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  Selling Your Work - Financial & Legal Considerations    

        There is a growing interest in people wanting to sell their temari work, so herein is some basic information to consider, before you dive in.  I warn that this info is presented in "tough love" style - if you are really bent on going into business you'll need to grapple honestly with these issues (and more). There are bases than have to be covered, and you really do need to be brutally honest with yourself. Please note that I am not an attorney and this cannot be construed as professional advice; I'm sharing what I've learned from my attorneys and legal & financial counselors.

        Temari is an art, and of course, artists are most entitled to sell their work. When, where and how depends on your level of experience and quality of work. We have see temari appear on places such as eBay, Etsy, etc., that could raise a few eyebrows, given that they are very much common beginner styles and show that the maker needs to spend study and practice time; they are priced at levels that more experienced stitchers would not even think of asking. It's fantastic when new people to the art are so enthusiastic, but it really is gut-check time when considering selling your work. Selling success requires not simply an inventory, but much more importantly the quality and finesse that comes with practice and experience.  This is not sarcasm - it's honesty.

        There is a difference between being invited to sell your work by someone that is in a position to evaluate its potential, versus thinking that just because you can make something that it's of marketable quality. No matter the technique, there is a difference between "hand-made" and "hand-crafted". There is a difference between "home-made" and "hand-made". Again, not sarcasm... venture into the retail art and craft business and you soon become quite humbled. You really need to and must be honest with yourself.  Brick and mortar shops usually have tight controls on quality; some shows and craft sales are juried (require pre-evaluation of your work) in order to keep the quality high. Online, well - generally anything goes (it can be quite interesting if not downright entertaining to see what some people believe will sell). Quality to the utmost level of perfection is everything. You not only represent yourself when you venture into retail, you represent your art. It's worthwhile inserting here that "teaching" would require these criteria as well. One needs a solid working foundation and experience to take on teaching new-comers to the art. You have a technical and ethical responsibility to demonstrate and pass on accurate, correct information - and that does not come in a matter of several months (or less) of working in a craft or art. It's upwards of several years or more (in anything, not just Temari). I have sat in disbelief at my computer more than once, reading emails that say "ok, I just love temari and am scheduled to teach it at (insert craft store, etc. here) - I need to learn what to do".  Uhhh.....

        Pricing is, of course, the first and "hottest" topic. There is no set rule or formula for how to price. Reality is that if you think you are going to earn a living (or  even fair) wage from selling your work (no matter what it is), or be reimbursed for what YOU think your time and effort are worth - think again. People that are able to support themselves solely from their art, whatever it may be, are few and far between. Additionally, it's not just about making the pieces you want to sell. Running a business - and if you are selling, no matter how large or small your sales numbers, you are running a business - sets up legal and financial obligations and tasks that must be met. It is work. Most buyers don't have an appreciation of what goes into a handcrafted piece, and therefore if you think you are going to price an item that took "x" hours to make at "$y.yy" dollars per hour, plus materials and related expenses, you're going to be greatly disappointed. It doesn't work that way.  Pricing needs to be done carefully - too high and you're laughed out of the market; too low and you can send the wrong message to people about the quality of your work. No matter how "nice" a piece may present, you also must consider your experience level when setting prices. I remember being told the story of a tourist in Japan watching a master artist throw a pot on the wheel, and it took about 15 minutes. The tourist looked at the sensei and said "you just took 15 minutes to make that, and it's in your shop for $500!" To which the master replied "No. It took fifteen minutes and 72 years". Think about it. Just remember, you're probably not going to get a price that you think you "deserve", if you are looking for what you think your effort is worth per hour, etc., on the amateur market.

