I feel like this letter has been a long time coming. I’m a private person and the thought of writing something so personal that will be going out to potentially thousands of people is quite intimidating. But some things at Tangerine Menagerie will be changing, while others that people might wish would change will not, so it seemed like a good time to talk a bit about what is (and isn’t) happening, and why.
For several months now, I have been struggling with work-related depression and anxiety. I didn’t intend Tangerine Menagerie to be anything other than a very small business with a correspondingly small customer base. While the dramatic increase in interest has been personally gratifying as an artist, it has come with challenges that have caused me to think carefully about what I want this business to be.
My brooches are intended to be fun and frivolous. I hope that in their own small way, they are bringing some light and happiness to an increasingly dark and frightening world. I struggle with the reality that each release now creates many more unhappy people than happy ones as the quantities I am able to make are not even remotely adequate to meet the current demand. The fact that some people have seized upon this as an opportunity to make big profits from my work makes me angry and sad and frustrated.
I have had to face the fact that running Tangerine Menagerie in recent months is no longer the source of joy and artistic fulfillment that it once was. I have given very serious thought to whether this is still something that I want to do. What I have concluded is that it is - but that I need to reaffirm my values around business and art and make some changes to sustain my ability to do this in the long run.
There are two changes that I think have the possibility to have a direct impact on you, my customers. Firstly, I will reserve the right to decline orders by people who have a history of reselling my brooches at inflated prices. I understand supply and demand. But I will not be a party to the toxic capitalistic impulses and blatant opportunism of those who purchase a brooch just to list it on eBay as soon as it arrives. I do not do this work in order to enrich those who have the fastest internet connections.
Secondly, and on a more positive note, my very dear friend Cait (@caitlockhart) is coming on board to run Tangerine Menagerie’s social media. It has been obvious to me for a long time that I no longer have the time or energy to do a good job on this front, but I have been very reluctant to let go of the reins since I see this as such a personal part of the job and having a connection with you is important to me. I’ll still be overseeing things and do my outfit posts, but Cait will be doing the bulk of the day-to-day posting and I know that she will do an outstanding job.
The choices that I make about my business are all in the interest of sustaining Tangerine Menagerie long-term. I know that other designers make different choices, and it is inevitable that some people will prefer other approaches to mine. I believe we all need to make the decisions that work best for our own businesses, and more importantly, our own mental and physical well-being. My brooches require too many individual steps and too much time for them to be produced in larger quantities without help, and I still feel very strongly that I want to personally make each piece that I sell. I am also not interested in making the maximum amount of money possible; this is a job that I do for personal fulfillment, not year-over-year profit increases. To that end, one thing that will not be changing is the quantity of brooches that I make. However, the lotteries have received a very positive and heartwarming response, and I am going to be allocating a larger portion of each batch for lotteries in the hope that this will continue to make the purchasing process more fair.
If you’re reading this, it’s likely that we share opinions about the value of art and design in daily life and self-expression through dress. I want Tangerine Menagerie brooches to continue to be functional pieces of thoughtfully handmade, lower-case-‘a’ art, not mass-produced products. I do not take lightly that the trade-off for this is accessibility. I hope you will trust that I will continue to do what I can to make this business reflect my principles of fairness and equal access as well as artistic value. I truly owe a debt of gratitude to each person who has written an email or letter or posted a photo on Instagram to let me know that they are enjoying their brooches. Your support has meant so much to me as a reminder of what is joyful and wonderful about this job.