THOUGHTS FROM AN ARTIST’S HEART
I have something that has been deeply weighing on my heart for the last month. I had a different post initially planned for this month, one that I may share later down the road, or I may not… I’m not sure. Something else has been nagging at me, as there were a couple of incidents this last month on our social media channels and I feel like I need to use this space to address it.
I was honored, because it was one of our most-liked, most-shared, and most-interacted-with posts… ever. Normally, I would be thrilled by something like this. Unfortunately, I was also so hurt to see this post stolen by a couple of accounts.
When I say stolen, I mean stolen.
This is my artwork, and my words.
I took my own time to create this post, with professional design programs that I pay monthly to use. The font here is one I have purchased for the business, and is a brand font I use all over the place—0n our website, our social media posts, print pieces, etc. So it’s unlikely that this font would just pop-up elsewhere in abundance, as most people (and let’s be real, most designers for that matter), don’t like to actually spend money on fonts. Hello, new-designer-fresh-out-of-design-school… I’ve been there too.
Since we posted this, someone has removed our account credit and posted it to their account.
Our artwork was posted to their account, looking like it was content they had created (we were also not tagged in the post either). And of course, it was inevitably shared from their account elsewhere…with no trace back to us. I saw a couple of cases of this, but have no idea of the larger viralness of it, and obviously cannot control this once it happens. I realize this is something that occurs ALL THE TIME on the internet. I also realize that this seems like a trivial thing to talk about on our blog, especially given that there are bigger things that The Noble Paperie is working on. I know there will be many people reading this, thinking that this isn’t a big deal to share a post without crediting the creator. But, I wanted to share why it actually is a big deal, and is worth talking about.
Like I mentioned, it may seem trivial for someone to take a post and share it without crediting the original artist. And like I mentioned before, this happens all the time. That doesn’t make it right, or fair, to the original creator of the piece, and here’s why:
By removing our credit and then sharing our content, that individual is denying other loss-mamas from finding our social media account, our website, and our resources we have cultivated for this loss-community.
You may feel like the words of the post we created look better without our credit. That’s fine. And I can understand that sentiment. But one reason for the credit is because we spend an incredible amount of time creating social media content, because we ultimately want people to find us through those posts. Social media can be a great tool. It’s an excellent way to reach people, and because of the viralness of posts, it’s easy for things to spread that are popular. While we spend a lot of time creating and cultivating our social media, we also spend a lot of additional time creating other resources to support this loss-community.
One of those resources we spend countless hours on, is our Care Library—something we shared about earlier this month on our social media as well. This resource was incredibly time-consuming to create, and there are no incentives for us to add companies and organizations to the growing list of resources, meaning there are absolutely no affiliate links on that page. It remains a list of credible resources to mamas walking through loss, infertility, a NICU stay, and tough times during motherhood. I’m so proud of our Care Library. I’m proud that we are genuinely offering something useful to the community that solely provides a benefit to these women and caregivers, and offers no additional benefit to us as a company. I feel that it legitimizes what we are doing, while simultaneously supporting other women-run small businesses… all with the common goal in mind of lifting up loss-mamas and mamas in waiting.
While it may seem a trivial thing, taking the credit off of one of our social media posts ultimately denies other loss-mamas the potential of finding our Care Library, or from finding the community we have spent time to cultivate on our social media accounts. While you may receive immediate enjoyment from posting words that are beautifully designed and written, it’s always worth trying to find the artist who created it. You may not realize your own impact of sharing a post to social media.
We are a greeting card company. In order to create new greeting cards, we actually do need to sell cards in order to make more of them.
The Noble Paperie is a unique business. It’s small. It seems obvious, but small businesses don’t have the same resources that large ones do. Hallmark has incredible amounts of money to invest in their artists, and in the printing of thousands of their greeting cards. For us, launching just six new greeting cards a couple times a year is a massive investment, and at the end of the day, also doubles as a huge risk for us.
Creating our Noble Greetings or pin-back buttons is the most time-consuming portion of our business. While making these products is incredibly enjoyable and fulfilling for me, they do take an exorbitant amount of time to design, create, print, produce, and assemble. Each of those steps is completed entirely by myself, with some help from our production partners, and sometimes my hubs. Ultimately the time and money we spend to create these pieces is a risky investment—all with the hope that the words we develop will resonate with this community and someone will find the designs of the cards beautiful enough to purchase for themselves, a friend, or a family member walking through a difficult time.
