10 Jan

500, No, Make That Two, Handbags

It seems like everyone in the blogosphere is getting published these days. Be it books, magazine articles, patterns, exhibit catalogs, whatever. When Lark Books put out a call for entries last summer for a book called 500 Handbags, my bag-crazy friend, Valerija, and I decided to jump on the bandwagon too. Yesterday brought the letter stating that, even after extending the deadline, Lark did not receive enough applicants to proceed with the book.

After being coy for so long, at least I can share our entries now:

(not quite) 500 Handbags

This ric-racked, embroidered, pieced and embellished variation of the Square Bag in my patterns section has a lovely silk lining and my favorite color combination, scrappy blue and white:

Ooooh, shiny!

I thought I had more/better digital pictures of this one,

Lots of fun layers and embroidery here.

but I guess I saved all my energy for our photo shoot with the slide film. Now you can see though, that it’s a Süße Sac (pronounced “soo-seh:” German for sweet) with Fliegenpilze, of course!

One side is a patchwork of red dotted fabrics plus greens in hand dyed velvet, layered fabrics, and a novelty print or two. The other side is raw edge appliqué under lots of embroidery, beads, and embellishment with more fibers, pom-poms, buttons and yo-yos.
The rest of the bags in the picture above are Valerija’s. She creates wonderful things with very limited resources and I was so hoping that she could see one of her creations in a book. It would have been such a great affirmation.

I feel the need to insert a little rant in here. It’s something that’s been nagging at me since we decided to try this. Part of me wonders if the lackluster number of entries for the book was because Lark was looking, not only for fabulous handbags, but fabulous pictures as well. The slides (and with the later deadline, digital images) were to be of print quality — what would ultimately be published in the book.

When I worked as a graphic designer we very, very, often hired professional photographers when we needed people or product shots. As much as artists and craftspeople have a vast knowledge of materials and techniques and how to combine them for the best effect, a professional photographer has a huge toolbox of experience with film, cameras, lights, the best way to set up a shot, tricks for getting the right reflections or not, and so on and so on. Although Valerija and I did the best we could (which was actually pretty good) with various backdrops and natural light and my nice old SLR camera, it is by no means what I’ve seen pros do on location or in a studio.

I suspect it would have been less intimidating for makers to submit their best photos in order to get their work selected, but to have Lark ultimately hire a pro (wouldn’t they even have one on staff or retainer?) to photograph the final 500 — if for nothing else than visual consistency. Must the creator not only be incredible at their chosen media, but be extremely well versed in photography and photo styling as well? (Obviously, I’m not talking about photo essay-type books — the creator and the photographer are one and the same there.)

It seems to me that all an editor has to do nowadays is find some popular blogs and offer a book deal. Magazines appear to do even less — their calls for entry mean that content essentially comes to them — no surfing necessary. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this rant is just sour grapes because although I have tried many things, I am master of none. Certainly there are incredibly talented people out there who write eloquently AND take beautiful pictures, and those who conjure up wonderful designs AND can photograph them to their best advantage, or those who can do all three and probably even more. Yes, these renaissance people definitely deserve book deals. I suppose asking for it all is the editor’s way of separating the creme de la creme from the rest of us. It’s probably better this way after all.

17 thoughts on “500, No, Make That Two, Handbags

  1. a LOVELY süße sack! ^-^
    it’s beautifully embellished and it’s definitely adorable. but I may be biased, because of my own beloved süße sack…

    don’t tell us you are a “master of none” of these things. you know it’s wrong. your work is great, and I like the pictures you take – just like many other people do, too.
    I’d immediately buy your book – of course hoping that I get it signed on my next HD-trip 😉

  2. ah, so good to see blogentries here after the silence 😉

    nice bags! so lark books wants to save the costs for a professional shooting and is looking for something we would call in german “eine eierlegende wollmilchsau” (a pig with wool, giving milk and laying eggs, too)

    why don’t you and valerija publish your own book? who needs lark??

  3. Well, I don’t know what the problem is at Lark Books, but if you submit a proposal to AQS for a book and it’s accepted, they hire a photographer. I know that some pictures for quilt books are taken by the author, say for construction and how-to shots, but finished project photos are taken by a professional at the publishing house after the manuscript is submitted. We artists can’t do it all–though you seem to be very good at most of it, Kristin!

  4. that is just weird – i mean for them to expect the entrants to all submit print quality pictures – and can there be 500 different handbags? when i finally give these gifts away i will post pics of the square bags that i made for xmas (my family is a little slow on the holiday thing) – i loved your tutorial and i used silk and not real silk scarves from my stock.

