Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Humility is my friend...

I'm not even sure I want to relive this enough to blog about it, but I suppose it happens to everybody sometime, so you'll likely understand. I sent my friend this email yesterday, so I'm just revising it slightly so you'll get the drift.
(To illustrate the post, another photo of the rugs I've woven so far. This one is naturally white and brown Romney and hand-dyed Cotswold. I dyed the Cotswold and used some of this in Fiber Gathering for the Sit Upon pattern. There were leftovers...ideal for rugmaking!)

Yesterday I went over to a boutique that is literally a block away from the house to show the owner my rugs. I'd been told by someone I met at the weaving guild (and that I respect) that this might be a good place to go. I was so embarrassed by the experience. Awful.

The first hint should have been when the owner of the shop did not expect my visit or realize who I was after we spoke twice on the phone previous to meeting her in person--which I did at the time she suggested I come over.

I know I'm not a good retailer or a seller of my stuff, I know that. I took out the first rug, the rug I thought would be best for the shop, and of course the owner touched it right away and said "This isn't our thing. It's too yellow." (Of course, the shop is decorated in home furnishings in cream, gray, black, and white, and gosh darn it, wool is cream colored.)
"Couldn't it be more white or gray?" She asks "...could it have tufts? Couldn't it be without that binding on the edge?"

You know, the binding that keeps the ravelling warp threads secure, in place, and ready for hard wear on the floor. That binding. The one I handstitched on and that matches that rug perfectly.

Oh. My heart sinks and I want to run right out of the store. I explain that I've met these sheep, that I process it or supervise its processing from start to finish...that this is the color this sheep came in. Naturally cream colored. That each rug I make is one of kind, like the yarn I spin and the fiber art I've had in galleries.

Never mind. Maybe it was not worth the trip over there and it isn't worth recounting. I felt embarrassed by the whole experience. I did manage a polite enough exit, rugs in hand.

The good thing is that the boutique owner suggested I try the art gallery in town, and they do have fiber art in their museum shop. It might be a good idea to try that next.

Humility is good for me, I know, but being embarrassed while trying to find a place for my work is just the worst. I hate it. I also know that some part of me is my own self doubter. Instead of being an unconditional champion of what I do, that voice says, "well, you know, maybe it's not good enough and that's why she didn't want it." It's only the first shop I went to, and I need to be brave.

Later, my professor took me out to dinner, and made me feel better. I even worked on weaving part of another--equally delicious rug, this time with a weft of Border Cheviot wool--white, springy, and just a little bit smooth.

OK, I'm done telling this sad tale. I needed to tell someone who would understand this the meanwhile, the first thing the owner did was put her hands on it to feel it, and she kept touching the rugs even as she rejected their color-- so I know that roving rugs are a good idea. A luscious idea, for people who understand... and hard to capture in a photo. That's why I really think I need to find a place that maybe wants to sell these lush handmade things in person.

With a sign that says: Please Touch.

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Blogger Jody said...

I very rarely ever sell my handmade things. People do not always appreciate them and are not willing to pay my high asking price. I will not back down however because I know all the work that went into them and the quality is very high.
I am surprised the woman at the store (if she is a handcrafter herself) wouldn't be more appreciative of your work. Try not to take what she says personally :)

March 10, 2010 at 2:27 PM  
Blogger Freyalyn said...

I know exactly where you're coming from here, and I'm cringing for you and wanting to slap the shopowner upside the head for being so insensitive. (Interesting that she kept fondling.... perhaps her hands knew more than her head). Keep going, you know what you and the rugs are worth.

March 10, 2010 at 2:52 PM  
Blogger AdrieneJ said...

I'm sorry you had such an uncomfortable experience. You're right, though - this is only one shop, and there are dozens in your area that will love your work! I think you did a beautiful job - you just need to find someone who will appreciate it! I hope you feel better!

March 10, 2010 at 3:28 PM  
Blogger Willow said...

