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Vlatro

Proposal: Maille Merchant's Guild.

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I realize "Guild" may be the wrong word.

Many people here (my self included) make more money in our day jobs than we could ever make as full time maillers. However, aside from being a fun hobby, the last few years have proven to me that this craft is also a viable source of secondary income.

However, in a part-time capacity, a problem arises. It's increasingly difficult to separate your self as a serious professional from the many amateur craftsmen. Presenting your self professionally requires time and commitment to more than the craft, but the actual business of maille. By pooling some resources that aid in the day-to-day operation of the business, part-time professionals can focus more on the actual craft and less on the business. That would be the overall objective of my proposal.

Through collaboration, we can provide an ample tool kit of materials for business promotion, book keeping, administration, and the various other facets of business.

The proposed "tool kit" would include:

•Legal forms

•Book keeping resources (spreadsheets and databases)

•Web Graphics

•Business Card Templates

•Brochures

•Basic Tutorials

•A standard of business ethics

•Talking points and sales techniques

People who own a franchise business are familiar with this concept. These kits are vital as it allows newcomers to the industry to jump right in with every thing they need to get the business rolling. As my proposal is purely a volunteer effort, there would be no cost and all materials would be held in the public domain.

As an additional benefit, existing businesses would be able to compare their materials with those in common use within the industry. It would allow them to differentiate themselves from many of their competitors, while seeing what techniques are really effective.

Samples:

Generic Business Card (1-up, 1 Sided, Bleed, 2 color, 400 dpi) Full Size Link

preview.jpg

Simple Order/Invoice Spreadsheet

Download Here

Chain Bra Sizing Guide for "M" pattern European weaves. Download Full Size Here

thumb_0001.png

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Vlatro,

It seems to me that you more proposing a maille business development group then a guild of some kind. I'm not adverse to either suggestion...

Can you flesh out your idea some more?

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A mailler's guild has been suggested about once a month for the last 8 years, about half of which actually want a guild, and half of which just think "guild" is the word for what they're thinking of. Several groups of people have tried to get it off the ground, all have failed. Those that failed the least, gave up the soonest :)

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It would be nice to get some kind of group agreement on levels of craftsmanship and (gulp) pricing. I am of the mind that supporting maillers who charge well (as long as quality is high) for their work helps EVERYONE, but I know this is a contentious issue.

I think the way a person markets themselves is heavily dependent on what they are making, also. The person who wants to sell at shows vs. someone selling to their classmates, vs. someone selling through galleries -- all of these require different approaches.

It's a good idea, but HUGE in scope.

And laws do vary considerably from region to region. Even pricing standards vary geographically -- so I shoot myself in the foot....

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Griffin de Stockport:

I can reasonably agree with most of your points in regard to full scale businesses. You must concede however that most of us here are not full scaled businesses, but hobbyists trying to break even or turn a modest profit in a part time endeavor. As you can see from what I've posted, I'm not proposing some package that will miraculously make everyone a millionaire, but each of those items took some times to make, were necessary for the projects I was working on at the time, and took away time from my actual craft. (except the business card, that was a 3min photshop job done as a half-assed example). As it stands, most of us have at one point or another required something similar to what was posted. Currently our only option is to make it our selves. That's hundreds of people spending many hours each to cover the same ground.

I absolutely agree, copy and paste marketing materials are a joke for any serious entrepreneur. If this craft is your primary function, such things should not even be considered. However if you operate on a smaller scale (local craft shows, modest web sites etc.) the time it takes to present your product is typically equal to or greater than the time and effort put into actually making your product.

More importantly, it gives us an idea of what others are doing. When doing your own design and marketing, it's very helpful to see a variety of samples from different businesses.

On the point of legal forms, I actually considered that and can concede that putting together a full list of Country, state / province, county, and city required documents is a monumental project in and of its self. At the rate laws change, it would be damn near impossible. However, many of the processes (like filing a DBA for example) are nearly universal. There are a few catches for each area that may require you to read another paragraph and sign it, but at their core the idea is nearly identical. Again I should have been more explicit in stating it would not be the actual form, but rather a synopsis of the legal forms commonly required vendors licensing, consignment contracts and the like.

