It's a cliche, but that's how I'm feeling right now, after getting this truly wonderful news.
The CPSC has proposed a one year hold on the implementation of the CPSIA, so that they can go back and determine a more reasonable path. This isn't over, but it certainly appears that common sense will have a place in the future of this law.
Over the past two months, as I watched this unfold, I realized how much I love what I do. I knew it before, but to be hit with the realization that I could lose my ability to create and sell my work was horrifying and depressing. Of course, clarifications began trickling in and I got some reassurance that my work would be ok, but the thought of libraries closing their doors to kids and beautiful handmade items no longer being available was nothing short of awful. Not to mention all of the good people who would be in financial and emotional ruin because of a shortsighted piece of legislation.
(On a side note: In dealing with both this and the puppy mills situation, and becoming an activist of sorts lately, I've again realized how many other issues need my voice just as much. I plan on becoming a regular caller/writer/polite pest to our Congress about even more critical issues facing our country and our world. We have it pretty darn good here in America, even with the big, bad CPSIA.)
So...the crafting community is breathing a collected sigh of relief this morning, and hopefully are also becoming more aware of product safety issues. We all want safe products for our kids, after all. Maybe now we can work together with Congress and the CPSC to make sure that happens in a calm, cool and collected way.
I'd like to share this very well-written letter from Commissioner Moore at the CPSC. I think what he says sums this whole situation up eloquently.
Thank you all for your support over the past two months. We have a lot to be thankful for today.
There's just something about this plush artist's work that I absolutely adore. Actually, there are several things about her creations that just knock my socks off. (Excuse the pun.) From their stitched on fabric spots, to their chunky buttons eyes and sometimes hooves, to their lovingly bunched up felt edges--they're just wonderful.
I've been coveting her creatures for a while now, and finally got one for myself. Meet Gallop:
Such great fabric choices!
I love that crazy bed head mane of hers...
Look at those great button hooves...she really does "clip clop" when she gallops!
Check out her shop--she makes all kinds of collectible animals, including owls, narwhals, and the sweetest darn octopus I think I've ever seen.
So today has been declared a CPSIA "Blog In" with hundreds of artists posting about the law. I know you guys are probably sick of reading about it on here, so I apologize and promise to return to the dogs and other fun and creative stuff tomorrow. But I promised to take part so here goes.
-The CPSIA stands for the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, and was introduced into Congress by Congressman Bobby Rush of Illinois. It was signed into law on August 14 by George Bush. It officially takes effect on February 10, and requires mandatory lead and pthalate testing on ALL items primarily intended for children 12 and under. Toys, clothes, books, diapers, shoes, blankets, sports equipment, school supplies, mobiles, you name it. It's all encompassing. It was created with all good intentions in in reaction to the spate of toy recalls in December 2007, involving mostly (if not solely) toys imported from China. But apparently, no one considered the burden being placed on small and micro maufacturers.
THE COST OF TESTING
-The lead testing is crazy expensive. Each item (including each one of a kind item) must undergo testing which can run from the hundreds to the thousands of dollars. And usually, the item is destroyed in testing. So say goodbye to one of a kind items for kids.
THE COST OF NOT TESTING
If what you make or sell falls under the law and has not been tested, you could be subject to fines of $100,000 and up to 5 years in prison. That's right. Prison. So it's no wonder many stay at home moms are very wary of continuing their crafts as the law stands now. However, the CPSC has pretty much admitted that they are not able to enforce this for quite some time...they are still trying to get their lead painted rubber duckies in a row.
-As the law stands now, BOOKS are included. The American Library Association is working to gain exemptions for books but this has yet to occur. They feel their only option is to get rid of all books for kids 12 and under or BAN children from libraries. Read more here.
GOODBYE ETSY SHOPS, SMALL TOY STORES, ETC...
-If this law is not amended, hundreds (if not thousands) of handmade artists and sellers of children's goods may be forced to close their etsy shops, their brick and mortars, etc. Most small businesses and artisans can not afford the testing costs.
GOODBYE ANTIQUE TOYS...
Congressman Rush's aide told me there was a provision for antique sellers, but when he searched the document, he couldn't find it. The word out there is that sellers of antique toys will be affected. As someone who collects wonderful old toys, this really makes me angry. Who gives their kid a fragile composition doll to throw around anyway? (Sorry...personal rant.)
What upsets me most is the message that this sends to kids who love to make things. I was one of those kids. I still have every handmade doll I was ever given and treasure them to this day. They inspired me to be an artist, to pursue a path of creativity and share my creations with others. The end result of this well intentioned law will be a lack of diversity among children's products, and shelves dominated by mass produced things from China. Which is what caused the problem in the first place. The big guys win. The little guys fade away.
WHAT I'VE HEARD FIRSTHAND:
Here's what I've heard from the CPSC and Congressman Bobby Rush's office when I've called.
From Cheryl Falvey, General Counsel at the CPSC:
"One of a kind or even unique artist collectibles that are not intended primarily for children 12 and under are not included in this act." Primarily is a key word here, and Falvey herself told me that my work, as I described it, would not require lead testing due to its specifically intended audience.
From Rush's office:
I was told that putting a disclaimer on a product like mine that is truly not intended (by me) for kids but could appeal to kids would be acceptable.
I was told that "common sense will prevail" in how this is enforced.
I was told that the law was created to go after the big offenders, who are knowingly putting lead in children's products.
I was told that "the sky will not fall on February 10."
