05 Mar

I will not work on spec. I will not work on spec. I will not work on spec.

I am a content Active SAQA member. I see many benefits of membership in this professional organization. A Call for Entries today got me excited. An opportunity for me to try again at fabric design (the Hawaiian designs I shopped around a few years ago were flops)! I read the details with anticipation.

Andover Fabrics (formerly Concord) will print and market a collection of cotton fabrics branded with the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) name and logo – the SAQA Urban Textures fabric collection. A percentage of sales of the collection fabrics will go to support SAQA in our 25th Anniversary Year – 2014!

Until I got to this part…where my heart sank.

You will be asked to agree with these Terms and Conditions:
This set of designs is my original design. I understand that my designs may be altered in order to be successfully used for the SAQA Urban Textures fabric collection. I agree to give Studio Art Quilt Associates, Inc. copyright to these designs, including all rights, titles, and interest in and to the designs. If my design collection is selected, I will sign a transfer document transferring copyright to Studio Art Quilt Associates, Inc. I UNDERSTAND THAT I AM ENTERING THIS COMPETITION TO SUPPORT SAQA AND WILL NOT RECEIVE ANY MONETARY REMUNERATION.

Did you catch the part in all caps? Flashback to my graphic design days. AIGA’s position discourages the inherent discount of the most important element of most design project — the research, thoughtful consideration of alternatives, and creative contribution designers make toward client’s objectives that occurs when working without commitment or compensation from the client. I think the same concepts can be applied here. So I sent off an email to SAQA’s president, and the competition’s juror:

Dear Martha and Luana,

Wow, everywhere I turn, there’s a new line of fabric being promoted or created. The variety available to the consumer is amazing. So it pleases me to see SAQA approached as a possible source of unique designs. I am also in support of seeking out new and different ways to promote SAQA and art quilts in general. I appreciate SAQA and the opportunities I have found through the organization.

As a former graphic designer, a current art quilter, and an artist whose subject matter often includes villages and homes, I got excited reading the call for entries. Finally, here was a project that might actually be appropriate for me to pursue. However, when I worked as a graphic designer, we as a profession were always cautioned not to do work on spec. To develop sketches and ideas, the difficult intellectual and creative part of design, for free, with only a hope that it may be selected, devalues the work of the designer. So you can imagine my disappointment when I read the terms of Call for Entry. Not only would NONE of the competing artists get paid for their work, they would also have to pay their way into the competition. An artist paying to do work on spec?! What that shows me is that Andover and SAQA place absolutely no value on my, or any of the artists’ creativity — our strongest asset.

I can’t imagine that Kaffe Fasset, Jinny Beyer, Amy Butler, Thomas Knauer, Heather Bailey, Anna Maria Horner, or any of the myriad fabric designers whose collections are the billboards of the major fabric companies today are creating their designs without monetary compensation. Exposure is a canard as well. New lines of fabric are introduced and replaced at the speed of light and buzz for a few weeks at Quilt Market is hardly worth the devaluation of one’s artistic capability.

While I appreciate the effort to expand SAQA’s footprint into other aspects of the quilt world, I’m afraid that I cannot support this project. I will not enter any designs. In addition, I will encourage my colleagues not to submit as well.


Kristin La Flamme

While I don’t expect the parameters of this particular project to be changed, I hope that SAQA will take into consideration the value of our intellect and creativity when the next opportunity arises. Perhaps a few potential applicants will re-think submitting and send emails themselves. Ideally, Andover will see a little more value in those with the potential to create the products upon which their business thrives, though I’m not holding my breath. Finally, I’m feeling deflated. Disappointed. Once again, a conviction of mine has closed a door on opportunity. I’m sorry it has to be this way.

10 thoughts on “I will not work on spec. I will not work on spec. I will not work on spec.

  1. Good for you. You give away the copyright? and give them the right to change your designs? What’s the point for a professional artist? Perhaps they should ask for designs from kindergartners, who might be willing to go along with this nonsense. Stand strong. Don’t cave.

  2. “I agree to give Studio Art Quilt Associates, Inc. copyright to these designs, including all rights, titles, and interest in and to the designs. ”

    You have to give away your copyright to your designs just to enter? This is lunacy!

    It reminds me of the time I reported sexual harassment and I was forced to sign a nondisclosure form just to have the company investigate itself.

    And what if your design is not selected, but you do something similar for your own work or for someone else? Can they come after you for copyright infringement of your own style?

    I am nearly halfway through a MOOC in copyright law.

    Although it is too late to enroll in the class (and it was limited to 500 students), you can do the readings and watch the instructional videos posted on YouTube.

    Artists really need to understand the rudiments of copyright law for self protection.

  3. You said it perfectly, coherently and expressed my exact feelings. How exciting to design part of a fabric line! What??? This is a contest you pay to enter and then give your design away? It’s the old graphic design contest scam, framed as a good cause. No way, Jose. And shame on SAQA.

  4. Bravo Kristin! I appreciate that you went right to the top to express your thoughts. I, too, was excited about the opportunity and deflated by the reality. I wanted to drop everything and start designing. The talent we have within our organization deserves better. Hopefully those who are in a position to change the rules in this fundraising activity are listening and meeting to alter the copyright and compensation standards.

  5. Well said Kristin. I read, just briefly, the blurb about this call without reading the specific details. I thought that it was a fabulous idea and great opportunity. Then today after reading the thoughts from many SAQA members and learning what it was truly all about, I find myself very disappointed in the entire thing.

  6. in the music biz we call it “pay to play”. as i’ve said to my kids- one could die (of starvation) with exposure like that. (do it for the “exposure”)
    i prefer to be independent. not part of a group like SAQA,HGA,SDA etc etc.
    i just don’t fit in those circles. i want to actually support myself and i find that most members in those associations are not in that mindset and simply cannot relate to my reality.

  7. Good grief. I never do anything for free anymore. NEVER. It’s so disrespectful of organizations to ask for the artist to work for free. I don’t even ship work to shows unless I’m receiving an honorarium, even if it’s a small amount.

    Having said that, I’ve put in my dues already. AND I am finally making money with my art. Stick to your guns. If you don’t value your work no one else will. Good for speaking out Kristin!

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