As for the standard of ethics, I hold my ground on that one. I've met quite a few maillers and have seen a vastly different ethical approach in their business practices. Most of it is common sense stuff, but a reminder may be in order. As for your "Who is to determine it" question, I would consider it a matter of consensus in the community. This is just a "Please Read" letter for people who may know how to make chain maille, but have never operated a business before. Let me give you one example. My girlfriend had been hassling me for months to make her a chain bikini top. I was very busy with my job and had a few other maille projects I was committed to at the time, but there was an upcoming Renaissance fair and she wanted to have one in time for that. She went to another local mailler who I've known for several years. He was very professional with the measurement, fitting and delivered what I must admit was a superior piece in less time than I could have done it. He was obviously experienced. What we didn't count on were the covertly taken pictures she had not consented to. He had many pictures of customers there, and she'd have gladly posed for some if asked. But when she appeared as a model on his site (the pictures were not revealing and quite harmless) she was upset. It is just a matter of asking permission, a common courtesy for your clients. Things like that seem harmless but create a negative impression of the industry as a whole. Every other industry, as I'm sure you're aware has a white-paper of some sort, why not us?

As for Sales Techniques... Consider that not everyone involved in the craft has retail or marketing experience. In fact those questions seem to take up half this discussion board. Anything that pressing may be of some importance. I've worked for years in business to business marketing, but dealing with individual customers is a different beast all together. I've learned to take a different approach. When selling $600,000 worth of merchandise to a client who's negotiating the final cost "Kiss my ass" is a legitimate response to a low bid. Try the same power play with some kid at a craft booth and you lose the sale.

On the issue of a price consensus, I don't see that ever happening. I calculate items based on material costs and labor, but there is an artistic value to be considered as well, and that depends on the quality of the piece and the artist. Local markets vary drastically. For example, I do very little in Renaissance Faire / SCA business. 90% of my market resides in nightclubs. I go after them because fewer maille artisans have penetrated that market. That leaves me with fewer competitors and higher margins. A good estimate of general market values would be helpful, but require literally thousands of tracked cases in various markets.

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It would be nice to get some kind of group agreement on levels of craftsmanship and (gulp) pricing. I am of the mind that supporting maillers who charge well (as long as quality is high) for their work helps EVERYONE, but I know this is a contentious issue.

I agree, especially to something amongst those of us who do this full time. It could provide certain standards of practices and ethics and provide a forum for us to communicate and bounce ideas back and forth. Pricing is definitely a prickly issue, but an open forum of thought could help what is right now a market of wildly different prices and quality. I am of the mind that business is done best in a cooperative manner, and communication is the best way to facilitate that.:beer:

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I am lucky enough to make armor and weapons as a full time business. I agree with some of what everyone has said so far. Everyone has raised good points, which actually makes getting something like this started even harder. Maybe creating a thread where we not only exchange ideas, recommendations, advice, and experiences related to our businesses... but also trade services might be good. I know that there are quite a few artists on this forum, skilled not only in maille but graphic design, painting, etc. And there are those of us who have been relatively successful in marketing our goods, who could offer their knowledge. The thing is, I have seen this sort of thing already happen on this forum between individuals. While Vlatro has a great idea, I don't know if it is an absolute necessity in this particular community. And please understand Vlatro, I DO think it is a great idea.

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Yes, I like the direction this is going. Instead of having our communication be guarded or competitive, I think we would all do well to share more ideas. I had someone PM me about strategies for success/getting into galleries. I am by no means burning up the success spectrum, but I do well enough for what I'm aiming for, and part of that is that I haven't approached this in some of the standard ways.

