Filed under: Art, Book Conservation, Feedback, General Musings, Marketing, Society | Tags: art, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, feedback, honesty, integrity, jim downey
This framed item has been on the wall of my bindery (at various locations) since I started work in 1992:
Here’s the same text, taken from the Services Offered page of my business website:
I am dedicated to preserving the legacy of books and documents that we have inherited. To the best of my knowledge and ability I use techniques and materials that will last for generations. Whenever possible, the materials are of archival quality: acid-free and buffered papers & board, inert and reversible adhesives, unbleached linen thread, et cetera. The techniques I use for binding and conservation work are likewise archivally oriented, non-damaging, and reversible in the event the book or document requires additional attention in the future. All work is, of course, unconditionally guaranteed.
That last line sometimes surprises people. But it is extremely important, and has stood me in very good stead over the years I have been in business. As I told a client by email this morning, concerning work on a recently-completed project (a 1910 D.A.R. charter on natural vellum which had been poorly framed and stored):
Well, I’ve done all that can be done, I think. The document is flat, the remaining wrinkling is where it was once wet and then dried in contact with the glass.
But as it says on my website: my work is unconditionally guaranteed. I want to wait until you have a chance to see the condition of the charter, and if you’re not satisfied with the work, just don’t send me payment (or if payment has already been sent, I’ll hold onto the check until you have the charter and can judge for yourself). Seriously, it is much more important to me that you be satisfied with the work than the few hours of labor I have invested in this project. I have always operated by this policy, and it has been by far the best thing for my customers and reputation.
You might think that people would take advantage of such a policy to try and screw me out of deserved payment. And maybe a couple have in my 23+ years of business. But I think the vast majority of people are honest and well-intentioned; if I think that a client isn’t trustworthy, I just don’t take the job. That has probably filtered out a few potential problems. And the others I chalk up to being a cost of doing business. Because when I tell a client that if they are not satisfied with the work, and I will either do what is necessary to make them satisfied or there’s no charge, they see that I’m not trying to cheat them in any way. And having that reputation as a craftsman is priceless.
Recently I was helping out a local NFP arts organization, by getting information together for some renovation work they need to have done. I met with several contractors, walked them through the facility so they could see the scope of the work, and then asked them to provide estimates for what needed to be done and at what cost, so that the NFP Board and Executive could seek funding.
With the first two contractors, things went exactly as expected. However, when the third contractor went through the facility, he saw something which caught his attention and he started reconsidering the whole project (one of the other contractors had noticed the same thing and remarked on it, but didn’t investigate further). By the time we were done, he turned to me, shook his head and said something along the lines of: “I’m going to talk myself out of a job, but I think that the problem you’re having isn’t the one you think you’re having. I think you should get a qualified structural engineer in to do a formal check, but I don’t think you need me to do the work you asked me to bid on. That’s just a symptom of what is really going on, and it’d be cheaper and easier to correct the actual source of the trouble.”
This was a construction job which was going to run into the low five-digits, so it wasn’t just some little thing. For a small contractor, walking away from that sort of job isn’t done lightly. Particularly when it would have been very easy for him to just bid, do the work, and then figure the repairs would hold up long enough that nothing would come back to haunt him in the future.
That, my friends, is integrity.
I reached out my hand to the contractor, thanked him for his honesty, and told him that from now on if I knew of anyone who needed the kind of work done that he did, that I would have no hesitation in recommending him as honest and trustworthy.
That’s why I have the policy I do for my conservation work. And yeah, I am convinced that it is far and away the best possible policy I could have.
Filed under: Art, Book Conservation, movies | Tags: art, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, Highlander, jim downey, video, Wikipedia
Man, that is so weird.
I just spent a chunk of time reviewing a bunch of short video clips we’ve been making over the last couple of months, in preparation for putting together some promotional videos for a series of bookbinding & conservation workshops I’m going to offer.
Intentionally, all the clips are close-ups of my hands doing different conservation techniques on actual projects. They’re not intended to be instructional, just illustrative of the things I will be teaching.
But it was so very weird to see my hands working like that, and from a different, disembodied perspective. Always, when I am doing conservation work, I am not at all focused on what my hands look like — I’m entirely focused on doing the specific task correctly.
And … well, this is going to sound a little self-promoting, and I apologize for that … it was just cool to see how magical the work is. My hands are moving with certainty and deliberation, the kind of self-confidence which comes from decades of experience. And the repairs just … happen. Right there before your eyes. It’s just plain cool. I never see things from that perspective.
Once I have the ability to transfer the video from the camera to the computer, I’ll put up a full clip for people to see. But I just wanted to share the odd experience while it was fresh.
Filed under: Art, Harry Potter, Humor, Writing stuff | Tags: art, blogging, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, Harry Potter, Her Final Year, humor, jim downey, This I Believe, Wikipedia, writing
Or perhaps I just won’t be allowed in the Headless Hunt anymore …
Ah well. Fame is fleeting. Such is life.
Oh, I recorded the essay this morning. It seemed to go well. I’ll post a link when it is ready.
Filed under: Amazon, Art, Connections, Feedback, Publishing, Science Fiction, Society, Writing stuff | Tags: Amazon, art, blogging, direct publishing, feedback, jim downey, Maureen Kincaid-Speller, nerds of a feather, reviews, Science Fiction, writing
Interesting discussion about how the online culture has changed the nature of reviews, and what that means for both authors and fans: BLOGTABLE: The Positive Value of Negative Reviews Here’s a good passage about the topic:
I think a lot of fan coteries miss the fact, as they rally round their authors and go after the so-called bullies, that we all exercise critical judgements every day. Something as mundane as ‘I prefer apples to oranges’ is a critical judgement, but I’ve never noticed orange-lovers hounding apple-lovers because of it. There is a clear understanding that a preference for one fruit is not a judgement about the people who prefer another kind of fruit. And yet, these days even a slightly less than totally stellar review can have people behaving very oddly, trying to suppress reviews or silence an errant reviewer.
As I noted in one of my earliest blog posts here:
It’s OK if you don’t like my novel. No, seriously, if it doesn’t do anything for you, that’s fine. It could be that you don’t care for Science Fiction. Or maybe you just don’t like my writing. Sure, I want people to like it (or at least respect it for being well-done), but I long ago learned that tastes differ widely – what I like in art or literature may be completely at odds with what you like. And that’s OK. To argue otherwise is to basically come down to saying “you can’t like blue. Red is the superior color.”
In the eight years (!) since, of course, I’ve published two books, written a couple hundred freelance articles and reviews, and churned out something in excess of a couple thousand blog posts for here and elsewhere. And trust me, *none* of those were universally liked, and even the ones which were generally well received also garnered critical responses, sometimes very nasty responses. It happens. You’re never, ever, going to make everyone happy. Worrying about it will drive you nuts, and stop you from writing anything more.
You can’t let that happen. You just have to decide whether or not you think the critical comments and reviews are valid, and what you can learn from it if it is. Yeah, sure, sometimes a “slightly less than totally stellar review” smarts, no matter how thick a skin you develop. But that is part of the process of creating any art, of choosing to take the risky path of putting your work before the public.
It’s also part of being human, of taking the risky path of living in the world. Embrace it.