Tuesday, 25 August 2015

August Work in Progress - on various fronts!

Like last weekend's thunderstorm that crashed and banged overhead then faded away into the distance, only to return hours later, the IRS tax withholding issue at Zazzle rumbles on!

This is the third month that I've had very little art work in progress to show 
because so much of my time has been taken up with trying to make sense of the legalese of tax treaties and IRS instructions, writing emails to Zazzle and generally trying to persuade them to drop the 'burdensome' ITIN (International Tax Identification Number) requirement which they have told us throughout comes from the IRS. 

Of course, I haven't by any means been working alone on this. 
Click to enlarge

We have more than 200 members in the International Zazzlers United facebook group and by putting our heads together, we have the HMRC Tax Treaty team taking this issue up with their US counterparts and have recently obtained a letter on IRS headed notepaper that states clearly that the IRS do not insist on us getting an ITIN.

We are currently waiting for Zazzle to respond to this, having sent them a copy of the letter last week. (see update below)

In the meantime the group has been helping members get their updated W-BEN forms approved - no simple matter! - so that they can get paid at all! And now we are trying to spread the word to all the international designers/artists who had 30% tax incorrectly withheld from their August earnings, that they can reclaim the money from Zazzle directly and do not have to get it back from the IRS, a process that would require them to get the dreaded ITIN! (Scroll down to Adjustment for Overwithholding.)

But I haven't been totally idle on the art and design front.

I have added a new pattern to my 'Egyptian' collection, the rusty red 'Tribal Shields' pattern on the clock -

And I've made a start on my 2015 Christmas Card, better late than never -

Christmas Mice

And finally, the Annual Phlox I grew from seed, that tried my patience when I was faced with about 160 tiny seedlings to transplant, is flowering and is begging me to make it into a new floral, cottage-style 'mini-print' pattern that I hope to have at least started by the time I write next month's blog post!

It's definitely feeling as if summer is all but over here; I was tempted to put the heating on first thing this morning. Not that I've had much time to enjoy my little garden this summer - the Great Tax Debacle began in early June!

Will it be all over by the time I write my next Work in Progress blog post? The jury's still out on that one but I very much hope so!

Edited at the last minute to say that we've just had this announcement from Zazzle: 

We wanted to let everyone know that Zazzle has reached a temporary resolution with the IRS on the US TIN requirement for non-US resident Designers. Based on this new information, a US TIN will not be required on your appropriate W-8 form for the moment. The requirements may change in the future, in the IRS’s sole discretion, as Zazzle is a US-based company that must abide by the requirements of our governing tax authority, the IRS. 

Zazzle will continue to accept W-8 forms that are correctly-filled-out, and which do not have a US TIN but do provide a foreign TIN, in order to minimize your withholding tax deductions. We are continuing to ask all non-US resident Designers to submit an updated W-8 form as soon as possible in order to avoid the IRS’s default withholding rate of thirty percent (30%). Please submit your updated W-8 form to Zazzle-w8@zazzle.com as soon as possible.

It’s possible that the requirements may change in the future, so we appreciate your flexibility. Zazzle will continue to support and advocate for our international Designers. We are currently working under the assumption that this temporary resolution will remain valid through 2/28/2017 when the current law is set to expire; however, tax requirements may change at any time due to new or updated tax laws and/or IRS requirements. 

There's still the issue of the Refunds to deal with but even so, this is VERY GOOD NEWS! 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Egyptian Patterns, a New Venture and International Tax Treaties

One of my Screen Prints from the late 1980s!
Sadly, it's been next to impossible to do anything remotely creative this month, thanks to the ongoing debacle with Zazzle who are threatening to withhold 30% of our earnings for the IRS taxes.

It's really unusual, practically unheard of, for me to lack any enthusiasm for 
creating. But if creativity is about 'ideas' and 'imagination', maybe my creativity 
has been channelled into coming up with ideas for how best to oppose this wholly unfair tax. 

