Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My Toys have been Stolen

**Blogger is being an absolute pest, so I am just posting this. I had intended more photos, but it's just not happening for me. Seriously considering switching to a different blog host :\ **

On Monday night, around dinner time, a group of artists met at a pub to discuss what they could do about their work being stolen. Before long, they reconvened outside the building where their belongings were being held, working out how to ‘legally’ break in.
As dusk fell, providing more concealment, the group stood nonchalantly on a main road while scoping the perimeter.
A simple lock thwarted the gallant attempt at retrieval, leaving the group thoroughly disheartened (artists, after all, do not do well in prison, nor are they able to afford huge fines, seeing as their work has been stolen and cannot, therefore, be sold!).
We all dragged our feet homeward for dinner and a stiff drink, contemplating our next course of action, the mums wishing the action had lasted ten minutes more so they could have at least missed bedtime. This is mine.
About four months ago, I was told that there was a new shop opening in Cairns and that my work would be perfect for it. Artists would pay to ‘hire’ a shelf and receive 100% of the profits of sale. I was definitely excited! I designed, cut and sewed for a month solid, preparing my stock.

When I dropped my stock off, the shop looked amazing – recycled and reclaimed pieces made up the shelving and display cases, the floor was covered in a patchwork of Astroturf off cuts and the other work in there was incredible! I spent before I earned!
The first month was not great for me personally, but still encouraging nonetheless. I anticipated extra sales in the second month of opening and the wonderful shop owners renegotiated my rent so that I would be able to remain.

Then, one Friday morning I got an email that there had been a fire in one of the units above the shop. But it would be okay. There was just a bit of smoke damage, everything was fine.
The next week, we were told that the building was condemned, but it was still okay, we could collect our work the following week.

But then there were fears that water seepage had contaminated all ‘soft’ stock with asbestos. But it was okay. It would be tested and cleaned and it would all be fine.
Then the shop owners saw people bagging stock. When they asked why, they were told it was for disposal.
Meanwhile, the building was no longer condemned, the cafe next door was in the process of reopening – with all of their original furnishings and equipment, yet our stock, from the same section of the building, was deemed as having a ‘risk’.
Obviously, the owners did the right thing and hired a hygienist for testing and all the stuff I don’t understand. All of the tests came back showing a negligible risk.
Despite the paperwork, the hoops jumped through and the phone calls made, the contracted company has sent misogynistic emails stating that they don’t care what we do, we will not get our ‘dresses’ back – that elicited incredulous laughter.
Let me be clear – I take asbestos risk very seriously. However, no one has been able to provide any proof that there has been contamination and the cafe next door is back to preparing food with all of their original hard and soft furnishings.
Not a single one of the artists in the shop sold their items or gave them away. We still own them. They are our personal property and yet we are denied access to them.
Our indomitable Handmade Cans duo have jumped through every legal hoop and have even had the asbestos hygienist and the police state that we are within our rights to take back our stock because it is being held without cause and without our consent.
But we are not thieves, so we are trying to do this the right way by appealing the decision. 52 of us are losing our hard work. Most of us are SAHMs or pensioners, trying to eke out a living.
These items did not come out of a factory staffed by low-paid workers. Each one has been handcrafted from materials that we personally bought. Time was taken to produce each product. It is art, not ‘stuff’ or ‘stock’.

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