May 1, 2018: DMC has edited the Instagram posts about the contest to now include a $500 prize. In an email to Craft Industry Alliance, Alex Holbrook, the director of public relations, stated that the company is reviewing how artists are linked on the company website and, although it has been in the pipeline for a while, correcting this issue will now become a priority.
DMC, the embroidery floss company, is running a contest asking artists to submit designs that will be part of their 1,000 Patterns Project, a library of free patterns on the DMC website. Each pattern is kitted with DMC floss. The winning artists receive no monetary compensation and give up the right to republish their pattern elsewhere.
There are currently 554 patterns available on the DMC 1,000 Patterns Project website. Many were designed by an in-house designer, some were designed by artists the company formerly contracted with and paid, and a few were designed by past contest winners who were unpaid.
This week DMC launched a new contest for spring to grow the 1,000 Patterns Project. Artists are invited to submit a design related to the theme of “spring florals.”
“The aim of the competition is to champion the community and give some exposure to those artists who may not already have a large following, allowing them to connect with other crafters,” Hannah Manton, DMC’s social media manager, wrote on the DMC Instagram feed. “The patterns are given for free to the community, as are all our patterns, so we don’t make any money from the competition.” Winning artists get their design posted to the DMC Instagram feed with their profile tagged.
Each pattern that is part of the project has a page on the DMC website and, although the artist’s name appears, it isn’t hyperlinked nor do they get a full profile making it difficult for consumers to learn more about them. Below the pattern is an ecommerce listing for the kit of embroidery floss used to stitch it up. For example, The Wildflowers Girl pattern was selected as a winner during the last 1,000 Patterns Project contest.The winning artist’s name is not mentioned. The kit, shown below, contains seven skeins of floss for and sells for $4.38.
Each Sunday a selection of free patterns, along with their kit listings, are emailed to the DMC subscriber list that, according to Manton, contains 100,000 email addresses.
In a phone conversation last week Manton said the company is phasing out its paid designer collaborations. All patterns going forward will either be designed in-house or will be generated as part of an unpaid contest. Once a design is chosen by DMC, the company has exclusive rights to it, meaning the designer is no longer permitted to sell that design themselves as either a pattern or a kit.
DMC was founded in 1746 in France. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and was subsequently reorganized and then bought, in August 2016, by BlueGem Capital Partners, a London-based private equity firm with an all-male seven-member investment team. BlueGem also owns yarn brands Wool and the Gang and Sirdar, as well as Liberty of London which it bought in 2010 for £32 million. All together DMC Group may be the world’s largest needlecraft company generating £85 million in sales. DMC claims to hold 60% of the world embroidery thread market.
Although on the DMC Instagram feed she wrote otherwise, on the phone Manton conceded that one of the aims of the 1,000 Patterns Project was to generate revenue for the company. “We are a floss company so the primary goal, I guess, is to sell floss, but I do think that there are positive side effects,” she said. “I mean the whole point of the project is for people to have accessible access to free patterns, but yeah obviously we are a floss company so…”
When BlueGem acquired DMC their stated goal was to make the company into the industry standard for “creative leisure activities.” The growth plan included “development of a more contemporary proposition, brand refresh, range extension, increased e-commerce sales and social media engagement.” The 1,000 Patterns Project and the current contest are part of this effort. An industry leader like DMC is in a leadership position and can, and should, show that they value the work of artists and designers by offering fair compensation. It’s time for DMC to restructure their community contests to pay the winners a fair market wage for use of their designs.
Editor’s Note: After this post was published cross stitch and embroidery designers began submitting subversive entries to the DMC contest. See a roundup of their designs here.