I design fabrics and patterns for home quilters/sewers and have been doing this in the quilting industry for going on 25 years. I’ve worked in other design fields and also taught in a college graphic arts program. Obviously, I have enough of a following of friends, fans, and customers who must think that the way I do my job is satisfactory enough that they continue to follow me and buy the things I produce. I love what I do and these same people tell me, all the time, how it shows in my work. That means a lot to me. I want it to show in my work. Sometimes I think I want that to show even more than a professional level of design skills.
But tonight, as I’m writing this, the years I’ve spent as a professional, skilled and successful designer need to mean something and stand for something because I recently designed a project for our Table Toppers For All Seasons club that, although it’s a cute and simple design for autumn, has incensed a few people. Cute and simple designs shouldn’t have the ability to enrage people. But, in these times, it seems people have become so entitled - to EVERYthing - that they feel they should even tell me how to do my job. How to create MY designs. They should tell me - the experienced designer who spends his days (and nights) studying what is trending in design, not only for the industry in which I work, but for the world in which we live - how to do my job. And they’re telling me in a way that lets me know they subscribe to the willfully ignorant attitude that has become so prevalent in the last few years.
Table Toppers For All Seasons club members are sent a new design, each month, for a quilted table decoration. Sometimes, the project will include machine embroidery and those who have embroidery machines get the digitized stitching files, at no additional charge. Those with digital cutters get .svg cutting files for the appliques, at no additional charge. These projects are a “surprise”, meaning club members don’t know what they’re getting until it arrives. They signed up and paid for their memberships knowing this was one of the aspects of the club. They were not promised anything more specific than the fact that they would receive, over the course of the year, 4 table runners, 4 placemats and 4 centerpiece mats. They were also told they would be celebratory of the seasons and holidays but nothing any more specific than that. Oh - and they also get two bonus throw-sized quilt patterns I’ve designed at the 6th and 12th months! All of this for $59.99. Most individual patterns range from $8-12, at full retail price, so I don’t think I need to say much about the value of the club and they wouldn’t have joined if they didn’t also feel we were offering a good value.
Understandably, I guess, some members thought that since they got a Halloween design last month, they would get a Thanksgiving design this month, even though we have club members that are from other countries who don’t celebrate American Thanksgiving. Don’t even get me started on the topic of assumptions. They often go hand in hand with entitlements.
For October’s project, I wanted to design something for autumn that still had the “thankfulness” theme, but would be useful to more people and for a longer period than the time spent at Thanksgiving dinner. I have to be honest and say that I’ve never designed anything with the traditional turkey or cornucopia motifs for that reason, although I do like them and other traditional Thanksgiving themes.
I came up with what I thought was a cute, whimsically illustrated squirrel, holding up an acorn he found to store for the winter. I chose a trendy handwritten-style font to spell out “Give Thanks”. I think it simply expressed the sentiment of always being thankful for what we have - beyond Thanksgiving day or the Thanksgiving dinner table.
I seriously never gave a thought to the fact that there might be quilters out there who could ONLY accept a turkey or cornucopia appliquéd on their table runner for Thanksgiving, even though we never promised a table runner for Thanksgiving…or any other specific holiday.
I have to share an actual email that was sent to us by one of them, because I think you’ll understand why I’m feeling the way that I am right now, if you read it:
Dear Gary - I am very disappointed in the table runner design for November. I'm not sure how a squirrel fits into Thanksgiving. You could have appliquéd a turkey or a cornucopia and it would have qualified as a Thanksgiving table runner, but a squirrel? And a cartoon squirrel? What were you thinking? The lettering is also very shoddy on the pattern, the lines are not even straight. If I had thought this is the quality of work I would be receiving I would never have signed up for the table runner course. Do you believe this table runner is representative of Patrick Lose patterns? Here's what you can do: apologize to your customer base and send out a quality pattern representative of Thanksgiving. I would do this very, very soon.
Really? An ultimatum? And she chose to begin it with “Dear” Gary…? Bless her heart. I’m so tempted to divulge the name of the author of this mess, so that her thinking friends can tell her how inappropriate her approach is. It almost sounds like a ridiculous ransom note.
I really do understand that some people may not be into this style of design or maybe they just hate squirrels or don’t feel the need to be thankful for anything. But that doesn’t invalidate my work or this design. There are a few hundred club members and we’ve gotten 3 complaint emails. The other two were almost as insulting and demeaning, but none of them achieved their intended effect. Sure, my feelings were a little hurt that people would actually think I don’t know what I’m doing as a designer. But it’s laughable that anyone would think they could demand that I offer any sort of apology for my work. An artist’s work is sort of sacred to him. It’s like having someone insult your kid. I’m not going to try to fool anyone into thinking that I’ve loved everything I’ve ever designed or attempted to design, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to give these unthinking and bitter individuals the satisfaction of that. We simply revoked their memberships, so they won’t have to worry about receiving any more of my offensive designs.
Don't get me wrong, having a difference of opinion is no big deal. Artists and designers thrive in that arena by expressing theirs through their work. But, customer or not, you're never right when you choose to be rude.
We’ve actually gotten complaints from quilters who purchased my magazine, in the past, and didn’t want designs offered that they have to go through the “trouble” of making, if it can only be used for a short time. The whole premise behind my magazine “Quilting Celebrations” was to offer quilting projects that celebrated the seasons and holidays. They were not projects to be displayed year-round. But they still didn’t want to have anything in the magazine that they would have to spend the time to make, if it could only be displayed for a few days.
To all the authors of those emails and to all of you who feel the need to express that feeling: You know what? DON’T MAKE IT!! Nobody is forcing you! And don’t sign up for a club which offers surprise projects if you’re not willing to accept the projects, graciously, and without sending insulting, demeaning and demanding emails to us. Do you actually enjoy quilting and crafting? It doesn’t sound like it. You don't sound like true creative spirits - more like cranky people just needing something to do with their time because nobody wants them around. Why do you bother at all? Whatever is happening to people’s attitudes, in these times, is creeping into some of the facets of my life that I love the most and I’m simply not going to let that happen. If you don’t have anything nice to say, you can stay away from me and let me enjoy the work that I do and continue to create things for reasonable, fun-loving and good-hearted people who don’t have a chip on their shoulder or feel that they are entitled to whatever they choose to demand. It's disgusting.
If a turkey or a cornucopia is the only thing that will do it for you for Thanksgiving, you’re gonna need to find yourself another designer or take years of drawing classes and make your own patterns. And if you say you like what I do and buy into it, but then really think you’re going to coerce me into designing it your way, seek therapy.
I know it’s only the people who don’t need to read this who are reading it, so I want to take this opportunity to thank you for putting up with my rant. You’re most likely one of the many reasons that I really do love what I do and why it shows in the resulting products.