August 26, 2008.
The big buzz words for any small crafter or mompreneur just starting out is hand made and/or hand painted. Since I never used the hand made term (cause at the time the whole craft movement was not so big) I am going to focus on hand painted. We (me) touted that word "hand painted" quite a bit when starting out. I can recall bragging about my hand painted tiles to anyone and everyone (and please if you were someone I talked to, I would ask that you forgive me for talking so darn much - I was just so excited).
There were quite a few of us out there way back in the day, almost six years ago, that were painting everything by hand. I have talked to many other mompreneurs, some new and some old that still do the ol' hand made/hand painting thing to this day. Heck, Etsy is all about "hand made" - and that is great. However I don't think it is such a big deal, if you humor me for a moment - I suggest you read on, just for arguments sake:
Hand Painted or Die
In 2002 I did not study the children's industry, I had no idea what was hot, who was hot or what color combination was the must have on all celebrity's baby register. Wendy Bellisimo who? I sat at home and painted tiles - I painted them for my friends, I painted them for my family and I painted them for my children. I was just happy making "art" for art sake. Mixing the paint, making it match a particular set of bedding - I was a stay-at-home Mom and I was raising my children. I was content doing it for pleasure, read was if you will.
If Picasso Can Do It
The beginning of 2003 brought me to a cross roads, was I to continue with this hobby or turn it into a business? I had many a conversation with my husband going over the pro's and the con's of starting a business. He was (and still is) my biggest supporter and helped me land my first big gig (err, small boutique). I went through all the proper channels, registering the name, getting a business license and a re-sellers permit (trust me on the last one, paying full price blows!).
I was convinced that no one would buy my tiles unless they were hand painted - in fact I was now an expert on my industry (in my own mind, work with me). I would troll the Internet at night, looking for channels and seeing who was doing what. My husband and I kept seeing the term "hand painted" listed when describing art by a competitor, or someone in my field. The hand painted canvases were just starting to over take the market, and all kinds of other artists were jumping in the mix. A few ceramic artists were also slowly joining, I was one of a few ceramic artist (as we were called). It was an exciting time, I am proud to be a part of such a talented and esteemed group of artists....but that was then.
Being a new Mom and not Super Woman I had to hire someone, as I have stated earlier. I hired a painter to help with my huge (22 stores, yes we were big time) stack of orders. Mind you I was doing the painting, doing the glazing, cooking the tiles, ribboning the tiles, packing the tiles, shipping the tiles, mailing and delivering the tiles......Crazy? yep! Sleep deprived? yep! Cranky? yep!
Me Love Some Painting
Here is a few fun facts if you are planning on hand painting:
- Hand painting is hard, back breaking and exhausting work. Don't even think of getting a manicure - I mean like EVER! You will have paint on your clothes, you will have paint on your nails and you will dream of brush strokes, paint brushes and colors mixing together in your sleep.
- What takes you 1 hour to paint will take someone else 5 minutes to mass produce, and almost everything can be mass produced. There are ways to mass produce almost every hand painted item out there - no don't roll your eyes, it is true. You may not be able to afford it but it can be done.
- The more you sell, the less you make. Sadly if you are the one painting and you have 45 orders that need to go out this week - and you paint one an hour. You are working more than a full time job. That does not even count everything else that goes into selling that painted item (refer to what I was said earlier in the post), that is 45 hours straight. I hope you are paying yourself like $25.00 an hour at least so you can make some money for your hard work. You are right? Right?
- Carpal Tunnel - not just for computer geeks any longer. That is right ladies - you can (and will get pains in your wrists) from painting. Also - you can't go get Joe from IT to fix it - nope, you will need to keep painting, because it will happen at Christmas time.....when you have 126 items to paint and ship by December 21st. Trust me - I do not lie, nor do I exaggerate.
- Lastly, and I know you won't believe me but no one cares if you hand paint it. I know, I know you want to scream at me that your customers care - they do not care. I learned from first time experience, as have countless other artists. They want a beautiful piece, they want to get a good price and they want it fast. Sorry Charlie - but it is your TALENT that sells the art not you ability to paint a canvas/tile/plate all by your ol' little self. We did not lose one sale - in fact our sales grew and grew - the product was better and the turn around time was faster.
By the end of 2003 and many messed up goopy tile mistakes I was done hand painting. I (me, not you) decided I wanted to create, I wanted to grow the business, I did not want to sit and paint all day. So I looked for ways to cut down on my painting and grow the business.
Manufacturing is the Way of the Future
To manufacture in house or to manufacture over seas, the choice is yours. It is the way to make money for your business. Somewhere down the road you will probably throw your paint covered hands up and say, "ENOUGH!". The old saying, "My way or the Highway".....I could have created that saying. I was stubborn, I had my feet in the ground, I had um no business degree. It took us a year to get past hand painting and "making tiles" the way we do now. We had many versions, we had many changes - we found the way to do it. I am not saying my way is the right way, I am not saying my way is the only way - but I am saying it worked.
No Way Jose
But, but, but you say - I don't want the riches you need. I don't want to be as successful as you. Um, hold on - I have to snort while I laugh. Success my dear friend is in the eye of the beholder, and I never said I was rich. I never said I was wildly successful - I just know that I would rather spend my waking hours creating, doing publicity, writing my blog(s) and spending time with my family. If you choose to paint for 10 hours a day - good for you! Go for it! Me, not so much! I am going to pick my kids up from school at 2:30 every day and call it a day.
While I am on my soap box I would like to state one more thing - time is money. You are worth something, your time is worth something - especially if you are taking valuable time away from your family. I don't mean to sound harsh, but "been there and done that, have the t-shirt" if you know what I mean? Ask yourself if you want to PAINT or you want to CREATE, two very different things. Not to say when starting out and testing the water you should not make your wares, but two, three, or SEVEN years down the road.....is it a hobby or is it a business? How have you changed? How have you grown? Have you polled your customers to find out why they buy from you and not Joe Blow from down the street? I have and let me tell ya - my customers never said, "Gee Jamie, your tiles are hand painted, I can see brush strokes". Not one.
The choice is yours.....what do you say? Still insist on hand painting?