Example: I talk to a lot of artists in different media. Painters, sculptors, etc. I've traded my work for theirs (and have AMAZING original work to show for it) and when they get my work and see what they have, they are even more excited about it. I've had introductions to other business opportunities that sort of fell out of the sky in my view, but when I think about it, it's really been because of that cooperative, mutually appreciative attitude. That approach has also allowed me to meet someone who makes beautiful pendants (I'm all about the chain, I haven't the faintest idea of what to do with stones/beads), and we are working on some collaborative ideas. She's much more assertive in getting press attention and pursuing competitions than I ever would be, and that helps me. On the flip side, I introduced her to a gallery. Win/win.

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It would be nice to get some kind of group agreement on levels of craftsmanship and (gulp) pricing.
Setting prices is not going to work. Cartel might be too strong a word but there are several problems with attempting to set prices (or even a standard of prices).

1: Some cartels have worked in the past. Others have not. The coffee cartel (I don't remember the official name) attempted to set coffee prices by restricting the supply. Coffee is an easy crop to start and is done by the impoverished farmer since it requires a lot of labor and has little payoff. Once the coffee cartel started to restrict it's supply the price of coffee went up for a short period of time. Other desperate farmers switched to growing coffee since it provide more return for invested time and effort. The price of coffee feel due to this increase in supply.

Cartels only work when the business is a high capitol start-up or if there are trade secrets. Coffee is neither. Nor is mail. If you try to set higher prices on jewelry all of the other artists will set their prices below the set price.

2: Setting prices is a slippery slope that can end up with you in prison. Not that it will likely happen but it could happen IF the price setting worked and caught the attention of the federal government. The laws might be different in Canadia but that's how it is in the USA.

What you could do in order to bypass the two above problems is to setup a multi-state/country maille company instead of a guild. You can have company benefits, a single design for a business card, sales and marketing seminars, and you can legally set prices at where ever you want.

I don't think a guild or otherwise would work but it might be worth a try.

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******

What you could do in order to bypass the two above problems is to setup a multi-state/country maille company instead of a guild. You can have company benefits, a single design for a business card, sales and marketing seminars, and you can legally set prices at where ever you want. *******

There already is such a company, It's based in India (where such things are not only legal, they are subsadized). Mail is only a minor sideline (as it also is for Whiting and Davis) so it is less troubled by fluctuations in any one market. It has sales agents (or captive retailers depending on local buisness codes) in at least 6 countries that I know of and, By using a fairly high level of automation, keeps the price of riveted mail in North America so low that no startup compeditor has a chance. If they ever get the notion that the butted mail market might be large enough to be interesting, there won't be much that anyone can do to stop them.

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Who do you think makes all that c**p they sell at Walmart/Kmart/Target/Penny's/.... If it isn't India (or their little brothers in Pakistan), it's a similar conglomeratin in China. Point being, any market large and stable enough to support a Guild/Trade Association/ Mother Company is large enough to draw the attention of one of the multinational marketing companies.

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Maille is art. That is how it's sold amongst this proposed group of merchants. Pieces vary in design and function based on the specifics of an order. No matter how organized the artisans or manufacturers, neither are in direct competition.

Comparing hand-made maille clothing for example, to machine made (out-of-India) maille is like comparing a Hane's T-Shirt to a tailored suit. Yes, they serve the same function (to cover a torso in cloth), and the mass produced product is significantly cheaper. To spite this, the sale of one doesn't really cut into the profits of another.

The obstacle with maillecraft is educating the customer on the difference in quality, function, style and fit. It is in areas such as this that a unified front from all maille artisans would benefit the entire community. Shared marketing is not the same as a "Cartel". Look at the agricultural marketers. Got Milk? It wasn't a single dairy that paid for a multi-national marketing campaign, but rather an organized effort between competing businesses to educate the public and get them enthused about the industry in a mutually beneficial endeavor.

