I'm not sure where the time has gone, but WithAPast was launched, very softly, just about three years ago. No longer a start-up really. While the business was registered and this website was launched in January, 2015, the planning and organizing began much earlier, in late 2014.
This venture was based on the very simple idea that there is value and much life left in many of the things we acquire and collect over the years. Particularly true when those items were created or manufactured with quality materials and workmanship. The challenge though is matching those quality items with someone who is looking for that particular item. Which is where an online store comes in. The entire world is your customer base.
There is a flexibility in online retail that brick and mortar stores simply don't have. Low overhead costs allow an online retailer to stock many different products to test the market. WithAPast has ventured into the sale of many different products that I would not have anticipated when I started three years ago. I expect to focus on fewer overall product categories in the next few years, now that I have a good amount of data on what customers and potential customers are looking for.
The amount of time that goes into each and every listed item on the site would likely surprise you. I know it continues to surprise me! That time spent on product research and listings, along with site optimization and ongoing maintenance is at least in part, my excuse for not updating this Blog more frequently. I'm hoping to dedicate a bit more time in future to updating more regularly. We'll see how that goes.
For now though, I'm taking this three year benchmark as an opportunity to thank those customers who have supported WithAPast these first three years. I hope we will continue to be of service over the next three. Thank you!
We've been asked why this store sells in US Dollars given the fact that it's a Canadian store. The simple answer is....Pinterest. The majority of traffic to this site originates from Pinterest and translates into a large percentage of our sales.
Last summer when Pinterest announced the launch of Buyable Pins, one of the requirements for implementing their new initiative on Shopify stores was that stores had to sell in US Dollars. So, we converted this store over and at the same time, tried to convert our prices to reflect the change in currency.
The exchange rate from US to Canadian Dollars has jumped recently and it has been fluctuating between $1.31 and $1.35 in recent months. Rather than continually amending our prices to reflect the currency fluctuations, we've decided to offer free shipping on all orders over $50.00 shipped to a Canadian address, while the listed exchange rate is over $1.30. Hopefully this small change will help to offset the conversion shock.
Shipping charges will automatically be discounted from your order on checkout, when entering the discount code ´Ship Canada´ along with a shipping address in Canada.
Canada Post is offering free shipping for parcels delivered to Canadian addresses, every Tuesday in October! This option is available to all Small Business Solutions members so I'm able to pass it along to Canadian customers placing an order on WithAPast.
I'm thrilled with this initiative by Canada Post and, coming after the recent labour uncertainties, it's a great good will gesture.
So, if you're thinking of placing an order, and you don't mind waiting until the Tuesday after you place your order for it to be processed and shipped, you may want to take advantage of this offer. Simply type in 'Canada Post Free Shipping' in the Discount Code option during checkout, and shipping costs will be deducted from your order.
Please note that there is a good possibility of a labour disruption at Canada Post by July 2nd, 2016. As the majority of purchases on the WithAPast website are delivered via Canada Post Expedited Parcel Post service, any labour disruption will have a major impact on our operations.
In the event of a strike or lockout at Canada Post, we will be shipping packages to their destination via UPS, DHL or Purolator Courier. This is a more costly option than Canada Post however, so please e-mail us for an accurate quote on shipping before placing an order on our website.
We apologize for the inconvenience and remain hopeful that employees and management at Canada Post are able to come to an agreement before July 2nd. If that's not the case, we're hopeful that the issues will be resolved as quickly as possible.
It seems as though 'Fabric or Textile Arts' are attracting much more attention lately. I myself have a somewhat new found appreciation for this often under-appreciated art form, so I'm quite happy to see the Textile Arts seemingly enjoy a resurgence of sorts.
I wonder if the past disregard for these beautiful pieces is because they were created almost entirely by women and girls and they were used by women in the day to day running of the home. I really have no idea but I'm certain there is a women's studies thesis out there somewhere that can link this theory.
Needlepoint, weaving, knitting, embroidery, tapestry....all examples of skills that have historically been passed down through generations of women. The imagination, creativity, level of skill, and attention to the smallest of detail are evident when you look closely and try to imagine the time it would have taken to create these truly one of a kind works of art.
The era in which women were expected to have and to devote the time and effort in creating these pieces is long past but that doesn't in any way lessen my own appreciation for the lovely pieces they were able to create. From the simple stitch samplers young school girls worked on to practice and perfect their stitches, to hand tatted lace, elegant embroidered fabrics, and stitched/woven works of wall art, these pieces are becoming scarcer as the years go by.
The fabric arts for sale from WithAPast range from vintage to antique. Each is a beautiful example of a bygone time and an important historical nod to the work of women who came before us. Look closely at a sample of this creative and skilled art form when you have a chance. You'll likely be as blown away as I am when you pause and try to imagine the time and skill required to create these one of a kind treasures.
One of the best things about owning my own business, is that I get to set the rules. Each and every one of them. I'm responsible for everything that happens on this site; the successes; the failures. Inventory I've purchased that turned out to be not such a great find, nor quite what I was expecting, now graces the shelves of my local Salvation Army and Value Village. A lesson here. Different items that simply caught my eye or seemed like a very good deal, have just as often turned out to be an exceptional find, or a rare and wonderful learning experience along with the purchase. A lesson there.
This new venture of mine is almost a year old and the past months have given me the opportunity to fine tune the operational side and solidify my vision. Not much has really changed, to be honest. My primary purpose is quite simple and remains much the same as when I started. To give new life to well made, quality and previously owned treasures. By default, buying previously owned items also has much less of a negative environmental impact. Two of the main reasons for launching this start up.
