taste.

The problem as I see it are many. They include:

  • Finding a reliable quality surface
  • Finding a manufacturer who will be that "reliable" source
  • Being able to afford that source
  • Finding clients that are interested
  • Finding the manufacturer that can replicate faithfully the original design
  • Organizing the sales and shipments of the products
  • Keeping up with a stream of new products
  • Finding even more new clients to replace those that fall by the wayside
  • Setting up and managing a business something creative types are lousy at
  • Remaining creative
I am sure I missed a few other steps but you get the point. The creative process really can't be taught. You can learn techniques, you can copy but there has to be a spark in each artist that makes them original. Malcolm Gladwell says that you can do anything if you're willing to spend 10,000 hours doing it. However, I would question whether one could become a Monet, Sargent, Turner or Picasso with just the repetitive hours in hand. There is something that can't be taught, some divine spark that transforms some artists from being merely good, to sublime.

So, the conumdrum for me is do I want to do this? Do I want to take what I create and sell them to the world? I don't know but I think that now, I would be willing to try!

Visit You won't have to worry about finding anything in my store in Home Goods or Tuesday Morning!

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