I attempted to file this complaint online but I was met with a 500 server error. Please accept this email format.
I am a 62-year-old black woman small business owner that has found myself bullied out of business by a $30 million dollar company by the name of Artful Home. I market the jewelry made by myself and other artists at ArtfulJeweler.com. In exchange, I pay the artist a 60% - 70% commission. This is significantly more than Artful Home's 50% artist commission. I also sell my own work on several online venues including Artful Home. After reviewing the available artist images on their site I found that I was the only black woman on their website.
On several occasions over my 10 years in business at Artful Jeweler, Artful Home threatened artists that are listed both on Artful Home and Artful Jeweler with the termination of their Artful Home contract if they did not leave Artful Jeweler. I have always replied with a reference to the Restraint of Trade law that states that it is illegal to take any action that interferes with free competition in a market. This very real threat that would cause a significant loss of income to many of the artists that they targeted resulted in many artists refusing to work with Artful Jeweler.
Over the past couple of months, I have received two letters and 1 email from Artful Home's legal representative insisting that I am guilty of using proprietary language. In addition, they demanded that I turn over the domain name Artful Jeweler a name I have used for 4 years. I suggested that I could sell them the name for a fee however they wished to obtain the domain free of charge. The proprietary language they refer to is the artist's descriptions of their jewelry. Each artist individually fills in the item description when uploading their work as such if it is language that is owned by anyone it is the artist. They also requested that I remove any Artful Home paid model images and this I complied with immediately. I was unaware that one of the model photos was an Artful Home photo and not the photo belonging to the artist. This action prompted a second letter once again demanding the domain name.
Realizing that my small business did not stand a chance against a giant like Artful Home I issued a press release on January 5 announcing that I was closing the store to focus solely on my own work and not market the work of other artists. Prior to this announcement on Dec. 5, 2018, I emailed Artful Home to determine why new artwork that I had submitted was never approved. On January 25, 2019, just 20 days after my January 5 Press Release and a month after my request for new work to be uploaded Artful Home finally responded to my December 5, 2018 email by removing all of my jewelry from their site without any notification to myself. I found out because I visited the site to determine if the new work was listed only to discover that I was no longer an artist on this website. When I questioned the removal of my work their response was, "At Artful Home, we are dedicated to making our jewelry collection as successful as possible. To that end, we are currently performing a comprehensive review of our entire collection, including your work. Unfortunately, we have found that your work does not meet our evaluation criteria. As a result, we will no longer be representing your work. Your work will be removed from the website in the next few days." The review that Barbara Fitzsimmons is referring to about the evaluation of the work of jewelers was issued in an email on May 31, 2018. I found their position on the removal of my work questionable since the removal was 8 months after they announced the review of the jewelry line. One of the main factors that affect the decision pending the review is the volume of sales. My sales at Artful Home have been negligent although I was hopeful that with the expansion of my jewelry line that might change. However in some ways, Artful Home set me up for failure. In the 10 years that I have been listed on their site not once did I appear in an email blast, on the front page or in one of their many catalogs.
I am a highly respected resin artist with my work featured in print and magazines plus my 3-time participation in the American Craft Council (ACC) Show a juried show known for the quality of the participants demonstrates that within the industry my work is known to be of the highest quality. I stopped doing the ACC show when I moved from Baltimore the ACC home location to Tampa. I am also a Past President of the Metals Guild of MD and Secretary to the Gemcutters Guild of Baltimore. It is important to note that as I work to focus solely on my own jewelry line not being able to showcase my work on Artful Home will result in the loss of credibility within the Art Jewelry industry not to mention the extra needed income that would result with my focus on my own work. Artful Home is a giant in the online Art Jewelry business and without their showing my work it will negatively affect my opportunity for future teaching engagements, online sales and the regard of my peers.
- Artful Home chose to terminate the contract of its sole black female jewelry artist after 10 years of service.
- Over the past 10 years, Artful Home has threatened Artful Jeweler participants with expulsion from Artful Home if they joined Artful Jeweler. In the past 30 days alone, I have lost 2 out of 21 artists related to Artful Home maneuvers.
- The Artful Home termination of my work occurred 8 months after the email stating that they were reviewing their jewelry lines. The odd timing makes one question if this a malicious act born out of my affiliation with Artful Jeweler.
- The demands from their lawyers e.g. the signing over the Artful Jeweler domain without compensation and the correction of copy that was not written by Artful Home may be interpreted as legal maneuvering to apply additional pressure for me to close my business.
- I am one of the top Resin artists in the country and I am stupefied over the termination of my contract. Although with respect to sales potential I was set up for failure with my work never appearing in an Artful Home marketing initiative e.g. catalog, email blast, front page showcase.
I am seeking the following remedies:
- Immediate reinstatement as an Artful Home artist.
- A good faith effort by Artful Home to include black men and women artists on their site.
- Promotion of my work on Artful Home that is consistent with my peers. This promotion plan should be outlined in advance of my return to Artful Home.
- A refund of the $325 I paid to become a member of Artful Home. They indicated that this fee is for marketing purposes of which I have not received.
- The payment of $124.50 commission due me for a lost order.
- Artful Home may purchase the domain name of Artful Jeweler for a fee of $10,000. If this is not agreeable they will desist any further demands regarding the domain name.
Although as a business owner my interaction with Artful Home has been an ongoing challenge however their artist customer service is comprised of a stellar group of individuals. I fear that once the connection was made between Artful Jeweler and Velina Glass artist that it was agreed to actively sabotage my business.
I eagerly await your response.
PICTURED IS MY OUT OF AFRICA BANGLE. I CONSIDER IT MY SIGNATURE PIECE.