I'm really torn.
This month, I will get my first paycheck, after 18 straight months of blogging at least 60 hours a week, and thousands of dollars of our family's personal money put into our website. My daughter has gotten used to me spending hours and hours on the computer, or in the shop working on furniture. I've worked really hard (and I'm so grateful for the opportunity!), but it's not just about protecting my designs, it's about the sacrifice my entire family has made for me to keep furniture plans free.
But it's also about someone I know too well - someone who has discovered that they can make amazing furniture, and the wheels start turning in their heads . . . "could I make a little extra money doing something that I love?" I know that person because I've been there. A little bit of extra income here and there doing something that you love can go a long way toward bettering your family's lifestyle. And there's nothing more good and honest than using your hands to make a good honest living.
And then there's the other side. Some of us just can't make our own furniture. Either we live in apartments or lack tools, and would love to buy unfinished quality furniture, or we just don't have the time or inclination, but we love handmade furniture and are dedicated to supporting handmade products.
So who get's cheated?
Me. My heart sinks whenever I stumble on a website selling our furniture, often using your photos :(
You. My heart sinks whenever I get an email and just don't know what to say to someone who wants to sell furniture the good honest way.
Us All. My heart sinks whenever I stumble on a website selling our furniture without giving credit, making me so sad for the customers, who are never given an opportunity to build for themselves.
Them. My heart sinks whenever someone writes me asking if they can buy my handmade furniture, and I just can't ship from Alaska - or have the time to build for resale.
I've been so silent on all of this because I don't really have an answer. I need to protect my work (and also your work) but I understand what it's like to just want to make a little extra money doing something that you love to do. And I'm a big believer in supporting local handmade products - it's economically and environmentally responsible, and it's about bettering our communities. Not to mention high quality and very beautiful.
So I wanted to get your thoughts. We are working on a new website that will behave as most large websites do (think retail shopping websites or recipe websites), and I've been thinking. What if you could BUILD, and you could BRAG, but you could also BUY? And of course sell? Kind of like an Etsy part of our site (it would be free both ways, I wouldn't feel good about a cut of your hard earned money)? And your profile would show all of your work (brag posts) and you could list yourself as available for custom work?
Of course, there are so many things to consider, like logistics and shipping and liability and all that other stuff that tends to squash out ideas that we would need to work through. But the reality is it is done, and done well (think Etsy), and if I can help just one mother who wants to make a little extra money to build a playhouse for her children this summer, it would be more than worth it to me.
I am so sorry if the first part of this post sounds like I am complaining, because that is not the case. I am very grateful for the opportunity to do something that I love for a living. I will always fight to keep plans free on Ana White.com; my goal has always been to save you money, not to take you money.
But as we grow, and I see more and more people either selling furniture built from our plans (and often using our photos) without any credit, and also seeing more and more interest from honest members of our community trying to figure out honest ways of converting their hard work into a little extra income for their families, I know it's time to find a solution. Instead of policing the web for resellers and sending out legal letters, I would rather give those that wish to build for profit a honest means of connecting with potential buyers.
Your handmade furniture is valueable in ways that you may not understand. Last year, an estimated $50 billion was spent on Home Furnishings in the US alone. If we could convert just 1/100 of those purchases to handmade, that's $500 million dollars put in your local communities, giving a little extra income to people who are willing to work hard. But more importantly, it's $500 million dollars not spent on imported furniture, made in factories with very different labor and environmental standards, and shipped around the globe.
This is a very big decision, and not one to be decided lightly. As I consider this our website, it is vital that I understand your concerns and feelings about adding a means to connect buyers and sellers directly. I am doing my best to read every comment, to respond to as many as possible. I appreciate you taking your time to weigh in. Many Blessings, Ana
Special thanks to Amanda for her beautiful photo.