Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Integrity of Handmade

Being a jewelry artisan who uses handmade nail polish in one of her lines, I try to keep a light foot planted in the indie polish world.  And while my decision to stay on the outskirts of the fold is calculated and purposeful, it still allows me to be cognizant of the problems going on so that I may know how it affects my own brand.

The recent debacle, or "PR nightmare" as my entrepreneurial spirit sees it, with Mentality polish highlights a struggle all us artisans will likely encounter at least once in our small business venture.  As Ashley is Polish Addicted points out in this new blog post highlighting the *cough* drama, handmade businesses are not exempt from customer service integrity more so than any other company or industry.  If anything, I argue being a small business has its advantages in addressing customer service problems (as well as its disadvantages).  In short, it means we can give individualized service that big box stores can't (but make us more vulnerable to customers with demanding and unrealistic expectations whose influence can be majorly impactful).  It is both a blessing and a struggle, an aspect that comes with the territory.

As an artisan and entrepreneur running a small handmade business, my passion to share handmade with the world is what drives me.  The integrity of handmade is a part of that gestalt.  I reiterate over and over to my customers that a major part of my brand is customer satisfaction.  I am unabashedly a perfectionist - if I am not happy with my product in production, that affects how I sell it... IF I sell it at all.  These pieces are either not sold or go into an Oopsie album with a full disclaimer.  While one of the beauties of handmade is its imperfections, another beauty is quality control.  My customers appreciate both sides of that coin: they indulge in the beauty of wabi-sabi, but also know to report to me any major defects in my pieces.  Every day I start with many intentions with my handmade business.  Handmade has spirit, has dignity, has integrity.  As artisans turned business owners, we must continue to spread that message and seek customers who appreciate it.

How Mentality is handling this whole base issue (*edit update: new info has come to light that indicates it may not be a base issue like Mentality is saying, that it's likely something that Mentality is doing.  WHICH makes this post that much more relevant!) not only baffles me, but blows my socks off with confusion.  As a business owner, I am obligated to fix wrongful situations.  As a handmade artisan, I am obligated to maintain quality control through testing and feedback.  As a human being, I am obligated to apologize and make things right in a moral and ethical fashion when my products do not live up to my guarantees.

With that being said, yes, Mentality, you have the right to handle situations as you please.  I respect that it is your company, which means it's your business how you make decisions and none of mine.  But know this: your customer service not only affects your customers and the future of your business, but it also affects MINE and those belonging to other handmade artisans.  We have many battles to overcome as handmade business owners (a long post for another day), and you just outed yourself as another bad apple for us to overcome.  Because, you see, we are such a small community that what one does affects us all.  As a fellow artisan stated, "When this type of thing happens it makes all handmade artisans a bit looking bad, and now we have to pay for what someone has done."  I'm here to share my passion, my calling... we already have enough barriers to overcome, let's not make each other another to overcome.

I've been crafting since I could hold a piece of paper and scissors.  So to my fellow handmade artisans know this: us veterans can smell whether you're a dedicated artisan wanting to share your craft with the world or if you're looking to make a quick buck.  We are watching.  We know.  So don't make me attach another eye roll to your name and throw me in a tearful rage of frustration with another reason to keep me up at night.

Be an inspiration, not a distraction.  Let your heart guide your journey, for handmade is a beautiful one from the soul.  And to those that keep spreading the message: keep on fighting.  This is a team effort and we've got your back.