I have another call into the CPSC regarding "art dolls/plush". I will get an answer.
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Call and write your congressperson and senator. Let them know that this law is too broadly written and will do great (further) damage to an already ailing economy. Let them know how YOU feel about not being able to buy handmade, or safe "Made in the US" toys, clothes, etc for your kids. Let them know how YOU feel about not being able to take your kids to the library.
Richard Woldenberg, chairperson of Learning Resources, has posted in his blog some specifics about what we should be asking congress to do now:
Write your Congressman and DEMAND that they reach out IN WRITING to Reps. Waxman and Rush, and Senators Pryor and Rockefeller, with cc's to Reps. Barton, Radanovich and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, to request urgent hearings on the serious issues raised about the CPSIA and further, to implement an immediate stay of enforcement of the law for at least six months after final implementing rules are promulgated by the CPSC. By hitting the "pause button", Congress will allow for an orderly process to consider the issues on the bill and to define the appropriate corrective action after due public debate. They need to hear from you - on the record.
Thanks for reading about this again. Let's all keep working together and make congress hear us!
A few of my friends would like to ask for your help. They really don't want to get all in your face or anything, but this is serious business! Please scroll through their photos and read more at the bottom of the post.
These guys are very excited about the upcoming Pet Telethon on February 15 to benefit the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City. Every year, the telethon helps to raise money for the no-kill shelter, and the funds are all used for the care of the animals. Lately, due to the economy, donations have decreased, and more and more pets are being left at the front door of the shelter, as their owners can no longer afford to care for them. It's a very sad situation--but you can help.
Original Sock Dogs has set up a special page to help raise funds in advance of the telethon. If you'd like to contribute, even just $1...please click HERE.
Here's a quick look at what your donation can do:
-A gift of $5 can buy a toy (or two) for a shelter pet.
-A gift of $25 can cure a dog with kennel cough.
-A gift of $50 can spay one large shelter dog.
One of the best things you can give is your time...so if you can't donate financially to this telethon, please give an hour or two to your local shelter!
There's no living with Lolly these days. Her photo was featured in the Jan/Feb issue of The Bark!
Unfortunately, for some unknown reason, she was referred to as "Denise Middlebrook's Lucas". So Lolly helped me draft a letter to the editor asking for a fix in the next issue. I bet that Denise and Lucas are doing the same!
So one great thing that came out of all my CPSIA anxiety is that I forced myself to try out some new mediums, just in case.
I've always wanted to work with paper pulp, so I googled a good recipe for it and got my hands dirty. Literally. It's very yucky and messy. But the end result is SO worth it!
Meet Milton the Mutt:
And Corky the Corgi:
They'll be headed to the shop soon, along with some other pulpy mutts. What I'd really like to do is make a series based on the dogs at the HSGKC. I may put them in the shop or save them for Art Unleashed in the fall. I think the secret to getting a lot of character out of these lumps of glue and newsprint is to paint each one with several layers--the more detail and texture you can put into the coloring, the better. Oh, and by the way--after you've molded your creations, they can take several days to dry before they're ready to paint. Mine took about 3 days.
So here's the paper pulp recipe, courtesy of About.com, in case you'd like to try it out. (And yes, I DID use the electric mixer to turn the newsprint into "oatmeal".)
PAPER PULP RECIPE
Tear the newspaper into tiny pieces and put them in a large bowl. Add just enough warm to hot water to completely cover the newspaper. Let soak overnight.
Once your newspaper has soaked for several hours, get your hands into it! Play with it, mix it, and squeeze it through your fingers until it looks like oatmeal! Try to get as many lumps out as possible. If necessary, add a bit more water and let it soak a little more.
Once you have it as smooth as possible, add a few tablespoons of salt to help retard mold. Mix it again with your hands. Once mixed thoroughly, squeeze out any excess water and add a few tablespoons of glue. Now you are ready to use your paper mache pulp!
If you don't want to wait overnight, you can add your newspaper to boiling water and let it boil until the newspaper falls apart. You have to watch this carefully and possibly add extra water if necessary. You can also try letting your newspaper and hot water mixture sit for a few hours and then put it in a blender or food processor. Don't forget to add the glue and salt once your mixture is smooth!
Store your pulp in an air tight baggie or bowl in the refrigerator for a very long time!
Things have been kinda quiet around here, huh? I do have a pretty good excuse, or rather, a series of them. Let's just say that this holiday was one of the worst ever... a scary trip for me to the ER, repeated bouts of the flu and strep throat, plus dealing with all this CPSIA stuff...it all really took its toll on me and the family.
Fortunately, I have the best (and most beautiful--inside and out) mom in the whole world and we were able to fly her in to help around the house until we all recovered. And recovered we have. Finally!
I've just finished up a couple more custom dogs, and am furiously working on catching up on other orders. Here's a one-eyed Australian Shepherd named Mocha Jo--she was an awesome model. I just love those Aussies!
I'm on constant CPSIA watch to find out how this law will affect me. I'm of the opinion that my work is art. I may have to limit what I produce to customs--soft sculptures of actual dogs/pets. I'm hoping it won't come to that, and that the government will continue to get an earful from all of the people and groups it will destroy with this law as written. It appears that the American Library Association and Native American groups have now gotten in on the protest. I'm very hopeful that this legislation will get a big dose of common sense very soon. I'll keep you updated on anything I find out!
I hope you all had a super holiday--or at least better than mine! Here's to continued creativity and artistic freedom in 2009.