Monday, October 7, 2019

Fair Fibre Wage

For 40+ years I taught, usually out of town, which meant creative packing and arranging travel.  The best way for me to approach teaching was to organize 'tours' where I would try to find two or three (sometimes more) events so that the various groups could share the cost of getting me to them.

Over the years I was able to earn more from teaching for individual groups because so many conferences were paying less than my already too low daily teaching fee.  So mostly I only applied to teach at a conference if it was in a location I wanted to visit, or if I had people in the area (friends/teachers) I wanted to spend some time with.

In the textile field there has been quite a range of payment offered and at times I had to weigh the 'exposure' I would get from teaching at a conference and hope that if people attending the conference found me helpful, I would get more opportunities to teach in that geographic area.

Eventually I had to come to grips with the fact that 'exposure' is at best iffy, and at worst, I would be attending and working at some conferences by subsidizing the event by being out of pocket.

Recently I heard of events being touted that were not paying the instructors to teach.  At all.  They were offering money towards travel, but that was it.  Since most events are geared towards the organizers making money, they were literally asking the instructors to make them money by not paying them any kind of teaching fee.

This is a disturbing trend that isn't confined to the textile arts.  I follow a number of authors on social media and one of them posted an 'offer' they were only too happy to refuse - attend an event, get a small amount towards their travel, present seminars for no compensation BUT they could sell their books at the author signing.  Oh, but the event would be taking 25% of any sales. 

Please, do not participate in any such event.  If no teachers (or other creatives - musicians, authors, artists) will take part in this kind of event, they cannot happen!

Conferences need to pay their instructors just like they pay for the venue and marketing.  Conferences need to cover the costs of getting the instructors to their event and pay for accommodation and food.

For our conference we chose to pay a travel allowance and per diem for food.  This allowed us to budget our finances accordingly.  We were as generous as possible in terms of the daily fee and prior to the instructors even arriving, their payment cheques were ready for them to pick up at the event itself.

They did not have to submit receipts which we then haggled over.  And they went home with their payment in their pockets rather than wait weeks (or more) for their payment.

We did this in part because it allowed our treasurer to track expenses very closely because we and the instructors knew how much money they were going to be getting.  We did not ask the instructors to finances the event by waiting for payment.

If we want textile crafts to continue to grow and remain healthy, we must pay our instructors a Fair Fibre Wage.  We must put money into the pockets of the people who are knowledgeable in order to keep them teaching us. 

We need to pay the designers, the artists, the musicians.  They need the income and we need their input.


Unknown said...

Well said. But how do I know if the teachers are properly paid or volunteers?

Laura Fry said...

Good question. Most events have their payment schedule available somewhere. If you can't find one, a query to the event coordinator might get that info. Or ask a teacher you know what they are getting paid, if they are willing to share. Just as a guideline, the very least an instructor should be receiving is $55/teaching hour plus all expenses - travel, food, accommodation, plus materials they provide. Most instructors are asking for more than that to reflect the prep time that is required. Not to mention their level of knowledge (and their reputations - because the event will be using their participation to market their event).

Some conferences collect the material fee at time of registration, others have the instructors collect so that the money goes directly to them and not through the event books. Some events allow instructors to sell any books they may have written in the class; others will not allow direct sales of books by the instructor. When I made the decision to stop teaching for guilds I was asking $500 US/day, 250 for a half day seminar (usually 3 hours) and $125 for a guild program (60 minutes). Some guilds actually paid me more than that, saying the value they got from my presentations was worth more than I was asking. :)

Airstream30 said...

Laura, excellent post. I have two comments. As a professional musician, I too have had to fight for a living wage. Often I would be asked to give a master class in conjunction with a recital usually for free. The usual response I got was "well you are here anyways" so what else are you going to do with your time?" Maybe sight see, more practice time or just rest.

My second point is that the Saskatchewan Weaver's Guild is hosting a 2 day retreat next year. We made the decision right from the get go that we were going to pay all instructors and speakers the "CARFAC" rates for their time. Most of the instructors and speakers were very surprised just how much we were willing to pay them.

Keep up the good work.

Dani said...

I’m glad to see someone of your stature in the textile world bringing this to everyone’s attention! I as a weaver who loves listening to talks and taking part in workshops had no idea this was going on behind the scenes. It also gives us in the UK a heads up, as what starts in another country usually spreads worldwide if it’s not stopped.

Thanks for the information on how to find out about it to, if enough people ask and question it hopefully organisers will take note, though if they are running it for profit they are unlikely to do anything unless the teachers refuse the “invitation” (if they can afford to...)

Please keep us up to date on what happens, and letting us know about the stuff most of never see or know about from behind the scenes

Peg Cherre said...

Hear, hear. Well said. Thank you.

Cozy Badger Fiber Arts said...

Thank you for writing this. The idea that the organizers deserve 25% of sales, after not paying the teachers fairly, is such a slap in the face. I know Abby Franquemont also wrote a post about the cost of teaching at events a year or so ago. I haven't attended any of the bigger conferences that attract A-list fiber artists, but if I do, I will look into making sure they are being paid fairly.