Monday, September 7, 2009

A Moment to Vent

I have a love/hate relationship with swaps. I have been doing quite a few Lately. Signing up for them via someones blog, or an online invite. I used to participate at local shops, but that ended when people stopped following thru and the work became shoddy.
It can be a great deal of fun. You work on projects send them out and in exchange you receive other artwork from artists. They contribute to your collection, and you to theirs. Sometimes you wind up with a nice book, others like tags can be used, or saved for inspiration. There are other swaps maybe a doll, or home decoration. It can be fun, and lately I have been joining in and swapping like a crazy woman on crack. I signed up for a few swaps, not expecting to have to deal with a funeral, wedding, and school starting at the same time.
I try to give myself enough time, starting early so that should these type of events come along I won't become frazzled trying to do it all. So far it has worked, I know myself, if I do not start right away things seem to happen, it can lead to anxiety I just don't need.
After all, I consider myself to a person who follows thru. If I say I am going to do something I do it. If you give me a deadline, and rules I follow them. I take it very seriously, because for one thing I want people to be able to count on me. I want my word to mean something. The last thing some hostess needs is to have constantly have to check on you, remind you and then push you to do that which you said you would commit to do.
I have never hosted a swap yet partly because it is a lot of work, but mostly, for myself at least, I think I have not done it because it must be so frustrating at times.
There have been so many great swaps lately, and of course I want to participate in them all. Reality is though, I cannot, I have to pace myself. For me it is not about quantity, but quality. When I do a swap I want it to be something that I would want to receive and for that I need time. I read the rules, and most importantly pay attention to the "deadline". Subject matter, the cost, rules, all factor in. After all, these things can become expensive. Especially those where you have to mail overseas, or to each person individually. In other cases it is the time factor, some swaps are more labor intensive. For instance the doll swap I participated in. Thank goodness Nancye gave us lots of time, and we only had one partner.
Even then there were some tense moments. In my haste to get started my partner and I both forgot to exchange e-mails. I foolishly thought like me she had it on her page, or at least a site that I could contact her through. Well as it happens she did not, and I had no way of getting in touch with her. New lesson learned, get an e-mail address and contact info up front. make it a point to agree on keeping in touch. It can be extremely frustrating when you don't.
Which brings me to my biggest pet peeve about swaps, okay one of two big peeves, the first - deadlines! I for the very life of me I do not understand why it is that people cannot commit and follow thru on this. After all it isn't like they do not inform you right up front. Many hostesses even send you reminders, and warn you that the mailing time is close, yet time and time again there are those who feel like this idea of a deadline does not apply to them.
Yes, I know "life" happens. Of course, and many of the swaps allow for that by having several weeks to complete and mail out a project. So what are these few doing wrong? I cannot believe life is that out of control 24/7. If it is then maybe they should rethink the swap idea and take care of business at home. For some it may be "procrastination", they sign up for too many swaps only to realize a week before that they did not allow enough time. Maybe they waited thinking "hey, I have another week", only it turns out that is the week your Aunt surprises you and shows up for a three day visit. Then suddenly they panic and run late. Then there are the perpetual stragglers, as I call them. It gets to where you see their name on the list and just know you will be waiting "for-ever" as their names have become synonymous with a three, to the whenever they get around to it, week wait.
I just do not get it. I recently inquired about a swap I am in. I asked when I could expect my pieces to be sent. Sure I am anxious and excited, and I know I have to allow at least a week or ten days. We all had the same deadline right? So how long should it take? The response was "Well usually I allow three weeks after the due date for some to get their work in" (then tack on another week while I finish putting the together). Are you serious? I thought the deadline for mailing was XYZ. No wonder there are some who feel they can make everyone wait. No wonder they putz and give themselves lots of leeway. I then have to ask, "Why in Gods name do you have a deadline?" Is it me, or am I correct that when you tell someone it has to be mailed by XYZ date that it is SUPPOSED to be in the mail no LATER than XYZ? Did I miss the fine print that said "for those of you who feel the need to make everyone wait because you got busy, signed up for too many swaps, got overwhelmed, or just plain waited too long to start, take another three weeks?" No wonder this country is in such bad shape no one thinks the rules apply to them, and for those out of the county, well surely they know they have to allow for extra mailing time.
This first peeve may be some of the cause for my next peeve. "Quality", yes I will say the thing that many think, but no one dare say. Nothing can be as exciting as receiving beautiful pieces of artwork. I now say here that I have had the privilege of being the recipient of some fantastic work. To these artists I say "Thank you". You are the reason I am still doing these swaps. For the others, you know who you are, that spend five minute throwing something together and thinking "well I made my deadline", I want you to stop now and think. Have you ever sent out work that you knew could have been so much better if you just took a few more minutes to work on your project? Have you ever sent something out that you thought, I should have fixed that bubbled paper, took my time when I put this together, fixed the smeared glitter, backed that flimsy tag with some chipboard, added more, maybe added less? Would I be thrilled to get this in the mail?
Every time I do a swap I admit I obsess over it. I will often lay everything out, change it up, add, subtract. I have been known to take apart and start over, to ask for help and opinions of fellow artists. I put myself in the receiver's place, would I be excited when I opened this? Would I be disappointed? Is everything dry? Will anything stick or smear? Are all the parts adhered? Did I pad it so it doesn't crush or tear? It is because what I send out reflects me, it is my ambassador so to speak. I want it to say, here is someone who takes pride in doing good work. You can see the attention to detail, the way it was put together reflects the time and thought put into each part. A prime example of this can be found on an earlier post. I had waited four weeks after the deadline for a Marie Tag from Deb McNutt. Being me, I was a bit peeved at the fact that it was so late. Once I opened the package and saw this incredible piece of work, well let us just say if you were to ask me now, I would say it was well worth the extra time (although I still think meeting the deadlines is important and do not want to encourage tardiness). It is masterfully done, the details and level of work wonderful.
This however is not always the case. I have received my share of less that desirable pieces, and yes I know as I have been reminded on other occasions, we are dealing with all levels of skill here. Still being honest, it is not hard to look at a piece and see where thought was used, time was taken, and when it was not. I was a beginner at one point also. I have spent time examining others work, gleaning knowledge and taking what I learn (not copying, but using work as an inspiration or prompt to try a new technique) and trying to surpass my last piece. I have had occasions where I thought my piece was just wonderful, only to receive something from someone who has surpassed my work by light years, making me want to try harder the next time.
It is true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but this is not what I am addressing here. For me it is the poorly executed work, where parts are falling off, paper is torn, creased, glue spots, glitter smeared, and the colors are all over the map. The parts are uneven, things do not line up, backs are exposed showing all the gluey, and taped parts. Images printed on cheap copy paper, poorly colored in with pencils, warped paper from using the wrong glue, the list goes on. Example: I once did a fat book exchange, the theme Christmas. I received from a woman a page with a die cut snowflake, a big one with a rhinestone in the center, ta-da! on the back of the page, which was supposed to be covered also, she glued sloppily ( she had not managed to square off the paper and there was glue all over the place), the piece of paper that she punched the snowflake out of, ta-da. This must have taken all of two minutes, and little or no thought. It wasn't even on cardstock but cheap construction paper. How she managed to accept beautifully executed pages in exchange for her work without feeling like a cheat is still a mystery to me. The next page we received from her, well lets just say those pages were missing from my completed book, at least the one I could not tear apart and do over.
Of course I mentioned these are my pet peeves, they are mine, but I do not think I am alone. Many will say nothing, many may just stop exchanging or choose to swap one on one. It is hard to say something because often we are sensitive to others feelings, so much so we do them a disservice. For how are they to know unless someone tells them? I am open to constructive criticism that helps me. If someone was to receive a piece from me that was less that acceptable, I would want to know. If they had a better way, or knew of a better paper, glue, or paint that would help I would appreciate the information. I am not perfect. I do think that it shows in my work that I have put time and effort into my pieces. That as I grow I will get better and not settle for so-so work from myself. I want people who see my name on a list for a swap to say "Oh, that lady is doing this I would love to have a piece from her. You can count on something well done and on time".
Well that's it for now. I have rambled on here, but felt the need to share with you, and just vent a bit as I wait on a couple swaps who are waiting for the stragglers to get their act together. In the meantime I have four to get out this week. I have been up late all weekend and the last few days trying to make up for the time I lost dealing with "life". Don't worry they will be out on time, a couple even early. The work is good, I am pleased with it. P.S. I am not even going to mention the "Flaker's" out there (the ones who sign up then disappear), don't even get me started on them!