I didn't really anticipate how much I would enjoy setting my own rules. I'm quite fortunate that I have an actual day job and am not completely reliant on income from this new venture to put food on the table. Again, because I set the rules, I get to choose how much time I spend going to auctions, estate sales, and the like as well as how much time I spend on all the other aspects of starting an online business. And there are a great many!
I get to choose to use the most environmentally friendly packaging available when shipping orders, because it matters. I get to choose to purchase the compostable, biodegradable, 100% recycled PaperNuts from a local start up, because supporting local businesses matters. I get to choose to help establish and to opt-in to a resale royalty payment initiative from the sale of art on my site, because it matters. The token royalty fee will hopefully benefit artists in some small way, for the resale of their work, even if the amounts are quite small. Because the actual dollar amount is not the point, and because paying artists fairly for their work matters. And I get to choose.
My inbox has been jam packed this week with teasers, notifications and other advertisements about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. There have been endless countdowns all month from all the online service providers I use to run this site, reminding me of what I should be doing to maximize the potential to increase online sales during the next few days, and following holiday shopping season. While I did briefly consider that as a new e-commerce retail business I should probably wade in and join the frenzy of what is no doubt the busiest shopping season of the year, I very quickly decided to decline. Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales blitzes simply don't align with my vision for this site. I much prefer to offer well researched, fairly priced, quality items at all times of the year. That they've also been ethically sourced and shipped, is a bonus. And I get to choose!
Inuit & Indigenous Art always draws my attention and captures my imagination. I suspect that it has something to do with the simple honesty that I see.
In the many, many, downsizing and estate sales and auctions I've been to, I can't seem to walk or scroll past Indigenous pieces without at least trying to win them. I'm not always successful but I do now have a very nice collection of art and sculpture.
I've hesitated to list these pieces for sale for a couple of reasons. Most of them feel quite personal to me and I'm somewhat hesitant to part with them. It also feels somehow wrong to make a profit from artwork that I had no part in creating or from an artist's work who is in no way benefitting. I suppose the same could be said for other vintage and antique items I've listed for sale but the difference for me is that manufactured pieces can't usually be attributed to a single artisan. Artwork in general, and Inuit art in particular, is often signed and the artist can usually be identified.
It's generally agreed that artists receive the least amount of money in the original sale of an artwork. When a piece is resold, prices often increase as the reputation of the artist and the market grows. Resale of that same piece can sometimes reach staggering numbers. The fact that collectors are willing to pay such amounts for these exceptional works is a wonderful thing. A testament to the skill of the art community in the Canadian north, and the quality of the works produced there. The artists who created these beautiful pieces however, don't receive any money when their art is resold. The sometimes huge returns go to the galleries, auction houses, brokers, etc., as they should for their part in promoting, organizing and increasing the awareness of this beautiful art community. However, nothing goes back to the original artist nor to the community that produces and supports these artists. That just seems wrong.
The Artist Resale Right entitles visual artists to share in the ongoing success of their art by providing them with a percentage (5%) of any resale of their art. Not an outrageous amount. $2.50 on a piece sold for $100 or $500 on a piece sold for $10,000. To date, 59 countries across the world have endorsed the Artist Resale Right and legislation has been adopted to ensure this right for artists. The Artist Resale Right has not been adopted in Canada nor in the United States, with the exception of California. So, artists in North American generally receive nothing on the resale of their work. Shameful really. There's much more information available on this subject in the links below.
CARFAC Help Bring the Artist’s Resale Right to Canada
Recommendations for an Artist Resale Right in Canada, November 2010
Canadian Artists Representation Copyright Collective
Nunatsiaq Online: March, 2012 -Nunavut government supports resale royalties for artists
Resale rights for visual artists can only help to nurture and promote the artistic community, which in turn will hopefully allow artists to create a sustainable living through sales of their work.
In my tiny little world of online sales, I'm committed to establishing a system whereby 5% from the sale of any original art will be remitted back to the artist. I'm not quite sure how I'll do that yet, and it would be a whole lot easier if I could simply file a return of sales along with any funds owing to a governing body, but I'm confident I can find a way and I'm open to suggestions. This will likely represent a minuscule amount of real money, but it's more a statement of support for a long overdue initiative. Ethical buying and selling....what a concept!
To be perfectly honest, I know very little about art. I have no conscious sense of form, composition or light, nor do I have any insight into what an artist may be trying to convey. I'm not artistic or even all that creative. But I love art. In all its varied forms. I'm in awe of the skill with which an artist can impart their vision onto canvas or into stone or music or their medium of choice and am intrigued by the different emotions and feeling their work conveys, different for each and every person experiencing it.
With one of my first ever pay cheques, from my very first full time job, I bought a small work from a tiny local gallery. I still have it some 35 years later, although the gallery is now long gone. It evokes some of the very same feelings today that it did when I first brought it home, along with a few new ones. Which is exactly why I bought it, and have hauled it along with me where ever I've moved, hanging it on a new wall in each and every place I made my home. I've continued to buy small pieces of art over the years, based entirely on what I like and how the piece makes me feel.
Art really doesn't have to be expensive. Some of my favourites were picked up from street artists from where ever I happened to be travelling, at music festivals, craft shows, and more recently at auctions. The common thread is always that each piece makes me feel something....happy, thoughtful, wistful......To me the sole purpose of art is elicit emotion or make a connection of some kind.
So, I don't really get the appeal of mass-produced factory art. The Ikea furniture of the art world. Not that there's anything wrong with Ikea furniture....it's just not really meant to endure beyond the average length of time it takes to complete a university degree. Disposable. Superficial. Mass produced. It lacks that special something that an artist infuses into their work . It seems to be less about making a connection and more about matching the furniture. There really is no comparison though to an original work, conceived of and executed by an artist with the talent and skill to connect people and make them feel something. What a cool way to make a living.