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Vlatro

Proposal: Maille Merchant's Guild.

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Agreed :D on the quality ,ideas, and PRICING part but I prefer to do my own selling.

Well you *can*.. but on top of that would you be adverse to other people selling items on your behalf, and only giving up some commission? If you have a stock of extra earings and suddenly someone finds you buyers, is that bad?

Would you be adverse to getting a commission on things you don't even make, that you just heard someone wanted? Like, you're too busy to make necklaces, but, hey, you can pass on a customer and make a few bucks at it and help out a fellow mailler?

...

There are lots of communities of artisans that focus on the artists as core and central. What I'm saying, is that as long as you're doing that, you're going to have trouble providing the kind of cohesion you can get with something that tones that back a bit. The attempts I've seen that've focused on the artist, haven't been very successful.

Plus, artists (of all kinds) are about the most petty and egotistical people in the world. As a generality, they do not like being criticized, they do not like being compared or labelled (ask any band what type of music they play, and they well tell you they're hard to label, and not really like anything else), and they are the first to drag their competition down if the issue of quality comes up. I don't think, if push came to shove and you had to actually argue why someone should buy your product versus another, that artists would stay anywhere near as amiable to each other as they are now. I would like to believe otherwise, but experience tells me so.

If you abstract the artist from that, you could dodge those issues. You wouldn't need to abstract entirely, just not use an artist-driven community approach. Use more of a product approach, and attach the artist as a brand, but beneath the company brand that brings the familiarity and quality.

It's just another idea. I've seen what some of the rest of you are proposing done, and fail, and I'm supposing why it failed. No need to reinvent the square wheel if it didn't roll the first time.

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I'd like to address some recurring concerns. I am a very outspoken advocate of free market libertarianism in my community. My purpose is not to restrict or limit any business to a strict set of guidelines or meaningless regulations. In fact, much of what attracts me to the maille business is how beautifully unregulated it is. This provides a ground for experimentation both in craft and marketing that has been so far invaluable to the success of small businesses and entrepreneurs.

However, I maintain that there is room for some unofficial, opt-in standards in practice. A way for the customer and the mailler alike to identify others in the craft as reputable and honest.

As for educating the customer, I see both sides of the argument as being totally legitimate concerns. On one hand, most customers don't know the difference between hand crafted and machine pressed maille. Showing them the difference in quality may prove an invaluable selling point for customers who are already aware of the cheap alternatives. Conversely, it may make them aware of a cheaper alternative, and if cost is a strong motivator, they may look elsewhere. How much info you wish to share is up to you. I would do nothing to remove that right from the business owner. Still, many of us choose to share more information with the client, and are within our rights to do so. If we lose the customer, it's not because we over educated them. It's because we didn't offer what they were shopping for in the first place. If I lose a lot of business that way, I am within my rights to resell the "made in China" crap for a fraction of the cost. If I choose not to (and I never would), I can't complain that other's are costing me business. We succeed or fail based on the choices we make.

If I sell a superior product at a reasonable cost, (which I do, as I'm not really in it for the money) I should encourage my customers to shop around. In fact I have done that, and had people come back with photos they found online and ask me "Can you make this, but bigger/smaller, and out of another material. " It's presented some interesting challenges. My customers like the fact that I live in the city where I work and they have access to me any time. They like that I can resize items if they put on or lose a few pounds. That's difficult to do online. If cost was a concern, they'd order from someone else. I can recreate an item they find on someone else's website and charge more for it than if they had just hit the order button.

Doing that could be considered "plagiarism" of designs, but I've never had a competitor complain or accuse me of sniping their order because it was I who sent the customer to them in the first place. In one notable case I had trouble recreating a chain dancing skirt. I e-mailed the original artist and asked them how they got around some interesting contractions in the pattern. They responded with a very detailed tutorial, hooked me up with a source for Nickel-Bronze rings that they had used, and shipped me some of their scrap so I could complete the order on time. They knew exactly what I was doing and helped me rather than getting upset. I've repaid them by referring 5 orders that time constraints didn't allow me to manage my self. Most maillers I find are very helpful and communitive. I will gladly share with those who also share with the community.

In this case, rather than giving the customer a couple of choices, I encouraged them to see my competition and make their own judgment. I educated them on the finer points of maille and it paid off for everyone involved. The customer was happy, I won a good order that taught me a lot, and a friendly competitor got some additional business.

In response to WaistedSpace:

Good idea stating who we are and what we do. Those are contributing factors to the different objectives and viewpoints of each individual, so it'll lend some context to the discussion.

-If you are part time or full time

Part time.

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

I have more business than I can handle in my present part-time capacity and see plenty of people looking for an "in" to the business. By aiding upstarts, I stand to gain some good people to refer excess clients to, and hope to see the expansion of the maille business lead to some innovations and new insights that may help me in the future, should I choose to pursue the craft and business further.

