But is it fArt?

Most of you will have noticed that we have experienced many cuts to public funding in recent months, and that The Arts have fared poorly under the regretable coalitionTory clownshoes Government who are currently running the country. Still, complaining about this situation won’t get me very far in practical terms, (although it is immensely satisfying) and since I like to think of myself as an enterprising sort, I have been busy making a go of things as a self-employed artist since October 2010, and working hard on various projects to make an honest crust. This strategy is not making me hugely rich, but I am enjoying it so far, and am always looking for new, creative ways to turn the things which I do into hard cash. Any artist – or indeed any person of any kind who has bills and rent to pay who says otherwise is either lying or heavily sponsored.

Thus, as an additional income stream to my rather modest earnings, I decided there might be a way of monetising the powerz of the badgemaker. In this vein, I am delighted to announce that Prick Your Finger are now stocking my entire KNITSONIKTM range and all the vintage knitting magazine badges which I created when I first got the badgemaker. I am delighted about this; all the badges which are sold make a modest profit which is shared between me and the shop, and this is joyous, because the customer gets a fantastic badge, the shop gets a cut of the profit, and so do I. Everybody wins.

Here is the wonderful Colleen, sporting her new accessory, made by me and stocked by PYF. I feel very happy/honoured/supported by the fact that Colleen was the first buyer of Felix Badges Inc. Thank You, Colleen!

But I wondered if there might be a place closer to home – maybe in the town I love so much – where I could also have a wee presence; an area in the corner of someone’s shop where I could sell nice little packets of one-off, Ltd. edition quirky badges. Little sets, perhaps, like this one.

It’s nice, no?

So I racked my brains and decided that But is it Art? might be a good place to approach re: a deal. I earnestly set about making some sets to take into town with me, I printed labels, I cut them out, I pinned all the badges into their little bags, I stapled the bags together, and then I set off with my sample goods and my best Felix smile. This is the website of But is it Art?.

For context, But is it Art? is a sort of emporium of the quirky. We do not have so many shops stocking lovely, handmade items in Reading, but this shop does at least evidence some locally-minded creativity. In a sort of pastiche/rip-off of The Caravan Gallery, they have postcards showcasing the hidden sides of Reading which have either been locally commissioned or produced inhouse, and they have nice vintagey cupcake-themed lipbalms; witty stationery; pretty, vintage wrapping paper inspired by the Ladybird books etc. They do, admittedly, stock wrapping paper emblazoned with the C word and a range of foolish/profane giftcards, but some of their things are cute and I thought that perhaps since they are dealing with many items with a similar price-point to my badges, it would not be ridiculous to assume that they might sell them there. I left a packet of badges and a note in the store for the Manager to see, and said I would call back after a few days once they had had a chance to look at the badges and consider my proposal.

It was a simple question; “would you like to stock my badges, and if so, how would you expect us to cut the profits?” and I was neither crestfallen or disappointed when I called by yesterday and learnt that – having considered it – they did not think the badges were quite right for the shop.

I was, however, incensed to discover halfway home that while the sample pack had been sitting in the store waiting for the manager’s attention, someone had vandalised it. I didn’t mind the fact that my badges had been roughly handled, it was the text addition to one of the badges which really got my goat:

Let’s look closer.

Not only is this badge (one off, ltd. edition, unrepeatable) now completely un-saleable; (unless I can find a creative way of “adding value” through the process of this ridiculous tale) it also now resembles a kind of insult to KNITTERS, to me, and – more importantly, on a symbolic level – TO SMALL PRODUCERS.

I am not a delicate little snowflake who is sad because my precious badge was defaced; what I object to is the total lack of respect and the in-your-face-rudeness implicit in the vandalising gesture which I – as an individual producer and maker – have been shown in this interchange. I had a perfectly good business proposal to make, even though it was a very modest one.

The bottom line is:

If I was DELL or McDonald’s or HITACHI or TESCOs, nobody would crap on me or the things that I make, and I’m sorry to say it, but But is it Art? your response to my proposal does ammount to crapping on me and I am most displeased about it.

So remember, next time you think it would be good to support a local business in Reading, go to Jackson’s or The Farmer’s Market where the labour involved in making things is recognised, where customers are treated with civility and respect, and where nobody will deface your stuff with the word shitter.

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