  5. Kristin, your bags are great! I’ve had quilts published in books by C&T Publishing, and they always have a professional photographer for the final shots. The editor and her staff uses photos we submit to help plan the book, but they are not the final photos.

    Glad to see your village series. The houses remind me of that wonderful building you did at AQT in Sue Benner’s class.

  6. I suspect that’s Lark Books way of making as much profit as possible. I bought their book, 500 Handmade Dolls, and it was gorgeous. But I realized that most of the photographs were done by the doll makers themselves. Consequently a lot of deserving doll makers weren’t featured in the book. I wondered about that, but after reading your post I can only assume it’s because they didn’t have a professional quality photograph of their doll. Other craft/art book publishers photograph the items themselves. Quarry books makes some great ones.

    Too bad, this is Lark Books’ loss because your bags are fantastic.

  7. you know i have had art published in zines and magazines but what keeps me from submitting to shows and and books is the exact reason you “rant” about. i am NOT a photographer nor do i have the equipment to take the kind of pictures they require. and when they say they want it on slides, i’m like huh? it’s extremely frustrating and definitely not a case of sour grapes at all, in your case or mine i don’t think. unless it’s a really BIG crop of grapes that’s being shared all around. 😀

  8. I also think that is ridiculous that they expect you to send print quality pictures. I think that 500 may have been a little over the top too. Wouldn’t most of us been happy with 200 (or 300)? Most of the things I have had published were shipped to the publisher and photographed there, however some took months to be returned to me. AQS was by far the best in making sure the article said exactly what I wanted it to say, and even overnighted the final copy for my approval.

  9. It seems silly to me that they expect good quality photos from folks who are making the products. Yes, you can get good ones from amatures, but the “look” would be so wildly different. I have the feeling it was an ill concieved project from the get go — but, hey, you did get some great photos and those bags are adorable!

  10. I don’t think Lark even has a photography department. My experience with them required that I take my work to a professional. The cost was a shock which will keep me from submitting anything to Lark in the future. Unless they change their policy. I agree that 500 handbags is over the top – maybe someone should do a proposal for two hundred, seems more do-able.

  11. Ok… I must chime in. Lark has a beautiful series of books and they are all 500. 500 Brooches, 500 Baskets, 500 Rings, 500 Metal Vessels, etc. So that’s why they were hoping to get 500 handbags. It’s worth searching Amazon just to get an idea of this stunning series. Kristin is absolutely correct in saying that it might be too much to ask for the artist to also be a skilled photographer. But it is part of being a professional artist — we must have good images of our work. I suspect that lots of the artists represented in those books already have beautiful images of their work, so it’s easy for them to send them off for various books or other competitions. It’s a big hurdle for emerging artists like us. Ah… challenges. I will also say that I have three projects in an upcoming book called Quilting with Beads by Lark. I had to submit three “in progress” shots, but I sent the final artwork to them for photography. So they have a photography department. Publishing is a complicated business — but it’s still full of exciting opportunities.

  12. Thank you Deborah for chiming in. You are so right that, in general, Lark makes beautiful books. I’ve seen a few (though not any in the 500 series itself of which Tami makes a good point) and it’s because of these lovely books that I wanted to submit work and fully expected there to be over 500 applicants. I have nothing against Lark. I’m just wondering if, as Tami noted, deserving artists are not submitting work because of the photo requirements. It makes me feel better to hear that makers providing press-ready photos is probably the exception, not the norm.

    That said, you are also right about having professional images made of our work is part of the cost of doing business. It’s something I’ve done with my art quilts. Unfortunately, as bags are not the focus of my art, I personally couldn’t justify the expense of a photographer for this project (especially since I wasn’t wowed by my local pro and felt I could do nearly as good). Again, I just wonder how many deserving and talented people (like my friend V) are left out because they can’t afford the expense. Challenges, yes — one needs quality images to gain exposure, yet it’s the exposure that gives one the ability to have quality images made.

    I’m sure there’s no easy answer, and everyone’s experience will be different. I’m just a bit disappointed that even given the handmade handbag rage there weren’t enough entries. This is my hypothesis why.

    I’m very glad that so may commenters her have had more fruitful experiences with Lark and other publishers and look forward to seeing your work in print!

  13. When I read the first part of your post I was disappointed that the book idea fell through but at the same time I immediately thought your house purse would be a wonderful submission to the Quilting Arts call for submissions for their 2008 special gift issue. Then I read the rest of your post… I still think it would be a great match! I wonder all the time what I’m actually trying to accomplish, sometimes the hurdles seem so enormous it can be overwhelming. You always do such a great job of expressing all this!

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