On the issue of prices... Maille is tied to the metals market, so cost fluctuates every day, as does value. But ultimately the customer is paying for craftsmanship and your unique vision of what the finished piece should look like, and with armor, your assurance that it will operate within specification. You aren't selling metal and labor, your selling your good name, attached to a unique piece of art. Your sale price simply covers the costs of doing business. Similarly, someone painting a house would be paid for the paint and labor. Commissioning a portrait on the other hand, you cover the time and expenses, but are paying for an intangible value in the form of art. Some people paint portraits, others paint houses. So it is with maille. You'll never get a consistent price between two merchants because what they are selling has a value gauged by factors beyond actual production cost.

However, a cooperative evaluation of common mark-ups is useful. While it may not accurately tell you if you are over or under charging, it is a great way to estimate your prospective profits on specific types of craft. Jewelry for instance has the greatest potential for profit, as it requires fewer materials and less labor than a chain suit that sells for an equal price. But knowing those specific margins can help guide you to the portion of the market with greatest demand. Likewise, it's very helpful in determining things like "Which weave sells better in this ring size" or "Is it easier to sell 1 Gold chain at $350, or 5 Silver chains for the same total price". There's a huge difference between standardizing prices and taking a market census.

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e evaluation of common mark-ups is useful. While it may not accurately tell you if you are over or under charging, it is a great way to estimate your prospective profits on specific types of craft. Jewelry for instance has the greatest potential for profit, as it requires fewer materials and less labor than a chain suit that sells for an equal price. But knowing those specific margins can help guide you to the portion of the market with greatest demand. Likewise, it's very helpful in determining things like "Which weave sells better in this ring size" or "Is it easier to sell 1 Gold chain at $350, or 5 Silver chains for the same total price". There's a huge difference between standardizing prices and taking a market census.

Yes, this is more of what I had in mind rather than some sort of dictatorial entity. A guide. One of the most common things people run into once they realize they are addicted to this and that they CAN sell it, and in a way NEED to sell it to clear out their cabinets and afford more metal is "How do I price it????" Having a more standardized, agreed upon guideline would be helpful for everyone, I think. Guideline. Not RULE.

I won't ever be a mass producer -- not my style or personality, but I do like to make the occasional finicky bit of jewelry that I won't sell for the $20 or $30 of silver in it because I spent 35-40 hours figuring it out and putting it together. THAT'S more the discussion I'd like to be having.

And decent closures. Seeing people charge a fortune for snaggly, hair eatting closures makes me want to cry.

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I do mass-produce - it takes me about an hour to do 2 HP4 bracelets - but I also do lots of custom work too of course, and I definitely think this is a doable idea for either case. I'm going on vacation on sunday so I can't contribute to the discussion beyond then, but I'm certainly interested in something like this.

We could establish a set of criteria that could help describe certain quality aspects (such as closures) and inform customers of what to look for in a well-made piece. I don't know if such a thing would work but it looks to be worth a try :)

Given that there are so many different areas of maille, it may also be useful to identify and establish to the public the different types of artisans that make maille. i.e, jewelers, armorers, clothiers, sculptors, etc...

I also agree Jessica, in that a set of hard and fast rules probably isn't the best way to go. I'm not interested in being told how to run my business and sell my pieces, nor to I want to tell others the same. That path seems to eventually lead to the hostile, predatory type of business that we want to avoid.

I think as long as things are kept in the spirit of cooperation and communication we can all benefit. We can impose a set of standards and ethics amongst co-op members, but we'd need to be wary of rules or other written decrees. The problem with them is their "slippery slope" nature. Once you start imposing rules on one thing, ethically you must sooner or later look at everything, and eventually a loose co-op becomes a set of micro-managed and imposing regulations. I'm not saying that this would happen, but it could.

I'm all for something that will help us communicate on a business level, and inform customers of what quality looks like in maille art.

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The obstacle with maillecraft is educating the customer on the difference in quality, function, style and fit.

Tough sell. Good luck!