        Pricing also depends on your market demographics. Some areas are much more "art and craft savvy" and can command higher prices. Others, not so much. The online opportunities also factor in, since if a piece is available online that is of higher quality, craftsmanship, etc. and at a lower price than what you want to charge, it will have an impact. For everyone it's a personal & business choice based on many factors. There are the intangible factors that you need to consider as well as the more tangible ones, such as time and expenses. You need to decide price-points not only based on your level of experience & quality of work (and one needs to be brutally honest with themselves), cost of materials, cost of packaging, cost of selling (such as listing fees & PayPal fees if selling online or consignment fees if local retail), but also things like cost of living in the area, and the local competitive market (don't forget to include the internet, unless you are in a heavily tourist-ed area and can break into the impulse-souvenir type market). If you are selling on-line, there will be packing & shipping costs added on to the purchase price. Pay attention to what is going on in the online venues - often they get flooded with many listings from less-experienced folks, who are certainly eager and enthusiastic but are chugging out piece after piece of common/traditional designs, sometimes of rather poor quality. There is nothing unique or special about many items that look pretty much alike, no matter how hard someone tries to make up fantastic-sounding item descriptions. Flooding the market does nothing to help anyone - and remember, it's not without cost. You will have to pay listing fees, and if your item(s) don't sell, that's money down the drain.

    If you are selling locally it can be doubly hard to price something that will have a commission deducted from your sale, since you want to compensate for your "loss" of the commission.... make sure you want to get into that before diving into the pool. It often takes multiple sales on a consignment basis just to break even let alone turn a profit. If you are selling on consignment at a brick-and-mortar store, there are things to remember:

✶ There will be a commission taken by the seller. They can range from 15% on up, and commissions in the range of 50% are not uncommon.

✶ There may also be additional fees for a credit card sale (retail merchants pay to accept credit cards and smaller ones will often pass that fee on to consignees).

✶ There may be a set annual, semi-annual or quarterly "cover charge", beyond the sales commission and fees. This is an "insurance policy" essentially, hedging that your items don't sell. The store will still have income, if they don't get a commission from a sale. It costs them to display your items and overhead the store, so they need guaranteed income from you.

✶ Find out what happens if an item does not sell in "x" amount of time. Some places will decrease your commission the longer your item does not move (you're taking space from other things that may be selling better).

✶Find out what kind of display prominence you will be given (and over the long term). An item sitting on the back shelf after a week or two is not going to be seen, and if it's not seen, it doesn't sell. Items that are not popular get moved out of traffic, which further decreases chance of sale.

✶ Find out how the shop pays. Don't expect a check every time one of your pieces sell. Most places pay quarterly, semi-annually or even annually. They are over-heading a store and need cash flow. Be sure you know what you are getting into, and get it in writing.

✶ Find out what protection is in place in case of fire, theft or other damage in the store. Items on consignment may or may not be covered, either in full or part.   Again, get it in writing.

✶ Find out if there is an exclusion clause. That means if you are selling "here", you can't have your items shown anywhere else within "x" miles. Or, perhaps you can't put them in a local show or market if you are selling in a store in the same town. Some shops or galleries prohibit you from selling online if you are selling in their store. Find out, get it in writing.

✶ Be cautious in "doing business with friends". Often it's a good way to lose a friend.

 And, as harsh as this is going to sound - be prepared to be disappointed. Truly. We all always feel so good when family, friends, even shop or gallery owners, say "you should sell these". It's hard to be truly objective about workmanship and quality with input from those around us, and even shop owners are taking a gamble in stocking things they "think" will be in demand. Don't have Mt. Everest expectations. I know this is damaging on the ego, but it's the reality of selling.

        Remember that if you are selling your work, no matter how or where - you are in business. There is no difference between someone selling 2 pieces a year versus someone running a full-time store. Your financial record keeping needs to meet basic requirements, and your profit is taxable income. You are also responsible for any local and state sales taxes.  Be sure to get proper financial advisement both when starting business and when filing tax returns.