Claireabelle said...

Debra I totally, totally agree!

I used to be on a forum and one lady metion that she was tired of getting crap (for want of a better word!) returns for her swaps. Needless to say she was totally vilified by the other members!!! Yet she was only stating what I'm sure most of us think.

Jodie LeJeune said...

I second this thought and totally agree too Debra.
It's ashame. Truly is.
I've only participated in 3 online swaps, one of which we are both in at the current time (Vintage Halloween Tag Swap). I am very choosy. I love to share and participate with those who are on the same "level of devotion" as I am. And, if I am disappointed with any of the recipients/hostess, I put them on my "black list" and I know better next time.
Your frustrations are very common and totally valid!!!!!
Are you sure you are not my twin???
everything vintage

Stef H (Glitterbabe) said...

oh girlfriend, i agree with you 1,010%! which is why i stopped doing swaps. i do an atc swap but that's here at home and just between 1 girlfriend and her daughter. you put it so eloquently too! way to go!


Terri said...

Hear! Hear!and amen to that sister friend!

Ok I really am in a goofy mood today...I know you'll get me.

Renee said...

Oh my God Debra, thanks for the best laugh I've had in ages.

You crack me up.

I think anyone receiving something from you would be thrilled.


Pretty Things said...

I have only participated in three charm swaps and was stressed beyond all reason on both. I am a perfectionist and altered art is not my thing, although I would love it to be. And I quickly learned that I didn't have enough time to keep up with 20 craft shows and an online business while learning a new craft, making all the learning pieces, and THEN making appropriate pieces to send out. And I'm a deadline person -- I cannot miss one.

So next year, when I reduce my work load to four shows, I hope to jump in. I see the swaps and want to learn. I know there is a huge learning curve ahead, but I've seen enough work to know what is appropriate to send, and what is NOT. And I still am chronically early.

I know a few hostesses who stick to the deadline -- they usually only have to do it once for the message to sink in!

(Your work is great, btw!)

Her Art Nest said...

Whew, Deb.....I am nervous now about the four swaps I joined with you. I have worked for weeks on these commitments. Maybe these will be my last if my partners turn into "flakers." Let's keep our fingers crossed. Hugs, Nance

beedeebabee♥ said...

What a GREAT post! I really enjoyed reading this!!! :o) Paulette

The Chateau of Remnants said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lee W - The Way I See It said...

Oh, boy, you said it girl!! I agre. I feel the same- ditto ditto ditto. For me, being in a small swap helps. And for "knowing" who the people are- like getting a good feel from their blogs, etc. I once sent out an ephemera box filled and stuffed to the brim, costing $8 to mail it was so heavy. I got 4 old postcards, a doily, and some old pharmaceutical crap. UGH. I almost cried. I'm a good swapper though- keep me on your list!!

Renee said...

I still love that necklace. Keep looking up is right.

I love that.

Debra, I love you. I really do.

Could I have your mailing address again please.

Love Renee xoxo