Sunday, November 24, 2013

Changing your world view (fiberists = makars)

(Isn't this lovely? Photo by Kellie on Flickr)

Karie Bookish wrote a short blog post that a bunch of my knitterly friends are sharing on Facebook about the devaluing of handknits (although, it could really be said for knitting, crocheting, or weaving). She reminded me of a scene at a local craft fair: two hand fiberists (crocheters and knitters, if I recall, this was earlier in November) were literally spying on one another and marking their costs down over and over so that by the end of the fair, both of them were charging $5 for items that were previously marked $30-$40 each.

Yes, I've written about this topic before so I'll cut to the chase - I think the end of the article is the most important: " I’m probably more of an artisan makar. “Makar” is an old Scottish word for “poet” or “bard” – and I think of my knitting designs as a way of telling stories with stitches."

I think this is the difference between complaining and circling inaction - she is actively hoping for better and has changed her view so that she is not just a peon making things for pennies in a factory, she is moving her thoughts into a process that is beautiful and luxurious and of high demand (seriously, take a look at her designer page...as Michael Kors or Georgina Chapman would say, the items look expensive and chic, not arts and crafts projects by any means!)

In moving the description of her work, she is elevating knitting and crocheting from being the work that gets people paid very little when they were poor in the 18th and 19th century into something that takes skill and knowledge and has more of a connection to the work then a mass produced piece. If you ask a knitter or crocheter about a piece, they're likely to start by telling you about the yarn and the fun they had making it (or not), but inevitably, the discussion normally starts to delve into how they made this with their friends over a night of Sherlock Holmes and wine, or that they painstakingly did this under their Ott Lite with over 200 hours of beading and they are SO proud of it (as they should be). The fun is not just in the item for them, its in the process and the story of how it was made. When you have a mass made piece, you don't say "Oh, I got this at Target and it was so much fun to shop for..." and go on and on. You lack that connection to the item.

The problem is, most people don't realize this connection until they have become a knitter, crocheter, or weaver. They don't realize that they've lost this connection to the process of the piece, and therefore, they have no concept of value for it. What can you do to change this? Tell people YOUR story. Tell them about every piece you make and how lovingly you made every stitch in that dishcloth. Tell people how much time and attention that lovely shawl took, about how thrilled you are with the results. Use YOUR voice. Become a makar rather than just a crafter.

On this day, I give thanks that there continue to be people out there who are makars, artisans, and are working to help the world value the skills and knowledge that fiberists and sewers everywhere have acquired. After all, y'all are going to need us after the zombie apocalypse when you need clothes to wear.  
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