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This seems like a good idea. I don't sell maille at all currently, but mainly because I do not have the time or that easy of a market. Maybe making some sort of a website, online gallery for maille. Instead of each person that does it as a part time thing, just have one site where you submit the picture and the price you want for it and the info, and sell it through that site. Almost like an Ebay or Craigslist for chainmaille. That would be more helpful to me atleast, as I am not interested in it enough to make a website or sell at shows, but if something like that was there, I would. Also, maybe make agreements to sell on commission basically with some of the people that already have booths at faires? Like 10% or something of the price to the person running the booth, and we just send pieces. More inventory for them, little more money for them, and we get to sell without having to make a huge amount and get a booth and all. Its not that I'm trying to be lazy in this, it's just that I don't have the time or interest to do all this on my own. This may not be exactly what you had in mind, but might be a side benefit, as you could also have a approximate market value just from looking at various sales on the site and have atleast a page that people read before posting items there for the ethics part of it. Not saying this would limit and take over all maille business, but it would help people that are in it for a self sustaining hobby.

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Strangely enough, the worst possible thing you could do for every mailler, is organize.

Two contributing factors to competition:

1 - Your customer's ability to shop around,

2 - Your ability to find customers.

With respect to organizing, the two work in opposite directions. #1 is bad, but the tradeoff is the benefit of #2.

However...

#2 should never be limited, as almost no one here has a shop. You are all single artists who could quite easily fill their entire day with maille orders, just on word of mouth. Every mailler who has two cents of business sense and has been around for more than a couple years demonstrates this.

#1 is the killer. As soon as you teach your customers to shop around, and they kinda get the picture that you're not the only one out there.. bye bye goes the crazy premium you can charge, and off customers all go to the lowest bidder. Lowest bidder will be people who don't care much about business, and are playing around in highschool as a hobby, just looking to cover their materials.

As soon as customers see hey, this is a weave that is commonly known, there are plenty of people that can make it, and I can pick and choose from them.. you're in trouble.

And again, your balancing benefit, is not a benefit.

Consider Ebay for example. Put something on Ebay, it reaches everyone in the world. But then, you have almost no ability to target those that might overpay, because they can clearly see competing auctions. On Ebay, the balance isn't as bad as with maille, it's probably worthwhile (especially because you might find that one person that wants *that specific* item, and is willing to pay a premium.. chances of finding that person with a smaller market, much harder).

You want uneducated buyers. I would seriously doubt that any mailler has customers that say "Oh, I can get that cheaper elsewhere." Maybe armor makers. Everyone else makes a personal value judgment, rather than a market judgment. That allows you to target the customers with the highest personal value, and get them to pay something close to it.

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This seems like a good idea. I don't sell maille at all currently, but mainly because I do not have the time or that easy of a market. Maybe making some sort of a website, online gallery for maille. Instead of each person that does it as a part time thing, just have one site where you submit the picture and the price you want for it and the info, and sell it through that site.

http://maillemarket.com/

We need to identify what we want to accomplish, what we can do practically, what is ethical, and what is (un)necessary. A good place to start is to find out who is interested and what are their motivations.

For those interested, we need to know: (please add on anything you feel relevant)

-Your business name and website, and the nature of the business you do.

Luminosity Fashions (luminosityfashions.com, luminosityfashions.etsy.com)

I sell jump rings, findings and jewelry to the high-end market. The ring side is primarily done via web, and most of my jewelry is sold on a consignment basis in retail stores.

-If you are part time or full time

full time

-What you look to gain from a cooperative agreement of peers

The chainmaille market is still very small and largely unrecognized. Most people I meet have never seen maille before, aside from what they see in museums, festivals and movies. The communication made possible by a co op can increase public awareness of the art, bringing more business to everyone. Increased awareness can also expand appreciation of quality, making all my effort worthwhile:D Ultimately I want it to bring me more business, and do it in a constructive and beneficial way.

-What you hope a co op will achieve

-In essence, to facilitate meaningful communication between businesses in an open and friendly environment. In practice, it will become a recognizable signal that participating businesses can be trusted, and held to a certain set of standards.

