Friday, March 16, 2007

A Philosophical Question

A weaving friend asked me a question the other day. I thought it was worth mentioning.

"I do have a philosophical question--and maybe your product doesn't quite fit this, but do you think there needs to be a point where you want to retain "the hand of the artist" rather than perfect a piece to mill standards?

The last blanket I made was not quite the full 90" wide and the selvages had an organic flair to them.. not bad selvages, but had some of the inconsistencies I'd expect from handweaving. It drove me crazy for several days, but then a friend of mine pointed out that when she spins she has to work to make the yarn uneven. If she doesn't then no one will buy it... it looks too commercial.

My quandary is "where is that line?" when do you stop and let the imperfections be a good thing and when do you consider it a true error?"

My Answer:
Of course my product fits perfectly into your philosophical question! If you are aiming for "mill standards", you should have you pieces woven at a mill. I have had people tell me on more than one occasion that the problem with my work is that it looks like a machine made it. It was only by looking at the knotted fringe that they could see the maker's hand. I took this as a compliment to my craftsmanship, but it is a detriment to sales. I believe the little imperfections and variations should be something you advertise. Along with your label, this tells the customer the blanket was made by your hand. Do you have a hang tag that tells your "story". People love a story, and the minor variations are an important part of the story.

My weaving tells a different story--each piece is individually made for a specific customer. I know you can make a juicy story from the natural colored sheep to the custom spinning. The variations are an important part of your product. In fact, you should tell the customer to look for the variation as a kind of a signature.

Where is the line? Well, that's another question altogether. One way is to let your rep draw the line. The rep should know what will sell and what won't probably better than you. Another way to know where the line is, is if you wouldn't put your name on the piece. As long as you are proud to say "I made this", you haven't crossed the line.

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