welcome back to kidchamp unplugged! i think our next door neighbor's wireless access, which he's been kind enough to share with us in exchange for picking up his mail, is permanently buggered, so we're reduced to making hay while the occasional open local channel shines. we could pony up for our own service, but i think this is the universe's way of telling me that i shouldn't be playing web games in silence when my husband is sitting two feet away. i have fond memories of the months in san francisco when we didn't even have a television; the cold war housewife who lives in my gall bladder secretly loved listening to the 2000 presidential debates on the radio while washing the dishes by hand. the news stories about al gore's wooden stage presence and haughty reaction shots were totally lost on me.

speaking of my inner housewife, i felt ancient as my assistant watched me unwrap a package from ebay this morning (our department doesn't get a lot of swag in the mail, so all news is big news). i don't really know what could have given her the impression that i'm still a zesty twentysomething - a karen o bong? - but i know discontinued fiesta ware didn't do the trick, nor did my visible annoyance when i found a flea bite on the underside of one of the pieces (simply liking old china isn't that bad; worrying about its quality for collection purposes, on the other hand...). this is, i think, what happens when frustrated nesters can't afford to live in entire houses apartments of their very own and tinker with normal things like fixtures and wallpaper: they fixate where they can, like on where their leftover chili lives. my leftover chili has very classic digs, so's you know.

at the other end of the inner housewife spectrum, the legendary embroidery goddess jenny hart wrote a solid guest column for getcrafty on why most needlework shop owners are stone cold bitches. my words, not hers: actually she talks about going to the national needlearts association (tnna) trade show and how, though a lot of mom 'n pop stores are going under, a lot of the folks in the business want nothing to do with people like her [and me].
I stood up and spoke to the group about the vibrant and active DIY market that's booming elsewhere- to a roomful of blank looks. And, a few who didn't like the suggestion that they were, possibly, just maybe, slipping out of touch with a very important market. I realized they didn't know where the new needleworkers and crafters had gone. But how do you tell them?


I also learned that 'crafting' was a dirty word to them (they are 'needleworkers', while 'crafting' suggests projects with popsicle sticks), and they don't spend a whole lot of time reading BUST, ReadyMade, CRAFT or looking at the interweb for alternative resources outside of the ones they already know. They need serious help. I was going to have to do double DIY duty: educate these retailers on how to attract our market ("Don't fear tattoos and pink hair! New needleworkers might have facial piercings -this is okay!") and appeal to our own community on why we should cross the thresholds of the shops that seem so, you know....squaresville to many of us.

there are several angles here: first is the old refrain about how alternacrafters don't get much respect from more traditional practitioners (it's not just the mean women at the needlepoint stores i visit here in the city - even the posters over at getcrafty, usually a fairly liberal bunch, leap at each other's throats every now and again when the legitimacy of "hip" work is championed or challenged). for practitioners of popular crafts like knitting, feeling the hate just means that you switch to a supplier whose personality jives with yours; for people like the needleworkers, who don't really have a forest of options, this means that 1) you lose out on potentially helpful advice from people who know a lot more about what you're doing than you do (my bummer) and 2) you go out of business once your elderly clientele dies (the vendors' bummer). i loved going to craft stores with my mom when i was little, goggling at the gorgeous materials and chattering about my projects to anyone who'd listen; if i found a place today that generated the same sort of excitement in me, i'd spend money there just to support the atmosphere. i miss it.


baby jo said...

interesting and relevant story: i was recently at the joann's fabric store in laguna hills (yeah, you know the one) and, as i had picked out my fabric, was waiting in line at the cutting station. the girl ahead of me looked about my age, but was SUPER preggers and had a small variety of fabrics she needed cut to make what we can assume would be a baby blanket. the older woman helping her chatted her up about her baby, when she was due, etc., and when finished gave her a sweet farewell.

i stepped up to the plate with my metallic thread, needlepoint frame, felt, and gold costume fabric, as well as a handful of on-sale fat quarters, and got NOTHING. now, i'm not particularly hip. i have fairly hidden piercings. but (supposedly) because i wasn't making an ooey gooey baby blanket for the child that i'm NOT harvesting inside of me, i had nothing that interested the joann's employee enough to chat me up. i guess she didn't really have anything in common with the twenty-something who was making a tote.

unfortunately, because i hate buying fabric online, i will have to continue dealing with the old ladies who don't care. the best part is, i have been quilting for over 10 years and am full to the brim with things to chat about. blech. who would have thought that one could be such a snob about crafts?

valya said...

baby jo, it may not be bias against you that caused the fabric lady to ignore you. recently i've discovered that lots of people really like to talk to pregnant women. ever since i entered the third trimester, random people (men or women) in line at the supermarket or at restaurants strike up a conversation, ask when i'm due, or insist that "it's a boy" or "that's gotta be a girl". and i'm not exactly the type of person who invites social contact with total strangers. so i'm guessing it wasn't necessarily interest in the other gal's project over yours; it was her unintentional "talk to me!" beacon.

lauren said...

i was going to say something along the same lines: you're kinda walking into a buzz saw by turning up in line right behind a pregnant woman. in the absence of, say, a small puppy on your shoulder, you were going to lose that one. that said, joann's has some pretty stern employees (particularly the fabric cutters, for reasons i couldn't begin to guess at). you should make yourself a quilted bolero to wear to the fabric store to demonstrate your skills. i'm not sure it would help, but it would be awesome.

v, have you been tempted to let your face fall and tell someone you weren't pregnant? that's black belt deadpan right there (i've seen the bump pics - you are radiant, lady!), but it would be pretty great.

also, i thought of you the other day as i read a friend's blog - she and her husband aren't finding out the sex of her twins, which has inspired her son to try and find out from the babies themselves:

He thought for a moment and then yelled, “HEY! BABIES! ARE YOU TWO BOYS, TWO GIRLS, OR A BOY AND A GIRL? PLEASE LET US KNOW.” Then he stared at me as if he expected me to spout blue or pink smoke from my ears like the Vatican. I am a continuous source of disappointment, alas.