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

N/A. My website has been removed as I can not keep up with orders. I operate under my business license, but the Official established business is not maille craft by nature.

-What you hope a co op will achieve

I'd like to see an organized way of sharing information. I've learned a lot from an old friend who recently passed away. Maille was a hobby of his since the 1970's, and he had a lot of experience and unique insight to offer. He often spoke of writing a book or starting his own website and expressed a true desire to share his knowledge. As current owner of his notes, collected over the years, I feel it fitting that they be shared. But there is little sense in sharing things via a forum with a topic that will be buried by a dozen "What do I do?" posts. I'd love to see an encyclopedia of maille knowledge that anyone can access and add to. As many of his more meaningful insights were in relation to the business end, and he had an established network of friendly competitors, it seems the establishment of something similar would be ideal for releasing his work while at the same time promoting others to do the same, inviting criticism for the sake of bettering our trade.

-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?

I am willing to submit basically everything I know, released slowly over time as my schedule permits. I do not expect others to offer that level of detail, but they should be able if they wish. It should be an opt-in only organization, no dues, no post quotas or anything of that nature. Organized but casual.

The participating businesses should feel a sense of accountability and thus be merited for valuable contributions. There is no incentive for sharing aside from gaining a good reputation amongst their peers. A simple poll on the forum posts of registered members asking "Was this post helpful? Yes or No" would be sufficient. At the end of the month we could tally up the yes votes, subtract the no votes and come up with a rating system. I could even arrange a trophy or award for the highest rated business each year so they can display it at shows or in a store. We'd have to nail down the details, but that's what this post is for.

There seem to be some varying ideas of what kind of involvement this should have. I just want to say again, I am against any regulatory committee, price sharing, appraisal or the like. I just want to help some of the upstarts get things rolling. I think a small award for contributing participants would be nice, but this thread has kind of mutated into semi-socialist banter. I want a collection of good advice, easily navigable and a means of rating the quality of said advice. It's not a far stretch from what the forums already offer. If we try to do too much, no one will get on board and the idea will sink before leaving port.

@ Cynake: You warned me it would lead here. I'll have to remember to heed future warnings.

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Apparently I'm a starry eyed idealist. I can live with that.

If there is dismay over price discussions, can we at least agree to STOP posting links to people's websites and publicly and without their knowledge eviscerating their pricing structures? I hate that.

I still think a standard of construction is important. Understanding, of course, that there is wiggle room in that given the different applications of the medium.

I like the idea of voting on topics, too.

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If there is dismay over price discussions, can we at least agree to STOP posting links to people's websites and publicly and without their knowledge eviscerating their pricing structures? I hate that.

I agree there totally. While I see nothing wrong with a discussion of prices, I would keep it away from any thing that would seem even vaguely official. I've undercharged, I've over charged and everything in between. I gues it comes down to context. If a person says:

"I have 25 hp3:1 SS neck chains that took 10 min ech to make. Am I charging enough at $15.00 each?" --- I say that's an acceptable and valid question.

If, on the otherhand, we produced a list that stated such a chain commonly falls in the $15-$25 range, we'd be doing a disservice to the crafter who may be able to get more for their work. Likewise, the customer who may have been able to negotiate a lower price loses their opportunity to do so if the merchant thinks a higher sale price is common.

I frequently shop the competition and see what they're selling price is. I ask my self, "Is my piece better or worse than theirs?", "Am I serving the same market as they are?", and "Does the time I spend making this allow me to lower or necessitate my raising the price from their mark?"

So while I understand the need for a reference, it could not take into account variations in the level of craftsmanship, relative experience of the maillers, the cost (as metal prices fluctuate drastically), and the specific market each person serves. Without accounting for that, there simply can be no concensus on what to charge, and getting that much data is such a monumental task (that would have to be reevaluated frequently and forever) that I don't see it fitting within the scope of any practicle effort.

It's theoretically a nice idea, but realistically impossible.

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But I don't think it is impossible. I think you actually make the point for needing such discussion, because many new people don't understand those variables or why they come into play. They try to sell their efforts -- say to high school classmates -- at art gallery prices and don't understand why that doesn't work -- that's overblown as an example, but it helps illustrate the point. Market difference, varying metals market -- all valid for why one person can charge one thing, and someone else can charge differently. I hate to see people new to this get discouraged, and I think the place where many get stuck is making that shift from hobby to trying to make money at it. I think having a place that addresses these ideas -- a place of high integrity where there is agreement about quality levels -- is of service to everyone.

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It seems that this huge database of information really limits itself in the end. I believe, and agree with previous posts, that using too many prices and comparisons will be a problem for the overall market. Right now, each artist can sell at prices they are comfortable with. That is a powerful and great thing to have in a market.