In the internet age where customers can go from one store to the next with a mouse click, one's peers are highly influential. This is word of mouth advertising to an exponential degree. Who hasn't referred a customer to someone else in the same business, because they can't offer what the customer wants? I'd like to be able to send that business to someone I know will take care of them. This whole thing depends on trust of course, and enforcement and responsibility is a difficult proposition that any organization must face. That bridge will be crossed when we get to it though. Feedback may be all that's needed - how much does feedback play a factor in who you buy from on eBay and Etsy?

This is cool $hit, and we all know it! Right now maille (especially jewelry from my experience) is a relatively undiscovered niche that really grabs peoples' attention when they see it. It's getting more popular all the time, and there's no reason to think it couldn't explode into a huge fad with the right exposure and luck! Before the makers-of-a-quick-buck move in town, I'd like there to already be something recognized and respected that can help steer business away from those who are in it for the money, with no regard for the art.

Perhaps my goals are more symbolic than is practical, but after 5 years in the business world I learned the unfortunate truth that the standard of business in America is piss poor, and I don't want to be a part of it in the typical sense.

-How much are you willing to participate in its operation, what direction should it go, and how much influence do you feel should it have on participating businesses?

Maintaining and enforcing trust is a difficult proposition at best. It seems to me the only way to protect oneself thoroughly means getting into legalese and formal contracts and such. I don't think this is necessary to achieve our goals, and I barely have enough time as it is. I think a loose organization of ideals and values is more suitable, especially for those who maintain a complex network of business contacts. Imposing specific regulations likely would cause conflicts of interest in the long run.

Peer review is crucial. I'm willing to send items and supplies for review by other businesses if they will do the same. Nothing tells the truth like the naked eye, and personal inspection is something I hold value in. I'm also willing to participate in regular meetings online (say every couple of months or so...). Customer review is easy - we can simply provide a place for them to leave feedback on participating businesses.

As far as what I'd be willing to do in terms of setting up and making something like this function, I can't answer just yet. I'm in a very transitionary time in my business and things are hectic, but I'm willing to play a meaningful role. If momentum increases, I'll increase my involvement where possible.

I do NOT want uneducated buyers, and I see efforts to hinder education as a weak and deceptive way to reach one's goals. Perhaps guilds and organizations have failed in the past because of that attitude. Granted there's no guarantee that this would work either, but it's a lot easier and more fulfilling to work for something you believe in, no? If it works it would be a desirable thing for any professional mailler to join, which would give them reason to adhere to the standards set.

Rather than throwing water on the flame, I want to see where this goes. I'm going on vacation until the 28th though starting Sunday so it looks like I'll miss a lot, but I'll be very curious to see the responses when I get back!

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I do NOT want uneducated buyers, and I see efforts to hinder education as a weak and deceptive way to reach one's goals. Perhaps guilds and organizations have failed in the past because of that attitude.

I disagree that it's deceptive. Deception is where someone receives something different than they were lead to believe they were going to. I don't think it's deceptive for a person who looks at a piece of jewelry and says "Wow, I like that. I would pay $100 for that", to sell it to them for that amount... even if you know there is someone willing to make it for them for, say, $50. Them shopping around is *their* prerogative, not the seller's. If you somehow try to tell them that that item would be $150 from any other artist, *that* would be deception.

A guild requires communication and bringing people together, and the more you do that, the sooner you may find that there is *always* someone willing to make things for less than you are. That's the nature of capitalism. The hungriest and leanest take the business. I harbor no animosity towards Indian or Chinese artists, but, for anyone who's not willing to work for $0.07/hr, be *glad* that the maille market is so ethereal.

Markets work best based on several criteria:

1 - The more informed consumers are.

2 - The cheaper (easier) it is for the consumers to become more informed.

3 - The easier it is for consumers to understand the information.

4 - The more varied consumer tastes are.

In this context, "markets working best" = China gets all business.

...