         All of these considerations also apply at craft shows, flea markets, etc. Be cautious with the seasonal craft "shows" and "fairs" that come around holiday time  - first and foremost they are fund raisers for the sponsoring organization. You're paying something (table or booth rental) to them for overhead (and their profit), but they don't always care what happens after you contract for a table in terms of damage, theft or fire. Investigate carefully before you dive in. These events often draw shoppers that are looking for a bargain, rather than an actual piece of art. Shoppers may expect to "haggle" or try to bargain down from listed prices, so don't be caught off guard.  Be sure to find out what the local and state regulations are for sales taxes - that is your responsibility (not the sponsoring organization's), and very often these events draw agents that drop in and inspect, since many people either are not aware of sales tax requirements or are purposely trying to dodge them. You must also remember that inventory is "dead" revenue. It's fine if you sell it - but what if you don't? You are stuck with how many dozen pieces.... remember that breaking even, let alone making a profit, means clearing the show/fair fee, display costs (how you set up your table to make it attractive, which is a must if you are going to attract customers), and packaging (shoppers do expect the item to be attractively bagged, wrapped, etc., especially if purchasing gifts).  These are all costs that most people never think of. Your per-item prices need to be covering these expenses as well as the actual expense of making the temari.

        Offering custom work is another selling option.  Again, you need to know your market, your competition, etc., and you need to know yourself. If you are going to hope to snag custom orders from a show or fair, or even online, you need to be prepared to get them done in a reasonable turn-around time. People will not wait forever for a custom order to be fulfilled, especially if you are in the holiday season and they are being ordered for gifts. New crafters easily get into trouble collecting custom orders and then find out getting them done and delivered in the expected turn around time can be challenging. Also be aware that a custom customer can be picky - very picky - not only in terms of demanding "exactly this color" but also in workmanship. I will never forget one that kept insisting that the mari was not round, and returned it more times than I could count (I gave up and refunded her purchase price). I've also had a customer whose order went missing in the mail, and rather than being patient, in less than two weeks from order date was very impatient. I redid the order and resent it - she had a replacement in hand less than 1 month from the date of the original order, over a time frame that included major snowstorms, Christmas and New Year's, and they still were not happy. You need to be prepared to take these kinds of things in stride, and accept the basic rule is "the customer is right" (whether they are being reasonable or polite or not).

        Another major consideration (though really should be the first) is: where are you getting those designs from that you are stitching or offering as custom work, regardless of where or how you are selling them? The online "arts/crafts open your own store" sites and auction sites make it look so easy .... make a few layout choices, add your information and upload a few photos - and bingo. You're in business. It's not that easy. Do you have the right and legal permission to be using the design for profit-making that you are selling?  Many times a "real" shop will include copyright legalities and permission for use in their contract, since they too can become liable if things go wrong on that score. When it comes to the "do it yourself" online sites, it is your sole responsibility and done by honor. One needs to do their homework on this, perhaps even more diligently if one is engaging in business on-line, since it's open, easily found, and seen (and potentially reviewed/audited) by anyone.

        Understand what copyright protects - or doesn't. Copyright doesn't protect ideas; it protects how those ideas are presented or packaged (for example, two people can write an essay, each using the same words, but the essays will be different since each person uses (packages) those words in their own unique presentation. Each person's work is copyrighted).  Ideas themselves need to be patented, which is a whole different ball of wax. In the case of needlework, there are two things going on - one is the written information such as the instructions; the other is the piece of work itself - which has taken "words" (i.e. stitches, methods) and packaged them into a unique presentation - the finished piece. Stitches, methods etc. are common property. Someone's personal way of using them to create a workpiece is their own.

        Copyright extends to and protects against using someone else's designs for "mass production" - that is, making one or multiple copies of the design for public distribution &/or profit. That being said, there can be leeway, BUT it's the designer (that is, copyright holder of the work) that controls the leeway. Confusing the issue is that some "designs" are actually more public domain - for example the many older, traditional designs you see in older Japanese temari books, and a "design" that is really more a stitch. Many books will show the same designs, just in a different presentation that is unique to that book author. It's the presentation of the design that is copyright protected as opposed to the actual stitching process itself. This sort of thing often happens when a craft has been around a long time and parts of it have become so common that they are pervasive. On the other hand, newly developed designs in the field are very much under protection - and creators are (rightly so) pretty defensive of them. As more stitchers advance and become more experienced and begin creating their own design compositions, it is usually clearly noted in the publication source or instructions that it is an original composition. (It's also not uncommon that yes, people can have the same ideas and produce very, very similar designs. In that case, it would be the person that had formally registered or can prove copyright date (registration is not mandatory if you can prove an "affixed"execution date - the date the piece was first put on paper, worked in media, recorded, etc. - that would be deemed the legal owner, should a challenge or problem arise.).

