Saturday, July 26, 2014

Designer Fabrics and My Guitar Straps

Designer Fabrics and My Guitar Straps


Published On: 07-26-2014 04:47am
Comments: 0 - Hits: 0
If you've looked around my shop at http://www.coolstraps.artfire.com, you can tell I try to use unusual, off-the-beaten-path materials for my guitar straps. Those materials tend to be ornate, highly detailed, and very stylized. What I have always had difficulty finding is a material design that has those qualities but is, at the same time, visually stark, pure, something with a kind of unvarnished clarity. I recently came upon a fabric design that does exactly what I want, that is just chocked full of subtlety and detail but still has that sharp intensity that has been so hard to find.

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The fabric itself is absolutely exquisite-- a thick, soft, glossy crepe de chine sateen that is simultaneously both meaty and elegant.  But even more impressive is that it has captured the hand of the artist in such humanizing, intimate detail. 

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When I first saw this design, it looked for all the world as if the fabric had actually been drawn on and colored, that what I was getting was not a print but actual original art. I could see the movement of the colored pencil tip back and forth; I could see where the artist's hand had applied more or less pressure to achieve a saturated or pastel shading; I could see how fine or blunt the edge of the pencil was against the side of the guide used for drawing the straight lines. I simply could not stop studying the detail of the artwork.

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Because this is a limited edition fabric, I will not be able to make more than a few guitar straps with it. But, oh, what beautiful guitar straps they will be! My plan is that each one will have a back lining unique to the shades of blue, peach, and yellow on the front-- a guitar strap that is utterly original, truly one of a kind. Having made the first one, I am so completely thrilled with how it looks, I can't wait to make the others. You can see my listing for this guitar strap here: (http://www.artfire.com/ext/shop/product_view/Coolstraps/9576629/ultra_modern_custom_design_handmade_guitar_strap_pastel_pencil_artwork/handmade/music_instruments/string) and I hope you fall as profoundly in love with it as I have. Thanks for reading! Terri





I've worked with a lot of guitarists who have a mental picture of what they want to look like onstage. They think that since they play a certain "type" of music, that they must sport a certain "type" of image, right down to their guitar straps. But, when they really go through my guitar straps, they'll often say, "Oh, I really like that one but I could never wear it. It's too (insert your own adjective here--pretty, classy, quiet, odd, weird, just too unexpected)."

A very successful musician who had bought one of my straps said to me, "I want the girls to like me. I want the guys to want to be like me. Part of why they want to be like me is that the girls like me." He then proceeded to buy a red satin and tulle guitar strap with one single hand embroidered and beaded long-stemmed rose on it. I asked him why he had chosen that particular strap since he was a heavy metal musician. He said, "Because it will confuse the girls. I'm dangerous and I'm somehow approachable all at the same time. They love that." I had not thought of that particular manipulation and, while I can’t say I endorse it, I can say it seems to work pretty well for him.

So, I am on a mission to try to teach musicians to try to think outside the

image box. One of the fun aspects of my guitar straps is that they are elegant, beautiful, attention-grabbing, but they are not conventional. That means you’re already thinking outside the image box just by looking at my guitar straps (Good for you! Gold star!) But, if you’re going to buy an unconventional strap, how do you choose it? First, of course, it has to complement your guitar. If you have a dominant color in your guitar, you can choose a strap that matches that dominant color; however, this is the fun part. If you have minor colors in your guitar, a neutral guitar strap with dominant imagery in those minor colors is just an awesome look! It shows that you really thought about it and didn’t just grab something off the rack. Let’s say you have a black guitar with a tortoise shell pick guard and abalone inlay in the fret board. This leopard print strap would be perfect— picks up the shades of brown and black in the tortoise shell and the cream white portion of the print picks up the abalone inlay. The other thing you have to give some thought to is how your strap coordinates with your stage wardrobe. One musician bought this Don’t Tread On Me guitar strap and always coordinates with it, wearing a black and yellow checked shirt or black shoes with yellow shoe laces. He’s even worn a black and yellow knitted indie stocking cap. But the strap has a particular dominance that he likes and he works with because it’s part of an overall stage persona. One musician bought four different straps from me all at the same time and each was vastly different in color and imagery from the other. When I asked him about it, he explained that he wants a more refined look for his acoustic sets and a more visually aggressive look for his amped sets. Same music, just a different feel and a different personal presentation. Another musician who bought one of my straps just said, “I want to look like I have some class, some taste.” That statement was a real honor to me, that I could produce something that made somebody feel cool like that.
Because my straps aren’t excruciatingly expensive I’m able to offer well made, fine looking straps at a price that gives you some real choices, and because my straps are pretty much one-of-a-kind, you truly are unique when you step out onto the stage. And, I bet those confused girls will love it! Thanks for reading! Terri Hearne