I think the best way to explain the complicated situation that we 'International 
Zazzlers' find ourselves in, and what we are doing about it, is to post the link to my email to MAP (Mutual Agreement Procedure) who deal with double taxation problems.

Other members of the International Zazzlers Facebook group I set up also wrote to MAP and yesterday one of them received an encouraging email telling us that our complaints have been handed over to the Tax Treaty Team who deal with generic issues affecting the application of the Treaty and that they will be taking up the issue with their US counterparts. So it looks as if we have found help at last!

In spite of all this time-consuming campaigning, I have created some products with my Egyptian patterns but only a few compared to my normal 'output'. And these are patterns I made last year, based on one traditional Egyptian pattern with Lotus Flowers and Papyrus (above) that began life as a screenprinted fabric to be used in a fashion show I was involved in, way back in the 1980s! (Never throw away anything to do with Art and Design!)

One good thing that has come out of all of this - apart from making new friends in the International Zazzlers Group! - is that we've all put our heads together to share our experiences with other PODs. 

And one of the online stores that took our fancy is the new UK one, Zippi - you need to click on the patterns to see the products I've created and you'll see that their prices are much more affordable than some of the other PODs. It's based in Southampton, not far from where I grew up. (Being in the UK is significant because of this horrendous tax business!)

So I've opened an account there and when time has allowed, I've begun uploading some of my patterns for sale on a range of products. The site has a far smaller range of items available at the moment but the staff are very open to suggestions for future product lines from those of us who are now considered 'old hands' in the PODs business. Here are just a few - 


We're all hoping that the ITIN issue will soon be resolved so that we can get on with what we enjoy doing - painting, designing, photography etc! - now that we've at last been able to contact a body that will probably be able to help. 

But wheels often turn excruciatingly slowly and we may well find ourselves in for the long haul. So please bear with me if my 'Work in Progress' centres more around Tax Treaties than new designs. 

Everything WILL get back to normal one day - but we're having to work on it!

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Visits and Vexations - June Work in Progress

Planting them in November has really paid off -
not only flowering much earlier but longer stems as well!

June is usually one of my favourite months. 

View from my back bedroom window!

It's the time when my garden is at its best with climbing roses, lavender, mock orange, sweet peas and honeysuckle all giving off heady fragrances! And usually the summer is just beginning so it's not too swelteringly hot yet, just how I like it.

But of course, one of the best things for me is that my birthday is in June and that means being in touch with friends and family and, the highlight, my son coming down from York for a few days.

As well as helping me with some chores in the garden that would have been practically impossible for me to do by myself - yes, the Dog Rose hung down over the road at the front again, like a floral curtain! - when that was all tidied up, we went out for our usual walk. For once we remembered to pack a picnic lunch and we ate it in a beautiful, quiet spot in the Linda Vista gardens:

Wonderful Californian Poppies in Linda Vista Gardens

Then we set off across Castle Meadows, right up the lane that passes under the Heads of the Valleys road and comes out in Llanfoist, across the road that leads up to the Big Pit, and onwards and upwards to the Brecon and Monmouth Canal at Llanfoist Wharf! 

I was surprised I was able to walk that far because of the problem I've been having with nerve pain in one of my legs. But we had bought some Nordic Walking Poles as we came through town, as recommended by the physio who's been treating my back - and so on we went, up the steep, slippery, rocky path up through the wood on the side of the Blorenge!

The path ran alongside this little stream
so you can see that it was fairly steep!

This year I've been particularly lucky - my younger daughter has been over from Sweden for a few days, bringing two of her children, her eldest boy and my one and only granddaughter. As I haven't seen any of them for more than four years, that has been a special treat! 

They were only able to stay for a few days because her husband had bravely volunteered to look after the other four boys - aged from two to fifteen! And unfortunately the day we picked to go for a walk and to visit a few local 'sights' was the one and only wet and drizzly day we've had for weeks. 

