I like numbers

I always have. Numbers help me figure things out.

numbers, my pretties, numbers

(new in the shop) 

They help me make better decisions when I might be tempted to do something out of sheer emotion or desire (there is a time and place for that as well). Numbers are handy when measuring dye and silk or clay and glaze materials. Numbers help me be more efficient. Some of these things can be downright destructive if I weren’t paying attention to the numbers. The whole world is based on numbers. Business, governments, science, music and even art and nature can be looked at through a number filtered lens.

Daily, we have occasion to confront some pretty disturbing numbers. There are so many of those these days that I could drive myself crazy with them.  Most recently in the news JPMorgan  “mishandled” some numbers. Here, Candida Abraham says the numbers don’t lie when it comes to servicing the needs of the mentally ill in our society. The numbers Abraham speaks of have some pretty dire consequences if we don’t pay attention to them.

The numbers in my own small world are really tiny compared to such things. But, like most of us, I have to pay attention to them or the bills won’t get paid next month.  So in addition to being visually and technically creative I need to engage the other side of my brain and pay attention to the NUMBERS!  This post is just a little reminder to myself that one day, a year or so ago, I wasn’t paying close enough attention and allowed myself to agree to something I shouldn’t have.  At least not if I had been paying attention to the numbers.  I am actually pretty good at the numbers thing which is why I’m still around, independently creating daily for over 35 years.  But not that day.  I share it here so others may learn from my mistakes if you have any notion of making an honest living -of making.

This situation involves a teaching gig. I was honored to be asked and should have left it at that. Said thank you and made an excuse or some such thing. There had been something about it- like a little voice that said no,don’t-but I went against the instinct and signed the contract. Silly me.

I won’t go into all the details but as I later looked over all the n u m b e r s  I was less than happy. Not only did I feel that I had been misled in regards to scheduling and my ability to take a booth on the vendor floor I felt that the n u m b e r s  took financial advantage of my teaching in great favor of the organization who’s stated purpose is to inspire creativity and encourage excellence in the fiber arts. Hmmm.

So here are the numbers. See for yourself how it feels to you.

Class #1 (3 hour class)

35 person max. capacity for a fee of $75 per person-that’s a total of $2625 for a sold out class

My pay for the 3 hour class-$210 flat rate. (that’s $6 per student)

Now if my class doesn’t sell out, I still get paid the same.  Not very smart on their part if you ask me (they didn’t).

Class #2 (6 hour class)

24 person max. capacity for a class fee of $150 per person-that’s a total of $3600 for a sold out class

My pay for the 6 hour class-$425 if the class has a minimum of 12 people. If not, then I get paid $35 per student. (otherwise for a full class I am being paid $17.71 per student on a $150 class fee paid by the student) I think I’d be happier to take $385 for a class of 11 rather than $425 for a class of 24! Again, not a very smart move on their part.

Numbers people, numbers.

Now mind you, this is all in addition to fees that all students pay to even attend the convention itself- which runs about $200 each not including any hotel or travel.

This whole scenario created a situation for me that made me ask why would I even promote my own event? When their scheduling of my classes ended up being during prime vendor market time, I had to decline taking and paying for a booth where I might have been able to make up some of that. Feeling that I was “chosen” since I was a local to the event and they would not pay any travel expenses as with many of the other teachers,  didn’t help matters.

And as if that weren’t enough- the contract states that I am not allowed to teach the class (in this case shibori and ribbonwork-the only two things I do teach) for 7 MONTHS (6 months prior and  one month post) within the CONTINENTAL NORTH AMERICA.  SERIOUSLY?? Get a grip.

I really doubt that folks who take classes have any idea about these things.  I think they’d be surprised.

So, to sum it up- choose your events WISELY unless you are NOT in this to make a living. Not everyone is. But if you are, make sure that each event makes financial sense and pay attention to the numbers and the details. Each event should stand on it’s own merit and produce a profit.  And certainly not prevent you from making a living in your own field.

If you are a 501C3-then it’s a different story. For an organization that took in over $1,000,000 in 2010 (according to Guidestar) they give a whopping $4000 out in annual educational grants according to their website. They do a bit more when you include grants for students to attend the biannual conference($11,000-ish altogether). Many folks work as unpaid volunteers but with one exec salary at almost $100,000, additional employee compensation at $117,000 and travel expenses for the organization at over $62,000 (2010) among other things, the $4000 seems rather paltry when it’s stated purpose is to inspire creativity and encourage excellence in the fiber arts. This sort of thing starts making me, the lowly teacher/vendor feel a little like a stepchild-no nostalgia for that one. After looking at their tax returns available online, I realized I am not interested in  partnering with these sorts of organizations. Although they offer some benefits, often 501C3’s are organized around benefiting few rather than many.

I once attended a local Arts Council  roundtable where one of the discussion table talks encouraged artists to form  non profit corporations so that wealthy patrons, uncles and relatives could give them money and get tax write offs!  I kid you not. Tax-free trust-fund-ism. And in times where tax dollars are in short supply-all endorsed by the Arts Council.
No talk about how to run a successful and profitable business. Very disappointing.

