Topic #57: Random act of kindness (craft-wise)

Last time was actually craft-related. I saved some random girls in a large shop from buying crappy wood boxes (ones that will get their lids stuck on if you paint them, because the paint glues it together) and convinced to get ones with hinged lids.

Which led me to some thinking on the quality of materials available in the shops. Even ones that specialise in crafts. Actually, I buy most of my supplies in one chain of shops in Poland, which is Empik (deals with books, newspapers, school supplies, office supplies, CDs, DVDs, games and what not, also “arts&paper”). In Warsaw most of their outlets (pretty large shops, each one of them) have a craft section, offering large choice of paints, papers, glues, polymer clay, wires, beads, tools, jewelry findings, brushes and, what I checked recently, wood objects for decoupage.

Now, these wood objects may be trays, boxes, bowls, frames – whatever you wish. The problem is, unfortunately, the quality of the offer. In case of all wooden objects for further decoration, the cut and seasoning of the wood is most important for its’ future processing. As all items I saw are “made in China” (I’m wondering if ones made locally would be so much more expensive), I can’t even begin to guess how and of what wood they are made.

I have tried several models and there are some of them which are absolutely terrible (and one that is quite ok):
* boxes (mostly rounded) made of wood ribbon, with lids that fit over them “like a hat”, so that part of the side of the box has direct contact with the internal surface of the lid; awfully tight fit and very poorly made, very bad for decoration; actually only useful if the upper surface of the lid is the only part decorated
* square boxes with hinged lids and a lock – at first glance very nice, but after first one or two coats of paint the lid warps UP so the lock doesn’t fit anymore; quite awful in effect
* square boxes with bow lids – trunk shaped – non-stackable (unlike the above two models), but the only ones which don’t get damaged when painted

Also, shops keep bad and already damaged (warped, locks broken) boxes on display, even when staff is notified about the damage. Of course, these get bought by people who are in a hurry or don’t notice such details and then discover the problem at home (usually after discarding the receipt).

Now, the question is, what is really the situation:
* customers buy bad boxes but don’t complain because they don’t really care that much to complain about a box that cost $2
* customers buy, but don’t care about the quality
* customers complain, but too quietly to be really noticed
* customers complain, but nobody cares anyway, because even if these customers go away, new ones will come
* nobody cares at all, all boxes are categorised in one place so noone is able to draw conclusions ie. which boxes should not be ordered anymore

This, in a way, reflects the state of affairs in various craft shops. One will sell us warped boxes, another will send broken bugle beads, and yet another – items which their carrier agency can’t properly process in Europe, as they don’t have the permission (and, after three years, shop still doesn’t have a warning that you shouldn’t import pearls or nickel-plated items to EU, yes, Fire Mountain Gems, I’m writing about YOU).

Do we, as crafters, not create a market big enough? Is our demand for fine-quality (or at least tolerably good and usable) items not high enough? I would gladly pay a buck more for my wooden boxes if I had a guarantee they are well-sanded and well-seasoned and not going to warp after first painting. But I can’t – there are NO OTHER boxes to be obtained around here.

Why don’t the suppliers get something more appropriate? Offer more than one (crappy) level of quality? Maybe it’s specific to Poland, but I’m afraid that crafts and handmade items are still treated in very unserious matter, so I have this feeling that if I went and complained about the boxes quality, the staff would laugh their heads off…

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