The River Usk at Abergavenny, from the Castle Meadows

Looking towards the Brecon Beacons from Abergavenny Castle

And the historic Tithe Barn and Abergavenny Castle were both closed! 

But the two grandchildren had fun skimming stones in the River Usk and we visited the Tithe Barn the following day.

But sadly, this year, Zazzle have cast a shadow over my favourite month. They have decided to withhold 30% tax from any 'non-resident alien' designer - that's us! - who doesn't get an International Tax Identification Number from the IRS. And, quite apart from this being a lengthy, tedious and quite expensive process, the IRS has told us that we don't actually need this number to qualify for the Tax Treaties between our countries that would mean that we only pay taxes in our own countries. So that's an ongoing, time-consuming, stressful bone of contention.

On a more productive note, I had an interesting request from a physiotherapist who specialises in Mind-Body 'treatments', Georgie Oldfield. I've never met Georgie except online but I've been receiving her newsletters for about five years and she was kind enough to order some of my greeting cards back when I was printing my own. Georgie has decided to create an Adult Colouring Book to raise money for her 'Hardship Fund' and she wondered whether I could contribute some pages to colour. 

Of course I was glad to contribute and started to trace some of my designs - but had to send the scans to Georgie in their rather raw state to give myself time to prepare for my daughter's visit, which I didn't know about when I said 'yes' to Georgie! But she has assured me that she knows someone who will 'clean them up' and I'm looking forward to seeing the book when it is finally published!

Here are a couple of them with contrasting amounts of detail!

I actually wouldn't find trying to colour neatly inside the lines in the least bit relaxing - quite the opposite! I'm more of a 'broad brush', splosh-the-paint-about kind of person. But it's surprising what Photoshop can do with a messy, untidy scribble! 

So this month I'm going to show you how totally absent-minded, half-watching-television doodles can morph into a whole collection of patterns!

This is how it all started!

And with some help from Photoshop, these pencil-drawn motifs became the basis of this set of related patterns:

- which then enabled me to make a faux patchwork:

I've also been experimenting with adding scanned Broderie Anglaise - which I've always loved and often used when I made little dresses for my toddler daughters, many years ago:

The next thing I worked on was creating a border pattern from the original motifs - I've noticed to my delight that our local dress shops are full of border patterns, reminding me of a nightie I had in the Seventies that I wore as a dress to our house-warming party!

First the usual square border: 

 - and then just a single side to leave space for some text. Custom Indigo Blue Floral Border Lumbar Pillow

Next I challenged myself to create something that I've wanted to try for ages - a circular border!
With or without the monogram!

Finally I had plenty of choice when it came to make 'Indigo' greeting cards!

Custom Blue and White Floral Mother's Day Card
Custom Blue and White Floral Mother's Day Card by poshandpainterly
Find more Floral Cards at Zazzle

500+ gifts and cards from the
'Indigo' Collection

Yesterday, the final whole day before my daughter and her children started back home to Sweden, the weather started to really hot up. 

So we were able to relax in my little garden - after my tall, handsome grandson had helped with dead-heading the Alchemist rose, always a huge job and difficult for me to reach. 

And today the temperatures are soaring - quite unusual for June and much too hot for my liking. But it's perfect for drying the mound of towels, sheets, duvet covers etc in the open air that always result from having people to stay. I think the fourth load is in the machine at the moment and at least a couple more loads to go!

Once all the laundry's done and the house tidied, I should have a chance to get back into my work routine and hopefully make some inroads into my long list of ideas for designs and patterns  . . . maybe! (Much depends on Zazzle.)

Poppies by the roadside near Abergavenny Bus Station!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

May (not that you'd know it from the weather!) Work in Progress

So much for thinking that May is the start of summer!

We've had lower temperatures than April, persistent rain, heavy 'April Showers' and wind that felt just like March. 

Oh yes, and a few little glimpses of sunshine in between!

In fact the storms earlier this month resulted in my lovely Ceanothus falling over with the weight of the rain just as it was beginning to bloom, bringing with it the trellis and honeysuckle behind it!