Fortunately,the Long Beach Quilt Festival is just around the corner (July 26 at 5:00pm until July 29 at 4:00pm) where I will have a booth with all kinds of silk shibori and indigo. I won’t be teaching since it falls in the no-no zone but I will be demonstrating for free so come on by!

Here are the relevant NUMBERS-

Long Beach Quilt Festival 2012

July 27-29, 2012
Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center
Long Beach, California

July 26: 5-9 p.m. (Preview Night)
July 27 & 28: 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
July 29: 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Ticket prices:
$10 daily adult
$8 seniors & students
Children 10 and under free.
$10 Preview Night (includes one free additional day)
$25 Full Show Pass (includes Preview Night)

13 thoughts on “I like numbers

  1. Jeannie

    Ridiculous! The organizers are taking advantage of the teachers and the students. I have never heard of the clause in which a teacher cannot teach! How are you supposed to earn a living? The stipend you are paid for teaching is inane. They are making from 88-92% on each student. Not a good way to get good teachers to return to teach again.


    1. shiborigirl Post author

      these clauses do exist and have a purpose in some cases. for example, if you are being compensated well to teach and there are also travel expenses built into your fee, then to line up other gigs in the local area to take advantage of the prepaid travel expenses is questionable as well as it might dilute the potential pool of students. but 7 months is ridiculous in my opinion.


  2. velma

    this is the kind of situation that makes me feel a bit crazy. that we honor SO LITTLE the makers/teachers and SO MUCH the organization/ex dir. just pisses me off. i have seen it in it’s confusion too, but you make it so clear glennis. may i add here that i admire like crazy your determination to continue to create your own life/work that has meaning and honor–


    1. shiborigirl Post author

      at first i read “i admire your crazy determination”…ha! so true. jude lists me under “perseverance” another way to say crazy determination. in some ways i feel like i am becoming extinct. i have said that before. but like many species, some of us persist to the very,very end. in some small way i feel a weird sort of responsibility to be an example so even if a very few find their way down this path there will be a few breadcrumbs to follow along the way.
      we can’t let it all go the way of pay-to-play can we?? that is not a world i want to leave behind.


  3. Morna Crites-Moore

    Wow. That is quite an enlightening tale. I like how you occasionally post about the business side of things. You are a good, strong “role model.” Thanks!


    1. shiborigirl Post author

      i try to be realistic. honest about the way things work from this little perspective of mine. not a view that many see things from…
      it’s not all like, like ,like, or wow,pretty,love it!!!


  4. Veronica

    Nicely put and an excellent reminder! It’s also difficult to command appropriate class fees (in order to make your living) when other instructors are teaching classes and charging little or nothing because they “like to quilt/sew/knit (fill in the blank)” or they are retired and just want spending money. They low-ball the class fees and you appear like you are gouging students when, in fact, you need to recover the cost of your time to develop and prep for classes. It’s always a balancing act.


  5. Chimo

    Excellent thoughts for you to share – however, it might be even more valuable if you were able to name the particular venues / organizations – so that your experience is never repeated by others. Thanks for sharing.



    1. shiborigirl Post author

      i know, i pondered that. one must remember that this is strictly my own perspective. i went around and around on this one. there are many very well known and highly talented artists and teachers at this biennial event- actually one of the reasons i decided to do it. they came to me and asked me to participate. it happened to be located in my city by coincidence this year and i had heard so much about this convention over the years. as it is quite an expense to travel to and participate in I thought this might be my only chance. so I took it. but the devil being in the details, I now realize that this event is not for me as there is no way to recoup my costs since i can’t take a booth and make that work out. it is more of a “pay-to-play” sort of thing for many i think and that is fine-just not for me. when I asked on the phone what was my incentive for promoting my classes at the event given the lack of financial incentive i was told that the prestige of the event could “make or break” an artist. if you know me at all, you know that was not well received. i’ll “make” myself thank you very much.
      naming names doesn’t change any of what i have written here. others are very happy with their participation in this event so regardless of the event or the organization it is to each of us to consider all the numbers and the potential and make our own decisions. i made mine, and i will fulfill my obligation. but i’m not gonna sugarcoat it either. who knows, maybe after the fact i may write another story. or you may not hear another thing about it.


  6. Suella

    I hope you are sharing this discussion, or at least your feelings with the organizers. And yes, you have made yourself, and no exhibition is the be all and end all of one’s career.

    They may have terrific overheads, and lots to pay to provide the facilities for tutors and students. Who knows? But you know what a tutor of your status is worth and what you are prepared to accept.
    Numbers indeed!


  7. shiborigirl Post author

    Yes, I have had several conversations with them regarding my concerns and offered some possible solutions/suggestions. Who knows where it will lead?
    After looking over their 990 online the one thing I was really struck by was that with almost $1.1M in revenue they were only granting out $15,800 (in a convention year). That’s less than 1.5%! The convention is the main money maker for the organization.
    Even if you average out the high and low years(convention vs. non convention years) they are still only granting out 1.5%. Grants allow for students to attend the convention and for folks to attend seminars or workshops. Personally, if I am going to be working and teaching on their behalf, I would feel better about it if more of the money was spent helping people attain excellence in fiber arts through education. Less on salaries and travel.
    Numbers indeed!


  8. deedeemallon

    I think the most egregious part of the terms is the non-compete portion. Good gawd! But the rest is pretty awful, too.



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