Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Give it away, Give it away, give it away now....

I've had some thoughtful discussion with friends today about a trend in the soaping community, and it sparked an interest in the thoughts of other shop owners, or hobbyists who do what we love to do.

I'm a little disenchanted with You Tube, lately. I remember when I first started this soap adventure, and the only information you could find online was some bullshit 25/25/25 recipe of olive, coconut and palm and maybe one (with all due respect) crusty video from Nancy Today.  (Love ya, Nance.)  Now everybody and their flippin' mother is making videos and giving away all the techniques and information and I feel like the market is getting so saturated with it. Half of the craft was in the process....the journey.  Every day, more and more shops are lining the pages of Etsy, Artfire and BuyMyCrap.Com and it begs the question sometimes: Why are people working so hard on their product, and then going on YouTube and giving it all away to every shmoe with a spatula?  Now, there are those that guard every tiny shred of knowledge like they have the keys to unlocking cancer hidden in their tub of cocoa butter.  I'm not talking about THOSE clowns.  We all know them.  I will freely help newbies out with hints and techniques, I'll tell soaper friends how I do certain things without giving it a second thought, and they will for me, as well.  I can sit here and think of several nuggets of discovery though, that took insane amounts of time and work (did I mention work?) to arrive at, and now you can, through the magic of the internet, go online to a soaper's channel, and within one video, or a light sifting through their comments section, gather someone else's hard work and dedication, and put your product up for sale in a fraction of the time it took it's messenger.  So what do I care?  It's capitalism!  It's opportunism!  "Too bad you didn't have these resources, Lori, but we do, so suck up your sour grapes and step off my good fortune", ya old bat". 


I discussed this with a few friends of mine, insanely talented soapmakers and artists in their own right.  One says, it's a pointless tail chase.  Another opinion is that You Tube is about the community and not sales and secrecy.  Admirable, and I do see the validity of the point, but I'm not doing this for my health, either. I assume most people that count their small businesses as income can agree.  The reality is that if you can get your exact Triple Swirl Sooper Dooper Double Butter Yak Milk soap in ten other shops this week, you've sorta leveled your own playing field.

Look, I love sharing videos as much as the next slob, and I count myself among the fortunate that have learned loads from the experience of others. Little hints, generalized technique are all invaluable to our community. What I'm puzzled about, at times, is watching someone I know work their butt off developing a product, some cool technique or some special "niche" they've created for themselves, and then slap it on You Tube complete with step-by-step instructions, FO blends and/or ingredient lists.   A week from now, your blood, sweat and tears will be a fish in a sea of blinding sameness, and I wonder if enough value is being placed on your work and artisanship.  Or worse, are we doing a disservice and dilution to the art itself?