The Changing Face of the Music Industry

Because I have two sons who are struggling to be successful musicians, I do pay attention to the winds of change in their chosen profession. The music industry has been in a state of flux for decades but the advent of the digital download has turned it completely on its head.


When I was growing up in the '60's, full length vinyl albums were the musical currency of the era--usually 11 or 12 songs (half on Side A of the album, half on Side B). Singles (45 rpm vinyls) were available but you only bought them because you couldn't afford the whole album. Nobody actually wanted singles; they settled for them. There were only a few major record labels and the industry and radio gurus told you what to like by playing the same songs over and over and over during the course of the day. The radio was the place-- the only place-- you got your music.



The medium of music purchasing changed a bit with the advent of the 8-track tape player but the power of radio was still supreme. The major disadvantage of the 8-track was that, on occasion, a song cut off in the middle in order for the tape to switch over. No wonder 8-tracks didn't last long. They were exasperating.



Unique, Affordable Christmas Gifts--How About A Handmade Guitar Strap?


Christmas will be here soon and, like most of us, you're probably trying to figure out how to buy gifts that have quality and meaning without breaking your Christmas budget. It's tough times right now. Most of us understand that. Being immersed in the local and regional music scene, I am especially sensitive to the fact that there are fewer gigs out there, smaller draws, less money at the end of the night. What was once a struggle to move forward has become a battle just to survive.

When I started making handmade guitar straps in 1998, those musicians were exactly the ones I had in mind-- people who were getting started, didn't have much money, but needed and wanted to bring a distinctive persona to the stage. I've never abandoned that group of musicians because they have always been special to me, people with goals and hopes and the talent to make them real, and that's why I've tried to keep my guitar strap prices within their reach. So, here are links to a few of my guitar straps that are at or under $50, Maybe you'll see something that's perfect for the struggling musician in your life, maybe you won't. Don't just shop at my studio; look around Artfire (www.artfire.com), where I sell my guitar straps. You'll see all kinds of really cool, well made, affordable creations.

When you visit Artfire, be sure to look for the Certified Handmade Artifact in the artisan studio you're visiting. Check their feedback by clicking the gold stars in the Seller Information box. Be especially sure to check their check in date just above the gold stars. If it's been a while since they checked in, unless they are on vacation and have a vacation message in their studio, move on to another studio. Some sellers conceal their check in date and I honestly don't know why. But, if you see something you just must have, check their sales numbers for some assurance that they're active, or message them before you buy to make sure they'll be responsive. Read the descriptions carefully to be sure you are getting what you think you are getting.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Daddy's Junky Music Closes--An Object Lesson For Us All

Daddy's Junky Music, a New Hampshire icon since 1966, recently closed its doors for good. To hear Daddy's owner, Fred Bramante, tell it, they were unable to overcome a poor economy but, even more importantly, they could not overcome their internet competition and the lack of sales taxes charged by many internet businesses. A costly labor dispute also contributed to Daddy's insolvency. Troy Richardson of LA Guitar Examiner has a particularly insightful article that closely scrutinizes and dissects Daddy's explanations of their demise:

In order to survive, every business needs four things-- products people want at reasonable prices, a means of letting people know what they offer, convenient shopping methods,
and service that makes the customer feel valued after the sale. At the heart of those parameters is the need to be able to adapt to a constantly changing business environment and mastery of the newest business tools.

Richardson describes a business that failed to keep up with its p
roduct line, offering a narrower and narrower range of mediocre products over the years, both new and used. Says Richardson, "The product lines left weren’t supported with any depth. With only mid-level product offerings at best, the quality of used gear coming in spiraled down to where most musicians were hard pressed to find anything worth owning."

