I’ve received SO much mail and even phone calls about my post a few days ago alluding to the Interweave Knits contract that I chose not to sign.
Most of the mail was from other designers who have been – well – afraid to raise their voices about this because they don’t want to be perceived as ‘trouble makers’ by the powers that be – but agree that they don’t like the way the rules are being drawn out.
Every designer who has written to me in the past weeks has agreed with my position to not sign the contract as it stands, and I’m saddened that so many of them choose not to make their voice heard. It’s dreadful to give away so much power – the power of our voice – by not using it. Or weakening it by using it anonymously.
All we have as designers is our intelligence; this manifests itself as design savvy, knitting skill and marketing ability. WE OWN THE MEANS TO OUR PRODUCTION, but we give it away through fear.
- Design Savvy – This is self-explanatory. We have different skills and talents with yarn, and we create sweaters and patterns based on individual inspirations.
- Skill – You don’t have to knit or crochet to be a knit/crochet designer, but it’s hard to be a good one without those skills.
You don’t have to do calisthenics with yarn to create a wonderful design, but it does help to have a large bag of tricks to draw from when trying to solve certain problems in a design.
- Marketing Ability – Perhaps the most maligned and misunderstood of our skill set, this can be the most important tool we have, at least if we want to earn a living doing this.
It’s just too damned easy to say, “Oh, I can’t market myself!” You must.
Even if your way of doing that is finding someone who can market you, you MUST do something to own this aspect of your career.
Authors are expected to market their own books now; we need to do this, too.
It’s been long implied that there’s something immodest or self-aggrandizing about putting ourselves forward. But if we don’t do so, we’re consistently putting ourselves in a position to be taken advantage of by the market in general, and industry publications specifically. This may be because knit/crochet design is a career path chosen by more women than men – who knows?
Just about every magazine and editor I’ve dealt with is fair, and tries to be supportive and helpful of designers. But they are running a business. They are trying to earn as much money off of our work as they can, which is fair – god’s speed to them!
Why it’s considered unseemly for us as designers to do the same – with our own hard work – is beyond me, but there it is.
Self Defeat from Within
I’ve read some designers criticize others for aggressive marketing. There’s a certain self-righteous, judgemental quality to this type of criticism, which has been used to keep folks down, to reign in mavericks.
This attitude’s been found throughout history, especially directed to “uppity” folks who don’t know their place and aren’t part of the power elite (women, minorities, the poor.)
It’s especially destructive when it comes from within a group we’d like to believe would be most supportive.
We need to support each other so that we can stand up and say to publishers;
“My work is worth $X, I own the rights to it, and if you pay me you can publish it in your magazine ONE TIME.
If you want to use if after that, you’ll have to re-negotiate with me and pay me what it’s worth!”
I guess what I’m trying to say is that if we don’t stand together, we are our own worse enemy.
If we refuse to tell an editor how we feel about this because we’re afraid we’ll be black-balled, then we are asking others to stand up for us.
And I do NOT think will happen, I had a pleasant, private conversation on the phone with IK last week regarding my previous blog post, and I don’t anticipate any negative backlash because of it.
If you are a designer and are not speaking out because you believe those who speak out will lose design opportunities, as yourself this:
Are you comfortable taking advantage of those same opportunities you believe someone has lost because they were vocal?
Are you able to see that by not visibly standing with those of us who are seeking a fair deal for ALL designers, you may be weakening your own position?
We are as strong as we choose to be.
A Note About AKD
I’ve been hesitant to join the AKD (Association of Knitwear Designers) I’d be VERY interested in hearing from AKD members about what they perceive as the benefits of membership, and whether the membership is comfortable confronting some of these financial issues affecting designers. My earlier feeling was that they weren’t – but if that’s changing or if I was mistaken, I’d love to know about it (and join!)
Wouldn’t it be great to have a Guild – a Union – that would help us find group health insurance, stand up for member designers who have had their copyright infringed upon, and create a designer and teacher friendly basic contract that we could use as a benchmark for negotiating our own contracts? Or even help to develop a framework to deal with online rights to our published patterns?
Perhaps we’re too diverse a group, but I don’t think so. We’re no more diverse than Costume & Set Designers, and I’m a (currently inactive) member of USA 629.
Here’s one example of why we need a Union for Knit/Crochet Designers & Teachers:
Earlier this year I was asked to teach at a venue which onl
y wanted to pay a portion of my airfare, didn’t want to pay for a private room (I would have to share a room, AND teach a full class load), and expected up to 9 hours of ‘free face time’ where I would interact with all of the workshop participants with no compensation (and very little time to rest.)
I’m happy to give a nice amount of time to a group, but a girl’s gotta rest if she’s going to teach (and it’s precious difficult to rest with a roommate – at least it is for me…)
When I demurred, I was told by the organizers, “Well, X and Y and Z (big name knit teachers) are all coming to teach, they’re okay with the pay..!”
I found myself thinking, “I don’t know what X, Y & Z’s situations are, but this is a bad deal whereby the organizers are well paid and the instructors are treated like livestock.”
Somehow I don’t think X, Y and Z would be happy that their names were being used to justify the wretched compensation and travel reimbursement being offered.
And THAT is what a union is for. To prevent us from being played against each other, to make it easier for us to stand up with – and for – each other.
Remember that negative comments about individual publishers on my blog reflect back onto me.