Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Do You Think You Can Sell That?

tdf10hy day 5

Judging from the comments you all left on my last post, it looks like we are all in the same boat! Glad to have you aboard! Heh. Boy, do I know it. Bethany, you hit on the second thing I hear (we all hear) often - "You know, you could sell that." I guess it's meant to be complimentary, indicating that the project is so well done, it has monetary value. That people would actually spend money on it. They would willingly buy it. But we all know the truth - no one would pay what it's really worth, when you factor the time that went into making it.

What I want to talk about, actually to mull over, in this public forum, is work. You see, I've been thinking through lots of stuff when it comes to the idea of work. What work is, and what it means to me.

Four years ago I started knitting. I was initially attracted to the pretty colors - that's what drew me in to the local yarn store. Then it became about the tactile experience, the idea that I could make something with my hands. It was empowering! It was FUN! It was a way to channel some energy into something productive. And it represented the opposite of the tech world I live in 9 to 5.

Very quickly I also realized it was a fantastic way to shut out all the turmoil going on around me. Believe me when I tell you, there was much turmoil. Which we can maybe cover in the future, but not for now.

Throughout this time, the little voice was asking, 'Is there a way to turn this into a new career?" "How can I make money at this?" "What's the new and unique thing I can bring to market?" And I had other voices saying the same thing, "You know, you could sell that." "You should open a Yarn Store!" "Why don't you sell what you make, then at least you would be doing something."

And of course, the entire Self Help Industry is/was touting the notion that earning a living at doing the one thing that makes you happy is the key to all salvation. There is the implication in all of this that a person is somehow a lesser human being if she hasn't cracked the code on melding the passion with the money making. I recall a conversation in which a painter told me he was struggling to find a way to be a full time 'artist'. He scorned the notion of being a "Sunday painter". His identity requires he earn a living from his painting and anything less appears to be unacceptable.

You see, I had allowed myself to be convinced that if I felt as passionately about knitting and spinning and fiber then I needed to find a way to monetize it. To earn my living off it. That it can only be considered real if I could translate that passion into earning a living. And this notion got me tangled up for about three years, causing me great angst. I questioned my choices, and asked myself how can I make change, change what I do with my time.

And then I stumbled across this, which made me hit the pause button. What is work? What is fun? What if the thing I have fun doing becomes work? Would it still be fun? What is more important? Work? Ego? Identity? Fun?

Many of you asked about the bobbin I posted yesterday. It's 4 oz. of Spunky Eclectic hand painted South African Fine wool, called Istanbul Sunset from Club offering in November 2009. I spun it up on Saturday and Sunday, and intend to Navajo ply it after it rests a bit. I like how it looks so far. And this isn't the first time that the spun singles are nicer than the fiber, to my eye at least.


Oiyi said...

Glad to know I am not alone. I still haven't figured out how to turn my hobbies into a career or at least earn a little money. The time spent on "my work" will never be reimbursed. I enjoy time consuming and labor intensive work. I haven't found anybody that would pay for that yet. It's hard when so many things are mass produced of produced in china for pennies.

I also have realized that I become very passionate about my craft, but when it becomes work, it's really not fun anymore.

Anonymous said...

I get that question all of the time, and I just sort of pause. I can't imagine how much time it would take to spin, knit, etc. enough to make money off of it. I'd be afraid I'd lose all of the joy I find in my fibery hobby, to boot.

Rose said...

So, so true! I always feel a little cranky when people tell me I should sell my knits, and now I know why. It devalues my gift somehow, but I wasn't sure how to explain it. Love the article too.

Dan Gliubizzi said...

It is said that when doctors get together they talk about art and when artist get together they talk about money! Indeed this sometimes is true, but not really! Artists are usually very aware that the sale price is not the measure of a piece of art, of the artist or of the career. The financial bankruptcy of Thomas Kincaid (QVC an artist with the highest annual gross for an artist) shows that maybe his paintings may have been bankrupt.
What most of these conversations are about is what do we do with our mind! We have only a finite time on the planet. Do we spend it ALL working for Joe?
You and all your knitting friends are making such beautiful things that it seems only natural for your friends to compliment in the only way they know how to measure, (in dollars) Does the Fiber world need competitions and Museums? The Japanese make national treasures out of their craft people.
Don't know the answers!

barefootrooster said...

thanks for this. i love that i have something that i do that isn't commodified, at least in the way that i think about it. it is just for me, and sometimes, for people that are dear to me.

this stuff is gorgeous, btw.

Anonymous said...

I think I love my craft because I am able to do it at my leisure and not be stuck to a schedule. Once it is scheduled and I have deadlines to meet, I resent having to knit or quilt. I don't think I could do this "for money" when I just want to do this for fun and for the love of it.

LICraftgal said...

Thanks for the aritcle, it was very interesting. I also just love having my hobby, and no I don't want to make it my career. I am afraid that once its my job then it will lose something. I would however love to have more time to devote to my passion LOL!! But for now I will be happy just to have it there to keep me sane.

Anonymous said...

Work and pleasure, and attempting to combine the two, is tricky. I love what I do as a graduate student, but I won't lie, I don't read for pleasure anymore. That's what I do for work. And while I get that "you could sell that" is supposed to be a compliment, it totally misses the point -- as so many people have already pointed out. Knitting (or fibers in general) is all about the pleasure and joy of making, not about work and money. It's because it's *not* my job that I love doing it.

Harlem Purl said...

I've been stuggling with this same concept for many years also. I have an etsy shop but I feel like somethings wrong with me becasue I can't seem to keep it stocked or come up with some unique item that will have people clamoring to buy it up. It can be very frustratign but readign your post made me feel that much better. Thank you.

rose said...

My crafting (mostly with wool/yarn these days) makes me calm and sane, and to paraphrase one of your commenters,I only make things for people I love, and I only make things I love. I don't sell anything I make, because no one would be able to pay me enough -- so anything I make for someone is always a gift, released to them for our mutual joy, not a business transaction.

I had a yarn store for a year. It made me pretty crazy. It's certainly not a way to just do what you love! If I *ever* did anything like it again, it would be only things that can't be bought easily online -- except that everything can be bought easily online -- so I am happy to say that I am Not Going Back There.

Make to be a maker! Making for making's sake. And for me, sanity. I love being able to stop and do something I am good at, for me, for love of the material and making.

I hope that all made sense!

(Ha! The word verification thingy is "disings" -- is that when one's mom says, "what are you doing that for?" :)

PS -- I'm yarnivore on Ravelry. Hi!

Hilary said...

Thank you for putting this into words for me! Well said. I have also enjoyed reading the comments posted. I am in the midst of a big, personal struggle with this very issue.