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This festive season, support artists

We are entering the festive season and it's time to remind everyone to support small businesses and artists as the gift shopping season approach. But this year I want to elaborate on it a bit because I feel there is still a LOT of misconception about where to support artists and small businesses. I'm sure all of you believe the myth that Etsy is ethical and Amazon kills small businesses in the name of corporate greed for example.

The reality though is that Amazon and Etsy are both market places that levy charges on sellers, and make a big profit, and want to keep investors happy. And, you will find a good number of small businesses on Amazon who take advantage of the fact that unlike Etsy, Amazon offers the option to take over the shipping. So if you still believed this overly simplified narrative of Amazon = evil and Etsy = good, it's time to let it go. I myself ended up shutting down my Etsy shop in 2022 because they hiked the fees and it made no sense for my business anymore. Truth are most big platforms these days have started levying fees for artists. There was Redbubble introducing membership tiers and fees on entry level accounts, and Society6 levying shipping fees. There is also Teepublic differentiating artists in two categories and two different royalty earning structures and I am sure many more will follow suit in the next couple of years. Here is what I as an artist will tell you all who are wondering how to support artists during this festive season : We artists set up shop in various places and it's not fair dismissing us based on where we sell. Some of us find selling on Amazon more convenient, others prefer Etsy, some like me prefer selling on Print on Demand websites like Redbubble, Teepublic and Society6. Others will only sell in county fairs and markets, and there are people who prefer opening a Shopify shop on their own website. Know though that EVERY options means an additional party makes a profit, you can't support a small business without supporting a larger one which helps small biz to get out there...PERIOD! Business is business no matter the scale and us small business owners make decisions that are a right fit for ourselves in order to grow. So please do not think less of us for not selling out of the back of our trunk or in our basement, just because some of us sell with a big entity as production partner doesn't make us any less small and deserving of your patronage. For example, a LOT of artists and surface designers like myself are in the business of creating art that is meant to go on products or be sold as art prints (which is a product too). It makes more sense for us to team with a production partner like Society6 because they take care of shipping, manufacturing and customer care for us. Those tasks are tasks that if we were handling ourselves would eat in the time we have left to create more art and more designs, not to mention have us shell huge amount money on inventory that might not sell. So, those companies take over that burden, as they have the capabilities to manufacture a product on demand because they get volumes on their platform that makes it worthwhile and they just need artists to lease them the designs. PoD platforms like Redbubble and Society6 are in a licensing type of business, where they pay royalties to artists on each sales made. What is important when you buy your Holidays presents and decorations is that you know who gets paid. With a reputed print on demand platform, I can assure you we artists get paid our dues on EVERY SALES, in fact both Society6 and Redbubble let us artist set up our own royalty percentages.

There are also companies like Raspberry Creek Fabrics that are a win-win for all of those who really want to support as many small businesses as possible with one purchase. The company itself is a family owned business that is passionate about fabric printing, and they rely on surface pattern designers like myself to build a library of designs for every tastes. When a client of theirs chose my patterns, they get to buy the yardage they need, Raspberry Creek prints it and ships it, and again, I get a royalty on the sale. Fabric buying is a great option for all you you who likes to make your own Christmas presents, home decor and clothes and it is yet another way to support an artist and a small business during the festive season.

Plan ahead of time if you want to buy your gifts with small artists.

The reason I am writing this lovely PSA blog post is that when you deal with a small business or an artist selling through PoD, you need to factor in time, and sometimes your own budget as well as those products could be priced a lot higher than mass produced stuff available in big box stores. The first hurdle is shipping time, it is something you need to be particularly careful with when it comes to Etsy as not all sellers might live in the same country as you. When I used to sell on Etsy, shipping from India to the US took 3-4 weeks, so check where the seller lives and ships from. Also know that if you are commissioning a custom piece, there will be a lot of time to produce it to factor in. With Print on Demand companies, pay attention to their shipping deadlines to get your gifts delivered before Christmas, they all start people know about it by November or so, and for Society6 the deadline to get things delivered by December 24 always fall around December 12 on US based orders. If you live outside the US, always refer to their international shipping estimates.

Budget wise, I am a HUGE fan of spreading gift shopping over several months. I don't have to do it as much here in India where it's really just us, but as a student in Switzerland, you can bet I was starting to plan Christmas shopping as early as October, if not earlier. Gifts shopping can be expensive, so if you have a family member or friend with a specific hobby or interest and you stumble over the perfect artwork, or t-shirt or mug, buy it, even if it's only June.

For Holiday themed designs to decorate your home, start looking on PoD sites early too, the beauty of Society6 and Redbubble is that artwork uploaded and made available for sale by artist lives on their server year round. No need to wait until stores in your neighbourhood start selling Christmas decor items anymore. This year my first Christmas themed sale was in August! It was gift wrap paper.

Watch for sales campaigns to strike a bargain. Society6 has offers every week on different products, usually offering 30-40% off select items and you will always find something that is at least discounted at 20%. The discounts usually get huge on Black Friday / Cyber week too, so if you have your eyes set on a product, watch the website regularly and sign up for their newsletter so you know when the good deals are coming. Society6 also has interest free financing available for those who prefer buying and paying in instalments. Around the festive season, all print on demand companies tend to run promotions so it pays to keep your eye peeled or subscribe to your favourite artist's newsletter. I usually send an email out when there is a particularly HUGE discount going on. I also announce it on my various social media handles. I also always say that with gift, less is more, in this time and age of mass consumerism, I think it's important to remember that you do not have to get every single items on your kids' wishlist. One quality thoughtful gift is worth 10 mass produced poor quality items that will break after a month. So if your budget for one person is 100$ get them one or two gifts that mean something rather than try to buy a truck load of tiny things.

You don't have to make a purchase to help

While as an artist, I think I can safely say that all of us in the creative business industry love when you buy our designs and want you to consider supporting us no matter where we sell. We also understand that it's not always possible to support us financially, but that doesn't mean you can't help, far from it, here are things you can do to support artists and small businesses during the festive season :

  • Spread the word! You might not feel like buying a cozy blanket on Society6, but you might know a friend or relative who will be interested, so please tell them we exist.

  • Like our social media posts, in fact share them if you can too, the more active you are with accounts you follow the more our content will be shown

  • Sign up for our mailing list on our website, mine is linked to the members only Freebie page (it's free to become a member).

On these wise words I will conclude this blog post saying that as an artist, I would appreciate that you consider my shops (I have several on several platforms) for your Holidays shopping, you have no idea how much it means to me each time I get a sales notification. Most of the PoD I work with ship worldwide too, so don't let location ever stop you.

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