        Making items from someone else's design to sell is an involved process, if it can be done at all. Under no circumstances can you directly remake or copy the design and sell it - even if you bought a kit, instructions, etc.. That's the same as copying someone else's words onto a paper and selling it as an article or book. At the very least, to "use" a design you must change out a percentage of the design with your own creative input (be aware that simply changing the colors or the threads being used does not constitute adequate change in any circumstances) - but this percentage is variable and still does not relieve the maker of legal obligations if being used for profit.  What this all means is that you cannot mass-produce items for profit without permission (at best) or a license (usually) from the designer.

        What constitutes "mass produced" is variable, and it again depends on the designer. Some people are very restrictive, in that no work, or just one piece, is allowed (you'll usually find this with say, a kit or instructions, or isolated class); other designers  allow limited use (usually implied if you have purchased a book of instructions/designs) of upwards of 10 to 12 pieces. Still others don't particularly seem to be upset about it. The bottom line is - you have to find out before you start. This is always done by asking permission from the owner - no ifs, ands, or butts about it. If you don't receive permission (in writing), then it's a done deal and you abandon that design as a profit-maker. Citing the designer/creator is always to be included when you do receive permission. However - simply citing the designer without asking permission is not acceptable or a substitute - you must contact and ask.

        Designers may offer you a license in return for royalties (a per-item or aggregate fee for the pieces you want to make to sell) - this often happens when it's a design from a class or kit, which is usually a smaller "purchase price" than say a book that generates more on-going royalties), or when someone is looking to produce a larger number of items of the design - it guards against loss of profit to the designer (as in someone buying a temari from you, rather than the kit or class or temari from the designer).  There is also personal protection in it - license requires you to cite the designer, rather than leaving people thinking you designed it yourself. Royalties are paid up-front to the designer, not when you sell the item so be aware of this on your cash flow and when pricing your items.

        Specifically in regard to TemariKai.com (since its birth), the policy has been to please respect the community from which so much of the website's content comes (all of the information on Temarikai.com is there through the efforts of volunteers willing contributing their time and expertise). The following statement appears on the Pattern Index:

    The creative efforts on these pages represent hours of dedication and work by many people. The online TalkTemari and TemariKai community is one that has been nurtured in a spirit of goodwill, mutual respect, trust and good faith since 1999, and we have shared this information for personal use and learning. You are welcome to download one copy of any pattern for personal, non-profit use. Before you use any information for any republication or reproduction, or any profit making purposes (including selling temari, teaching, or publishing), please respect the contributor with the common courtesy of  citing the source and asking their permission.  Email if you need contact information for a contributor. The Temarikai community thanks you for your respect and cooperation. It is the "please ask first and cite your source" policy that has kept  TK/TT community alive and thriving, without exception.

        These same issues hold for any information you prepare and use for marketing, display on-line listings, packaging, package inserts, fliers/handouts, etc. You must create your own presentation, not copy (or copy & paste) from other sources, citing them or not. This means composing your own write-ups, labeling, taking your own photos, etc. You cannot use someone else's composition of words for descriptions or listings, slogans, tag lines, etc. nor can you use someone else's photos, images or graphics.

        If you are in question about whether it's "ok" or not, there is always a fail-safe:  turn the situation around. If it was YOUR work - your design, instructions, writing, etc. that someone else was freely using (without asking, citation, and/or license)  for personal gain, how would you feel? Probably not too good. But, if someone grants you the courtesy of asking first, and giving you credit as the originator, it usually goes a long way. That's not to say that royalties may not still be involved, but you will have created a positive relationship and rapport, rather than upsetting and angering someone. In the end it very much comes down to ethics, and simply doing the right things. Respecting our fellow artisans and working together should be paramount.  I always also ask people to soul search this question: "What is more important to you: your art, or becoming "rich and famous" and/or important because of your art?"  If you are not acting in ethical ways, respecting your fellow crafters - nothing else matters.

Also check the general info page about Copyright on Temarikai.com and for links to copyright reference sites. 

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