I certainly understand! I've tried selling my handspun/handknit things and people just look at me like I'm daft when I mention the price (and I'd be making maybe $1.00/hr if I'm lucky)! WE know the value and worth but in the age of cheap mass manufactured stuff, it's easy to choose that over handmade natural treasures.

But please keep trying. And I will too.

March 10, 2010 at 6:57 PM  
Blogger Wanderingskopos said...

Please don't be embarrassed or humiliated! After all, your rugs are lovely and you know what they are worth. The store owner should've kept better track of who she invited to show her products to spare you the awkward situation (some people do "politeness invitations", but I don't consider it polite at all).

She was probably looking at your work as "just another rug" that either fit her colour scheme or not, just like she would've done to a handspun, hand-knotted carpet from Morocco or Middle East (equally precious and undervalued) and didn't think that you could be taking her comments personally.

But even she saw enough to know that the rug is worth what you're asking, even if her shop didn't happen to be a good fit for it.

Honestly, I think your work will sell better somewhere it doesn't have to fit into a random shop owner's interior colour scheme and where the buyer can get a feeling of its history, instead of it sitting on a shop floor where people who don't know any better look at it with the same eyes as any machine-made rug.

March 11, 2010 at 4:15 AM  
Blogger Kristy said...

Finally, my computer is fixed and I'm able to comment... I've been reading since you moved to Winnipeg (where I also live!) but having tech issues with my computer!

There are a lot of craft shows here in Winnipeg if you're interested in selling your own wares. Through out the summer there are a lot of festivals and such that have artisans markets (Osborne Village Street Festival for Canada Day, the Fringe Festival which is a two week long theatre fest, and Folk Fest just to name a few big ones.). I was also thinking of the Forks. Maybe one of the stores there would be a good fit for your rugs?

As for the store, who buys things for retail that only match the interior decor of their shop?! Your rugs are beautiful, and she probably had no idea what she was talking about when she asked you about removing the hand stitched binding. Don't let her discourage you too much!

March 11, 2010 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger PghCathy said...

You get kudos from me just for being brave enough to venture out there with your wonderful stuff. Not something I could/would do. But like many other commenters, I hope this mean you give up.

March 11, 2010 at 3:46 PM  
Blogger PghCathy said...

Sheesh! Should've proof read better. That last sentence should read "hope you DON'T give up.'

March 11, 2010 at 3:52 PM  
Blogger Donna D said...

You shouldn't be embarrassed. That shop owner should. -Donna

March 11, 2010 at 5:29 PM  
Blogger PerennialGirl said...

Never be embarrassed about your work, it's gorgeous! I'm from Winnipeg to and depending on what area of the city you live and city the people think to highly of themselves. Like it was mentioned, you only went to one store. Try a different area or see if you can attend a craft show.


March 11, 2010 at 10:30 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

I was coming here to say it, and Donna beat me to it--that shop owner should be embarrassed, definitely, and you, not in the slightest. My father the art dealer would have been thrilled to get to see your work in person and to talk about the process of creating those.

--AlisonH at

March 12, 2010 at 1:02 PM  
Blogger Ryl said...

Please do NOT give up. I have had these moments myself and have thought that I am wasting my time and energy doing hand spun and hand knit items for sale, but then I have one person here and another there that are drawn to what I have to offer and buy one of my skeins of yarn or a hat and come back later to tell me how much they love it.
I may not make much money on my time, but hearing something like that make the effort I put into these hand-crafted work worth it.

March 14, 2010 at 4:02 PM  
Blogger molly z. said...

I agree with Jody and my first thotught was - what this person said was about her, not about your work. I am new to your work, came here by way of the Fiber Gathering book, but I have been thru a similar experience (I don't even want to voice it anymore - I'm done with it) and if you really think about it "objectively" her words were about her and not you, her hands kept touching your rugs and they spoke more truth than she did with her mouth.
Good Luck to you, the right venue will come to you!
molly & aby the cat

March 23, 2010 at 3:45 AM  

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