Today, dear readers, on the menu: “When too many stickers are too many stickers”.
You’re probably thinking, “What is she looking for, what kind of stupid topic is this?“
No, I assure you, it’s not a random “put-a-click“, but a real reflection on the “raison d’être” and the usefulness of the stickers we print over and over.
And when I say “we“, I mean, I must confess, “we illustrators” with a shop and/or a Patreon.
Everyone makes stickers.
Some are made of brown or recycled paper, but most of the time they are plastic.
However, plastic is first and foremost petroleum, an extremely expensive fossil fuel that is the cause of many global conflicts and pollutes our oceans and our lives.
In short, plastic/oil, our best enemy is everywhere.
But when we try to be ecologically and economically conscious (I would even say politically conscious), we try to limit the consumption/use/production of plastic.
So, what about all those stickers that are everywhere?
A sticker is cute, it allows you to personalize a lot of things (notebook, computer, thermos…).
But it’s still plastic.
And personally I’m seriously questioning my past/present/future choice to make stickers without taking a step back and taking a stand.
Do I really need to print stickers to make a living as an illustrator?
For me, I don’t want to be involved in the mass production of stickers anymore.
Unfortunately, you often have no choice when you want to place an order with a printer, the minimum number of copies is often 50.
To Buy or not to buy
Unless you have, with certainty, 50 customers to pounce on your stock and clear it out at once… or 50 Patreon subscribers, most of the time, you produce a large quantity of vinyl/plastic prints in one go and end up selling quite little.
And even then, it encourages people to buy stickers that… they may not actually need.
On a very personal note, I don’t support over-consumption.
I much prefer to repair, restore and give a second life to an object rather than cluttering up my cupboards or the waste disposal centres.
Why participate in a system that produces more and more when we already have so much trouble recycling?
Why buy something we already have because it’s more “fashionable” or “new”?
Not to mention that there is a real pleasure in restoring an old piece of furniture, learning to repair a hoover or transforming a used piece of clothing with a beautiful home-made embroidery.
Why this idea all of a sudden?
I recently moved house and took the opportunity (as far as possible) to sort out my stuff.
It’s something I try to do regularly for no reason at all, but a move is a good time to do it, especially as you get older and want to travel light.
As I was sorting out my desk, I was shocked to see the amount of stickers I had kept in a corner waiting to “find the right place to stick it”.
Apart from one or two bonus stickers I received with my RedBubble orders which are quite ugly, I have some very nice ones made by artists I really like… but which are desperately waiting for their time at the bottom of a drawer.
Since I didn’t know what to do with these when I found them, I carefully put them in a box.
While unpacking the boxes, I came across these pretty stickers again, not knowing what to do with them… and again I placed them in a drawer.
That’s when I wondered what people were doing with the ones I send them every month.
So I decided to look in my entourage at what my relatives were doing with the stickers they had bought/ordered from me:
My mother-in-law hesitated for a long time before sticking them on her kitchen cupboards in key places, she’s happy with the result… but I think it’s a pity.
It reminds me of the time I wanted to decorate my grandmother’s varnished wooden bed with the stickers she got at work. Oddly enough she wasn’t too happy to see her headboard covered with gaudy red and blue “Pre-maman” stickers… (I confess).
It had really damaged the varnish of the furniture and my grandmother ended up changing the bed frame.
Mea culpa, sorry Granny.
Anyway, let’s go back to the use people make of stickers.
A friend and Patreon subscriber stuck one on her mailbox. I hope it will stand up to the weather, but I doubt it.
As for my mother, I discovered that she was keeping them preciously in anticipation of finding where they would be most valuable.
I advised her to stick them on her pretty Margaux’s Boutique Bullet Journal, but she is not enthusiastic… because one day the notebook will be finished and she will not have the pleasure of seeing my drawings on the cover every day.
So I answered her “what about a bookmark?“
And then it all became clear: why bother producing plastic stickers that clutter everyone up if in the end you end up making bookmarks out of them?
Might as well make bookmarks directly, right?
That’s exactly what I thought: a bookmark is pretty, useful, inspiring sometimes (when it includes a quote) and you can never have enough of them!
That’s why I’m thinking of offering a monthly bookmark instead of the sticker.
This decision seems all the better to me, as printing is not very expensive.
Perhaps I could then offer this counterpart from the second subscription tier on Patreon (to be determined, I still have to calculate whether it is feasible).
Will I stop creating stickers?
This doesn’t mean that I won’t make stickers anymore, nor that I won’t sell them.
The advantage of “Print on Demand” is that if you need/want a sticker, we’ll print you 1. Not 25 or 70.
On the other hand, I have decided to stop making monthly stickers for my Patreon subscribers.
I’ve been offering this service for a year now and I’ve noticed that not everyone has a use for it.
Whether you buy them, receive them as a bonus gift in an order or they are part of the consideration of a support subscription…
One is quickly saturated by a profusion of very pretty (sometimes not so pretty) stickers of all sizes, all designs.
About stationery partnerships
So, I can already see a few smart guys trying to corner me by asking me the fateful question:
“What if a shop offers you to make stationery items in partnership: stickers, washi tape, etc. ?“
Argh, that’s a tricky question.
I would answer: “it would depend on the company, the number of copies and the production method“.
- The Washi Tape Shop has some nice things, but they are produced in China, so the answer would be “no”, as long as they keep such a high carbon impact.
Also, I find that they give too little information about the composition of their washi. But if they are made from recycled materials, why not?
- La Boutique de Margaux offers beautiful things, created by Margaux herself (sometimes in collaboration with illustrators) and produced in her shop in an eco-conscious way. So the answer would be “yes” right away (nudge nudge -wink wink-).
However, I’m not there yet and for the time being, I would like to do my job as ecologically, economically and ethically aware as possible.
Making an ethical living as an illustrator : Less stickers, more eco-aware creativity
Of course, like any artist, I try to earn a living, to vary my income (freelance missions, publishing work, online shop, support subscription on Patreon, YouTube videos).
But as far as possible, I don’t want to sell my soul, to flout my ideals.
Earning a living yes, wasting my life to earn it, no.
As I am a responsible but fallible human being, there are still many aspects of my life and work that are not yet 100% eco-conscious.
I’m not trying to be Greta Thunberg (I’m too old and I have to pay my rent), but I can do my best.
This means that I can regularly evaluate my consumption and production choices and adapt them to be more consistent with my ethics.
And you, what is your vision of the illustrator’s profession?
Do you think that since we are in the applied arts, we are obliged to turn a blind eye to production methods in order to make a living?
Or do we have a role to play in the choices we make about the prints and merchandise we offer?
Tell me all about it, I’m curious to read you.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you for today and I’ ll see you soon for more illustrated dreams. 👁️⭐☁️🌈