Friday, 5 August 2011

The Great Pen-Gate saga...

I'd like to just put a few things into perspective on my previous review of the Spectrum Noir pens after reading a couple of forum threads and seeing some backlash - interesting reading and I always love to read your comments, good or bad as long as they're constructive and not just bitching for the sake of it! Don't worry, I don't take these things to heart (my poor ice cold, stone cold heart is shrivelled from torment) there are always those who have to jump in when someone dares to have an opinion about something, I just wish they would really make informed, constructive comments rather than just negative ones. Hey ho.

Firstly, I do not work for Letraset or Kuretake, I am self-employed and only officially work for Polkadoodles, my own business. Any demonstrations you see me do for any other company are on a freelance basis and yes, usually I will get paid a nominal sum for doing such demonstrations as anyone would expect to do. I am not paid by Create and Craft and I do not work for Create and Craft, although sometimes they also ask me to demo some shows where they pay me a fee for doing so.  All of these demonstrations are undertaken with consideration because I will only endorse products which I believe in and enjoy - quite simply, I can't rave about a product if I don't like it and wouldn't use it myself.  Hence why on our Polkadoodles website we don't stock every single craft product out there - I choose the stock for the website myself and therefore I choose the products I like.  Indeed, I have turned down offers to demo other brands in the past because I do not use them and never will use them and no doubt I will do the same again in the future.  Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm pretty honest, in fact my honesty can be my downfall sometimes, I am prone to speak my mind and not everyone likes this although it's rarely done with malice, usually more a case of speaking before brain engages. Personally I would rather be disliked than compromise my integrity, I was brought up that way and I will not apologise to anyone for it, we live in a free world and I've never felt a desperation to be liked or had to strive for anyone's approval, nice as that may be in an ideal world.

I am also not "on the Letraset team" (as someone put on a forum).  Letraset uses many designers to endorse their products and I have to say they support many other designers much more than they do me or my design team.  They will occasionally give me some free product to give as blog candy in giveaways etc but I have to usually ask for it and it is very much a professional relationship between myself and Letraset. I purchased the bulk of my Promarker collection from Joanna Sheen a long, long time ago long before I stocked Promarkers in my shop or did a demo for Letraset or Create and Craft and the only additional ones I have that are freebies were supplied for demo purposes or are ones I've bought myself.

If anything, I probably have closer connections to Kuretake, a direct competitor to Letraset in the UK although again this is purely on a professional level, but I have at least met the people at Kuretake and they are more proactive in their approach to marketing and networking Kuretake at the moment. Both Companies know I work for the other from time to time and neither Letraset or Kuretake have issues with me working for each other because they know I will be professional in my conduct and in maintaining both my integrity and theirs. In fact, you will see me demonstrating on Create and Craft for Kuretake in the not so distant future and I can't wait.  The reason I demo for both companies is so that I can give you an informed and honest opinion about the product and I have gone to great lengths to explain that to both companies as I think it benefits everyone concerned.  If I was at all biased in my opinions and actions I'm sure Create and Craft would not allow me to represent both companies on TV and nor would Letraset or Kuretake want me to represent them either. I feel I can fairly and honestly represent both sides because, as both a professional crafter and personally in my crafting I use products from both brands alongside each other. I think it's testament to my own integrity that both Kuretake and Letraset do allow me to demo their products in the first place.

So, seeing a couple of comments about my Speccies review since I posted, it seems some people don't or can't understand that it IS possible to be unbiased and honest about a product whilst you also represent a competitive product at the same time. Well, I'm sorry, but from the majority of the comments I have seen either on the forums, twitter, email and facebook you are in a minority and most people agree with me that you can be independent and truthful about such things. So big thanks to all those who have put their faith in me, it means a lot. Without integrity you're not worth much in my opinion, so this is why I have decided to put this straight. Having my own business and appearing on TV and in public sets me up for a great fall if I was to ever compromise my own honesty and clearly this is not something I would risk for the sake of a bloody alcohol based marker pen, whoever manufactures it!! It could be made by Johnny Depp for all I care but if it doesnt work as well as 20p crayon in Tesco then I'm sorry but I will tell you that!

