It's 5.07am and I'm up with insomnia, as is often the case. There are words stuck in my head that I need to make sense of else sleep won't happen. Regular readers here know that I'm prone to writing strongly worded posts like my last one, whether they be a deliberate reality check or a desperate need for honesty. It's part of my healing process if you like, my need to keep myself sane in a world that often feels so alien and constructed. I just wish I had the energy to write them more often.
Thank you for your support and your wonderful comments and messages. Getting all those words out onto screen left me worn out, in a good way, and a little overwhelmed, and my usual reaction is to coil away from the spotlight. There are however many unanswered questions, which is par for the course when you're trying to untangle feelings. Your comments provided lots of food for thought and my brain hasn't stopped churning since. One thing that we all need to talk more about is privilege - the differences in our background, circumstance and support (financial or otherwise). It's a very tricky subject, but it doesn't go away by pretending it's not there.
For those of us in the industry the low wages are not news. I suspect there are a few key earners, but many of the people I know are putting in a daft amount of hours to earn a relative pittance. Many continue despite this because they aren't sole earners or have financial support, and are able to persue their creative dreams. Others continue to do it because they can work an irregular schedule around family, or because life and health means a regular job is no longer an option.
I'm still not sure though why it's assumed that we're earning a lot more than we are. It's not as simple as throwing out a PDF and flogging hundreds of them (I'll remind you of my post about the true cost of a pattern) yet you'll still hear remarks along those lines. Ideas and education never seem to be as valued as tangible objects and that's something quite deeply rooted, but I don't think that's the sole reason.
A couple of comments really got me thinking... comments along the lines of "I had no idea about the reality of designers - all I ever see are pictures of pretty handknits" and "so many designers seem more concerned with image". And yup, it bought me back to that wall of pretend again.
Strong images sell, that we all know. They don't have to be pretty, but it helps. And everyone loves nice yarn, right, and we all want to see it in our IG feed? Marketing would have us believe that unless we share the pretty all the time and have everyone cooing, we won't sell our work. Admittedly, the fact that pretty sells more is something I'll never get my head round, but there it is.
And I can't help feeling that if designers really want to change the industry from the ground up and make a point of how difficult it can be financially, then they need to acknowledge that lifestyle marketing isn't helping. In the efforts to make something look good and attract followers (and hopefully in turn customers), the impression that's being given out is that they too live that lifestyle, and I know that the reality for most is very different. I'm no doubt over simplifying here (you got the sleep deprived bit, yes?) but if we want to bust the myth, then we've got to start telling a truer story.
And the notion that stopped me going back to sleep in the wee hours was this: what would happen if designers, like review bloggers, were transparent about sponsorship? What if designers started to let their customers know that the expensive yarn they see in the photos (Instagram, blogs, as well as Ravelry and patterns) has been kindly provided by the yarn company? More and more bloggers are adding disclaimers to their review posts in the interests of transparency. And I like it. As designers we generally endorse yarn brands, and I think it would be mighty refreshing if more of us took the same approach.
I'll leave you with that idea; it seemed quite a revelation at 3am. Meanwhile, I'm going to make another cup of tea and knit for a while before sending out the final instalment of the MKAL.
eta/ I've heard this afternoon that some designers do state on their patterns that yarn is provided by Xx company, and others are upfront and openly talk about collaborations which can only be a good thing. Yarn sponsorship doesn't just apply to patterns, though - what about blog posts and reviews? Instagram and social media? The law changed regarding transparency for book/product reviewers but how well does that apply to our field?
eta2/ I've had folk ask what I'm trying to achieve with these posts, and honestly, what I'm trying to do is work out where I fit within the industry, and how I feel about so many practices (including my own). Blogging can be just as organic and spontaneous as it can be scripted and scheduled. There doesn't have to be a purpose. And if discussion comes from this then surely that is a pretty worthwhile achievement in itself?
Yes, I took this post down for a while. As I said, I don't deal well with the spotlight and two honest and questioning posts in one week was more than my vulnerability meter could handle. I've made minor edits and reposted by request.