As we head into the holiday season I would just like to draw consumers’ awareness to an issue facing independent designers and artists.
This weekend, I discovered photos taken directly from my website and online shop being used to sell product on two other websites. My ring on my hand in a photo on an overseas website! I don’t know what customers who buy from those sites get if they purchase, because I have no affiliation with the sites. They were selling S’wag-style items at a very, very cheap price. Complete, exact replicas of my hand-carved design.
I quickly went through a range of emotions from shock, to anger, to flattery, to sadness. It was even more disheartening when I realized that a handful of the other products/images on the website had also been taken from Etsy artists that I recognized. I am not the first and I will surely not be the last. It sickens me.
And so, I’d like to take a minute to talk about handmade, Canadian arts and crafts and encourage you to continue supporting designers and artists.
Price: My prices – and those of most artists – are high compared to the overseas website selling copies of our work ($3 a piece). And here is why.
I design my pieces, carefully plan them out, and take them from a sketch to a 3D piece. I either cut my piece by hand or carefully cast my pieces into high-quality metals – sterling silver or gold. I clean up each individual piece by hand — file the metal, sand it, polish it. I solder on findings or solder different components together. I make each piece with care and precision. I am a one-woman show! I work hard. And I work two other jobs so that I can run my two small jewellery businesses.
Passion: My businesses are my life and my passion. I don’t have any employees. I am able to keep my businesses running with the help of family, friends and consumers who care about the value of handmade. I make my jewellery because it makes me happy and because it makes you happy.
Customer Service: If something happens to your factory-made product, most likely you throw it out. When you buy from me or other artists, you are dealing with a person. We communicate and build a relationship. If something happens to your piece that I have made, I fix it or I replace it; I do what I have to do to keep you happy. And I hope that you are happy with your Canadian-made S’wag Jewellery.
It’s hard to compete with companies who steal ideas, mass-produce with low-end materials and sell for cheap. There’s not a lot I can do about my pieces being replicated. I guess I should feel flattered that I am up there with the likes of Gucci and Chanel, having knockoffs of my work floating around the world. S’wag has gone international!
But jokes aside, this experience has really got me thinking, and I will certainly be considering my own buying habits more carefully in the future. As consumers, we need to ask more questions. We need to recognize that when we are buying something online or in a store and the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Someone is losing – the artist, the designers, or the factory worker who is likely being paid very little if the products are being sold so cheap.
This holiday season, let’s think about the purchases we are making. It is so easy to spend thoughtlessly on gifts of quantity over quality. This holiday, let’s visit craft markets, local stores that support local artisans or artisans themselves. We may end up with a smaller looking gift, or a few prized items rather than pile of presents, but no one will lose out!
My studio isn’t big or fancy. It’s just my jewellery bench in a small room in a custom bicycle painting shop. But it’s mine. And I do what I love in there. I will continue to post my pictures and items on social media – it’s allowed me to connect with amazing people around the world.
Thank you for all of your support!
Please consider supporting local artisans this holiday season!
Sarah Dobranowski - Designer and Goldsmith
For a list of where you can shop S’wag Jewellery please visit our “Where to find S’wag” page.
#meetthemaker #handmade #supportthearts #shoplocal