Customer service lies at the heart of every successful business, and the quality of customer service is a direct function of a business's employees, their own sense of v
alue and their pride in the products they are pushing. Staff turnover is a significant indicator of employee morale and Daddy's had a problem. Again, Richardson offer the following: "Reviews on Yelp.com show post after post by unhappy customers encouraging others to shop elsewhere, with only the most glowing reports coming in at three stars and stating 'it wasn’t that bad.' While there were a few die-hard employees there for years, the company retained few others, having turnover that rivaled the big chain stores they were trying to beat. Many industry professionals got their start at Daddy’s, only to move on to work for manufacturers, rep firms or, unfortunately, the competition."

Daddy's claims internet competition undermined their success,
especially the absence of an internet sales tax, but Daddy's had several opportunities to capitalize on the internet as a business tool. Successful businesses try and tweak, try and tweak, until they find what works. Daddy's apparently skipped the tweak part, tried and abandoned online selling strategies on more than one occasion. Richardson lays out a time line that put Daddy's at the forefront of the internet commerce revolution, and certainly at the vanguard of the brick-and-mortar alternatives, that they simply failed to capitalize on. Used Gear by Mail, RockAuction.com, and Daddysonline all had promising platforms but, rather than fine tuning, it seems Daddy's simply abandoned them. Observes Richardson, "Possibly too little too late, Daddysonline.com never seemed to get the push the other web-based programs received and faded away with the rest of the business."

It is profoundly significant that in 2008, Daddy's settled a l
abor dispute involving two employees and a manager for between $600,000 and $700,000, a not insubstantial sum. Said Bramante in an interview with Jake O'Donnell of Exeter Patch, "I didn't want anyone to think they'd been cheated... It cleared my conscience." It also probably cleared out most of the bank account. Entering a recession with cash reserves so seriously depleted was probably the final, though not the only, nail in the coffin for Daddy's.

On the surface, Daddy's was a business that succumbed to the vagaries of the economy and changing ecommerce technology. But, a little digging suggests a business that survived in spite of itself until it couldn't anymore. Bramante is quoted as saying, "It's a miracle we got this far... Ultimately, this didn't need to happen." No, no, it didn't. It didn't need to happen.

So, what is the object lesson for us? I sell guitar straps. Odds are, you sell your music. We are all bound by the same requirements for success-- a product people want at a reasonable price, an effective means of spreading information about our product, customers and fans who feel appreciated, and using the latest available technology to make that product available for purchase. It doesn't matter what you sell. The rules are the same. Learn from Daddy's.



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Unique, Affordable Christmas Gifts--How About A Handmade Guitar Strap?

Christmas will be here soon and, like most of us, you're probably trying to figure out how to buy gifts that have quality and meaning without breaking your Christmas budget. It's tough times right now. Most of us understand that. Being immersed in the local and regional music scene, I am especially sensitive to the fact that there are fewer gigs out there, smaller draws, less money at the end of the night. What was once a struggle to move forward has become a battle just to survive.

When I started making handmade guitar straps in 1998, those musicians were exactly the ones I had in mind-- people who were getting started, didn't have much money, but needed and wanted to bring a distinctive persona to the stage. I've never abandoned that group of musicians because they have always been special to me, people with goals and hopes and the talent to make them real, and that's why I've tried to keep my guitar strap prices within their reach. The top paragraph takes you to my Artfire studio where you'll see a range of prices from $45 to $500. Maybe you'll see something that's perfect for the struggling musician in your life, maybe you won't. Don't just shop at my studio; look around Artfire, where I sell my guitar straps. You'll see all kinds of really cool, well made, affordable creations.

When you visit an Artfire studio, be sure to look for the Certified Handmade Artifact in the artisan studio you're visiting. Check their feedback by clicking the gold stars in the Seller Information box. Be especially sure to check their check in date just above the gold stars. If it's been a while since they checked in, unless they are on vacation and have a vacation message in their studio, move on to another studio. Some sellers conceal their check in date and I honestly don't know why. But, if you see something you just must have, check their sales numbers for some assurance that they're active and message them before you buy to make sure they'll be responsive. Read the descriptions carefully to be sure you are getting what you think you are getting.