Previous attempts at guild forming failed for many reasons. And there have been some *serious* attempts. Sites designed by professional web designers, with a group of maillers investing and pooling cash into the effort. They got off the ground, but failed.

The system that I think would work best is to more or less imitate what TRL has done occasionally in the past. And that is to become a maille dealer. Lower focus away from the artist and into a larger entity, trying to become *the* place for people to buy maille, where people don't have to think about artists as much. The company "purchases" (maybe on consignment) pieces from individual artists. They pick and choose product lines that are most impressive. Whoever makes the nicest earings, they make the earings. Etc. Anything unique gets bought. Custom orders get assigned or bidded on by maillers.

And, sales should be commissioned. That way you're not just a website, (the biggest part of why a couple of the bigger attempts I remember failing, failed) with no one promoting you or promoting you individually. Maillers have no incentive to promote the larger organization when every in-person contact they have they can try to turn into a direct personal sale. If you include commission, maillers will have incentive to sell items (through the site or in person) that they didn't even make. Set the commission high enough, and every mailler's personal network becomes the customerbase, and every mailler becomes a salesman.

Say I don't make armor but I attract the attention through word of mouth, and have someone asking me to make them some. I can then say "Yes, we have an item like that for sale, or we can custom-build you one." And then take home, I dunno, 20% for doing nothing but referring and handling the transaction. Similarly, out of nowhere, I might get orders for necklaces because other maillers are running around doing their best to grab those commissions.

Advertising, high (and fast) penetration, and branding would be key. You'd have to make the business *the* place. You'd gain from having a minimum level of quality. Customers would know "Okay, I have no idea who this artist 3 states over is, or what their work is, but they've been approved and their quality is spoken for." The peer-review aspect should be a great boon, as *every* artist is going to tell a customer their quality is good, but, it's unlikely a group of artists are going to be okay with several in their group saying their quality is equal when it's not. So, a group telling you their quality is good likely means that it's actually good.

I've actually been thinking about setting up a business like this for several years, not as a community effort, but, just as a private venture. Me contacting individual artists who's work I like, and ask if they're interested in consigning or taking orders for the particular items of their that I like. Then I sit back and do no maille at all, just sales. But then I always stop and think if I was serious, I wouldn't actually pay any artists here the rates they'd want. Everything I'd want to sell, I should just call up some people in China and have them manufacture it for me and have me resell it. But, was always too lazy to set that up.

... Which is the next most important thing. Any attempt to coordinate will fail unless there is someone, and likely several people, willing to dedicate themselves to it and see it through. They have to stick to it and be committed to grinding through all the work until it gets done, and then stay on top of it while it's running. Who's going to play that role?

Food for thought. Lots of directions to take this.

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Okay, I'm not in synch with part of this. I'm not interested in having someone else sell my work for me, thank you. I can do that and want to maintain a measure of control over that.

I'm interested in having a group of mailers who talk to each other (not necessarily the public in the way that's being discussed) to determine levels of quality and appropriate pricing and to bounce ideas off of one another without it being competitive and icky. TRL and MAIL serve valuable roles in giving us a place to come together and discuss things, and that's great. But I think more formalized agreements about quality/pricing/basic set of ethics is not a bad thing. I am so NOT comfortable having someone I don't know take my work, mix it in with the work of 47 other people, and then sell it less commission with my name not really being associated with the piece. No. No thank you. I have a web site, and I have galleries, and they take their commission and in return, I have lovely silk lined cases, gift boxing, sales staff who market ME, and community events that draw people in.

My view is more that we educate other mailers on quality -- therefore the general quality seen by the public is higher, which means they have higher expectations about mail and are willing to pay higher prices for it. I've sent out a few pieces this year to people who were, quite frankly, expecting a much lower quality than what they got from me. That makes me wonder how many people out there like the IDEA of mail, but are not seeing the quality they want in where mail is available. When it LOOKS like fine jewelry and doesn't yank your hair out and they can picture wearing it to a club and also to a board meeting, well then your market expands.

Just my opinion.

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