Monday, August 9, 2010

The pains of being a designer

I hope you don't mind if I vent a bit. I know I do that an awful lot, but It's not something I can vent about to my family - they don't understand. So I rely on my stitchy friends to listen when something in the world of needles and threads is on my mind.

A friend brought my attention to a message board post, ranting about the materials designers use, and suggesting that designers are being paid to promote expensive threads and/or that we don't live in the real world.

Are you kidding me?

Would you tell a painter what kind of canvas or paint to use? Probably not. Can someone explain to me, what's the difference? Is what we do as designers not artwork?

I use what I enjoy using. I enjoy using silks. If I did as the people in that thread suggest, I wouldn't be a designer. Heck, I wouldn't even be a stitcher. I have a huge selection of threads to choose from, and when I pick a colour it's because to me, that colour is the absolute perfect colour for that part of the design. I test stitch like mad to determine what I like best, and I go with my heart when selecting the colours, in other words, the colours that make me fall in love with the design. I don't simply lay threads on fabric and say that'll do. I agonize for ages about what the perfect choices are. They may or may not be your favourite threads or colours, but this is a creative hobby. If you don't like them, but you like the design, you can change them to whatever you are happy with. I include a DMC conversion where possible, and if none exists, I'll suggest a colour in keeping with the overall theme of the design. Better still, you want to switch to something other than DMC? Drop me an email. I'm happy to help as best I can. If you want to use something I don't have on hand, I'll drive the 45 minutes to the LNS to do a comparison for you. I've done it before, I honestly don't mind. That said, I'm not required to do conversions, but I happily do them, because just as I'm addicted to silk threads and love using them, I understand that lots of people don't feel that way and are just as happy to use DMC or cotton overdyes. Or that some threads aren't as easily accessible as others, so I'll help in any way I can.

I do not get paid to use certain brands of threads, and I do not know anyone who does. Some of my model threads I get free from the dyer, some I pay wholesale price for, and some I pay retail price for. Fabric I pay retail or wholesale for. It depends on the brand I go with. Does the cost to me determine which one I use? Absolutely not. If something is the best colour available, I don't care how much it costs me to use, simply because it IS the best colour available for what I want to do. Period.

I DO live in the real world. I have invested a lot of my hard earned money on thread samples for test stitching. I have complete collections of several brands of thread on hand for that purpose, that I paid for. We live on a budget, yet I manage to do it just fine without running up the credit cards. If I want something badly enough, I'll save my money to get it. Why do I do that instead of just using cheap stuff? Because I don't enjoy the cheap stuff, I don't even use it for my personal stitching, so why would it be a consideration.

Would I sell more charts if I charted with DMC? Possibly, but that doesn't really matter to me, I have fun creating in my own way. I'm sorry, but DMC doesn't inspire me. I have a more or less full time job (30-40+ hours per week) and I do my designing in my spare time. I couldn't even consider giving up the day job, I'd starve to death. Income from designing goes straight back into the business on thread and fabric samples and materials for future projects. If I have enough left over, I might pick up a chart or a few threads for personal stitching, but most of my personal stitching stash comes from birthday or Christmas money. If I don't frame a model, it's because I can't afford to pay to have it done and still get stuff for the next model. I barely break even on what I spend on supplies and colour palettes so it's a choice of kitting up the next couple of designs or framing the current one and I opt for kitting the next one. I don't actually get paid for my time to create, model stitch and chart a design unless I sell hundreds of copies so maybe in five years I'll get paid for my time.

So why do I do it? Because it's fun to do and I enjoy it. When I read things like this, it totally turns me off, and I can understand why so many designers go out of business. You need a very thick skin in this business which I don't have, so I don't know how long I'll be able to do it. It's heartbreaking when you release a design that you have spent hundreds of hours on and you love with all your heart to hear nothing but complaints or nasty comments. But those comments when people say they love it do make it worth the effort. And regardless of whether anyone bought my designs or not, I'd STILL do it, because I enjoy doing it.


  1. If it helps at all, I see designing as art and the materials used as what the designer feels is best for their artwork, same as a painter or other graphic artist. If I can't afford the specialty threads, I simply find a DMC color that I like for that design, which is a stitcher's perogative.

    Please try not to take the nasty comments too much to heart. I do know that is very hard to do.

  2. Thank you Missy. It's nice to know that some people do understand! I think it's wonderful when a stitcher changes up a project to suit their own needs!

  3. You're welcome. I know I am not alone in seeing designs as artwork. Many other stitchers see it that way as well.

    I ran an email discussion list a few years ago and it really bothered me every time someone said something negative about how I ran the list. I tried hard to please everyone on the list. Of course that was setting myself up to fail because no one can please everyone, there will always be that one person (or a couple people) that has nothing nice to say.

    I hope you are feeling better today!