You can have a great Christmas if you just think creatively. You can find wonderfully unique and unusual, affordable, one-of-a-kind creations and buy from a trustworthy artisan. I hope you try Artfire and I really hope you'll check out my guitar straps. Merry Christmas!! Terri

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Gibson Guitars and Federal Intimidation

In late 2009, Gibson Guitars was raided by the federal government and a little over $500,000 in wood and other materials were seized. The premise of the 2009 raid was that Gibson was importing and using Madagascar wood, primarily ebony and rosewood, for their fretboards. Supposedly, the imported wood Gibson was using violated the Lacey Act (http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/lacey_act/index.shtml). The Lacy Act was first introduced and passed Congress in 1900. Its primary target was the movement of game and wild birds from one state to another for hunting purposes in an effort to preserve those species in their natural habitat.

Over the years, the Lacey Act has undergone several revisions and amendments to expand its reach to include international importation of wood and plants. When Gibson was raided in 2009, the accusation was that they were using wood that had been improperly imported from Madagascar. What made it improper was that it could not be immediately documented by Gibson as to whether the wood was cultivated, naturally fallen, or wild growing. Cultivated (farmed) wood, if properly documented, is permissible; naturally fallen wood (a tree that dies naturally) is also permissible; wild growing harvested wood is not permissible. Gibson relies on their international suppliers to provide the certification that the imported wood complies with international law, import and export regulations, and with the Lacey Act. According to Gibson, they fully cooperated with the Department of Justice and were able to prove after the 2009 seizure that the wood they were using was legal, even providing sworn statements from the Madagascar government that the wood they had imported met Madagascar exportation laws. They apparently requested on several occasions that the Department of Justice return the seized materials or file charges, neither of which happened. Remember that the seized wood represented a major financial drain on Gibson, interfered with production, and cost Gibson a lot of money.

(Madagascar Ebony Wood)

In June 2011, Gibson filed a court action requesting that their materials be returned by the Department of Justice. In August 2011, the DOJ again raided Gibson, this time on the premise that wood Gibson had imported from India violated India's export laws. The basis of the violation seems to be that Indian law prohibits the exportation of wood that is unfinished by Indian workers. What Gibson was importing was partially finished wood that their workers then finished by staining the wood, perhaps installing position markers, those kinds of final finishing touches. Gibson's international supplier of Indian wood is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (http://www.fsc.org/). On August 25, 2011, Gibson issued a press statement concerning the August 2011 raid and the history as it related to the 2009 raid (http://www.gibson.com/absolutenm/templates/FeatureTemplatePressRelease.aspx?articleid=1340&zoneid=6).

(Unfinished Indian Rosewood)



This is not a small matter. The Wall Street Journal has pointed out ( http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904787404576530520471223268.html?mod=googlenews_wsj) that musicians who travel internationally may find themselves under federal scrutiny, and not just if they own a Gibson guitar. The owners of vintage guitars seldom if ever have records documenting the sources of their guitar's construction materials. If your tuning pegs are ivory, what kind of ivory? How was it gotten? Is that fretboard rosewood? Where did it come from? Can you turn to the manufacturer and reasonably expect them to provide you with this information? Records get old, get lost, suffer water or fire damage. Records simply cannot always be found. And, if you can't prove that your guitar is compliant with all applicable laws governing its wood and ivory components, import and export regulations and treaties, what then? Can it be seized as a presumptive violation the way Gibson's materials were? What if you decide to sell your old guitar? What records will you have to be able to present to a prospective buyer?

(Vintage Gibson--What's it made of? Where did the materials come from?)




These are very real and serious issues that musicians everywhere will have to consider as they prepare to buy or sell their new or used instruments, plan their tours, etc. Right now, especially if you own a Gibson guitar, you are vulnerable to whatever hoops the federal government decides to place before you and require you to jump through. Whether Gibson initially violated laws that led to the 2009 raid waits to be seen since the Department of Justice has failed to file any charges resulting from that seizure and has, as a result of Gibson's June court filing, asked the court for a stay. That is to say, for two years, the federal government sat on Gibson's seized materials without taking any action until forced to do so by Gibson's filing. With the August raid coming on the heels of Gibson's attempt to seek relief from the court, and the fact that it is based on an entirely new and separate but equally squishy set of issues, my own feeling is that this action amounts to raw intimidation being exercised by the Department of Justice; they are making an example of Gibson, demonstrating just how easy it would be to destroy your business if that is what they decide they want to do.




This issue is no longer about simply protecting trees and complying with treaties. This issue has reached a new and much more disturbing plane, the government's ability to seize your property and seriously injure your business, then sit back for two years, only to do it all over again when you finally exercise your right of petition. There is much here to ponder.