Raw Materials Art Supplies is closing
tl;dr We love you, but Raw Materials Art Supplies will be closing permanently at the end of the year.
We opened Raw Materials Art Supplies on Main Street in downtown Los Angeles because, as residents of DTLA, we saw a need in our community that we felt we could step up and fill. To fast forward through this part of the story: we opened in 2008, we grew in offerings and staff, we lost a co-founder, and after a decade, we found a new, larger home on Los Angeles Street. We were able to offer classes, and found new opportunities with supplies for textile arts and photographers in the Fashion District. We grew into the space even more quickly than we had planned and, thanks to you, February 2020 was our biggest month ever. Then the pandemic happened. We had to close our doors, and because of Celia’s experience with COVID and Long COVID, we were extremely cautious in reopening to in-store shopping. Thanks to PPP loans (since forgiven), the generosity of our landlords, some grants, and an SBA EIDL loan, we were able to get through the worst of it and we re-opened to in-store shopping in June 2021 as the pandemic continued.
Every day was a fight and though we have always prided ourselves on being a small store that punched above our weight, that has been harder to maintain as our resources have been even more constrained by rising costs, economic uncertainty, and the challenges of doing more of our sales online. We thought we were clawing our way out of the hole that the pandemic had dug for us, but now the hole is caving in. We haven’t been able to maintain the inventory necessary to serve our customers, and we find ourselves without the leverage to pursue opportunities otherwise within our grasp.
In June of this year, we were contacted by the legal representatives for a photographer, Anna Boyiazis, with a notice that they had found an unlicensed use of one of her photographs on our website. It was a blog entry titled “2019 Artists Grants and Opportunities” where her picture appeared alongside information about the Aaron Siskind Foundation – Individual Photographer’s Fellowship, of which Ms. Boyiazis was an earlier recipient. According to our web analytics, this blog post was viewed fewer than 100 times before June 2023. We took the image down immediately, and despite our efforts to settle the matter, she and her legal representatives have continued to insist on a settlement of $8,500 under the threat of filing a federal copyright lawsuit where they believe she is “entitled to recover Statutory damages of up to $150,000 for each infringement and may be able to recover attorney fees and court costs.”
While we were under considerable pressure from the weight of our financial obligations to vendors and lenders and the stress of operating during an ongoing pandemic, we still saw that hope and thought we could find a way forward for the store. But this is the straw that broke our back.
We have made the heartbreaking decision to close our store with the expectation that the doors will close for good by the end of the year. We hope that you can visit us and shop before then, and please follow our social media for announcements of special sales and closeouts.
We are beyond grateful for the support we have received since we opened on Main Street all those years ago, and we’re sorry that we haven’t been able to find another way forward.
Celia and Jim Winstead
November 3, 2023
An earlier version of this letter made reference to the wrong fellowship that the blog post was about. We apologize for the mistake.