I’ll share some information about our business—The Noble Paperie is run entirely debt-free at the moment. We haven’t taken out huge loans and I actually do have another full-time job that helps to pay the bills that I can’t cover with the work I do here. That means that for every greeting card we sell, yes, there may be a profit in that, but that profit doesn’t just go directly into our pocket. That money is then immediately reinvested into the company. That money goes to paying for the next round of Noble Greetings that we are releasing. It pays for the design programs I use to create the cards. It pays for the thousands of incidental fees that Etsy gouges us for (don’t EVEN get my started). It pays for hosting our website so people can find us, our cards, and our resources.
We don’t have unlimited amounts of cash and aren’t even remotely as popular as Hallmark or even Emily McDowell, so printing 500 of each card is a massive investment for us. And that means we need to ensure we sell enough cards from a previous launch to pay for a future one. We also are very up-front about the fact that we also give back. A portion from the sale of each of our products goes directly to Miracle Babies—a nonprofit supporting families with babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). We are so proud that this is also part of our business model and feel indebted to them for caring for us during our own stay with our son in the NICU. The reason we don’t mention an actual percentage amount we donate, is because that number is also dependent upon the amount of cards we sell each year.
Taking credit from one of our posts, is denying people from finding us. It denies potential customers from buying more greeting cards, and will inevitably slow down how often we are able to create new cards. So it means we have less to invest back into the business, and ultimately means we have less to donate to Miracle Babies. What seems like the simple, seemingly insignificant action of sharing an uncredited post can have a massive repercussions for our business model. While many people follow and support us because of our free content (our social media and the community we have fostered), we have essentially built this business and this community on the backs of our greeting cards. If we can’t continue to pay for our greeting cards, we can’t continue to create them, we can’t continue to donate and support NICU families, and we can’t continue to grow and cultivate The Noble Paperie.
At the end of the day, The Noble Paperie is a small business. And it also supports a small family.
I know I’ve already mentioned that The Noble Paperie is a small business. And I don’t think it needs much of an explanation that the miniscule portion we are able to take home from selling one our greeting cards, also goes directly to supporting our family. The small portion we are able to use as a profit, helps to pay to turn our lights on and run our refrigerator. It pays to put dinner on the table for myself, my husband, and my son. So while it may seem insignificant to the individual who removed our credit from our social media post, that post is a piece of my art… and creating that art is how I make a living, help to contribute to our household, and support our family.
The artwork that was stolen, is my livelihood. For some reason, the way an artist provides for their family is viewed differently than the work of someone who say, spends their day flipping burgers. Most people wouldn’t steal a hamburger from a restaurant where they know someone worked hard to create that meal, so why is this concept different for an artist? Why is my time and my work less-valued than the work of another industry? I would hope that this would be a concept that any woman, any mother—any person for that matter—would be able to understand.
There are so many mamas who are walking through miscarriage or infertility who have found us and love The Noble Paperie. This community is slowly growing and supporting more mamas and families than ever, and none of that is lost on me. I completely understand the miscarried mama’s heart. I have stood in those very shoes: as a woman who was dying to become a mother, and then a mother who was dying because I had lost a baby. I also was the woman who was literally required by a doctor to sit at home, and then later was bedridden in a hospital for weeks on end, hoping and praying to carry our baby to term. And finally, I was a mother who sat at the hospital bedside of my son, praying and waiting for him to come home from the NICU. All of it, I remember clearly. And am thankful for each and every one of the experiences so that I can now use those experiences to support mothers walking similar journeys.
I am also thankful to be in the position I am now. I’m glad I have lived and survived these experiences, and am honored to be offering support to such a lovely and uplifting community. I feel honored to be doing the work we’re doing and using my creative gifts to make something I not only deeply believe in, but something I find massive amounts of enjoyment doing.
I desperately hope that sharing this post has illuminated some of the unwritten rules for social media to people who were unaware. Am I going to solve all of social media’s issues with this post? No, I don’t pretend to think that will be the outcome of this. But I do hope that this post has shed light onto our situation, and has educated at least one person on the best way to share posts on social media moving forward. I want to start the conversation. Just because our work is creative doesn’t make it any less important, or any less impactful, than someone else’s.
Let’s lift up each other. Let’s support each other. And while it may seem like a small, trivial, insignificant thing to do—crediting an artist’s work can create a huge ripple effect on their business and on their life. Be the reason someone new discovers them. Be the reason that artist makes a sale today and they do a little happy dance at home, because they have one more dollar to put towards their rent, their mortgage, their dinner, or their children. Let’s continue to support each other in the best way we know how. I’m trying to support this community with my creative gifts, and I hope and pray that this community reciprocates that same love and care back to The Noble Paperie and other artists along the way.