Everyone is repeating the need for standards of quality. When I think of this guild, I primarily think of something around the lines of the Better Business Bureau. Make it a place where customers can look up an artist or a business and see if there have been any problems with orders in the past. Most of the people here are amazing and would only see good things on their particular profiles, but those occassional bad eggs would be revealed before a customer gets scared out of the market.

As far as quality controls, I think it is important to educate buyers on the most basic positive attributes of chainmaille. Let them know what an AR is, and let them learn what a good closure looks like. This lets them more fully understand exactly what it is that a sample picture is showing them. It should not be a requirement for any business to directly refer customers to a competitor. If the customer reaches an artist's site first, it means that artist won the advertising game for that round. I do think it does cause the general atmosphere of the community improve if the customer can judge the quality of an item accurately and do further research if they are dissatisfied or curious. It keeps the customers happy and feeling good about themselves, and it keeps us all honest with our workmanship.

As a side effect, it very well could steer some of the market back from the crappy Indian made stuff that just looks atrocious.

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I have been lurking on this conversation for quite a few days liking a lot of what is said. I know one thing I have always been concerned with is undercutting the market too much that it might eventually cause some harm with regards to customers opinions of others pricing. I do believe that I have quality product but I am enjoying crafting enough that I think I am willing to accept lower prices to be able to cycle through what I make as well as increase my funding for the hobby even though I could sell something for more. It would definately be nice to have people to bounce pricing ideas off of especially since I do a lot of custom projects such as inlays. I have kind of come to the knowledge that prices need to go up on inlays cause I am already about 2-3 months back logged on them.

Personally I would not mind passing excess business on to people that I felt comfortable recommending to especially if I could see the feedback they get from both customers and other artists. I would love for any feedback both on my pricing and website in general. http://www.geocities.com/seraphim_chain_maille just pm me with your thoughts. I am still trying to add pieces to it.

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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.

Now THAT, I think, is a great idea. I have business experience too, and if it's taught me nothing else, it's that everybody wins when people pitch in for each other with what they're good at. If this group could hook people who can design logos up with people who can file a DBA...put people who have access to pro-level printing equipment in touch with people who can sew nice table-covers...give people who can offer advice on tax-writeoffs access to people who can help those people with their sales pitches...that would be brilliant, and I think it would benefit everyone.

I do agree that the group functions like that already, but by accident. Making a deliberate space for it could be a huge boon to hobbyists and businesspeople alike.

/$0.02

-T

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Now THAT, I think, is a great idea. I have business experience too, and if it's taught me nothing else, it's that everybody wins when people pitch in for each other with what they're good at. If this group could hook people who can design logos up with people who can file a DBA...put people who have access to pro-level printing equipment in touch with people who can sew nice table-covers...give people who can offer advice on tax-writeoffs access to people who can help those people with their sales pitches...that would be brilliant, and I think it would benefit everyone.

I do agree that the group functions like that already, but by accident. Making a deliberate space for it could be a huge boon to hobbyists and businesspeople alike.

Now that's what I'm talking about. Speaking of which, I am revising my brochures for the coming year. They're intentionally non-specific to my product, but address the history of maille, Ring and wire sizes (including AR) and the differences between chain clothing and items of armor strength. That will be made available here, and everyone is free to rebrand it, add their logos, and modify in any way they like. It'll save you the $60.00/hr design rate to have something like that made for you, the only cost would be printing. Only hang up for now is my dead digital camera. If anyone has some high quality photos (that they own the rights to and can release royalty free), it would help me get the brochures moving. It would be a good test ground for community co-ops, a way to pool our resources and see how it goes. Anyone intrested, PM me with links to photos you'd like to have considered. Required 300 dpi or higher, if less, 8"x10" or larger sizes can be downsacled to fit the resoloution, no web-cam shots please. If you don't know what any of that means, just PM me anyway and I'll use what I can. You will be accredited for the photo in the brocure ("photo provided by xxxx" by name, not business entity).

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First thing that I will say is that I am newbie. I am not trying to market or sell anything I make. My wife does bead art jewelry and will on occasion throw in a piece of mine when she does a craft fair. I have thought about putting more time and energy in chain maille but have not decided yet.

That said I have been reading the thread about the China website that is selling chain maille. I checked this site and their product is poorly made. Years ago my wife made stuffed animals which she sold at craft fairs until vendors showed up selling imported stuffed animals with the tags cut off as their own hand made. Two things come to mind

#1 Anytime you see imported "crafts" or " hand made" items ia a show notify the orginizer.

#2 It may be helpful to identify Chain maille items made be a "Craft guild member" to show that it is both hand made and a quality item.

I don't believe anyone ia a Craft guild has to agree on any set price. The price will depent on the area you are selling in and your customer.

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