SO the issue seems to be that I posted this review BEFORE I presented the Letraset Flexmarker Pick of the Day on Tuesday night.
To be fair, I can kind of understand this gripe, maybe it wasn't great timing on my part but I did weigh this up beforehand and decided it would actually be more inappropriate AFTER the Flexmarkers were launched as I would have used them much more than the speccies and having been on TV raving about the Flex's all day it would have seemed completely biased if I disliked the speccies (incidentally, Leann knew I was doing a Letraset POD and was still happy for me to review) but anyway, there was a whole sequence of events that made me post the review when I did - mainly time constraints...but in the end I decided I would still review the Speccies because, quite honestly I wouldnt even compare them to a Flexmarker in the first place. Promarkers yes, Flexmarkers and Copics - definitely not. Having a brush tip makes a HUGE difference, as any Copic user will tell you, and as anyone who uses Copics knows, Letraset are probably aiming the Flexmarkers directly at the Copic users. Letraset have been developing this product for months and months and I had a long-forgotten conversation way back at the end of last year about new products in development, not that I was privileged to any more information than that.

Two weeks ago I PURCHASED two packs of Speccies direct from Crafters Companion to try out and review. Last week on Twitter I told Leann I'd ordered the pens and if she wanted me to review them I was more than happy to do so (if Leann had said she didnt feel it was appropriate then I would have respected her wishes), in fact Leann was slightly concerned that it would compromise my position with Letraset but as this was my own personal review of a product this would not compromise anything as far as I was and still am concerned and I told Leann this - believe it or not, Letraset do not hang on every single word I say, they have a marketing department and they have their own way of doing things. I am very much left out of the loop and on a need to know basis. I do not run their blog, I do not do their Twitter or Facebook feed, Letraset is a company, I am merely a person. They did not send me the Flexmarkers to test during development (much to my chagrin I have to say) although I do know they DID send them to Copic users for testing. I didn't even receive my set until Friday last week and couldn't even use them until Sunday because I was away demonstrating in Preston and Leeds last week.

In my own stupid, simpleton mind all I really wanted to do was post my findings so that when everyone started asking me what the Speccies were like I could just say "go look at my blog" because, quite honestly, it sometimes gets boring repeating the same things over and over during the course of a demo day or show! But seriously, the main reason I decided to do it was because I KNEW you would ask me when you see me in person and if I've been asked to demonstrate a particular brand of pen by a shop it is really innappropriate that I start to tell you about an entirely different product, especially when that store doesn't stock that product. It's like going up to Customer Services in Tesco and asking what the Asda Cauliflower Cheese is like, you just wouldn't do it, but sometimes people put me in a really difficult position with such things. And personally I feel that if I'm going to demonstrate a product to you that has competitors in its field I OWE it to YOU to know as much as I can about those other products, so I can be honest when you ask.

At no time during my Speccies review have I said they are rubbish. In fact, if you read it properly you will find there are many positives about them. I don't think they are rubbish or sub-standard in any way. They're just different.
I used them the same way I would use my Copics, Promarkers and Kurecolors, all of which have to be used slightly differently, so I knew they would need to be used differently too.
To be quite frank, they are not even in the same ball-park as Flexmarkers or Kurecolors or Triamarkers. The latter are all much higher-end products very much for the professional market and are priced at such, ie a much higher price.
Speccies are, to my knowledge, the cheapest alcohol marker on the market.
I know LOADS of you love them, have bought them on the deals Crafters Companion launched last weekend and have totally bought into the entire system. Good for you, clearly they work for you.
Me? Well they don't do what I want them to, or what I thought they'd do, quite simply. And if there's a different product or products out there that does, well it doesn't take Einstein to figure out I will be using those instead.
So maybe it's me that's rubbish? Or maybe I expected too much. Whichever, it's fine by me.
But don't slate me for daring to express my opinion and turn this into a big negative ugly snowball just for the sake of it, as I said on the original post, GO MAKE YOUR OWN CHOICE.
All I ask is that you're as honest in your own opinion as I have been with mine.

And that is the last I will say on the Speccies review.

Now, on a more positive front, my next review will be on the new Flexmarkers from Letraset, if you can bear to read it. There'll probably be a bit of good and a bit of bad in that too. Dare you read it or are you too scared that I may brainwash you into opening your purse and emptying it....can you feel me burying into your brain....?
; )
laters 'gaters, Pen-Gate will continue soon.