Nevertheless, my Dreaming Spires climbing roses came out on May 4th, just the same as last year, to the day! But, strangely, they have again decided to grow away from the sun and towards my neighbours' house, where they have a lovely view of them from their kitchen window. Whereas I can only really enjoy them from my bedroom:

A lot of my time is still taken up with appointments. 
I've given up the counselling as it was expensive and not all that helpful. But there's still the physio for my back at the hospital and exercises to do in between appointments. And we're still experimenting with inhalers and nasal sprays to see which helps my breathing most while there's all the pollen around, under the supervision of my doctor and the Practice Nurse. 

And then, of course, I've had builders to make coffee for. 
But it's good to know that my roof is all sound and various annoying little repairs to windows and woodwork are now all up to date - apart from needing me to find some time to touch up the paintwork! And replacing the small area of blown tiles in my shower turned out to be a much bigger job than expected and involved disconnecting the toilet to 'do a proper job'! Just as well I get on well with the builders and know from experience that I can trust them to do whatever's in my best interest. (I don't know many builders I'd say that of!) 

This Tote Bag arrived from Red Bubble one day, just as they were leaving - a birthday gift for a friend who loves primroses - and they were so curious that they stayed while I opened it and were duly impressed!

The Red Bubble quality is, as ever, excellent, the price abd the cost of shipping very reasonable!
Red Bubble have now introduced skirts so I've spent some time putting my patterns on those too. 

And I've been re-sizing greeting cards such as this one to upload to CardGnome - 

Blue Gold Islamic Pattern Ramadan Card

The result of all these diversions and distractions is that I still haven't quite finished creating products and cards for my Granny Print collection. So no new pattern collection to write about this month. 

However, I was surprised to see just how many products I've made with this one basic pattern and its growing number of coordinates, just by doing a bit of uploading in between other things!

This mix of patterns with a Broderie Anglaise trim is one of my favourites - the decorative white edging came from a local craft shop, scanned and brightened up in Photoshop.

I like the idea of 'faux lace' to go with my 'faux patchworks' to give a real 'vintage vibe'. So I scanned some genuine antique underwear for this 'Friendship' quote:

It's always fun to experiment!

And these paper beads were a bit of an experiment too! 
I rolled them in the usual way but instead of relying on the colours of the paper to make the patterns, I painted them all by hand. I used some cheap acrylic paints that I had lying around but I don't think that was the best choice as it was almost impossible to paint the detail, no matter which paintbrush I used. Even with a fine-tipped brush there was a 'blobbi-ness' that frustrated me.

Zazzle continue to keep us designers busy! 
Apart from adding new products to the inventory on a weekly basis, they've now enabled us to create 'collections' at the click of a button. So that's kept me busy too, as it's such a useful promotional tool, especially if you design with collections in mind as I do. So here are a couple of the collections I've created so far -

And what have I got planned for June?

Well, with my son coming down for a few days for my birthday, I don't expect to accomplish quite as much as usual. 

But here's a doodle that's been itching to get out of my doodles folder and onto a greeting card for ages:

I did base my first advert for the local Work-at-homers group on this Jolly Gentleman but it was done in such a rush that I had to resort to colouring him digitally. 

I think he deserves a spot of proper watercolour treatment and I hope he'll appear suitably coloured in next month's Work in Progress blog post.

The Cherry Blossom on the path to my front door  - just before the rain arrived!
I was planning to work on an Apple Blossom pattern next.
But the fruit trees in my garden lost the last of their beautiful blossoms in the recent storms so the moment has passed and I'll move on to something else when the Granny Print runs out of steam.

Maybe I'll keep it really simple and just develop a pattern I made a while back -

- though I'm sure to be unable to resist creating a few coordinating patterns to go with it!

I noticed today that my beautifully fragrant Mock Orange Blossom has started to flower. It's too wet to go out and photograph it. 

But maybe next month . . .